Broncos center Manny Ramirez (66) during the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Jaguars 35-19. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
The Denver Broncos‘ offensive line has been a hot topic ever since the injuries started to pile up in training camp. When camp opened, the team had Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin lined up at the left and right tackle positions, respectively. Louis Vasquez was set at right guard, Zane Beadles at left guard, and veteran Dan Kopen was locked in at center.
By the end of October, only Beadles was in his original place thanks to season ending injuries to Clady and Kopen, and Franklin needing some time off due to a leg injury.
As the line looks right now, Chris Clark is filling in for Clady at left tackle, Franklin is healthy enough to play again at right tackle, Vasquez and Beadles are back in their right and left guard positions, respectively, and Manny Ramirez is in at center.
A case could be made that the success of the Broncos’ seasons rests in the hands of the offensive line. Without Peyton Manning having time to work his magic, the team’s Super Bowl hopes die right then and there.
Realistically, with consistent play from the offensive line on Sunday against the Chargers, Brock Osweiler should have been warming up on the sidelines to close out an easy win. Instead, he was warming up on the sidelines because Manning was knocked off his feet and grabbing his right ankle.
No new damage emerged from the hit that Corey Liuget laid, but everyone that bleeds orange agrees that seeing Manning in pain like that was a scary moment.
This week, the Broncos’ line has a great task ahead of them.
“We’ve got an even greater challenge coming up this week with a team that’s sacked quarterbacks more than anybody in this league, so I’m sure that will get plenty of attention,” Jack Del Rio said of the offensive line as it relates to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs have been hunting for quarterbacks all year. They have 36 sacks thus far with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston combining for 20. Their secondary is on point with eight different players having at least one pick, and the team is No. 1 in scoring defense. Protection must be priority No. 1 for the Broncos this week.
Through nine games, Manning has been sacked 13 times, he’s thrown six interceptions, and he’s lost five fumbles. That’s a small price to pay for his 33 touchdowns passes, but the issue here is about keeping him healthy for the rest of the season.
Teams have enough film on Manning this season to see that when he’s pressured heavily that’s when he makes his mistakes. Expect the Chiefs to play to their own strengths and the Broncos’ weaknesses on the line. Clark will undoubtedly be tested heavily on the left side, so the Broncos have to throw an extra tight end in there to help with blocking.
A team effort on the offensive line is what’s going to win this one.
Week ten is “Operation: Keep Manning Clean.”