Denver Broncos: Three Burning Questions at the End of Training Camp

3 of 4

Aug 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos offensive lineman Orlando Franklin (74), Ryan Clady (78), and guard Louis Vasquez (65) during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 21-16. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

2. Will the Pass Protection Be Good Enough to Keep Peyton Manning Upright?

Peyton Manning was sacked just 18 times last season and 21 times in 2012, easily making him the league’s least-sacked starting quarterback in that time frame (Matthew Stafford is next with 14 more). Understandably, this is a priority when you have a Mount Rushmore quarterback in his late 30’s and a bionic neck. With a schedule that includes the NFC West and the AFC East, the Broncos cannot regress in this area in 2014.

Much credit can be given to the Broncos’ offensive line play, but don’t forget Manning also led in “average time to throw” in 2013, averaging just 2.36 seconds in 676 attempts according to our friends over at Pro Football Focus. He was second to Tom Brady with an average of 2.50 seconds in 2012.

The Broncos’ lost All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady to IR in just the third game last season but Chris Clark filled in well enough to earn the right tackle job to start this season. Last year’s right tackle, Orlando Franklin, moves over to left guard to replace free-agent Zane Beadles, while center Manny Ramirez and right guard Louis Vasquez both return at the same positions.

As we spoke about with the defense, depth is again a concern along the offensive front. Lost to retirement is the ever-steady veteran Chris Kuper, but the Broncos did bring in a utility veteran lineman to fill his role with center/guard Will Montgomery, who played very well for Washington the past two seasons and may push Ramirez for the center job if he struggles. The erratic Winston Justice is the backup tackle and there is nothing but youth and inexperience behind them, including rookie tackle Michael Schofield, who is slotted to be the anchor tackle of the future.

More from Broncos News

Not to be overlooked, the departure of Knowshon Moreno will have more of an impact in pass protection than anywhere else. Moreno allowed just one sack last year in 80 pass block attempts and just seven quarterback pressures overall. Starting halfback Montee Ball has missed the bulk of training camp due to an appendectomy and the inexperienced Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson, and Juwan Thompson have been taking turns filling in.

The responsibilities of the halfback are critical things like when to stay in and block instead of running the assigned pass route, when to slide from strong to weak, and whether to pick up the blitzing slot corner or the will linebacker. As of now it appears that none of the backs will have enough reps to make #18 feel warm and fuzzy when the regular season starts.

There is no reason to think these starting five lineman won’t be at the very top of the league once again if they can remain intact. If they can get the running back, whomever it is, to be on the same page then the potent passing attack we’ve seen over the past two seasons shouldn’t skip a beat either. If they can’t, and Peyton Manning is left vulnerable too often (once), we all may be getting a look at Brock Osweiler a lot sooner than we want.