Aug 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tackle Paul Cornick (71) 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
For a Super Bowl contending team, it’s certainly not an ideal situation to have to make a switch anywhere along the offensive line, specifically if your quarterback is Peyton Manning.
Somehow, the Denver Broncos managed to sneak the swapping of Chris Clark and Paul Cornick past national media over the last two games, in which they are 2-0 and have looked nearly unbeatable at times.
Cornick, a former practice squad player out of North Dakota State has been with the Broncos since 2012 after a short stint right out of college with the New York Jets, where he made the practice squad as a college free agent. A former captain and All-American at North Dakota State, Cornick has had a really long, grueling road to where he’s at with the Denver Broncos, being signed to the practice squad in 2012 and to a futures contract in 2013, and a number of other twists and turns along the way.
He finally made the 53-man roster this season after the Broncos did a significant amount of shuffling up front offensively, and started seeing his first action in an attempt to help the Broncos’ running game get going as the sixth offensive linemen. With a really poor start to the season, Chris Clark was ‘benched’ in favor of Cornick.
In his first start, a prime time matchup at home against the 49ers, Cornick was abused a bit but settled in and actually ended up playing a pretty decent game, all things considered. On a couple of Peyton Manning touchdown passes, Cornick’s man Aaron Lynch (DE, 49ers) found his way right up to Manning’s shoulder and was the first to congratulate him for his record.
It wasn’t exactly the most settling start for Cornick, but the Broncos continued on with him as the starter four days later on Thursday night football, where he played an excellent game.
Despite a penalty, Cornick played a really good game for the Broncos, grading out by Pro Football Focus a +2.5 overall with a 2.3 in pass protection, 0.4 in run blocking, and a -0.2 for his infraction late in the game, which was caused by what Manning believes to be a disrespectful scoreboard operator.
Cornick is far from a finished or perfect product, but he’s playing good football to start off his career as the starter. It didn’t take long for him to settle in either, just like it didn’t take Chris Clark all that long last season when he filled in at left tackle for Ryan Clady.
The Broncos drafted Michael Schofield out of Michigan this past year, a guy they believe gives them versatility at right tackle or left guard. If he works hard and progresses like Cornick has, he could be a really strong draft choice in a long line of strong picks by John Elway, getting guys who fit this system.
This coaching staff has done a phenomenal job of getting the best players out on the field, and this is the latest example.