Broncos Will Need Young OL to Step Up in 2015


It’s not ideal, and perhaps it’s not even according to plan, but after the free agent market set up the way it did, John Elway and the Denver Broncos really were left with no choice — the OL is going to get a bit younger in 2015.

As a number of those at Dove Valley, including tight ends Virgil Green and Owen Daniels, met the media, John Elway addressed some key issues that the Broncos still face, including the state of the offensive line.

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Back in January, Elway was adamant that the team would make the offensive line a priority this offseason, and what plans they have for it are yet to come to light. If the season were to start this weekend, the Broncos would likely trot out recently re-signed Ben Garland at left guard, incumbent Manny Ramirez at center, and 2014 third round pick Michael Schofield at right tackle in addition to Pro Bowler Ryan Clady and 2013 All-Pro Louis Vasquez at left tackle and right guard respectively.

As scary as it may seem to some fans, that is a legitimate option for the Broncos’ starting offensive line when the team opens up mini-camp.

It’s not scary, necessarily, because the players aren’t talented. It’s a bit intimidating because they are all relative unknowns. That is, to most of us.

The Broncos know their line needs serious upgrading, starting with the center position. Manny Ramirez would have the spot right now by default, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be with the Broncos this season, even after signing an extension in 2013.

That’s why they had heavy interest in Rodney Hudson, who wound up signing with the Raiders for an outrageous amount of money, and likely why they still maintain interest in free agents Stefen Wisniewski, Chris Myers, and Will Montgomery, who started and played well last season when called upon.

The fact of the matter is, the Broncos need to eventually get younger on the line, and they need to hit on some high draft picks. They (unfortunately) lost the one really good lineman Elway has drafted since coming to the Broncos (Orlando Franklin), to the Chargers no less, and will have to start over in that regard.

The first order of business is for former Michigan right tackle and 2014 third round pick Michael Schofield to elevate himself to a starting role and take the job for good. It would be preferable to have him at right tackle, and John Elway mentioned that the team went back and looked at his pre-season tape from last season, and they were pleased with what they saw.

Having Schofield in the fold is comforting, if for no other reason than the Broncos at least have spent a premiere draft pick on an offensive lineman in recent years, someone the scouting department felt was a top 100 player in his class.

The only other lineman selected in the top 100 by John Elway was Orlando Franklin.

If for no other reason than draft merit, Schofield is an intriguing player on the Broncos’ roster at this point and is someone that’s going to be counted on to contribute sooner rather than later. As Elway said, the team is going to have high expectations for someone like him, who was drafted to be a starter early.

Along with Schofield is going to likely come a young starter at left guard, unless the Broncos pull something off in free agency that is unforeseen at this point in time.

As I wrote previously, the Broncos could look to trade up to snag what I believe to be the top guard in the draft, even though he played left tackle in college in Iowa’s Brandon Scherff. Scherff looks like a perfect fit in the Broncos’ zone offense, especially at guard, and plays with great technique and functional strength. He’s also a mauler who fits the ‘kicking and screaming’ mentality that John Elway is looking for.

Luckily for Elway and the Broncos, this year’s draft class is loaded with offensive linemen who are ready to play in the NFL and the Broncos expect to have 10 draft picks when compensation selections are awarded to teams at the owner’s meetings.

It would be a shock if the Broncos don’t come away from this draft/rookie class with at least three new offensive linemen, and the development of those players is going to be absolutely crucial.

The Broncos couldn’t afford to splurge on an average right tackle in free agency. They couldn’t afford to splurge even on their own left guard in free agency. Perhaps a veteran will be brought in to fill one or two spots up front, but the Broncos need to go young on the line to establish their future in protecting not only Peyton Manning but whoever comes after him.

Not to mention that talented stable of backs that Elway has invested so heavily in. The Broncos are certainly not blind to the success having a great offensive line full of home grown guys the Dallas Cowboys had last year.

That’s a model that clearly works.

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