One of the strengths for the Denver Broncos over the past couple of seasons has been their stout offensive line. In 2012, a patchwork line protected their prized QB Peyton Manning well while opening up holes for Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno to gain positive yardage. This off-season, the Broncos will be without four of their five projected starters as they rehab from various injuries. Ouch!
One staple of a Manning-led offense is forming a routine and momentum with his line so they understand all of his nuances. It looks as if the Broncos may begin the 2013 NFL season with yet another learning curve as they did this past year.
Ryan Clady, arguably one of the top left tackles in the league is coming off shoulder surgery. Clady is in a predicament of holding out in order to not have to sign the franchise tag, while he is looking for security with a long-term contract.
J.D. Walton, who was placed on injured reserve in October 2012 is still rehabbing a devastating ankle injury. He was sorely missed by Manning, who went on to say:
“I’m sick about J.D. Walton’s injury…He and I spent a great deal of time together. That was really the first thing I did when I got here was get together with him to work on snaps, taking snaps. I know people talk about the throwing, but he was at all of those throwing sessions.”
Chris Kuper is recovering from ankle surgery, which was the same ankle he had fractured in 2011. Kuper, at 30 years old has had mounting injuries to not only his ankle, but breaking his forearm as well. There is no telling if he will return to his Pro Bowl form.
Orlando Franklin has already had toe surgery and is expected to go back in the operating room to repair his shoulder in a couple weeks according to his Facebook page. Franklin, at 25, would be a viable alternative at the guard position if Kuper can not come back to form, but he will miss the entire off-season program and will need a few weeks to get in sync if the Broncos make the transition.
It’s a good thing Zane Beadles was able to come out of the 2012 campaign relatively healthy. As we head into free agency and the upcoming draft, it would be in the Broncos best interest to secure at least one or two more linemen in order to solidify the chances of keeping Manning healthy and on the field.
The one person they can ill-afford to lose is Manning, and from the looks of it, this line will be another patchwork version that is in need of a youthful infusion. Let’s hope that Virginia‘s Oday Aboushi or someone of that ilk will be available with their second or third round pick and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.