When the Denver Broncos were leading the NFL in rushing every season under former head coach Mike Shanahan, they often did with a different running back every year. Terrell Davis is the most famous of those backs, but that group also included Mike Anderson, Orlandis Gary, Ruben Droughns, Clinton Portis and others.
The names on the offensive line also changed over those years, but the Broncos continued to run the football. Even when they were struggling to finish 8-8, the Broncos could run the rock. What was the common denominator?
The common denominator is a crusty, old offensive line coach named Alex Gibbs. Gibbs is widely considered one of the best, if not the best, offensive line coaches in the history of the NFL. If you don’t believe me, ask the players who played for him. Once they finish cursing his name, the players will tell you that no coach is better than Gibbs.
The good news for the Broncos is he is back; the bad news for the offensive lineman for the Broncos is he is back. The Broncos have hired Gibbs as an offensive line consultant; he will assist line coach Dave Magazu. Gibbs returning is not on the same level as the Wes Welker signing, but it’s close. What does Gibbs returning to the Broncos mean?
It most likely means that the Broncos are returning to a zone-blocking scheme in the running game, and that’s great news for rookie running back Montee Ball. Ball excelled in the zone-blocking system while at the University of Wisconsin and has to be excited about the hiring of Gibbs. It’s obvious now, if it wasn’t before, that the Broncos want Ball to be the feature back.
For the offensive lineman, it means two things. Number one, it means they are going to get better and they are going to be pushed like they’ve never been pushed before. Gibbs might be listed as only a consultant, but make no mistake, if you go to training camp this summer the only voice you are likely to hear is the one that belongs to Gibbs.
The second thing it means is the offensive lineman had better stock up on ear plugs and develop a thick skin. Gibbs is old school and four-letter words are a staple of his vocabulary. He will make young players like Orlando Franklin, JD Walton and Zane Beadles better than they’ve ever been. Gibbs will also return the running game to the Broncos, he’s that good.
The Broncos, with Peyton Manning, are still a pass first team, but they will run the ball and run it well in 2013. They have their workhorse back in Ball, they have talent on the offensive line and now they have the guy who knows what to do with those two things.
There was never a doubt that the Broncos were in it to win it right now, and the hiring of Gibbs only magnifies that belief. Gibbs is back and so is the Broncos’ running game.
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