The Denver Broncos will have a new-look starting offensive line in 2014. Ryan Clady is back from injury, Chris Clark moved to right tackle and Orlando Franklin moved in to left guard. The group will need time to gel, and Clark and Franklin will need time to get acclimated to their new positions.
Training Camp and preseason games will be hugely beneficial for this group. Their schedule matches them up in games against two of the top, if not the top two overall defenses in the NFL in the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. Throw in a week of practice and a game against J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the Houston Texans, and this revamped Broncos offensive line is sure to be battle-tested heading into the regular season.
In their first preseason game against the Seahawks, the Broncos’ starting offensive unit enjoyed more success in two drives than they did in practically all of Super Bowl XLVIII. On their first drive, they were able to get one first down while having limited success running the ball. Their second drive was a dominant nine-minute touchdown drive. It was clear early on just how important Clady is to this offense.
Having him on the field allows the Broncos to slide their protection to help Clark, who got pushed around at times during the game at right tackle. Franklin looked somewhat raw playing guard on pulling plays, but his straight-on run blocking prowess was unmistakable throughout the Broncos nine-minute touchdown drive.
Right guard Louis Vasquez looked like one of the best interior offensive lineman in the NFL, and Manny Ramirez looked noticeably more comfortable and confident than he did in 2013.
The Broncos’ offensive line will again be tested in their second preseason game against the 49ers. While they may only get a series or two of work, it will be greatly beneficial to work against one of the best front-seven groups in the NFL.
The week of practice against the Texans will undoubtedly be more beneficial for the Broncos’ offensive line than any other Broncos position group. While they have been getting work in practice against Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, two of the NFL’s best pass rushers, getting practice time against Watt and Clowney will be incredibly valuable for Clark and the rest of the offensive linemen.
He may only be a rookie, but Clowney has physical gifts that nobody in the NFL can match and Watt is arguably the best defensive player in the entire league. If Clark and the others can hold their own against those two, they will be able to block anyone else they may face in 2014.
Looking back on the 2013 season, the offensive line for the Broncos played poorly in every loss of the season, especially Super Bowl XLVIII. For the Broncos to not only make a return trip, but to win the Super Bowl in 2014, their offensive line will need to be drastically better than they were in 2013.