In the eighth of Thin Air’s series on previewing 2017’s training camp for the Broncos is a look at the interior offensive line.
While the struggles inside the offensive line weren’t as problematic as they were on the outside, there is still improvement that needs to be had from 2016. Some changes have been made, will they be sufficient enough to get this group to where they need to be in 2017?
There’s only one concern at the middle of line, where Paradis has been the team’s best offensive lineman for the past two seasons. That is Paradis coming off double hip surgery. All indications are that there should be no alarm here, but it would help to alleviate concerns for good once Paradis is seen regularly on the practice field, and playing at his high level in the regular season.
The Broncos’ biggest free agency acquisition of 2017 is ultimately setting in at the starting right guard position. As with any newcomer, despite accolades with his past team it remains to be seen if those accolades will transfer over to a new team, with new teammates and coaches. While it may be habitual to assume that Leary will fit in just fine (and the odds should be in favor of just that), perhaps keep an eye on the early training camp reports to confirm that is indeed the case.
Entering his third season, Garcia still has the faith of the coaches in his capability to be a starter, as he’ll remain at left guard. If Paradis and Leary perform at the high levels that they are expected to, Garcia could hypothetically be the weak point in the interior unless his play improves as well. Garcia may also be flanking a rookie next to him in Garett Bolles that needs to be accounted for as well. If Garcia can fulfill that improvement in his play, the Broncos can potentially have a very good starting interior that can help to draw the unit as a whole closer to the top of the league than the bottom.
There’s a lack of clarity on whether Schofield will be a guard or tackle this year. Perhaps that answer won’t truly come until a few days of training camp are in the books. It’s certainly feasible that Schofield could make the team as a utility offensive lineman that can play both guard and tackle if need be. Most teams carry a player that can take on this backup role.
Since Schofield played enough snaps in his first three years, for his fourth year he received a Proven Performance Escalator raise to $1.797 million in base salary. This makes Schofield slightly more expensive than a typical player on a rookie contract should he make the team. On the other hand, if Schofield is allowed to complete his contract, he’ll factor into 2019 compensatory pick calculation if he departs in unrestricted free agency in 2018.
The fifth round draft pick from 2016 was largely inactive during his rookie season, and during 2017 spring practices he filled in for Paradis at center. With the departure of former backup center James Ferentz, and the acquisition of Leary on a spendy contract, those are good signs that the Broncos see McGovern as little more than a backup for at least 2017. That doesn’t mean his NFL ceiling will be permanently there, but expectations are certainly low for McGovern at this point.
Billy Turner, Dillon Day, Chris Muller, and Cameron Hunt
With three accrued seasons in the books, the practice squad is not an option for Turner; he either makes the active roster or will have to look for another team to continue his NFL career. Day has spent the entirety of his first two years on the practice squad, so he has one more season left in which he could continue that service. Muller and Hunt are 2017 undrafted free agents that could try to supplant Day in that role. While the uncertainty at guard is not as high as it is in tackle, there may still be room for a developmental guard on the practice squad just in case any part of the plan on the active roster goes wrong.