ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- None of what has happened on the offensive line so far in the new league year should come as a surprise.
It shouldn't, because Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway made it abundantly clear at the NFL Scouting Combine that the line was the area most in need of improvement after an injury-riddled, inconsistent performance in 2015.
"Obviously it's a position that we feel like we need to improve upon offensively," Kubiak said Feb. 24.
The Broncos now hope that different = better.
With the release of Louis Vasquez, the free-agent departure of Evan Mathis and the additions of Russell Okung and
Okung is immediately penciled in as the starter at left tackle, having handled that role for the last six seasons in Seattle, one of which saw him in the Pro Bowl.
Although he has dealt with injuries in his career and has not played 16 games in a season, he has missed just five games in the last two and a half seasons since returning from injured reserve midway through the Seahawks' 2013 world-championship season.
Most importantly, his health is on the upswing. The shoulder injury he suffered in the Seahawks' divisional-round loss at Carolina in January will be fully healed well in time for training camp.
That contrasts with
But with Okung and Stephenson, the Broncos have two tackles that they feel fit their zone-blocking scheme perfectly; they are long, athletic, intelligent players with quick feet.
Okung's experience in zone-blocking dates back to his rookie season. The Seahawks' offensive-line coach when he was drafted was Alex Gibbs, a long-time Broncos assistant who implemented this scheme. Gibbs retired before that season, but the Seahawks used zone principles throughout the last six seasons.
Okung says he understands "all the concepts" of zone-blocking scheme ... "I hope I have something great to offer."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) March 17, 2016
With their experience on the outside and three players who just completed their first active regular seasons on the inside, the Broncos now have a combination they feel can be a long-term answer, while providing the improvement Elway and Kubiak wanted — and the consistency that last year's line lacked.