ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The 2011 Broncos ran the football as well any as unit in team history. Denver rolled up 164.5 rushing yards per game a season ago, easily the best mark in the NFL, behind a young but durable group of offensive linemen that started all 16 games. The group got better as the season progressed, gaining 190.4 yards per game over the final 12 games of the season.
Offensive Line Coach Dave Magazu said he expects to see his line build on last year’s success and become even more dominant.
“I told those guys when I first got here – there’s got to be a growing period,” Magazu said. “I think if you kind of watched our progress throughout the season, we improved, but we didn’t improve enough. Until you win that last game of the year, you’re not good enough. That’s what we’ve been talking about. What are we going to do to make us a better football team and a better offense?”
Each of the five linemen that started in Week 1 of the 2011 season started every game last year, making Denver the only team in the league to start the same five individuals in each of its 16 regular-season games.
Denver’s starting O-line that kicked off last year’s regular season was the second-youngest unit in the league, but it jelled quickly. This year’s offensive line promises to boast a rare combination of young but experienced talent.
“I think we have a good group of guys from the last guy to the top guy,” Magazu said. “I think everybody is focused on improving and being a dominant player and unit today. Not tomorrow, not later. We have a little bit of a sense of urgency of, ‘Let’s do it now. Let’s not talk about last year. Let’s not project or wish.’ The bottom line is we’ll work hard and try to get better every day so we can win that last game of the year.”
Left tackle Ryan Clady enters his fifth season as the star of the bunch after becoming just the fifth tackle in NFL history to start every game and make multiple Pro Bowls during his first four seasons in the NFL.
Lining up next to Clady will likely be left guard Zane Beadles, who enters his third season in the league having started 30 of 32 games since being drafted 45th overall in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
At center is fellow third-year man J.D. Walton, who hasn't missed a start in either of his first two seasons in the league.
Next to Walton is a seasoned veteran in seventh-year right guard Chris Kuper, who has started 73 games during his first six seasons in the league. Kuper suffered an injury during a Week 17 loss to Kansas City, but said his recovery has gone well and that he hopes to get back on the field during training camp.
The youngest returning starter on the O-line, Orlando Franklin, started every game of his rookie season, becoming only the sixth rookie offensive lineman in franchise history to do so. In fact, Franklin is the first right tackle in Broncos history to start every regular-season game of his rookie season at that position.
MEET THE O-LINEMEN
Zane Beadles: A third-year starter at guard, Beadles is tied for fourth among offensive linemen who entered the NFL in 2010 with 30 career starts.
Ryan Clady: Clady did not allow a full sack in his first 20 starts according to Stats Inc., marking the longest such streak by a tackle to begin his career since at least 1994.
Chris Clark: In two seasons (2010-11) with the Broncos, Clark has seen action in 24 games. He has contributed on special teams and also as an extra tight end/eligible tackle on certain downs. He started six games in that capacity in 2011.
C.J. Davis: This is Davis’s first season in Denver. Davis started 43 of 45 possible games as a guard and center for the University of Pittsburgh before signing on with Carolina as a college free agent in May of 2009.
Orlando Franklin: Franklin was named to the All-Rookie Team by Football Outsiders after opening all 16 regular-season contests and playing in 98.2 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2011.
Adam Grant: Grant is a first-year offensive tackle from the University of Arizona who joined the Broncos as a college free agent on July 27, 2011. Grant spent his rookie season on Denver’s practice squad after starting 31 games at both tackle positions for the Wildcats. He was named second-team All-Pacific-10 Conference after both his junior and senior seasons.
Tony Hills: Hills is a fifth-year offensive tackle who has seen action in five career regular-season games and two playoff contests with Pittsburgh (2008-10) and Denver (2011). Hills made his playoff debut in Super Bowl XLV vs. Green Bay (2/6/11) and played on both the offensive and special-teams units.
Ryan Harris: Harris was drafted 70th overall (third round) by the Broncos in 2007. He started 34 of 46 games for Denver from 2007 to 2010 before spending the 2011 regular season with the Philadelphia Eagles. He returned to Denver for the 2011 postseason. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King named Harris to his All-Pro team in 2008.
Chris Kuper: Kuper has allowed just 12 sacks in 73 career starts (62 at right guard, 11 at left guard) according to Stats Inc. He was named first-team All-Pro by The Dallas Morning News (Rick Gosselin) in 2011.
Mike Remmers: Remmers joined the Broncos on April 28, 2012 as a college free agent. A rookie tackle out of Oregon State, Remmers started the final 37 games of his career with the Beavers.
Manny Ramirez: Ramirez has been in the NFL for five seasons since being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He has started 15 of 20 games played in his career. A former Texas Tech Red Raider, Ramirez set a school record by bench pressing 550 pounds.
Wayne Tribue: Tribue, a rookie from Temple University, started games at left guard, right guard and center during his college career. He signed with the Broncos as a college free agent in April of 2012.
J.D. Walton: In his first two seasons with the Broncos, Walton has opened all 32 regular-season games during his first two seasons as one of just three offensive linemen who entered the NFL in 2010 to accomplish that feat. He played every snap for the Broncos in 2011.
Austin Wuebbels: A rookie guard out of the University of Missouri, Wuebbels joined the Broncos as a college free agent in April. He finished his collegiate career with 26 consecutive starts over his final two years.