ENGLEWOOD, Colo.** – Immediately following the announcement that the Broncos and left guard Evan Mathis came to terms on a one-year deal, many were left wondering the status of current starter and rookie, Max Garcia.
Through two preseason games, Garcia, a fourth-round pick out of the University of Florida, has been ranked No. 1 on the depth chart at left guard on an offensive line that boasted three first-year players. Up until the Mathis signing, the Broncos' second-round pick, Ty Sambrailo was lined-up next to Garcia at left tackle, first-year player Matt Paradis at center, All-Pro veteran Louis Vasquez at right guard and veteran Ryan Harris at right tackle.
The addition of Mathis, a 10-year NFL veteran, at left guard will inject needed experience and leadership into the line before the start of the regular season.
The San Francisco 49ers arrived at UCHealth Training Center on Wednesday for their first of two intense practices hosted by the Broncos. (All photos by Eric Bakke)
"We have a lot of confidence in Max," said Head Coach Gary Kubiak. "Max has done a great job. I talked to Max first thing yesterday and explained to him that it wasn't about anything he's done. It's about us having a chance to get a great player and improve our football team. The key is how good are we? How strong are we? How deep are we going to be as a football team? We just obviously got stronger on the front."
But Garcia shouldn't be worried about his future with the franchise. Garcia was drafted for not only his talent, but also his versatility. During his time with the Gators, Garcia saw starts at left tackle, left guard and center.
"I think there may come a point," said Kubiak about Garcia possibly playing at center. "We're sitting here talking about Evan's stages he will go through to get to where we need to get him. With that being in mind, Max needs to keep doing what he's doing for right now. We know he's played there. You start to talk about your seven [active linemen] on game day. That could be a topic at some point, but I think we take it one day at a time."
While Mathis has only been with the Broncos since this morning, he's already impressed with the group that he's joined.
"So far, it seems like a good group of guys," Mathis said. "You've got these young guys in here. I think one thing that's really cool about them is that they're not letting the game be bigger than it is. They understand that it's football, just like it is at any level. They seem like really smart kids and they're working really hard, ready to take advantage of their opportunity."
Mathis is set to make his debut with the Broncos in week one of the regular season against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Sept. 13, giving him just two weeks to get acquainted with his new teammates. In the meantime, and over the course of the season, Mathis is not only looking forward to lining up in the orange and blue, but also to bequeath what he's learned over the years in the NFL to the young players.
"Hopefully a lot of the wisdom comes from mistakes made and lessons learned," Mathis said of what advice he'll be giving. "But also some experience on the field, what it's like to have to fight through overtimes, fourth-quarter battles, against great players, fighting through injuries—there's a lot. You learn a lot through the years. Any advice and wisdom I'm able to provide, I'm more than happy to do so."
Two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis puts pen to paper on new deal with Denver.