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Gary Kubiak: O-line has 'got to get better'

On the surface, no position group is less settled right now than the offensive line following four-year starter Orlando Franklin's free-agent departure and the potential for wide-open position battles at right tackle and center.

Head Coach Gary Kubiak, Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison and Offensive Line Coach Clancy Barone have two foundational pillars: Pro Bowler Ryan Clady at left tackle and Louis Vasquez at right guard, returning to the position at which he was an All-Pro in 2013.

But beyond that, there are nothing but questions.

"We have to get better up front," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said.

"Obviously we're not through trying to improve up front. There's still free agency; there's still the draft going on. But the key is going to be these young guys we have -- (Matt) Paradis, (Ben) Garland, can we get these guys playing at a bigger level as they move into years two and three, those types of things."

Kubiak later mentioned Michael Schofield, who is pegged as a right tackle, but has "got some flexibility," hearkening back to the initial projection of him as a swing player who could work at both right tackle and left guard.

"We think a lot of the young guys, we really do," Kubiak said. "My history with Rick Dennison -- and Rick and Clancy have worked together (in 2009, when Barone coached Denver's tight ends and Dennison the line) -- I feel real good about our ability to develop these young guys."

Garland is expected to compete with recent free-agent pickup Shelley Smith at left guard. However, both could factor in at center, depending on how Paradis develops and where former starting center Manny Ramirez fits, and whether free agent Will Montgomery returns, among other factors.

The door is not closed on Montgomery's possible return. He started the last eight games of the 2014 regular season and the playoff loss to Indianapolis and has experience in a zone-blocking scheme from his years with Washington, then helmed by longtime Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.

Garland's progress will bear close monitoring given his athleticism and the time invested in his transition from defensive line to guard, which began in 2013 when former Broncos offensive line coach Alex Gibbs -- a guru of zone-blocking -- worked with the Broncos' practice-squad players, which included the Air Force product.

"There's some people, Clancy and Rick, (that think) there may be some center there, we don't know," Kubiak said. "We're going to kind of take it a step at a time and see what kind of progress we can make this offseason and see if we can settle down before we go to camp."

Smith is an option at center if Garland or Paradis don't fit there -- and if the Broncos don't get a potential center from the draft.

"I know Shelley has played there for me. It's something he's done. I would like him to calm down and just play guard, because I think he can be very competitive from a starter's standpoint at the guard position, but how the center position pans out probably has a lot to do with that.

"We have multiple players that we think are swing players."

Those include Schofield, who could be in a tussle at right guard that would include last year's Week 1 starter, Chris Clark. A difficult transition from left to right tackle that led to an October demotion, but the coaching-staff changes will lead to a fresh start.

"I told Chris, 'We're going to let last year go,'" Kubiak said. "We're going to start over, and he's done some good things."

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