Skip to main content

Denver Broncos | News

How he fits: Ja'Wuan James

Take a look back through Ja'Wuan James' football career with photos from his days at Tennessee through his time with the Dolphins.

From the start of the 2011 season through Super Bowl XLVIII, Orlando Franklin was a mainstay at right tackle. Including postseason play, he started 53 of a possible 54 games at the spot. The Broncos didn't have to worry about changes at the position, and they flourished.

In the five seasons that followed, 12 different players started at least one game at right tackle. No one ever started all 16 regular-season games. In the last two seasons alone, six different players -- Menelik Watson, Allen Barbre, Donald Stephenson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Jared Veldheer and Billy Turner -- started at right tackle.

This is why Ja'Wuan James is with the Broncos. A six-year veteran in his prime, James joins the Broncos with one task: to stick a boulder in the revolving door and bring stability to a position that has lacked it.

"We think he's a perfect system fit for us," President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said. "He's had five great years down in Miami."

Of the seasons in which James played at least 500 total snaps, last year was his best in pass-protection rate, according to the data compiled by Pro Football Focus. James allowed one pressure every 18.9 pass-protection snaps last year.

In 2017, he was on an even better pace, allowing one pressure every 23.4 pass-protection snaps before his season was cut short in Week 9 because of a hamstring injury.

James' athleticism helps him overcome an early mistake. Some offensive linemen have trouble recovering if they're beaten with a quick move off the snap, leading to a pressure or a penalty. But James' balance and footwork allows him a chance to battle back and salvage the play.

Former Dolphins wide receiver O.J. McDuffie, who covers his old team and hosts a podcast devoted to it, praised James' footwork above all.

"His footwork is great," McDuffie said. "If he can get a little bit stronger, and if he's working well with the right guard and center, he's going to work well with that team."

Head Coach Vic Fangio sees the same attributes.

"[He's a] good athlete with length and size to him and I like that he's in the middle of his career," Fangio said. "I think that he's got a chance to be a Bronco for a long time."

If James can avoid the season-ending injuries that cut short his 2015 and 2017 seasons, Fangio's proclamation could be accurate.

A change of scenery could help James, as well. McDuffie believes that James sometimes got lost amid the team-wide struggles of the Dolphins. They have played in just one postseason game in the last 10 seasons and haven't won a playoff game since Dec. 30, 2000.

"I thought that Ja'Wuan became a victim of the situation down here more than anything," McDuffie said. "He was an outstanding pick for us, and I think he became a victim of the Miami Dolphins.

"I think he's going to be an outstanding player, as well as an outstanding person in the community for Denver."

Related Content