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Denver Broncos News: Broncos' Mailbag


Mason's Mailbag: Offensive line, DeMarcus Walker, special teams and more

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.*

Offensive lines need to work as a coordinated unit, how long do you think it will take the "new" offensive line with three new starters to jell as a unit?

-- Patrick Mooney

Realistically, the unit will probably not fully jell until some point during the regular season. Offensive lines typically need time to come together, and while practice snaps are valuable, the biggest growth will happen during full-speed game play, so preseason snaps are crucial.

But something is happening right now that will help the cohesion: the use of multiple players at left tackle and Connor McGovern's work for Matt Paradis at center. McGovern has a chance to emerge as a swing interior backup, and every snap he has right now as Paradis recovers from two hip surgeries helps McGovern find a groove with the more experienced teammates around him. If injuries strike the interior line during the season, McGovern will be more prepared for the work because of what he's doing right now.

Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo are splitting the left-tackle repetitions on a 50-50 basis, and they are expected to do so until Garett Bolles proves worthy of working on the first team. If Bolles eventually seizes the starting role, Stephenson and Sambrailo will still have a slew of first-team snaps that allowed them to build chemistry with the rest of the unit.

Will adding DeMarcus Walker get the defense back to when we had Malik Jackson?

-- Montrell Blaylock

Let's see. Give him time. Let's find out what his role will be first and how he fits as a part of the defensive-line rotation. Walker has shown some promise in OTAs. If he can display the same quick recognition of plays as they develop that he did in college, he can be a playmaker. But he's a rookie and has a long way to go. Remember, it wasn't until Jackson's third season that he started to dominate.


What exactly are the benefits on the defensive positions from switching from man coverage to zone?**

-- Patrick Bingham

Well, it's not about changing the base elements of what the Broncos do on defense. They've been a man-to-man coverage team, and will remain that way; it is their bread and butter, and with Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby, they have the cornerbacks necessary to execute man-to-man coverage. The use of zone principles simply allows the Broncos to mix up their coverages and throw some different wrinkles at opponents.

This philosophy is best summed up by Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods. At his press conference on May 24, he said, "I don't want to change the foundation of our defense. All I said is that I want to sprinkle a little sugar on it -- something that will give us a little changeup [and] make offenses work at the line of scrimmage."

Hi Mase, just a random thought I had: obviously you have a dedicated long snapper for special teams, but who plays along the rest of the line? Is it the first team O-line? Backups? Or someone else entirely? Also is it different for punts and field goals?

-- Joshua Nadarajan

Typically, the rest of the protection along the line of scrimmage for placekicks is provided by offensive linemen, defensive linemen and tight ends. For example, in Week 17 of the 2016 season, the Broncos opened the game with eight players joining kicker Brandon McManus, holder Riley Dixon and then-long snapper Thomas Gafford on the field for the first placekick. The position-group breakdown of those eight players was one tight end (Virgil Green), five offensive linemen (Michael Schofield, Donald Stephenson, Max Garcia, Matt Paradis and Russell Okung) and two defensive linemen (Billy Winn and Jared Crick).

Downfield sprints on punt coverage lead to a different collection of players in protection, as you need more speed and agility. As a result, punt protection/coverage units are typically drawn from linebackers, running backs, fullbacks, safeties and tight ends. For example, joining Dixon, Gafford and gunners Bennie Fowler and Taurean Nixon on the first punt of Week 17 were two safeties (Will Parks and Justin Simmons), four linebackers (Quentin Gause, Zaire Anderson, Dekoda Watson and Shaquil Barrett) and one running back (Juwan Thompson).

Any chance we get to see the Color Rush uniforms again this year? I really liked the helmet!

The Color Rush program is a multi-year initiative for the NFL on Thursday-night games, so you can expect to see those uniforms return for the Broncos' Week 15 game at Indianapolis on Dec. 14.

Do you feel there are too many tight ends in the room? If so, do you see some getting cut?

-- Jay Howard

Will some get cut? Absolutely. The Broncos have seven tight ends, which is tied with the Raiders, Bills and Lions for the most in the league right now. (Cedrick Lang is listed as a tight end, but is working with the offensive line.) Realistically, no more than four will make the 53-man roster.

Is that too many right now? No. The offseason roster limit is 90 players, so you can go heavy at some positions -- especially one that is going to be a focal point within the offense. Fifth-round pick Jake Butt is still recovering from a torn ACL and won't be available until training camp, so the Broncos have six tight ends participating in practice. That is a typical roster complement at this point in the year.

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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.





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