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Mason's Mailbag: Where the O-line stands at Broncos training camp, and more

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As always, 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.*

Despite all of the offensive-line shuffling because of injuries, four of the five starting slots up front appear to be set: Russell Okung at left tackle, Donald Stephenson at right tackle, Max Garcia at left guard and Matt Paradis at center.

Right guard is the question, because Ty Sambrailo's right elbow injury has now cost him five practices and counting. When combined with the team work he lost during OTAs as he completed his recovery from a torn labrum, he has missed more first-team snaps than he's had, which hinders his development.

The play of Michael Schofield when he rotates in at guard, as well as the form displayed by Darrion Weems when he moved inside from tackle, has created a competition at a spot that appeared to be stable going into camp.

The tackle spots appear to be in good shape. Okung is playing well in his work in the team periods, and Stephenson benefits from being locked down at one position instead of moving around the offensive line.

One player who notices the difference at offensive tackle is Shane Ray, who faces off with both every day in practice.

"Russell, when we're talking about run blockers, he's probably one of the best that you'll see. He's so big and strong, you have to be able to be physical with a guy like that and he's got really nice feet," Ray said.

"Donald, what we love about him is that he's so aggressive and you need a guy like that on the offensive line that's going to go out there and be competitive and get chippy with guys. That's the kind of things that you like to see out of a physical position like that."

Schofield has also improved, working at both left and right tackle this week for Okung and Stephenson. Ray said he's noticed that Schofield's technique has improved.

"All three guys are definitely getting better and better," Ray said.

It's a dead heat between Champ Bailey and Von Miller. Believe it or not, Bailey wasn't the fastest in terms of straight-line speed, even when he arrived in 2004. But he was the quickest player I've seen, in part because he took his raw athleticism to the next level with his preparation; he seemed to know exactly what route was coming.

The thing about Miller that has always amazed me is his ability to maintain his speed off the edge despite being knocked off-balance, and his ability to dive below an offensive lineman's arm and sprint off the edge. His body control and balance is unlike that of any front-seven player I've ever seen.

I've seen plenty of great individual examples of athleticism over the years, but Miller and Bailey sit atop the list for hitting that "special" level for a sustained period.

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After the first week of practice, I see a lot of positive from the offensive side particularly the deep ball which worry me about the "No Fly Zone." What are are your thoughts on our D? Do we need to worry about them?**

-- Leng Vang

I wouldn't worry about the defense at all. It remains a deep, fast, talented unit. During team and seven-on-seven periods, there were few deep completions on four of the first five days.

The exception was Sunday -- the first day in full pads. That was also the day when Chris Harris Jr., T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart were given a veterans' day off from practice, and their absences from on-field work caused a domino effect down the depth chart. With their return Monday, going downfield became much more difficult, especially in all of the red-zone repetitions that dominated the practice.

I had a question about Paxton, how's he looking under center? I know he had said that he was slowly but surly getting comfortable in the huddle coming from his fast pace Memphis offense, but is he looking the part under center? Or at least getting more comfortable?

Thanks for the great reads!

-- Robert Motto

First, you're welcome.

He looks far more natural working under center than he did during OTAs. Perhaps the best sign to me is how he can drop back and get set from under center -- with pressure bearing down on him. During practices Sunday and Monday, Lynch looked particularly smooth dropping back, running his play-action fake and then firing the football downfield with an interior pass rusher bearing down on him. He looked like he'd executed that sort of pass his entire life. He continued this Thursday and Friday after a bumpy Wednesday (well, it was rough for the entire team, which seemed to have hit the snooze button after a Tuesday off-day).

Being able to drop back from under center and look downfield while not tipping your intention is more difficult than it appears. Lynch's progress cannot be understated. He grows daily, and you can see glimpses of a future NFL standout. But he also has a long way to go.

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My fiance and I are going to Denver for the first time ever on our honeymoon to watch the Broncos-Atlanta game. Do you know of any event were we can meet players or tour the stadium?**

-- Richard Baez

During the regular season, tours are held Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a new tour beginning each hour. According to the Sports Authority Field at Mile High website, reservations are "STRONGLY suggested," so make sure you contact the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame at 720-258-3888 to reserve your places.

Unless a player has a public appearance scheduled, you won't be able to meet them directly. If you want to get a closer glimpse of them than you would during the game, you can go to the southwest gate outside of Sports Authority Field at Mile High, where they will all enter the stadium a few hours before kickoff.

Who has the edge in camp so far replacing Danny Trevathan?

-- Cody Sellards

Brandon Marshall has moved to Trevathan's weak-side ILB spot. Marshall's previous inside spot currently belongs to Todd Davis, who has taken the bulk of the first-team snaps from OTAs through training camp. Corey Nelson and Zaire Anderson have each made some big plays against the run and in seven-on-seven pass coverage throughout training camp so far, but Davis has stepped up well and looks like he will be a good replacement.

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Who do you see being the backup left tackle? And will Connor McGovern fill a role this year similar to Max Garcia was last year?**

-- Don Evans

Schofield is on track to be the backup behind Okung. Schofield has worked at left tackle whenever Russell Okung has been unavailable as he is gradually eased back into full participation. Schofield has filled in for Okung at left tackle, Donald Stephenson at right tackle and also at guard, which he played in college.

McGovern had some first-team repetitions in place of early this week, but Darrion Weems has seen work in place of Sambrailo the last three days. McGovern is versatile, but Schofield's ability to play every spot on the line other than center and Weems' emergence could leave the role of swing backup in the hands of a veteran, rather than the rookie McGovern.

Would Joey Bosa be available and could the Broncos get him for Shane Ray and next year's No. 1? We could use the D-line help.

-- Tim Schulte

There is no indication the Chargers would make him available. Further, trading Ray and a future No. 1 pick would be a terrible idea, given the need for Ray because of DeMarcus Ware's back issues and the fact that the Broncos just invested a second-round pick in Adam Gotsis, for whom the team has high long-term hopes. Vance Walker has had an outstanding training camp so far working at Jackson's old spot. You'd also be sacrificing a future first-round pick. This is not a move the Broncos need to make.


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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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