NFL Wire News

Makeup of Broncos’ offensive line not etched in stone


The Sports Xchange

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos’ offensive line alignment could remain unsettled well into the preseason. But for now, head coach Gary Kubiak knows which players he wants on the first team when training camp opens — and it’s the same quintet that saw first-team work during OTAs.

Right guard Louis Vasquez is the only known quantity among a group that will include rookie Ty Sambrailo at left tackle, ex-defensive tackle Ben Garland at left guard, trade acquisition Gino Gradkowski at center and veteran backup Chris Clark at right tackle.

“I think we’re going to line up just like we are right now until we go to camp. But I don’t think there’s anything etched in stone. It’s going to be very competitive,” Kubiak said.

Competition should come from March signee Shelley Smith at left guard and veteran Ryan Harris at right tackle. The Broncos signed Harris after Ryan Clady tore his ACL, and Harris has more experience in the Broncos’ zone-intensive blocking scheme than anyone else.

But Kubiak would like to see the young players step forward — not just for Week 1, but for the months and years beyond.

“I feel like we’ve got some good, young players and it’s our job to get them going,” Kubiak said. “If we can hit it right, this can be a group that can play together and stay together for a long time.”

But no matter who ends up starting, the group will be filled with newcomers. At least 60 percent of the Week 1 starters with the task of protecting 39-year-old Peyton Manning will be players who did not start for the Broncos in 2014.

“We’re going to be young. If I told you the lineup today or if I tell you in August, that’s a fact,” Kubiak said.

–After spending last week’s minicamp in caps and visors, the Broncos donned helmets when they returned to work for an OTA. But they looked rusty in an uneven, inconsistent practice that was punctuated by dropped passes, breached pockets and some coverage breakdowns.

“Let me be honest with you, we didn’t practice (well) today,” Kubiak said. “We were kind of sloppy and we were down some people. We did get going and practiced better at the end of practice, but we’ve got to push through. It wasn’t our best day, that’s for sure.”

Even the kickers struggled. Connor Barth and Brandon McManus both misfired on intermediate to long-range attempts, and McManus hit both uprights — which was also a problem for him last year.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough today, but we’ll see,” Kubiak said.

–An epidemic of hamstring injuries hindered the Broncos’ wide receivers Monday.

Wideouts Cody Latimer, Jordan Norwood and Kyle Williams all watched from the sideline to let their hamstrings heal. The injury was particularly frustrating for Latimer, last year’s second-round pick. His development has been an offseason priority with Demaryius Thomas’ franchise tender still unsigned.

With those receivers injured, backup Nathan Palmer saw first-team work. Palmer, a member of the Broncos’ practice squad last year, had some solid receptions, including one in a move-the-ball period toward the end of practice that set up a C.J. Anderson touchdown run in a two-minute drill period.

Safety T.J. Ward was also not at practice, but was not injured. There were reports Ward was in the Bay Area and attended Sunday night’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Oakland.

“It is voluntary, we know that,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said.

David Bruton and Omar Bolden both saw more work at safety with Ward not present.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “The ball is always in the right spot, and if I do something wrong he’s a great coach about giving good tips and how to improve on that. I love it so far, I’m looking forward to more.” — TE Owen Daniels, on working with QB Peyton Manning.

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