The Cut to 53: Offensive Line

Russ Hochstein

HOCHSTEIN: ... senior member of O-line.

In (9): Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Chris Kuper, Orlando Franklin (R), Russ Hochstein, Manny Ramirez, Chris Clark, Herb Taylor.
Out (4): Jeff Byers, Stanley Daniels, Adam Grant, Eric Olsen.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Don’t put a label on this unit and what it’s trying to do.

We’re talking about labels such as “zone blocking” or “power blocking.” In truth, to define what the Broncos’ offensive line does as either is to commit a fallacy. As is often the case, when presented with two extremes, the true answer lies somewhere in between.

“We run some zone schemes, we run some gap schemes, we run some man schemes and some draws; offensive line coach Dave Magazu said. “Most places we’ve been its been a combination of all those things. You can’t do just one thing.”

For Kuper, the senior member of the offensive line, that means ingesting a third philosophy since joining the Broncos in 2006 — although at least this one incorporates elements of the past, unlike the shift from zone to power blocking under Josh McDaniels’s watch.

“It’s very different, so I’m adjusting along with all the guys out here,” Kuper said during training camp. “The techniques are different now and I’m trying to learn with all these guys to work on the new techniques.”

Few would know better than Magazu the value of incorporating a variety of philosophies into one’s work with the offensive line. In Carolina, he achieved guru status for molding a talented but still growing unit into one of the league’s best, which the last three years featured two multiple Pro Bowlers (Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil) who developed and flourished under his watch.

Their success in 2008-09 in a run-first offense offers Kuper belief that it can be mimicked in Denver.

“No doubt about it,” Kuper said. “They’ve all had success with it and that’s what we want here — that success in the running game. Linemen are prideful about the running game and when we stick with it we have to make it work up front.”

NOTES:

  • General manager Brian Xanders described the young backups — Ramirez, Clark and Taylor — as “ascending players.”
  • The second-team offensive line struggled at times in the preseason, but the four reserves kept on the 53-man roster have the advantage of knowing the Broncos’ scheme, nomenclature and verbiage, which could give them an edge over a potential waiver claim. “Do you claim that person over someone we’ve trained for five weeks?” Xanders rhetorically asked Saturday.
  • Last year’s offensive line was forced to shuffle players throughout camp due to injury. This year’s line was able to keep its first unit together throughout the preseason.
  • After starting two rookies most of last year, the Broncos only have one rookie among the group. Franklin, a second-round pick, was installed as the first-team right tackle immediately upon his arrival at training camp.
  • Typically a team likes to have enough linemen via both the 53-man roster and practice squad to go two deep. If the Broncos keep these nine linemen, they’d only need to find one lineman to make that possible, although a toe injury sidelined Kuper last week, which may cause the Broncos to look for two practice-squad O-linemen.
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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.

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