Re­built of­fen­sive line looks big­ger, stronger and meaner

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nicki Jhab­vala The Den­ver Post

When Vance Joseph was hired as a first-year head coach in Jan­uary, his first order of busi­ness was form­ing his staff. His sec­ond was help­ing that staff de­sign the team’s play­book and re­make Bron­cos’ im­age that was some­how lost in their play­of­f­less sea­son of 2016.

The re­design started up front. The Bron­cos’ big­gest of­fen­sive weak­nesses trick­led down from the front five, hin­der­ing the run­ning game and pun­ish­ing the Bron­cos’ young quar­ter­backs.

Den­ver de­cided to let left tackle Rus­sell Okung walk and ac­cept a mas­sive deal with the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers. Then it went shop­ping for pounds. The first ad­di­tion was Ron Leary, a guard on the Cow­boys’ league­lead­ing of­fen­sive line last sea­son whom Joseph be­lieves was the best guard on the open mar­ket. Also ac­quired: tackle Mene­lik Wat­son, a rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced be­he­moth of a man who suf­fered a string of in­juries in four years at Oak­land. The last big piece was first-round draft pick Garett Bolles, a tackle nabbed from a rel­a­tively weak O-line class in this year’s draft.

The re­con­fig­ured line is built to be big­ger, stronger and meaner, and will likely play a mix of zone and power in of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Mccoy’s sys­tem.

But it’s in train­ing camp where the pieces will be aligned and the true starters will be re­vealed. Will Bolles get the start­ing nod for Week 1 at left tackle? Is Wat­son in­deed Den­ver’s guy on the right side? And will Matt Par­adis, the Bron­cos’ cog in the mid­dle, be healthy enough to be good to go by the opener af­ter re­cov­er­ing from two hip surg­eries?

Eyes may be on the quar­ter­back bat­tle, but the start­ing quar­ter­back’s eyes and fu­ture de­pend on the line­men.

Steve Nehf, The Den­ver Post

Rookie of­fen­sive line­man Garett Bolles (72) joined the Bron­cos as a first-round draft pick from the Univer­sity of Utah. He is ex­pected to be their starter at left tackle.

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