Mile High Sports

OTAs open on a make-or-break season for Ty Sambrailo

From high-round draft pick to possibly being the odd man out on a re-tooled offensive line, the fall of Ty Sambrailo has been steep. Hard-luck injuries, ineffectiveness in other spots along the line and roster additions around him in the offseason have left fans in the Mile High City wondering out loud if the sand is beginning to run out on Sambrailo’s time in a Broncos uniform.

There are valid arguments why Sambrailo should or shouldn’t be on the roster. Finding competent offensive lineman with experience in today’s NFL, especially athletic ones like Sambrailo, suggest there should a spot for the tackle on Denver’s roster. Conversely, from his injury history and poor scheme fit with the coaching change, there are logical conclusions to come to that tell us he might be playing his last snaps in Denver.

Sambrailo stays in the picture

Having quick feet for a lineman, in addition to being a USSA skiing champion at one point in his life, points to Sambrailo playing left tackle at the pro level. Starting in place of an injured Ryan Clady in the 2015 season, Sambrailo did a solid job before succumbing to his own season-ending injury that year. While it was admirable on the part of the previous coaching staff to try to get him on the field in any capacity, shuffling him around the offensive line was the equivalent of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Nothing much has changed in two seasons and Sambrailo is still best utilized as a left tackle for Denver. With Garett Bolles now on board, it probably won’t be as the starter long-term, but there is still value in having an insurance policy with someone like Sambrailo on the roster. If we consider his age, upside and his affordable contract in comparison to his main competition, Donald Stephenson, Sambrailo can still be an asset to the Broncos. However, Stephenson took first-team reps at left tackle on Day 1 of OTAs, signaling that Sambrailo could be in for an even steeper climb that originally thought.

With that in mind, Joseph said on Tuesday that Sambrailo will have every chance to compete for the starting left tackle job.

“Absolutely. Everyone has a chance,” Joseph said. “Every guy who plays tackle on this team has chance. Every player has a chance to be a main guy for this football team.”

Sambrailo on the way out

What hurts Sambrailo’s chances of making the team out of camp is that he is only a left tackle. If you compare him to others like Stephenson, Michael Schofield and free-agent signee Menelik Watson, they all have an advantage over him in their ability to play different spots on the line. Playing multiple spots adequately is something Sambrailo hasn’t done so far in Denver, although he did do it in college at Colorado State. With a limited 48-man game-day roster, Sambrailo has to prove he’s more than a one-trick Bronco.

He showed up bigger and stronger this year, but it’s hard to say if that will be enough to keep Sambrailo on the team. While a natural scheme-fit for a zone-blocking scheme under Gary Kubiak, Sambrailo, on paper, doesn’t seem to be a natural mesh for Jeff Davidson’s new power-blocking philosophy up front, emphasizing bigger, more physical lineman.

Additionally, Denver can save a half-million dollars this year and nearly a million next year if they released him, based on cap numbers from Spotrac.

This year’s OTAs and training camp have big implications for Sambrailo’s future in Denver. Whether or not the gifted, but maligned, tackle finally plays up to his abilities or the team decides to move in another direction is very much up in the air.