In 2014, Peyton Manning was sacked a league-low 17 times, barely more than once a game. Much of the credit can be placed upon Manning, who has utilized an extremely quick release throughout his career to avoid pressure.

“I’ve always believed that quarterbacks have to be fast thinkers,” Manning told the Denver Post. “Be able to make quick decisions, kind of ‘fast-twitched’ was a term I was taught at a young age at quarterback, being a ‘fast-twitched’ thinker and decision-maker.”

Usually, Manning will get the ball out quickly, but that doesn’t make the players standing between him and the defense irrelevant. The importance of the offensive line cannot be understated.

Can the line protect Manning at the same level as 2014? Just how many sacks will they allow?

The Broncos offensive line appears to be set for the start of training camp. The first-team linemen are expected to be rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo, left guard Ben Garland, center Gino Gradkowski, right guard Louis Vasquez, and right tackle Chris Clark.

The Pro Bowler, Vasquez, is the only starter who remains from last season. All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady tore his left ACL during 11-on-11 drills in May, and is likely to miss the entirety of the 2015 season. Denver lost Orlando Franklin and Manny Ramirez to free agency in the offseason.

The loss of Clady has pushed 2015 second round pick Ty Sambrailo, out of Colorado State University, to slot in as the starting left tackle. Since Clady went down, Sambrailo has been tasked with blocking Pro Bowl pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller during practice.

“Whenever I beat him, I tell him. I will go up to him and let him know what I was thinking, and try to figure out what he was thinking,” Miller told the Denver Post. “If somebody beat me and they told me how they beat me, I would listen.”

The signing of head coach Gary Kubiak signals the return of the zone-blocking scheme that helped propel the success of the Broncos in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Ideal linemen for the zone-blocking scheme must be fleet-footed and play intelligently.

The 6-foot-6 Sambrailo is an excellent athlete with quick feet. His overall skill-set makes the rookie a perfect fit in the zone-blocking scheme.

Gino Gradkowski followed Kubiak to Denver from Baltimore, to replace Ramirez as the starting center. Gradkowski, in his second season in Kubiak’s offense, has been putting in the work to develop chemistry with his teammates.

“I think when we get the pads on, it’ll be a good indicator of where we are as an offensive line, because up front it’s so hard to kind of get a good feeling when you’re just in helmets,” Gradkowski said via “I think we’ve come a long way. We’ve worked hard; I’m really anxious to get the pads on.”

Ben Garland, a 27-year-old guard, is an intelligent player with good footwork. Garland was drafted out of the Air Force Academy as a defensive tackle, and made the switch to guard after serving two years in the military. Last season Garland took 47 snaps, his first taste of NFL action. This season, Garland is replacing the departed Franklin.

“I love left guard.” Garland said via the Denver Post. “It is intellectually and physically challenging, but when all 11 guys are in sync and you run a good play, it’s an awesome feeling.”

In Kubiak’s zone-blocking system, Garland has a chance to make a lasting impact.

Two seasons ago, Chris Clark filled in admirably for Ryan Clady at left tackle, when Clady was injured. This season, Clark is expected to be the starting right tackle. Clark, who is 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, has good footwork for a man of his stature. The problem with Clark is that he is slow and does not play with confidence.

With a revamped offensive line, the Broncos hope to keep Peyton Manning healthy and upright during the 2015 season.

So, how many sacks will the Broncos allow in 2015?


Bryce Rudnick, a Mile High Sports intern and CU-Boulder student, contributed to this report