Broncos running game struggles “a matter of pride” on the offensive line

Since the loss of right tackle Donald Stephenson and tight end Virgil Green to injury in Week 2, the Denver Broncos have struggled to run the ball. C.J. Anderson, the team’s leading rusher, has rushed for a combined 127 yards in three games without Stephenson and Green. Both are expected back this week against San Diego, but retired Broncos tackle Ken Lanier says improving the run game is about more than just getting healthy players back. It’s about mindset above all else.

“It’s a matter of pride,” Lanier told Gil Whiteley on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7. “You have one foot, one inch or two feet of real estate that you have to take; go take it. You have to come off the ball and be nasty with it. Double team a block, hip to hip and get the guy out of there.”

That aggressive mindset was missing seemingly all game in Denver’s Week 5 loss to the Falcons, which saw Anderson, Devontae Booker and fullback Andy Janovich rush for just 66 combined yards.

As Denver has transitioned to a zone blocking system over the past two years, Lanier wonders if there is still some technique lacking.

“With zone blocking, you take your steps and you go up and hit what’s in front of you,” Lanier said. “You take him for a ride. I don’t know if it’s a technique thing that they’re not going over but when you have the same thing happen year after year, something is going on.”

Experience could explain the struggles in technique. On Sunday against the Falcons, among the starters, only left tackle Russell Okung (77) and Matt Paradis (21) had more than 20 regular season starts under their belts.

 

Technique and experience aside, though, Lanier still believes it’s about mindset above all else to get the run game going again. Controlling the line of scrimmage, he says, is about imposing your will and your game plan rather than being reactionary.

“Sometimes they’re coming off the ball and they’re moving and playing on the other side of the ball,” Lanier said. “Other times, they’re letting it play on the other side of the ball. It comes down to heart. You have to figure out how to get nasty within the rules and dominate the line of scrimmage. They have to take their [defense] hands away and get your hands back on the defender. A lot of times it looks like they are just lunging at the edge rusher instead of playing their game. You put them where you want them to go. Don’t let them dictate where you go.”

Hear the whole interview with Ken Lanier, including his thoughts on the shortened week before a Thursday night game, in the podcast below…

Catch Gil Whiteley Monday-Friday from 11a-12p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup.

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