Sunday was ugly for the Denver Broncos. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons were able to do what they wanted, when they wanted. The final score (23-16) made the game look closer than it actually was. In reality the Broncos were never in that football game and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Paxton Lynch was ineffective, overthrowing wide-open receivers all game. The defense looked flat in the first half and was unable to stop the run. Tevin Coleman torched Denver’s linebackers all game. Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips and the lot were completely outcoached. And finally, the offensive line was bad — really, really bad. This is the most concerning development from yesterday’s game.
Outside of the offensive line, all the problems Denver had on Sunday are fixable. Trevor Siemian appears healthy enough to start Thursday, sending Lynch back to the bench. You can bet the farm that Denver’s defensive leaders aren’t going to let that group play that uninspired again. The same goes for the coaching staff; they’ll learn from their mistakes and be better for it. But fixing the offensive line with so any problems on the fly is going to be extremely tough.
Denver’s offensive line was exposed against the Falcons, and there aren’t many places to turn to fix it. It’s a unit that is battling injures, severely lacks depth and is getting poor performances from its starters. That’s a bad combination, and it all came to a head Sunday afternoon.
The Falcons entered the game with only four sacks on the season, and they left with 10. Vic Beasley had 3.5 sacks by himself. Atlanta’s defensive line managed nine quarterback hurries and forced two fumbles. Lynch was running for his life early and often. Compounding the issue, they aren’t just struggling at pass blocking; they’re just as bad at run blocking. The Broncos only managed 84 yards on the ground.
Ty Sambrailo was exceptionally terrible on Sunday. The CSU product doesn’t look like he has any business being on the field; he’s now made two starts at right tackle, and they’ve both been a disaster. But with Donald Stephenson out, Denver doesn’t have any other options. After Sambrailo finally got pulled yesterday, Darrion Weems stepped in to play right guard and Michael Schofield slid over to play right tackle. That combination was better, mostly because of Weems, but Schofield is another huge area of concern.
Sambrailo and Schofield are at the core of Denver’s offensive line problems. Both players were drafted to develop into starting tackles, but neither has come close to winning those jobs. There is a reason John Elway went out and brought in Russell Okung and Stephenson. It’s understandable if a second-year player can’t win a starting job at right tackle; it’s not easy for young players to pick up that position quickly. What isn’t understandable is the fact the Sambrailo, a second-round pick, isn’t even cutting it as a replacement player. He was easily the worst player on the field for either team on Sunday, and there aren’t many options to solve this problem.
Elway drafted Connor McGovern in the fifth round with the idea of handing him the right guard position, but he was a healthy scratch against the Falcons. How bad must McGovern look in practice if he can’t push Sambrailo or Schofield for a game day roster spot? Same thing can be said about James Ferentz.
There’s also not a lot of help on the free agent market. Louis Vasquez would be an interesting option — he knows the system — but he doesn’t play tackle. Erik Pears is also available, but there’s no doubt his best years are behind him (and his ceiling wasn’t very high to begin with). Throw Jake Long in there and I’ve got a pretty depressing list of washed-up free agent linemen.
The Falcons game raised some real concerns for the Denver Broncos. Most of them won’t require anything other than a quick tweak to fix. That can’t be said for the offensive line. There’s no quick fix for that group. They have absolutely no depth and the free agent market is barren. After watching Denver’s offensive line make Beasley look like Von Miller, it became clear that they have a huge problem with no remedy.