Same old story as Broncos offensive line struggles against the Saints

The jury isn’t still out. Critics across town are saying the Broncos offensive line hasn’t improved. If anything, it may have taken steps backward from 2015, and having an inexperienced quarterback isn’t helping the matter.

The o-line was dominated again on Sunday in a miraculous 25-23 win in New Orleans, facing a Saints defense that had produced just 11 sacks through eight games prior.

Trevor Siemian was sacked six times for 24 yards and hit another six times. At times it felt like Phil Simms was taking passing plays off and the folks at CBS were simply hitting replay on him saying, “Siemian took another big hit on that one.”

Pass protection was poor again, as Siemian was pressured on 22 of 48 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. New Orleans dialed up blitzes on 22 plays, but it was under normal pass rush conditions where Siemian and the o-line struggled the most. Both of Siemian’s interceptions and five of the six sacks were not the result of a blitz.

Donald Stephenson was especially poor against the pass rush Sunday. He was benched on Sunday in place of Ty Sambrailo after allowing two hits and four hurries on 31 snaps. The result is nothing new, though. Stephenson has struggled all season; in fact, he’s PFF’s lowest rated overall right tackle – run and pass combined.

The o-line as a whole struggled in the run game as well. Although they produced 103 total yards, Denver needed 37 attempts to reach the century mark – a 2.8 yards per carry average.

The lone highlight on the offensive line was again Matt Paradis, who continues to be one of the best run blocking centers in the game. Paradis earned Denver’s top PFF grade on offense for the week. Not only did he again top the list for Denver, just last week they named him the top center in the league through the first half of the season.

Still, his outstanding play hasn’t been enough to offset up-and-down performances across the line. Russell Okung rebounded somewhat from a string of tough games, although he did allow a sack. Michael Schofield played one of his best games of the year, but it was not enough to offset Stephenson’s tough day.

Credit Siemian, however, who entered the game with a still sore shoulder and took the punishment better than expected. Head coach Gary Kubiak has long credited Siemian for his poise and the young quarterback certainly had to show a form of it during this game. Despite the two bad interceptions, he absorbed hit after hit to complete 25 of his 40 passes.

Denver has two weeks now to try and solve their issues on the offensive line. When they return from the bye week they’ll face Kansas City twice, Jacksonville, Tennessee, New England and Oakland.

Here’s what some of the pundits were saying about the Denver offensive line and Trevor Siemian’s play behind it during Sunday’s narrow win in New Orleans.