One of the biggest criticisms surrounding John Elway’s near-perfect off-season is the fact that he didn’t address the offensive tackle position, which could continue to hamper the offensive line and make it a bottom-of-the-barrel unit.
Not so fast, says the football junkies over at Pro Football Focus, as they ranked the Denver Broncos’ offensive line as the league’s 14th-best unit entering the season.
“The Broncos were quietly solid up front last season, though things will look much different in 2020 with two starters moving on and right tackle Ja’Wuan James returning after playing only 63 snaps,” PFF writer Steve Palazzolo wrote. “It wasn’t always pretty at left tackle, where Garett Bolles’ 45 penalties are the most in the league over the last three years — he had his fifth-year option declined, giving him one more year in Denver before hitting free agency. While the penalties are an issue, Bolles has graded right around league average as a pass blocker, and he’s a scheme-diverse run blocker. James returns to right tackle where his 75.0 overall grade ranks 35th among tackles since 2016. James is a dependable starter, though he has the fourth-highest cap hit on the team at $13 million —he’s the fourth-highest-paid right tackle per year.”
Palazzolo is right about Denver’s line being sneaky decent last season. The Broncos offensive line struggled last year, but as a lot of that had to do with Joe Flacco lining up under center, the unit still graded out as the league’s 14th-best pass-blocking line, and the 16th-best run-blocking line.
Like Palazzolo also pointed out, the tackle position still has a fair number of questions to answer, but the interior is where Denver’s offensive line really shines.
“On the interior, left guard Dalton Risner had a promising rookie season that saw him rank 33rd among guards with a 64.5 overall grade as he transitioned smoothly from right tackle,” Palazzolo wrote. “The other guard spot will be manned by free agent Graham Glasgow, who is coming off a career-high 74.1 overall grade while playing both guard and center for the Detroit Lions. Glasgow is the No. 14-graded guard in the league since 2016, and he pairs with James to give Denver one of the most stable right sides in the league. The biggest question mark is at center, as Connor McGovern headed to the New York Jets after his career-high 72.0 overall grade that tied for ninth among centers last season. Third-round pick Lloyd Cushenberry III is projected to start and could be a solid addition to the run game, but his 55.8 pass-blocking grade last year at LSU is concerning.”
Cushenberry might not have graded out as an outstanding pass-blocker in college, but he has all the tools to become one in the pros. With his unbelievable strength and ability to anchor, he was the only player who was able to slow down Javon Kinlaw’s pass rush at the Senior Bowl.