After watching Super Bowl XLVIII and then re-watching it, two glaring weaknesses shone brightly for the Denver Broncos; a lack of pass-rush and an inability to protect Peyton Manning.
Without ample time to read the defense, Manning couldn’t throw the ball as he was being hit hard, over and over again.
Of course, the turning point in the game came when Cliff Avril bull-rushed Orlando Franklin, pushing him back and into Manning’s face and then contacting the QB’s forearm as he threw. The ball floated helplessly through the air and Malcolm Smith snagged it, took off and scored the pick-six to make the game 22-0. While watching the game for a second time — and then a third — I noticed Manning was going deep to Demaryius Thomas, who burned both Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas; it could have been and should have been a touchdown, 15-7 or 15-8, Seattle.
Let’s take a step back for a second and take a look at the offensive line, what they went through just to get to that point and if they need help.
Ryan Clady, the All-Pro left tackle, missed most of the season with a lis franc injury, so Chris Clark stepped in and played well. Dan Koppen, who was going to start at center, tore his knee in training camp and Chris Kuper could never get back to full health following that ankle injury in 2012; Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez stepped up and performed wonderfully. Franklin was so-so all season, nursing a minor injury of his own, getting called for multiple penalties and then was simply worked in the Super Bowl. And Zane Beadles may have been the most consistent of them all, though Vasquez was named All-Pro.
Clearly, injuries impacted the line and it’s amazing they were able to piece it all together to make that Super Bowl run.
So, it seems likely John Elway and the front office will go out and try to land another strong lineman, like he did in the 2013 offseason with Vasquez.
Who could the Broncos get? There are some very good free agents out there, as our top 10 list from yesterday highlights; let’s take a look.
Eugene Monroe, of the Baltimore Ravens, is a tackle that could possibly take Franklin’s spot, or at least push him to be better. Monroe’s started 73 games in his five-year career, most with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Or the Broncos could look at Michael Oher, who played opposite of Monroe this season, at right tackle. Unlike Monroe, who the Ravens really want to re-sign, Oher seems on the way out of Baltimore; maybe Denver would be a nice, new start for him.
Finally, Zach Strief of the New Orleans Saints is a tremendous tackle, a captain of the team and a standout off the field, too.
Will Denver work to add depth on the offensive line? We’ll have to wait and see.
Like this? Click here for the curious case of Champ Bailey.