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Scouting The Schedule: Broncos Hope Improved O-Line Will Help QB Play
(Editor’s Note: The start of the 2017 season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to prepare. The Cowboys face a daunting schedule this year, highlighted by the AFC West and NFC West, as well as their traditional rivalries in the NFC East. Over the next two weeks, Bryan Broaddus will preview what to expect from all 13 of their upcoming opponents. The series continues with Week 2 and the Denver Broncos).
Opponent: Denver Broncos
Series Record: Denver leads, 7-5
This Year’s Matchup: Sept. 17 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Best Draft Pick: If you studied the Broncos last season, you would have seen their struggles in protecting their quarterbacks. It was clear from the beginning of getting ready for the draft that John Elway was not going to let that happen again. Elway passed on Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk -- who many had as the top tackle -- to select Utah’s Garett Bolles, instead Bolles is a better athlete than Ramczyk, but he doesn’t play with the same type of power. Bolles lined up at left tackle in college and will battle Ty Sambrailo for the starting job. What Bolles lacks in experience, he will make up for his ability to play on the move. His lateral slide and set are outstanding, and he will use that to his advantage. From talking to folks with the Broncos, there are plenty of people who want him to start even though the front office really likes Sambrailo.
Best Free Agency Move: There is no question that the addition of former Cowboy Ronald Leary to this offensive line will be a huge improvement. His toughness and his workmanlike attitude is just what this offensive line needs. As a group, they were pushed around last year, and with Leary in the mix, he will not let that happen.
Most Troublesome Matchup: If there is such a thing as a lock-down cornerback in this league, it has to be All-Pro Chris Harris. He is one of the most complete players when it comes to overall defense with his ability to tackle and defend the ball. In 16 games, he made 63 total tackles, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Incredibly, Harris was on the field for 95 percent of the Broncos’ defensive snaps last season, and he was one of the main reasons that the Broncos led the NFL for the second-consecutive season in pass defense. The coaches really like the length of Aqib Talib, but Harris can line up anywhere – outside, slot and even some safety in certain packages.
Most Favorable Matchup: If the Broncos have a weakness it is at quarterback. Trevor Siemian is Elway’s favorite, but he wasn’t nearly consistent enough when they needed him to be. Paxton Lynch will get a chance to compete with Siemian, but if his practice habits and commitment do not change then look for Siemian to once again be the starter for Week 1. Elway worked to improve the offensive line in the offseason and added Carlos Henderson, Isaiah McKenzie along with Jamaal Charles to attempt to add some firepower, as well.
Unsung Storyline: The defending Super Bowl champions missed the playoffs last season and the division has improved with Kansas City and Oakland adding to already talented rosters. With that in mind, remember that first-year head coach Vance Joseph took over for Gary Kubiak -- who had to step aside due to illness. Joseph was selected by Elway early and how quickly he is able to adjust to the job will be the difference this season.