Denver has set out to develop, rather than draft, All-Pros. Louis Vasquez did most of his developing in San Diego, but excelled as the Broncos' All-Pro right guard.
It’s a delicate balance. You need to have stars and players in development. You need enough of them ready to play today. That includes both starters and rotational players.
When you talk about a developmental offensive lineman, Ali Marpet might be the best 2015 draft OG you’ve never heard of. Or, by now, maybe you have.
With the zone blocking scheme installation coming in OTAs, Denver continues on their drive to improve the offensive line. Today, let's discuss former Oregon Ducks left tackle Jake Fisher.
He’s not related to Eric Fisher, the left tackle taken #1 overall in 2013 by Kansas City. Like Eric, though, he was a tight end before converting to tackle. The questions for Denver are whether he can develop the power that he’ll need for right tackle and the balance that he’ll need for the left side.
Usually, you want a power player at right tackle. Fisher uses technique rather than raw power. He does it so well, that I think he could come in and play right tackle as a rookie. If he adds enough power, he could also take over at left tackle when Ryan Clady’s contract runs out.
Last week, I discussed a few offensive prospects who'd stood out to me during the college all star games, for better or worse. Today, let's do the same for the year's defensive prospects:
Nick Marshall, CB, Auburn - Marshall has a fun story. He showed up at the Senior Bowl, to which he had been invited as a quarterback, went to the first positional meeting, and then went to the powers that be. He told them that he wanted to switch to cornerback, and they agreed to it. He’s 6-1, 207, and he showed a lot of skill at the position.
He seems to prefer press man. That makes him even more attractive as a pro. A long player who isn’t uncomfortable mixing it up and going for the high point should attract plenty of attention. He’s also able to play safety.
Over the last couple of weeks, I spent time watching practice and game film from the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, and Senior Bowl. Some players stood out, for reasons good and bad. I haven’t gone back and watched their regular season film yet. I didn’t see more than the usual number of college games last year. Southeastern North Dakota vs. Cuttlefish Tech just doesn’t grab me for some reason.
The all-star games themselves were the icing on the season’s cake. Most scouts have moved on. They’re back home. They’ve cued up the software, prepping for combine. They’re watching film of the players they thought highly of in practice.
The issues of zone blocking itself and the personnel for it are now well covered. The next step is considering the personnel that will be carrying the ball. These were David Hooper’s preferred qualities of running backs for the zone blocking scheme:
Questions on zone blocking have been pouring in. There’s no question that it has advantages for Denver, whether Peyton Manning stays or not. The question for today is whether we should expect Denver to begin a change to more mobile linemen.
The answer is, not necessarily. I see that as a good thing.
In Dennis Hooper’s March 2009 article on inside zone blocking, he laid out what you want in a zone blocking lineman. Here’s what he listed (I've numbered his bullet points):
One of our readers recently emailed us with several questions relating to the likely offensive line and system under new head coach Gary Kubiak. We'll address them one by one over the coming days and weeks:
Do you believe we will be going back to a pure ZB scheme? - Kevin
It’s a great question, Kevin, and one that's on the mind of most Broncos fans. The short answer is yes, in degree. But, I think that we’ll see more than that.
In the 2014 season, the Denver Broncos have caught a form of the injury bug. This season's viral mutation seems to attack linebackers. It started near the top of the lineup and has kept up.
It attacks all starting linebackers not named Von. While injuries from sprained ankles to concussions have been included, left leg and knee injuries have ended the season for standout Danny Trevathan. Brandon Marshall missed two games at the end of the season, forcing Denver to turn to the unknown Todd Davis out of powerhouse Sacramento State.
The fans and staff were looking forward to seeing Marshall and Trevathan together in the playoffs. Trevathan’s third left leg injury of the year, a dislocated patella, has put paid to that dream. Happily, Marshall is due back for the playoffs.
When Orlando Franklin learned that he was being moved to left guard last offseason, he issued a very negative tweet on the subject. He quickly took it down, and got on board with the idea. The development of the offensive line as a whole has followed a similar path.
There were some tenacious problems that developed early in the season. They were dealt with, one after another. No player is starting where he did last season for the Broncos. Yet Denver has a revitalized line.
"When I first heard about it, you get disappointed, because you're moving positions," Franklin said. "But at the end of the day, as long as I'm on the field and as long as I'm one of the best five, I'm happy with that."
Some fans had started to lose faith in the Broncos after they's lost two of their last three games in blowouts at New England and St. Louis.
The team knew Miami, which entered the game with a 3-2 road record, would be a tough opponent.
Denver, meanwhile, hadn't yet lost at home.