Vinston Painter’s progress

Broncos offensive tackle Vinston Painter was often overwhelmed in the preseason opener at San Francisco (he wasn’t alone - tenth-overall pick Chance Warmack learned that the NFL is different in his own first game), but the rookie has also been getting some positive comments from the coaching staff.  This is what Jeff Legwold had to say, over at the Worldwide Leader:

When the Broncos selected Painter in the sixth round this past April, they saw an athletic project with a pile of potential. What they got was a player who has steadily worked his way up the depth chart, some by necessity because of injuries and some because he has advanced slightly more quickly than expected. Painter has worked much of the time as the backup right tackle, just behind Orlando Franklin. But the coaching staff showed this past week it doesn't think he's quite ready for work with the starters yet. Rather than simply elevating Painter after Franklin was injured, the coaches jumbled things up front, moving Louis Vasquez to right tackle in one practice and Chris Clark there in another.

For the last few years, I’ve been advocating for an upgrade at backup swing tackle - well, since they obtained starting RT Orlando Franklin, at least. He filled a huge need, but the team was still missing depth at OT. Finally, Denver took Painter in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft at pick #173, and it appears that he’s already turning some heads in camp. That’s no shock to me, although he’s far from ready to play on Sundays. This came from my notes on him:

6’4.25” 309 lb. Still filling out, has very low body fat, should be able to put on good weight (several sources including NFL.com’s video disagreed with CFN’s belief that he’s maxed out...; he has a good bubble w/ 34 inch arms.  He has the powerful calves (Combine video @ 50-55 seconds proves it) give him the ability to anchor.”

Also, from my article on him and David Quessenberry:

In 2010 Painter, according to the Broncos website, “Excelled in the off-season program with a 465-pound bench press and 485-pound front squat."

Painter came to Virginia Tech as an offensive tackle but moved to defensive tackle during the fall of his redshirt freshman year, and he moved back to OL in the spring. He’s commented on how much playing DT has helped him in his work at tackle.

"I would say it kind of allows you to get into the mind of a defensive player,” Painter said.

I doubted that he’d be ready to play this season when Denver took him, and after watching the San Francisco game, with nothing but OTAs, minicamp, and two weeks of training camp under his belt, I still do. He has the tools but he’s still visibly raw, particularly when he’s lunging and bending at the waist rather than moving his feet to lock into his man. You also rarely find a college guy who can quickly switch his kickslide from LT to RT almost overnight, and Painter obviously can’t do that yet.

You can see him overcoming those tendencies at 10:25 of the second quarter. Denver's Philip Blake had a great block on Will Tukuafu that blew him off the line, and Painter’s assignment was on the second level, which he moved to and closed off very well. Both players looked like the guys Denver was hoping to get. It wasn’t a good night in general for Painter (or Blake, who’s not developing well), - and that’s exactly what I’d expected of Vinston.

After watching a lot of his film, though, I saw enough run technique and of what he still needs to work on that I’m comfortable that he’s got enough of the nascent skills to develop into the backup tackle that Denver’s been missing since Moses was a pup. His game improved in the fourth quarter - partly due to the competition being more on a par, and partly just due to settling in. It’s too soon to know if he’s someone you can polish or not - with Franklin you could see it in him immediately, but Painter’s not as ready. What he’s needed is a pro training program and better coaching. He’s getting it, and we watch from there.

His progress is likely to come from several factors. He came to the Broncos at only about 16% body fat, so I expect that he’s been on Luke Richesson's program to build the NFL body he’ll need, and he doesn’t have it yet. On the other hand, he’s smart, naturally strong, and understands the relative requirements of both OL and DL players in the trenches. He even played some special teams, and did so well. He had some experience at guard in 2010, but ended up as one of VT’s left tackles for the next three years, and started his senior year. That helps him have the positional versatility that’s so important in the NFL.

He also has the advantage of training with both Alex Gibbs and Dave Magazu. The Broncos have said that they took on Gibbs as much to train their younger players as to implement the stretch zone, of which he’s the acknowledged guru. The progress of Painter indicates just how smart that strategy is. Denver isn’t drafting many All-Pros, they say, but they’re determined to coach up a lot of them. Painter is a very good player for them to build up quickly - this summer’s experience with the OL has shown just how vulnerable a team becomes if the ‘next man up’ isn’t qualified to handle that situation. I love Chris Clark as an extra TE, but I think it's been shown beyond argument that he’s over his head at tackle.

Painter, as his first preseason game showed, isn’t going to be a factor in 2013. But this team is still being smart in the way that they’re looking at the blocks that will go into building for the future, and he’s a good example of that. Some such players will make it - some, probably including Philip Blake, won’t.

Painter’s reportedly noticeable camp progress mirrors the hopes I had when I watched his college film. I still expect that he’ll improve well. He could be a big help for the Broncos in 2014.

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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