Broncos offensive line coach Mike Munchak has experienced the opening quarter of an NFL season 27 times. He has seen sloppy Septembers dissolve into disappointing Decembers, fast-starting players fade and bad beginnings forgotten by Thanksgiving.
All of which is why Munchak’s point during a phone interview after practice Thursday carries so much merit.
“It’s too early to judge any of these guys, four weeks in without a preseason,” he said. “Hopefully, for all of us, our best football is coming.”
Too early to judge? Sure. Twelve games remain, including Sunday’s trip to New England. Maybe left tackle Garett Bolles will continue his solid form, right tackle Demar Dotson will hold down the spot in place of an injured Elijah Wilkinson and center Lloyd Cushenberry will steadily improve.
The Broncos need Munchak to be right. Fewer pass protection errors. Better run blocking. The same discipline in terms of penalties.
If quarterback Drew Lock and running back Phillip Lindsay are to have successful returns from injuries to spark the Broncos’ offense, it all starts with the line.
“The record is obviously not where we want it and we need to start winning football games,” Munchak said. “You want to be growing and developing while winning. The Jets game gave us a little taste of that.”
The growing-and-developing angle is particularly important to the Broncos. Among the current starting five, only Bolles and left guard Dalton Risner were on the roster last year.
The coronavirus pandemic wiped out the preseason, meaning the Broncos had to adjust to each other on the fly in the opening month. And there were ups (no sacks allowed by Tennessee and the New York Jets) and downs (the Broncos allowed 13 sacks in losses to Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay).
Through four games …
Pass protection disruptions (combined sacks, knockdowns and pressures): The Broncos’ offensive line has been booked with 29 1/2 of the team’s 53 total disruptions per the Denver Post’s game charting.
Run game: The line has been charged with 13 of the Broncos’ 26 “bad” run plays — a gain of one or fewer yards, not including short-yardage/goal-line situations.
Penalties: The line has only four accepted penalties.
The line has played in front of three starting quarterbacks and haven’t had the chance to block for Lindsay or create time for receiver Courtland Sutton (torn ACL) to get open downfield.
“When anybody is missing from the puzzle and you’re starting a new 11 every week, it takes a little longer to adjust to that sometimes,” said Munchak, who added, “There’s no excuse.”
No excuses need to be offered, frankly. Bolles, Risner, Cushenberry and right guard Graham Glasgow have played every snap. The adjustment process should be trending only up.
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Source:: The Denver Post – Sports