ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Quarterbacks are the talk of the town, and rightfully so, too. After Peyton Manning retired over a year ago, the 2015 Super Bowl Champions have been searching for their franchise quarterback in a two-man competition with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.
However, while that talk won’t quiet any time soon, behind the scenes an equally important unit on the team is starting to take shape: the offensive line. While quarterbacks are the sexy headline, the offensive line was in more limbo entering the offseason.
Now, midway through week five of the offseason workout program, the unit is beginning to solidify on the field after multiple personnel moves earlier in the offseason. Although it’s been widely thought that Max Garcia and Ronald Leary — the most expensive Broncos free agent in 2017 — would be the starting guards, on Tuesday it was confirmed where they would play, at least initially.
“I said I would play right [guard] just off the bat,” Garcia said. “It may happen where I’m going to have to go to the left, or he's going to have to go to the right. It’s going to happen. As long as either one of us is prepared to make that change, it’s going to be okay.”
The initial dilemma about who would play on what side was because both Leary and Garcia played left guard last year. In the end, it came down to who would be more comfortable moving to the right side.
“I’m more comfortable on the left side because that’s where I’ve been pretty much my entire career in Dallas,” Leary said. “We talked about it with coach Davidson, and that’s the direction we are going right now.”
As for Garcia, left guard as just one of the many positions he has played his entire career. Along with playing guard in college at Florida, Garcia played left tackle and center. In his rookie season with the Broncos, he started five games, mostly at right guard.
“I don’t really have a preference. I feel like I did better on the right side my rookie year and then last year, I played all left,” Garcia said. “Obviously, I feel a lot more comfortable playing that left just after last season. Nothing is set in stone. I’m always willing to make a change and do what I have to do to make the team prosper.”
With four months left until the start of the season, nothing is set in stone, but if both players stay healthy, there is plenty of reason to think Leary will be starting at left guard and Garcia on the right. But the questions don’t stop with the two guard positions.
If Matt Paradis can successfully return from double-hip surgery, he will remain the team’s starting center. On the outside of the line, both tackle position remain open. Not knowing the starting offensive line in the middle of the offseason workout program isn’t new for Denver.
“Even when we made our Super Bowl run, we didn’t even have a starting left guard, and then they brought in Evan [Mathis] five days before the first regular-season game,” Garcia said. “It’s really doesn’t matter. It’s good to know who you are going to be playing with to build that chemistry. At the end of the day, you learn the system, and you just go.”
With Garett Bolles, Donald Stephenson, Menelik Watson, Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield all competing for the tackle positions, it may very well take until August for either, or both, positions to be filled. Regardless of who it is, though, chemistry will play a crucial role in the success of the starting five.
“I don’t think chemistry is overrated at all, it’s something that is really big, especially with the offensive line because you have to have five guys that really think alike on every single play,” Leary said. “It’s something that takes time. There is a lot of new guys on the line right now, new guys in the meeting room.”
While the big guys up front wait to find out the starting offensive line, they are doing everything possible to build that important chemistry any way they can.
“We try to do a lot of stuff off the field together just to know each other better besides football,” Leary said. “I think when you know a guy better off the field you are obviously going to play better with him on the field, so that’s what we are working toward now.”
With all eyes on the quarterbacks, the resurrection of the offensive line is beginning to take shape, slowly, but surely.