ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos had one main goal for their offensive line this season—get nasty.
They did just that.
The additions of Garett Bolles and Ronald Leary brought a new mentality to the line, a new grit, a newfound mean streak. In their first test, that toughness showed, as they carved out plenty of holes for running backs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles, all to the tune of 140 yards on the ground.
"I thought our offensive line really, really played physically in the run game," head coach Vance Joseph said Monday. "On the double teams, moving those guys out and just getting movement up front. Our backs ran north-south and found some open space to run. That part was very, very impressive as far as the running game."
There was a "but," though, there's almost always a "but."
"The pass protection was not that good," the coach explained. "We were facing two elite rushers in [Melvin] Ingram and [Joey] Bosa so, we knew it was going to be a chore, but we have to do better there. It was too much pressure on Trevor, and it was too many whiffs as far as blocking those speed rushers. It has to get better."
According to Pro Football Focus, the Broncos line averaged a 46.01 grade on a 100 scale in pass protection. Take out Ronald Leary, who graded more than 20 points higher than the rest of the line and left the game in the fourth quarter, and the line averaged a 39.8.
Despite taking nine hits and four sacks, quarterback Trevor Siemian actually put together a nice game, going 17-of-28 for 219 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, but if the Broncos want to keep him out there, they're going to need to do a better job taking care of him.
"Absolutely. Again, the pass protection was not where it has to be for us to be a good football team," Joseph said. "We were facing two elite edge rushers last night, and most teams don't have two but in our division, every team has two, so we have to improve there, no excuses there. We have to play better on the edge as far as blocking speed rushers."
The new offensive line won't be tested quite as vigorously this week as they take on the Dallas Cowboys, a 4-3 base team led on the outside by Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence and rookie Taco Charlton. They will have plenty of big challenges ahead, though, in a division that features players like Khalil Mack, Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Bruce Irvin on top of the Chargers' speed guys.
The first step is admitting you have a problem. Fixing it is a whole other challenge.