Friday, June 13, 2008

Exam Study Guide/aka P-notes


The news that Jay Cutler has Type 1 Diabetes actually tends to explain a few things: weight loss, fatigue. Of how many jobs can you think where doctors and trainers and concerned companions are constantly hovering about? My own take is that he will be fine and have a breakout season. The cause of my optimism is the OL. Offense begins and ends with them.

In '07, Lepsis returned to LT from a season ending '06 injury. Erik Pears moved to RT. Montrae Holland filled RG in place of the departed Cooper Carlisle. Tom Nalen and Ben Hamilton lined up in their customary spots. No, wait ... Ben Hamilton has a "spinal cord concussion" which can't be good. Out for the year. That's OK, Chris Myers comes in at LG. Zap! Tom Nalen tears a bicep and is also out for the rest of the season. Myers moves to C and Chris Kuper comes in at LG. The only backups are rookie Ryan Harris, PJ Alexander and ... Chad Mustard in a pinch? Pretty thin.
Lepsis has an off year, Pears struggles. Kuper does well as does Myers. Holland actually plays very consistently well for a guy new to the "system". Then, boom, Myers is traded. Nalen and Hamilton are said to be returning, but still thin on the OL. The rebu ..., sorry, transition, commences.

Casey Wiegmann, formerly of the Chiefs, and almost as old as Nalen (who will be deified just as Herakles) is signed. Not too auspicious for a youth movement. Then things start to happen. OT Ryan Clady is #1 draft pick, and C/G Kory Lichtensteiger is #4a. Tyler Polumbus and Mitch Erickson are CFAs and Dylan Gandy from the Colts is added afterward. As of this post there are thirteen OL headed for training camp and all but two are under 30 years of age; eight are 26 years old or younger. The two oldest guys are centers as is a rookie. Presto, a reb ... new OL.

Shanahan announces that Clady is LT which might as well happen for this enormously talented young man who appears to be a prototype at his position. Erik Pears is now the backup LT which is a good move because it seems he was better on the left and he has much experience. One thing some don't know about him is that he played G in NFL Europa (Koln/Cologne Centurions?). For the moment Ben Hamilton is back at LG, but he could be one hard hit away from forced retirement. That is where the brilliance of the Gandy acquisition shines. The same can be said of Wiegmann in the event that Tom Nalen runs down. Montrae Holland is the only OL in the same spot from the end of '07. He doesn't seem like a typical Denver OL, but he's fitting in and may even be better in '08. Chris Kuper, who earned his spurs in '07 as a G is competing with Ryan Harris at RT.

With the age of the centers becoming more of an issue every season, it appears that Lichtensteiger was drafted to be a C. He's coming off a shoulder (ouch) injury and won't be ready to practice until training camp. It is possible he could be IR/PUP after camp. Barring extensive injuries, the clock on PJ Alexander's NFL career may be winding down. I doubt if he's eligible for the Practice Squad, nor do I think he'd be interested if he was. However, that's where Tyler Polumbus and Mitch Erickson may find themselves after camp unless disaster strikes the OL two years in a row.

So, guys who can play C=Nalen, Wiegmann, Hamilton, Lichtensteiger, Kuper, Gandy.
Guys who can play G=Holland, Hamilton, Gandy, Kuper, Harris, Lichtensteiger, Pears, Wiegmann, Erickson, Alexander.

Offensive Tackles=Clady, Pears, Kuper, Harris, Polumbus, Erickson.

Nine OL will probably be on the roster. We'll just need to wait and see how Hamilton and Nalen (just had his knee scoped) do. This group is sufficiently deep to sustain some losses. Don't forget that R. Harris was on the roster but not available at the start of '07 (back surgery) which is why last year's OL situation was so precarious.

Why am I optimistic for the OL in '08? Two or almost two deep means lots of vigorous reps in practice especially for the youngsters. I bet that didn't happen last year because of the lack of depth. Until he does otherwise, I expect Clady to play LT from now on. He's young, has a lot of upside and probably a high learning curve. I hope Nalen, Hamilton and Wiegmann can play this whole year in order to give the young guys veteran leadership and a sense of direction before they hang it up. I expect Holland, Kuper, Gandy, Pears, Harris and Lichtensteiger to be around for years to come and to get better as they go along. The latter five can play more than one spot on the OL (Kuper can do them all).

When this season is over, I hope my optimism will seem to have been justified. It may seem farfetched now, but I can see this group knocking people down for the runners, building a wall for pass pro and closing ranks when one needs to step out, and not miss a beat in the process.

And now, a moment of silence. Requiescat in Pace, Tim Russert.

Vale/Be strong,

1 comment:

Michael Carlson said...

Pears isn't the only one: the Broncos used NFL Europe better than virtually anyone, except perhaps the Chiefs. They helped develop Matt Lepsis from TE to OT (he was all-league in Barcelona, at least on the Pro Football Weekly team I chose)
and Ben Hamilton was the all-league center in Berlin in 2002. Others sent by the Broncos included Tyson Clabo and Steve Herndon, and Byron Chamberlain went from WR to TE in Europe too....