Saturday, July 19, 2008

Camp Battles- Right Tackle: Ryan Harris vs. Chris Kuper vs. Erik Pears

Ryan Harris, coming out of Notre Dame was described as a 'finesse blocker,' on most scouting reports. He dropped to the Broncos in the third-round because he was considered under-sized. Which scares most teams, but with Denver it's almost a prerequisite.

Young Harris was injured in preseason and was forced to undergo surgery on his back. Which caused him to miss most of the preseason not have an opportunity to play until the game vs. Pittsburgh (which also happened to be the same game Chris Kuper got an opportunity to play).

For most of the season he played predominately on special teams (10 games), but saw time as a right tackle against Kansas City and auditioned at left tackle in the season finale against Minnesota. Prior to the team taking Ryan Clady in the first-round of this years' draft, Shanahan had mentioned Harris as the potential starting left tackle in Denver.

The Upside: We haven't even seen the best out of Harris, his learning curve was steep, missing preseason, where he would have gotten valuable experience. He's fast, and the fact that he's not 300 lbs. doesn't really hurt him with Denver's scheme. He started nearly every game as a left tackle for Notre Dame and put up very impressive numbers. He's also versatile, which makes him a very viable option, as Denver likes to suit as few as six or seven offensive linemen on game day.

The Downside: His health and his salary may force him to either make or break this season. He's not a bruising lineman, he won't be knocking anyone on their butt. He also doesn't have the professional experience that any of the other linemen competing for his position have. Denver did not have enough faith that he could be their starting left tackle and used their first-round pick in this years' draft to replace him.

Chris Kuper exper- ienced a trial by fire last season taking over for former Bronco Chris Myers, who was switched to center to fill-in for the injured Tom Nalen. Kuper played very well for Denver, on a line that had lost its' two best players very early in the season.

Kuper showed why he was a two-time All-American at the University of North Dakota, stepping up in his second season as a Bronco to help Denver once again place amongst the NFL's best in rushing yards.

Kuper is the leader early in the battle for right tackle, but as you can see faces stiff competition.

The Upside: He can play, last season he came in having only had experience blocking on special teams and immediately took over as left guard during the game against Pittsburgh. He has spent time with Denver playing four positions on the offensive line. He's certainly big enough to anchor that right side and can hold his own with out reinforcement from a tight end. This is only his third season and given his proven ability, he doesn't have to start this season to be a force for a long time in Denver.

The Downside: Kuper was also the starting Right Guard going into the training camp last season. However, poor performance led to him being demoted and Montrae Holland quickly took over and never let go of the position. Kuper's trying to take over a position that Erik Pears played the whole season in 2007.

Erik Pears a Colorado native was the starting right tackle for Denver in 2007. Pears is a monster listed at 6'8" 305 lbs. and has the ability to literally manhandle most of what the NFL can throw at him.

He was the undisputed starting right tackle in only his second-season as a professional. In 2006 he took over at left tackle for an injured Matt Lepsis and started 11 games. In 2005 Pears spent time on Denver's practice squad, but made the All-NFL Europe team, playing some tackle, but mostly guard for the Cologne Centurions.

Pears is also believed to be, if there is such a thing, the primary competition for Clady at left tackle as well.

The Upside: As I said, he's a monster, literally possessing the skills to dismantle an opposing defensive end or an eager outside linebacker. He's a "Denver lineman," in every aspect, with the exception that he is so big, but at 6'8", 305 lbs. he's still smaller than most NFL tackles. He's young and has never missed an NFL start due to injury and has been playing in Colorado his whole life.

The Downside: Pears has been a part of an offensive line in Denver that has got progressively worse over the last five years. In both rushing and sacks allowed Denver has went from top 5 to lower top 10. The sacks can be attributed a lot to quarterback Jay Cutler's insistence on playing from the pocket and inexperience, but you can also point directly to a tackle like Pears and scratch your chin a little.

Broncos Denver Broncos Training Camp Battle Winner: The fans of Denver? (just kidding). Erik Pears, unless "Sweet Feet," suffers a setback, then Pears would take over at left and I think Denver takes a shot with Ryan Harris.

1 comment:

Rabbi Lars Shalom said... love this shit