DENVER — What species has 32 legs, is the height of a 10-story building and weighs 2½ tons?
"Invasion Of The Four Monster Tarantulas."
The Broncos’ behemoth 16 offensive lineman at training camp Monday morning.
The linemen and the entire offense produced a quality practice after a terrible workout on Sunday.
The linemen’s names, in alphabetic order: Allen Barbre, Garett Bolles, Dillon Day, Max Garcia, Cameron Hunt, Cedrick Lang, Ron Leary, Connor McGovern, Justin Murray, Matt Paradis, Tyler Sambrailo, Michael Schofield, Donald Stephenson, Billy Turner, Menelik Watson and Elijah Wilkinson.
Who’s the tallest? Lang at 6-foot-9.
Who’s the heftiest? Wilkinson at 331 pounds.
Who’s the highest paid? Leary at $8.375 million.
Who’s the oldest? Barbre at 33.
Who’s the newest? Barbre joined the team last week.
Who’s the only first round draft choice? Bolles.
Who’s the best? Paradis was an alternate for the Pro Bowl last season
Who are the starters?
That’s what this camp will determine.
The 16 centers, guards and tackles are competing for five starting positions, eight-nine spots on the 53-man rosters and 2-3 practice squad contracts.
Of course, the most emphasis is on Bolles, who was the first offensive lineman chosen in the 2017 NFL draft, and, in all probability, particularly after an impressive beginning in camp, will be starting tackle.
And serious attention is being paid to three veteran lineman acquired by the Broncos – Leary and Watson as unrestricted free agents (for a combined investment of $12 million in salary this season) and Barbre, who was traded to the Broncos from the Eagles for a conditional 2019 pick. All three could start on the restricted offensive line.
And serious concern has surfaced over three "S" men, and I’m not talking about anyone who has an "S" on his chest and is called "Superman." They are three players who were starters for the Broncos last year. This year Sambrailo, a former second-round draft pick, Schofield (who shifted from tackle to starting right guard in 2016) and Stephenson (who was a starter for 12 games last season, but was graded as one of the worst offensive linemen in the league by Pro Football Focus). Each could end up starting, being a reserve or not even making the team.
The longest shot is the tallest man – Lang. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Giants last season out of UTEP, but was later cut. He agreed to a futures contract with the Broncos in January. But the raw Lang has no chance unless he slips onto the practice unit. Wilkinson, an undrafted rookie, definitely is a practice squad candidate. And Hunt is an undersized rookie free agent who won’t stick.
There is, as Sherlock Holmes would say, The Curious Case of Dillon Day. He has played in eight exhibitions the past two years as a backup center, but never stuck on the roster, and was a practice squader. He looks the part, but has about run out of time with the Broncos – especially with the switch of the versatile McGovern to center.
Justin Murray basically is camp follower/fodder.
Billy Turner started a dozen games with the Dolphins in 2015, and got into three games with the Broncos last year. He actually has been a very positive surprise in this camp, especially once the players began working out in pads, and will make a run as a backup.
Leary was supposed to be on the left side, but moved to right guard when Garcia couldn’t effectively switch from left to right and returned to left guard. Barbre can play guard or tackle and has started for Philadelphia at both, and the offensive staff does seek flexibility. McGovern can play two positions, as can Schofield.
Sambrailo had an opportunity to hold off Bolles, but hasn’t been anything special, despite being healthy after injury issues of the past two years. And Stephenson has to go some to stay as a backup tackle.
Expect the starters to be Paradis, fully recovered from double-hip surgery and one of the top three centers in the NFL, to anchor the line, with Bolles and Garcia on the left side, Watson and Leary on the right side, with Barbre, McGovern, Schofield and Sambrailo as the backups. Turner and Stephenson will be the final cuts, and Day and Wilkinson will wind up on the practice squad.
It’s most critical that the line develops cohesion in a hurry. Last year the Broncos ranked 28th in rushing at 3.6 yards per carry and 24th in sacks allowed – 40. Since 2012 the Broncos have started 8, 6, 8, 8 and 6 different linemen. The last time the Broncos actually had five starters the entire season was 2011.
The Broncos want a tougher, bigger, better, more powerful five-headed monster this year.