ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Peyton Manning has never had an offensive line this young. In fact, three of the starters have never played in an NFL regular-season game.
”I always like being around young football players,” insisted Manning, who was already mastering X’s and O’s when these guys were just learning their ABCs.
Protecting the 39-year-old quarterback, from left to right, are rookies Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia, practice squad graduate Matt Paradis and veterans Louis Vasquez and Ryan Harris.
Vasquez is back at his natural right guard position after playing right tackle over the second half of last season. Harris rejoined the Broncos when star tackle Ryan Clady blew out his left ACL three months ago and Sambrailo became Manning’s blindside protector.
After giving up a sack on the second snap at Seattle last week, the fresh-faced O-line stiffened and Brock Osweiler drove Denver to scores on all five of the Broncos’ first-half possessions.
”Those three young guys playing side by side by side, to start off their careers, their very first game action to be up there in Seattle, I don’t care if it’s preseason or not, those Seahawks fans showed up in the rain, they were loud as hell and I think those guys handled that very, very well,” O-line coach Clancy Barone said.
Manning, who sat out the preseason opener, gets his first game action Saturday night at Houston, and it will be more than a cameo.
”Expect him to play quite a bit,” coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday.
And the young offensive linemen can expect to see J.J. Watt aplenty.
At least they’ve faced Von Miller every day in camp.
Miller, recently discharged from the league’s drug program after testing clean for two years, has been on an absolute tear this summer, no longer weighed down by extra pounds or the specter of a third-strike suspension.
”To go against guys like him, guys like DeMarcus Ware, every single day, run and pass, day in and day out, it makes game day just seem so much slower,” Barone said. ”The fact is it won’t get any tougher than that on game day. And there are very few guys who are equal to that on game day. So, if you can go in there and compete against the world’s best day in and day out, it does help.”
Miller weaved past Sambrailo a few times Tuesday to get in Manning’s face.
”I want Ty to be a Pro Bowler and sixth-year player today. But I also understand the process that he’s going through,” Kubiak said. ”He, Max and Matt, watching them, I think as coaches we have to have patience when we see some of those things.”
The staff has some help in that regard.
A common sight at camp this summer is Miller or Ware talking up the young O-linemen after beating them, offering tips or unmasking tip-offs.
”The thing that I’m really impressed with is to watch DeMarcus and Von grab them after that series and say, `Come here, let me tell you why that happened,”’ Kubiak said. ”That’s very encouraging.”
”That is worth five meetings from me right there,” Barone said. ”And they get it in about 10 seconds from their teammate. That’s awesome for all of us, it really is.”
Sambrailo, whom Barone calls ”a football junkie,” was immediately named a starter after the Broncos selected him in the second round out of Colorado State.
Garcia, a fourth-rounder from Florida, and Paradis, a sixth-round draft pick out of Boise State last year, joined Sambrailo in the first-string offense soon after training camp began.
”Smart guys are going to play sooner and play longer,” Barone said. ”And these guys are both very, very smart guys.”
Notes: Brandon McManus nailed a 70-yard field goal during the 2-minute drill Tuesday and Connor Barth was good from 65 yards moments later. … Among the sideline spectators was former Rockies great Todd Helton, who went to college with Manning. … DE Kenny Anunike (knee) skipped practice but is expected back Wednesday.
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