The Denver Broncos unveiled its 2017 training camp schedule, kicking off at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood on July 27. And the fans will get to watch the early stages of the 2017 Broncos.
There will be battles at multiple positions as Denver establishes its depth chart for the upcoming campaign, which will largely be determined by player performances in training camp.
While some of these battles will have less importance, others will be at incredibly important positions. These competitions help determine the direction of the franchise as it tries to get back to the postseason after missing the playoffs in 2016.
Here’s my early prediction for one competition most will follow throughout training camp.
Ty Sambrailo vs. Garett Bolles
The Broncos don’t have clarity at the offensive line’s most important position heading into training camp. The left tackle protects the quarterback’s blindside and will regularly take on the opponent’s best pass rushers.
A quality left tackle is an incredible asset for a team, especially for a team that will employ a pass-happy system like the Broncos will under new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Last season’s starting left tackle, Russell Okung, moved on to the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency earlier this year. Denver did not pick up his four-year, $48 million option, and thus Okung hit the open market after only one season with the Broncos.
That leaves a huge hole on the offensive line, and Denver turns to a new left tackle who has a lot less experience than Okung.
The Broncos only have a few weeks in training camp to determine who will be Okung’s replacement.
Ty Sambrailo, the club’s second-round pick in 2015, and this year’s first-round pick, Garrett Bolles, are the primary competitors at the position.
Donald Stephenson lined up at left tackle on day one of OTAs and split time with Sambrailo during that first week of practice. Then he moved to the second-team right tackle the next week and did not return to the left side.
For the rest of OTAs, Sambrailo seemed entrenched as the first-team left tackle. He was drafted with the idea that he could, perhaps, be a cornerstone left tackle and did start the first three games of his career at the position.
Since then, however, Sambrailo’s been hampered by shoulder and elbow injuries that either knocked him out of action of plagued him so much that he didn’t contribute.
The injuries prevented him from improving the one part of his game he needed to the most coming out of Colorado State: strength.
Now healthy, Sambrailo has worked diligently to reshape his body. His upper body is now much larger as he’s been able to consistently lift weights and work to improve his physique.
As long as confidence isn’t shot, Sambrailo has the athleticism — and now has the strength — to compete at a high level for the starting left tackle job.
Selection Bolles with the 20th-overall pick, however, made the team happier. And as an older rookie, he’ll start sooner rather than later if he is good enough.
Bolles stood out during his one season at Utah because of his sweet feet and a sour demeanor.
While not the biggest tackle, measuring around 295 pounds, Bolles’ footwork can mirror most any edge rusher on the outside. His numbers for allowing pressure on outside moves were among the lowest in the FBS last year.
Simply put, Bolles gives up little pressure when trying to go around him on the outside.
Even though he’s super athletic, Bolles does have trouble with power moves to the inside. He sets up well on outside moves but struggled against players who had a second move to the inside to get after the quarterback.
Due to his lack of size, Bolles isn’t really a power player, which makes him an interesting fit for the power-gap system the Broncos have in place this year.
But what Bolles lacks in power he makes up for with his nasty disposition.
Bolles plays angry and protects his quarterback like he would protect a family member from a home invader. He’s nasty, mean and aggressive, traits Denver’s wanted to add up front.
And when minicamp opened up, Bolles had done enough to get first-team reps in a rotation with Sambrailo.
During OTAs, he was relegated to the second-team offense as he learned the position and how to deal with the speed of the game at the pro level.
Bolles has surged as the offseason rolls on. Coming back from the break, Broncos fans should expect that momentum to continue for the rookie.
If that momentum not only continues but also gains steam, we could see Bolles named the starting left tackle for the Broncos in 2017.
Winner: Garrett Bolles
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