The Denver Broncos offensive line is, by my estimation, the best in the NFL, and it’s just incredible watching those guys go to work up front. Another remarkable thing about the Broncos offensive line is the emergence of Chris Clark as one of the best left tackles in the league, but people closely in tune with the Broncos (you know, reading the beat writers…or even being a Broncos beat guy or blogger) understood that the team was high on Clark’s ability to fill in for Ryan Clady. I don’t even think the Broncos could have expected the kind of play they received from Clark, because they didn’t miss a beat following Clady’s absence. Add in elite performances from Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez on the inside, as well as another fantastic year from right tackle Orlando Franklin, and you get a line that paved massive holes for Knowshon Moreno and kept Peyton Manning peachy clean (the New England Patriots subpar pass rush couldn’t even get pressure on him in the AFCCG).
But if there is one weak link on the Broncos offensive line, then it’s left guard Zane Beadles, who had a below-average year. The thing is, he’s not a true weak link, and I would compare him to Patriots right guard Dan Connolly last season. Connolly was a “weak link” for the Patriots on the line in 2012, but he wasn’t truly “bad”; he just looked worse with elite players around him. I would readily compare Beadles’s 2013 season to Connolly’s 2012 season, but I also think that Beadles is a better player than Connolly despite some major struggles during the regular season. What bodes well for the Broncos, though, is the fact that Beadles has been impeccable in the postseason (albeit against easier DTs) and has great momentum heading into the Super Bowl.
Still, he is the weakest link on the Broncos offensive line, even if the all-important caveat is that the rest of his line-mates are ridiculously talented. I mean, the Broncos will also be going up against a Seattle Seahawks defensive line that is ridiculously talented, and it’s possible that this is an understatement. The Seahawks DL is so good and deep that they constantly rotate players and can even play a guy like Michael Bennett on the inside at times (they’ll play him next to Cliff Avril, which is just a scary combination to have on one side at DT-DE).
When talking about the Seahawks defensive line, most people like to focus in on Avril, Bennett ,and the DE position. And why not? Bennett and Avril are fantastic players, big names, and put up big numbers. However, the most important players on the Seahawks line to focus on are the defensive tackles, because they are equally impressive in talent and are the lifeblood of one of the league’s most dominant front sevens.
Long-time Seahawk Brandon Mebane usually spends his time as the left DT, but, again, the Seahawks love to rotate their guys. Mebane has been one of the most underrated players in the league for, like, five years now, and he is an incredibly impressive run defender. He’s also a better pass rusher than some people think, but the Seahawks still prefer to take the disruptive player off the field on third downs (that’s usually when Bennett comes into the equation at DT).
Clinton McDonald is another guy to watch for, and he’s a sporadic performer. However, he’s also one of the most underrated and disruptive interior pass rushers in the league due to his quick-twitch ability. He isn’t consistent and is thus only a “bit” player on the Seahawks defense, but he’s a “bit” player who can dominate at times. McDonald dominated a tough San Francisco 49ers offensive line two weeks ago, as the Pro Football Focus tabbed him with four pressures, which is amazing for a DT. He’s recorded multiple pressures on five different occasions this season, and he’s also worth watching.
But the player I expect Beadles to go up against the most tomorrow night is Tony McDaniel, who has blossomed into an unsung star on the Seahawks star-studded defense. Even though he played poorly in both of his playoff appearances, McDaniel is one of the best run defenders in the NFL due to his strength and high football IQ. He plugs up holes, he racks up tackles, and he rarely ever lets a play go by him. He plays on either side at DT, but I can’t help but feel that Beadles will go up against the former Miami Dolphin the most on Sunday.
Zane Beadles isn’t a bad player by any means, but he’s the only player who can be dubbed a “weak link” on the Broncos offensive line, and I think it’s totally fair to state that he will have his hands full against whichever DT directly lined up against him. He’ll also have his hands full against downhill LBs like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, who are two of the best in the business among 4-3 OLBs. Of course, Beadles will have plenty of help from Ramirez on the inside, and the Broncos OL vs. the Seahawks DL is yet another incredible matchup on tap tomorrow night.