On both the offensive and defensive fronts, a variety of players have seen time at different positions throughout practices and the Broncos’ preseason opener at Chicago.
That practice will pay off as the team moves forward without pieces on both lines as guard Chris Kuper and defensive end Jason Hunter miss time due to injuries.
Having players able to fill in at multiple positions allows flexibility when a starter is forced out of action.
“There are going to be some injuries from week to week, and the next guy steps up,” Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said. “That’s the importance of all the OTAs, minicamp and training camp, so that when your opportunity does come, you’ve got to make the most of it in this business.”
Defensive linemen Ben Garland and Malik Jackson were both brought in as defensive ends and are now listed as interior linemen. Adam Grant and Tony Hills both played tackle last season, but are now listed as reserve guards.
Among the players that have received first-team reps at various line positions during this year’s training camp are Manny Ramirez and Derek Wolfe.
“They have to be able to play more than one position,” Offensive Line Coach Dave Magazu said. “Even with the starters, we have a couple guys that are dabbling at other positions.”
Ramirez has played guard and center with the first-team offensive line. He started at right guard in Denver’s 31-3 preseason-opening victory at Chicago.
“We do that every day,” McCoy said about moving players around on the offensive line. “You have to have position flexibility, because you never know when something’s going to happen in a game. We’ve got make sure we’ve got the best five guys up there.”
Wolfe, who played as an interior lineman and as a defensive end in college, has played both positions in his early reps with the Broncos.
“He picks up things quickly,” Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Wolfe’s flexibility. “They did a lot with him in college, so he’s been exposed to a lot. He played all along the front, from nose (tackle) to defensive end out wide. He’s done a lot of those different things, so it was really a matter of him learning the terminology. He is an intelligent young man, and he’s done a nice job of picking things up.”
Orlando Franklin opened all 18 games for the Broncos at right tackle as a rookie last season. He started the preseason opener at tackle as well, but slid over one spot to right guard for a few snaps.
“We’re just trying to make him more flexible and it gives you an extra guy on gameday,” Magazu said. “It’s not just if a guard goes down. It could be the center goes down, or you lose too many guys at one position. (It’s important) to have guys that have some position flexibility.”
The team drafted offensive lineman Philip Blake, who played both guard and center at Baylor, in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Third-year lineman Zane Beadles became the first NFL rookie since Andre Gurode (Dal., 2002) to start at least six games at two of the three positions along the offensive line. He started all 16 games last season at guard, but has also opened six games at right tackle in his career.
“The NFL is different,” Magazu said. “It doesn’t matter how many linemen you carry. On gameday, you usually dress seven. So those extra two guys, and some guys on your starting group, they need to be able to play more than one position to give you added depth. You have to have the ability to move guys around.”