CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- When the Broncos return to work next week, their embattled offensive line will feature a new wrinkle. Former Colorado State standout Ty Sambrailo has earned additional playing time at right tackle. Coach Gary Kubiak didn't name him the starter when asked by Denver7, but spoke Tuesday as if Sambrailo will take over for the slumping Donald Stephenson.
"I think Ty deserves to play more and he's gonna play," Kubiak said. "Are we going to play six or seven guys? That's what (line coach) Clancy (Barone), (assistant Oline coach) James (Cregg), (offensive coordinator) Rick (Dennison) and I are trying to figure out right now. But Ty is fixing to play a lot more football. He's worked his way back. Yes, he's going to play more."
Sambrailo replaced Stephenson in the second half at New Orleans. The former Chiefs starter could not gain traction in pass protection against the Saints, earning the worst weekly grade of any right tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. Stephenson represented the Broncos' top free agent signing this offseason, receiving a three-year, $14-million deal with $10 million guaranteed.
Sambrailo took over for Stephenson on Sunday. Kubiak praised Sambrailo, saying he "did a good job." Sambrailo has continued to push for snaps after playing in the injured Stephenson's place for three weeks. Sambrailo's hyperextended right elbow has improved, providing him increased strength at the point of attack. It has been a difficult road for the former CSU star. He earned the Broncos' starting left tackle job as a rookie, but suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that compromised his power.
"It's about getting more consistent," Sambrailo told Denver7. "For those who haven't played line, it looks simple, but it's not. There's a lot that goes into (the line playing well together)."
Overall, uneven play defines the line, which hasn't been in sync since Stephenson hurt his left calf against Indianapolis and left tackle Russell Okung suffered a concussion at San Diego. Okung has fared better in run blocking of late. Center Matt Paradis represents the anchor of this line, his performance the best and most predictable from week-to-week. He will use the bye week to help heal a chronically-painful hip injury. It's possible Billy Turner will receive a longer look at guard next week, too.
Kubiak and the coaching staff studied the film Monday night and presented to the linemen Tuesday what they have done well and what requires improvement. Kubiak reiterated that the coaches and players must improve in this area, which has been defined by puzzling highs and lows. The Broncos rank in the bottom third in rushing yards per game and yards per carry.
"They are walking out of here on their break knowing where they stand," Kubiak said. "We need to play better upfront and we have at times."
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