CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- With the Broncos preparing to wade knee deep into potential quicksand over the next four weeks, they need offensive improvement to reach the playoffs.
It starts with the offensive line in general and right tackle specifically. The Broncos thought they fixed the position by signing free agent Donald Stephenson to a three-year, $14-million contract last spring. Through 12 games, Stephenson has been inconsistent, losing his starting job briefly against Kansas City. Sitting at his locker this week, Stephenson embraced the challenge, telling Denver7 in an exclusive interview he has to improve.
"Getting better is one thing. Getting to where you want to be is another thing. I was brought here because of this kind of schedule, to go against tough players," Stephenson told Denver7. "I don't want to make any excuses. I need to raise my level of play. I know I can play better than I have."
Stephenson continues to analyze film, picking up specific technique issues that require polishing. A former part-time starter in Kansas City. Stephenson started training camp strong. However, he injured his left calf against Indianapolis, sidelining him for three games. He has failed to gain traction since, ranked as the 79th best tackle in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus. For the Broncos to win down the stretch, they need to protect the quarterback better and establish a running game. Denver ranks 23rd in rushing (100.2) and 24th in passing (226.3) with 33 sacks allowed.
"I am adjusting and right now I feel like I am starting to climb that ladder again. I am not where I want to be. But I am working," Stephenson said. "We are 8-4. And this team is more resilient than any team I've ever been a part of. We are going to keep fighting."