By Rich Kurtzman
Richie Incognito is a bully.
But, it turns out, a bully is maybe just what the Denver Broncos need.
Incognito was infamously kicked out of the NFL mid-way through the 2013 season. The reason? Bullying former teammate Jonathan Martin. What he did to Martin – calling the young lineman names, threatening his family, forcing him to pay outrageous dinner bills – was simply wrong, and Incognito was anything but what his namesake suggests as the face of bullying.
What Incognito did wasn’t a first in the league – he was even asked by coaches to “toughen up” Martin, but there was no excuse – and while he’s been cleared to play again, remains out of the league.
But it also doesn’t take away from the player Incognito was on the football field. For eight seasons he was regarded as one of the better guards in the NFL. He started all 102 games he played in the league and Incognito last made the Pro Bowl in 2012. Broncos coaches were there with him in Hawaii, so they’re already familiar to the nastiness he brings to the gridiron.
Simply, to play on either side of the line at a high level, a player needs some nastiness, grittiness; he should want to get into a fight every play and look to whip whoever stands in his way. Incognito is that type of player.
The Broncos need Incognito for multiple reasons. First and foremost, they’re banged up on an ever-changing offensive line. Orlando Franklin was moved from right tackle inside to left guard and Chris Clark was moved to right tackle from the left side to start this season. But Clark was pulled two weeks ago, giving Paul Cornick a shot at right tackle. When Cornick injured a shoulder last week during practice, the Broncos completely shuffled the line, putting in veteran Will Montgomery at center for the first time, shifting both Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez to the right.
Denver needs depth on the line, as they saw last season, when the offensive front was injured and brutalized by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. They also need to fine cohesion as the season’s stretch run revs up.
Because, according to Ed Werder of ESPN, while the Broncos’ offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage on pass plays fifth and second-best in 2013 and 2012 respecfully, they’re 12th in the league this year. Interesting, considering they’ve allowed a league-low nine sacks and 24 quarterback hits.
The other reason they need Incognito is to help shed that “soft” label they earned in Super Bowl XLVIII. Denver’s offense may just be the best in the NFL once again this season, but they don’t scare anyone. Physicality from an offensive front is underrated, and maybe Incognito can instill some of that heart with new teammates in the Mile High City.
He’ll have to keep himself in line, and Peyton Manning should help do that as well. But even from a lead by example standpoint, Incognito could help push fellow linemen to get down and dirty in the trenches.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.