ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Louis Vasquez is at once comfortable and restless.
After serving as Denver’s emergency right tackle over the last half of last season, Vasquez confirmed Wednesday that he’s moving back to his natural position at right guard.
More change is afoot, though.
Not only is Vasquez adjusting to a new position coach in Clancy Barone and to the zone blocking scheme that coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison are reintroducing in Denver, but he’ll also be playing between two new starters in 2015.
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“Obviously, the center’s going to be the guy that makes all the calls up front and it kind of trickles down from there. But I’d say it’s equally as challenging playing next to two new guys,” Vasquez said. “But I’m excited to see who’s going to take over the spots.”
The Broncos traded for center Gino Gradkowski this offseason and he’ll compete with Manny Ramirez, who served as Denver’s snapper for 1 1-2 seasons before being benched over the last half of 2014.
Chris Clark, who started almost an entire season at left tackle when Ryan Clady was hurt in 2013, and second-year pro Michael Schofield, are in the mix at right tackle along with, in all probability, a high draft pick.
There will also be a new man at left guard. Ben Garland and newcomer Shelly Smith are vying to replace Franklin, who signed a five-year, $35.5 million deal with rival San Diego.
Vasquez is returning to a position where he was an All-Pro in 2013, allowing no sacks while playing every one of Denver’s 1,207 offensive snaps.
He was asked to slide over to tackle midway through last season when the former coaching staff made wholesale changes along the line in what turned out to be a futile attempt to salvage their Super Bowl hopes.
“My mentality is I’m a guard,” Vasquez said. “I would love to stay inside the trenches. That’s just how my mentality is. I’m a big, strong guy and I like to get physical and being on the outside, it’s more finesse. The guys want to rush the passer and things of that nature and that’s not my forte.”
Vasquez, who was already bothered by a balky back last season, had to learn tackle on the fly as he tried to keep pass-rushers away from Peyton Manning.
“I had to put my work in because it wasn’t easy,” Vasquez said. “And it strained us as a unit up front.”
The Broncos are in the midst of remaking their offensive line again this offseason, but at least their best lineman is back in his comfort zone.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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