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Published on 08/12/2008 at Tue Aug 12 14:26.
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Montrae Holland

It had to be the most disappointing event in training camp. Montrae Holland, the Denver Broncos‘ starting right guard for 16 games in 2007, reported to camp significantly overweight.

Holland was expected to take a larger leadership role in the offensive line, representing the team’s only returning starter at the same position from a year ago. He was hands down the best offensive lineman on the team last year. Now that he’s gotten back to his playing weight, he’s left to practice with the second stringers.

And deservedly so. You don’t just promote someone who slacked off during the offseason and hurt his team by reporting out of shape. But the talent is undeniable – the potential tempting. Assuming Holland returns to 2007 form, the Broncos offensive line will be better for it. How can they deny improving themselves? Furthermore, how do they make room?


Taking his place at right guard has been Chris Kuper, who competed for, and lost, the starting role last year at training camp. Kuper has improved his game from last year – given one preseason game with which to judge, it’s tempting to leave Kuper at RG and just let Holland sit the bench. It’s definitely an option – although I still believe Holland is an upgrade.

Kuper was originally slated as the starting right tackle throughout mini camps and heading into training camp. Ryan Harris inherited the job for which he was to compete once Kuper had to slide over to right guard. He’s performed admirably – although the four penalties he committed during Saturday’s preseason game certainly did little to settle any fears.

Neither of these young men deserve to be benched – they put in the effort and hard work year round that Holland obviously did not. That, more than anything, is a compelling argument to leave Holland sidelined. But as I said before, I believe Holland is an upgrade at right guard over Chris Kuper. I believe the coaches have taken it to him enough at practice for the past two weeks, and that he appreciates this chance they’ve given him. What’s more, I don’t believe promoting Holland in the next few days would send a wrong message – he paid for his mistake, but it hardly behooves the training staff to punish Holland. That, more than anything, would send a wrong message.

In my opinion, the Broncos should move Kuper to right tackle. Now. Time is of the essence in this situation, because Kuper needs as many snaps at this new position as possible. Let him compete with Harris for the starting snaps, and potentially win the job. If he doesn’t, the Broncos will have an extremely high quality backup at both RG and RT, in one player.

The regular season is less than four weeks away. Waiting even a week to make the move would hinder Kuper’s transition that much more. I believe Holland has Pro Bowl potential in his second year in Denver, and everything I’m saying is predicated on that belief. Putting him at guard and letting Kuper and Harris fight for the right tackle, while unsettling on the surface, makes all the sense in the world to me from a competitive standpoint. I believe the Broncos will be better for it, and have a better chance of dominating at the point of attack with #70 in the lineup.

Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Take the poll, and dish it out in the comments.

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Photo Credit Cyrus McCrimmon – Denver Post

  • kerry

    its tough for me to vote because i need to see holland play this preseason. i cant honestly say holland is any kind of an upgrade because of his lack of commitment to stay in shape. Kuper did play well last year at LG. especially in the final game against Minnesota when he shut down one of the top DT’s in football. playing RG would be better for Kuper. he played great in the preseason opener. especially in pass protection. the whole line played great in pass protection. Cutler wasnt even touched. but im gonna say leave Kuper at RG and Harris at RT. if Harris falls on his ass and continues to get penalties then make the switch and put Holland in at RG and move Kuper to RT. i cant take away how Harris did during the game. he did play pretty well despite the penalties. if he eliminates the penalties Holland may be sitting for a while. i believe Kuper has better blocking technique then Holland. Holland is just so strong but not as technical as Kuper. lets see what happens the next game.

  • Richard

    Thank you for answering my comment in “Breaking Down the Offensive Line”. I didn;t know if you had seen the remark, but I also didn;t think you would create a whole different post.

    I agree with your assessment of Kuper and Harris. My personal vote is to return Holland to the starting lineup, and move Kuper to Rt tackle.

    As an aside do you think Polumbus is looking good enough to make the 53 as a backup, or is his footwork still lacking?

  • http://broncotalk.net Kyle

    Richard – I didn’t get a good enough look at Polumbus. So I’m reserving judgment. I scouted the first half (about 3 times), and watched the 2nd half for pure entertainment value (once). Hopefully I’ll find some time to go back and look at this tape and more as the preseason develops.

  • http://broncotalk.net Kyle

    And just FYI, Richard – I read every single comment left on this site. Each one is emailed to me, and I also take the time to sort through them ‘behind the scenes.’ I might not respond to them all, but I appreciate anyone leaving any kind of feedback.

    Knowing I wanted to write this post, I didn’t directly respond to your previous comment.

  • adam

    Maybe Holland can play DT, seems like we’re lean on the defensive side and heavy on the offensive side. He could do as least as well as Sam Adams…

  • Jason

    Holland came to camp “TFTP” if you will. He’s paid and is paying for that currently, unfortunately not all athletic talent was created equal. If Holland gives us the best offensive line then start him if Kuper is the best choice at guard or tackle start him. Life lessons should not be doled out by coaching staff. They are professionals, adults; even if they don’t always make the best decisions. I guess that doesn’t make them different from anyone else, really.

  • http://merlinofchaos.livejournal.com E. Halsey Miles

    We have to see how Holland actually plays.

    It’s important to note that Holland has never really fit the Broncos athletic zone blocking style; he’s considered more of a road grader. He is reasonably athletic, but it’s not his strength. So I have a feeling that if Kuper and Harris are playing at a level that let them keep their jobs, then they will.

  • Person

    Not to knock Harris too much but he is not starting talent. I believe he will get blown up by other teams. We need to get the o-line situated because that is one of the essences of the Denver Broncos.

  • http://www.hotmail.com Big V

    I hope all of you guys that are all over harris for his penalties realize that he got them going against Mario Williams, the same guy seasoned veterans have trouble with..If the texans hadn’t switched #90 to the other side on 3rd and passing situations , you all would be killing Clady right now!! Harris is starting for a reason and if the coaches feel kuper is the better man in the end im all for it, but i havent seen anything to make me believe that he is any better than harris. Infact swapping them at this point will make it just that much longer before we have a cohesive line. Start Holland and Harris.

  • OC Bronco

    Pass protection was perfect because the Texans had a vanilla package and didn’t blitz. Kubiak and Shanahan aren’t going to destroy each other’s teams by taking out their franchise qb’s. Bottom line was our offensive line got pushed around. But it is pre-season and that was the first pre-season game.

  • http://www.broncotalk.net AKscott

    Big V brings up a good point, but to me also unknowingly makes a point AGAINST harris..
    Here’s a weakness that’ll be exploited week in- week out.. on sure fire passing situations, opponents just switch their best pass rusher to Harris’ side and let em loose. Free shots at Jay and potential converted 3rd downs come back on poor play and penalties..

    Hopefully he works it out.. its 1 preseason start, he’s young, we invested a 3rd in him for a reason.. lets just watch before we rush to judgement

  • flbronc

    it seems to me that we know what holland can do when he is off the buffet…. let the two younger guys play more in the preseason and make the decision in week four. rotate kuper in at rt too so we can see what he looks like in that spot.

  • http://www.search-this.com mark

    I hope Ryan Harris can become a talent because I really started to like the guy listening to him in interviews. It’s so hard to find guys to like these days, but he’s a very likeable guy. Just hope he has the skills too? that I don’t know.

  • kerry

    Person how do you figure Harris isnt starting material? he has played one PRESEASON game. and last time i checked he didnt give up a SINGLE sack! which means zero! he has never started there and aside from the penalties (that could have been called on any rookie RT) he played very well. he gets a couple penalties in a PRESEASON game and suddenly he doesnt deserve to start? Kuper has NEVER player at the RT position. so we should put in a fat, out of shape, non athletic RG like Holland and put a guy who has never played RT (Kuper) all because Harris had a couple penalties? what game were you watching? Harris stopped everybody who tried to get to Cutler, so did Clady. Cutler didnt touch the turf once. and that is impressive with a rookie a LT and an essential rookie at RT. Harris may have been in the league but has never played. therefore technically a rookie. our pass protection was excellent on both sides.

  • http://www.broncotalk.net Jonathan Douglas

    Now I’ve busted Harris’ jaw as much as the next guy, but I feel like I need to ask someone with the game on tape for more info.

    Can someone remind me? Didn’t those penalties come on 3rd and long or at least 2nd and long near the end of the first half of the game? If time was running down and we needed long plays to keep a last minute drive alive I can see why Ryan might have made the choice to take gamble on the hold and give the QB at least a chance to make a throw before getting hammered.

    I may be remembering that entirely wrong, so please feel free to correct me on that.

    Regardless, I think the reason he had to grab the defensive lineman at all was the fact that he was getting beat on those plays. So please don’t think I’m making excuses, just wondered if those facts were a factor in his decision making process.

    Like many of you, I think I’ll watch what happens this week (and this weekend) before getting on anyone’s bandwagon. I’m not yet ready to give up on Harris and I also thought Holland did well last year.

    Time will tell I guess.

  • Person

    Kerry…
    Harris didn’t allow a sack in preseason game which there was little to no blitzing. Congratulations! He got owned in training camp and had back to back penalties and against 2nd string linemen later on in the game. Do you really want to see him agains Merriman and Phillips?
    Montrae Holland may be have been out of shape, but he is the only returning lineman and his talent last year was undeniable. Kuper has improved greatly and should be given a shot at the RT spot which was the original intention of Shanahan.

    You contradicted yourself by saying it’s only preseason and we shouldn’t knock him for penalties but since he did well in pass protection who should praise him.

    Harris had penalties because he couldn’t keep pace with the Texan o-line. Instead of giving up the sack Harris took the penalty. The bottom line is that penalties hurt. One of those penalties came on 3rd and long when they converted for 22 yards. The other like I said were back to back. He has not proved to me that he is starting material when someone is not TFTP.

    However, I want to see how Kuper does in the RT position. I believe he will excel better than Harris. Holland is tried and true, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • http://broncotalk.net Kyle

    Just to be clear – I want Kuper to start taking snaps at right tackle right now because that will give him the opportunity to compete for the job. I don’t see how anyone can disagree with giving the best right tackle the starting job. If Harris beats him, that’s fine.

    Harris’ holding penalties – at least two of them – were probably some of the most outwardly blatant holds I’ve seen. He committed the penalties because he got beat on the edge and his man was about to kill Cutler. So he wraps his arms around the guy just to slow him down. I mean, it’s better than a sack, but he still got beat.