Broncos' retooled offensive line 'sloppy,' draws too many flags

Siemian strong in win over 49ers (0:49)

Trevor Siemian completes 8-of-11 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown in Denver's 33-14 win over San Francisco. (0:49)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos made it an offseason priority to give glamour a bit of a holiday.

They spent the majority of their available money in free agency on offensive and defensive linemen. They used their first- and second-round picks on an offensive and defensive lineman, respectively.

They've liked plenty of things about those two positions two games into the preseason. But the Broncos have also been flagged for a pile of penalties, especially in that retooled offensive line.

"Way too many penalties as far as holding, the holding, the offsides, false starts," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said following Saturday night's 33-14 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. "It was sloppy. I wasn't pleased with that part of it. Winning's fun, but how we finished the game and how we lost some third-down penalties, that wasn't what I wanted, but I get it. I know it's early, but it's time to make that change."

The Broncos were flagged 15 times in their preseason opener in Chicago (10 of the penalties were enforced) and 17 overall in Saturday's win over the 49ers (11 were enforced). They've had 166 yards walked off overall in the two games combined and had a touchdown nullified.

The offensive line, which could have as many as four new starters, has been of particular interest to the officials. There has been plenty of turnover all around, as well, as the Broncos have installed a new playbook with much of the coaching staff on offense having arrived with Joseph, including line coach Jeff Davidson.

On one hand, the Broncos like the edge they've shown in the run game -- the team is averaging 4.2 yards per carry thus far in the preseason with three rushing touchdowns in two games. Two of those rushing touchdowns have been for at least 20 yards.

On the other hand, 10 of the team's 13 flags for holding have been on offensive linemen, and there has been one false start, a tripping penalty and one for taunting. In all, nine offensive linemen have been flagged in two games, with rookie Garett Bolles leading the way as he learns the ropes at left tackle.

"Yeah, he wasn't alone, you know?" Joseph said.

Some of it can be attributed to the mix-and-match lineups in the preseason that include players trying to do anything possible to make the roster -- at one point late in the third quarter Saturday, there were six flags on the field after one play. Referee Pete Morelli could be seen smiling in the huddle of officials after the play before announcing five different infractions.

"That was bizarre," Joseph said. "I mean, they couldn't even explain the penalties. That's never happened in my career."

The Broncos continue to hope that once they've tabbed a starting quarterback -- that decision could come this week -- and settle in with a group on the offensive line, that things will even out. Center Matt Paradis has not played yet in the preseason as he returns from offseason surgery on both hips. Bolles is a rookie who has been inserted into the starting lineup to learn on the job, and the Broncos still haven't decided on a left guard.

And if the pick for the "other" guard opposite Ron Leary can play right guard, it's still possible the Broncos move Leary back to the left side, where he spent much of the offseason work. It all means the Broncos might not actually settle on a starting offensive line until the Sept. 11 regular-season opener is closer.

"I think just as an offense, we want to do as best we can at all times," said quarterback Trevor Siemian, who led two scoring drives in the three possessions he played. "[We] wanted to have a clean operation, and obviously disappointed with the penalties we had. That's not good enough. That was the one thing we're taking away as quarterbacks: what we can do to clean up the operation and try to eliminate some of those."