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Broncos might still choose a youth movement on offensive line

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- At first Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said he would like to decide on the team’s starting five in the offensive line as the team’s offseason program wound down.

Then Kubiak said maybe they would still take a look at things early in training camp. Then maybe deep into the preseason.

And then he offered that the decisions might go right up until the regular-season opener.

Right guard Louis Vasquez is a given -- an All Pro in 2013 -- and even though the other four spots have largely been filled by the same four players throughout the team’s offseason work, there is room for change if any of the four fails to secure his job in the weeks to come.

As offensive coordinator Rick Dennison put it: "We don’t have to play until September, so we’re not in a huge rush. (We) just want to give everyone an opportunity to compete and see which five are the best to go in the game with."

As training camp approaches, we’ll take a position-by-position look at where things stand with the team.

Today: Offensive line

Friday: Defensive line

How many coming to camp: 14.

How many the Broncos will keep: The number kept will be determined by how the starting lineup is configured. Along with Vasquez, rookie Ty Sambrailo has worked at left tackle, Ben Garland at left guard, Gino Gradkowski at center and Chris Clark at right tackle.

The Broncos believe Sambrailo and Garland are starters, but also want to see if the pair can hold up in training camp practices and preseason games. Gradkowski will have to hold off Matt Paradis and Clark will have to hold off Michael Schofield.

The Broncos need a swing player in the middle who can play guard and center as a backup, and a tackle who can play both sides. They will likely keep seven offensive linemen active on game days, and if Kubiak keeps to the roster construction of most of his past teams, it’s likely the Broncos keep nine or 10 offensive linemen.

The guy to watch: The Broncos admitted that once Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending knee injury during an organized team activity, they simply tossed Sambrailo -- their second-round pick in this year’s draft -- into the mix to see if he was up for the job.

The thinking: Better to find out in May or June if he is an option to protect quarterback Peyton Manning's blind side. The verdict: Sambrailo was a quick study in the offense and showed plenty of flexibility and overall athleticism.

So, if he shows he play with power on the edge, anchor when he has to in pass protection and move people in the run game, he’ll keep the job. The Broncos drafted him as a future starter, but Clady’s injury made the future now.

Break it down: In a perfect world the Broncos would like a young offensive line the team could keep together in the years to come in the new offense. Whether that happens this season remains to be seen, but with Sambrailo and Garland already working among the starters, and Paradis and Schofield trying to do the same -- Kubiak said as the offseason program closed that Paradis and Schofield were "making it close" at center and right tackle, respectively -- people can see the template.

Offensive line is the biggest question mark the Broncos have in the preseason, and the sooner they find some stability there, the better.