But overall two of the most watched players as the Broncos go through their training camp practices in the coming weeks are separated by just over 16 years, 256 NFL regular-season starts, 24 playoff games, three Super Bowl appearances and countless professional experiences.
And how each adjusts to the team’s new offense will have a lot to say about how things go, especially for Sambrailo. The 23-year-old was a player the Broncos selected in the second round of this year’s draft with the idea he had the look of a future starter.
But as soon as Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending knee injury during an OTA practice in May, the Broncos tossed Sambrailo into the deep end of the football pool to see if he could swim like they hoped he could. And if things go as the Broncos hope in the coming weeks he will be the first rookie starter at left tackle for the team since Clady started every game as a rookie in 2008 as part of Mike Shanahan’s last draft class with the team.
“[Manning] has been good and a good guy to talk to,’’ Sambrailo said earlier this week. “Obviously, you don't want to upset him at all. I’m just trying to do everything right all the time and he's been good at kind of helping me, asking me on protections what I was doing and what I was looking at, stuff like that.’’
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has made a point of saying Sambrailo and Max Garcia, a center/guard who was the Broncos’ fourth-round pick, impressed the team’s coaches and personnel executives in the pre-draft evaluations because “they were both really, really smart, quick studies, guys who would get ready to play quickly.’’
For Sambrailo that means being a first-year player on Manning’s blind side. The Broncos are expected to run more plays out of two-tight end formations than they have in recent seasons, which would allow them to give Sambrailo some help on the edge.
But the Broncos exited the no-pads, minimal-contact of the offseason workouts pleased with Sambrailo’s ability to take what was learned in the classroom on to the field, but they still need to see what happens in full gear, at full speed, against the Broncos’ pass rushers in practice and other teams’ rushers in the preseason games.
The Broncos will practice against the San Francisco 49ers for two days late in the preseason.
“I'm just taking this whole thing one day at a time," Sambrailo said. "I don't think I can look ahead right now and say, 'This is going to be the best season anyone's ever seen,’ or anything like that. I'm just going to kind of take it one step at a time. I always try to be the greatest I can be and I'm going to go out and do that.”
Kubiak has called it a question of strength at the point of attack.
“We think he’s gotten stronger in his time here already, but we’ll see if we’re right when we put the pads on,’’ Kubiak said during the offseason program.
Sambrailo said he spent most of the last month in Denver and has regularly been in contact with the team’s other linemen, including Clady, who has been working with the team’s trainers as he recovers from surgery to repair his ACL.
“[Guard] Ben Garland has been here the whole time, [center] Gino [Gradkowski], [guard] Lou [Vasquez] has been here, [tackle] Ryan Harris and Clady has been here rehabbing,’’ Sambrailo said. “There have been a lot of offensive linemen with me getting some work in together.”