Orlando Franklin adjusting to life at left guard

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Orlando Franklin is still smarting over his poor performance in the Super Bowl. Not so his switch from right tackle to left guard.

“I always understood it was a possibility. I knew when I was coming out that 50 percent of teams saw me at right tackle and 50 percent of the teams saw me moving back to guard because I played so many snaps there at Miami,” said the Denver Broncos’ fourth-year lineman.

“But when I first heard about it, you get disappointed because you’re moving positions. But at the end of the day, as long as I’m on the field and as long as I’m one of the best five, I’m happy with that.”

All 57 of Franklin’s starts for the Broncos, including five in the playoffs, have been at right tackle, where the 6-foot-7, 320-pound Jamaican made quite the name for himself.

He became the first rookie right tackle in team history to start every game in 2011, when he helped the Broncos lead the league in rushing. He led all NFL players at his position by allowing just 3½ sacks in 2012 and was part of a line that gave up just 20 sacks last season.

That group then kept Peyton Manning’s jersey clean in the playoffs until the night the Seattle Seahawks’ front four manhandled Denver’s O-line in the Super Bowl.

When the Broncos returned from the 43-8 loss that spoiled their record-breaking season, general manager John Elway had two fixes in mind: add the kind of grit to his defense that Seattle displayed and beef up his offensive line.

Elway had begun moving away from the smaller zone-blockers last year with the addition of 6-5, 335-pound right guard Louis Vasquez, the only free agent to earn All-Pro honors last season.

Now, it was time for a reshuffling.

The Broncos signed veteran center Will Montgomery to compete with Manny Ramirez, let Zane Beadles leave via free agency and moved Franklin inside. With star left tackle Ryan Clady set to return from a foot injury that sidelined him most of last season, Chris Clark was moved to right tackle, and Elway drafted Michael Schofield of Michigan to compete for that job, too.

Franklin’s adjustment is key.

“We feel great about that move, and I think he feels really good about it,” offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. “I really like his size inside. I really think that’s going to help firm up when we’re going a lot of our quick game. We want him to get his hands on people. Instead of having to worry about a speed rusher outside, he’s dealing with some of the bigger guys in the league. I feel very confident about him moving inside.”

So does Franklin, who’s looking forward to being more physical in the run game at guard.

One downside could be financial: Franklin’s going into a contract year and tackles make more money than guards. But he shrugged off any concerns, saying, “I think that if I’m one of the best five players and I’m on the field, I think that benefits me either way.”

What does bother him — still — is the Broncos’ performance in the Super Bowl that followed a record-breaking regular season in which they became the first NFL team to score 600 points.

“You’re going to think about it until you play your next football game,” Franklin said.

Of course, he’ll use it as motivation.

“I think each player will. I know I am, because I definitely didn’t have my best game,” Franklin said. “So, I definitely look at it as a learning tool. I look back at it as a learning situation and I’ve got to get better.”

He hasn’t bothered watching the game, however.

“You don’t really need to watch it,” he said. “I know there are about five plays in that game where I’ll never forget those plays, so I can see them in my head every day.”

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