Orlando Franklin: Learning curve steep for rookies

It will be one of the buzz phrases of the Denver Broncos' offseason. Perhaps right there with John Fox's "skins on the wall" or quarterback Peyton Manning's “put in the work."

But ask about anything going on with the Broncos’ offensive line these days and it won’t take long for somebody involved to drop "the best five" into the conversation.

And since he started 16 games as a rookie in 2011, Orlando Franklin has been one of those best five, at right tackle. But now, as the Broncos pursue a better protection plan for Manning as well as a little more muscle in the run game, Franklin is to get a kick-the-tires look at left guard, and one of the options to find "the best five" just might be a rookie.

Michael Schofield, the Broncos' third-round selection in last week’s draft, and Chris Clark will get the initial looks at right tackle, with Franklin having been bumped inside. Having been the last Broncos’ rookie to start on the offensive line and also having made the transition to Manning’s tenure at quarterback, Franklin does have a unique perspective on the challenges Schofield faces in the coming months.

When asked Wednesday about the potential hurdles rookies face on the offensive line, Franklin said.

"The amount of stuff you have to know, especially in this offense. I think if I was a rookie in this offense, I don’t think I would have played. I think it was a lot easier for me to play with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow (at quarterback) when I came in than it is to come in and play with a guy like Peyton."

Franklin also credited former Broncos captain Chris Kuper, who retired in March, for getting him through that initial season, something that shows the importance of mentoring a player like Schofield through the team’s offseason work and into training camp. The rookies will get their first real taste of things at a rookie minicamp Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"Chris Kuper was a great guy, he’s one of my best friends on this team," Franklin said. "If it wasn’t for 'Kupe' I never would have played as a rookie. He really took care of everything, there were times he was telling me what to do and yet he was still performing at a high level with what he had to do."

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