Broncos insert Hochstein at left guard
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – A struggling Denver Broncos offense will start Russ Hochstein at left guard on Sunday at Washington in place of longtime veteran Ben Hamilton.
The move was made as the Broncos try to ignite a stagnant offense, which has scored just one touchdown in back-to-back losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
“We’ll always evaluate everybody,” coach Josh McDaniels said Thursday. “If there’s something we feel may give us a better opportunity to have success – wherever it may be – then we would not be opposed to doing anything. We’re going to see how that goes, evaluate it ongoing.”
Hochstein has shown his versatility since being acquired in an August trade from New England. He’s filled in at right guard when Chris Kuper hurt his ankle and on the left side when Hamilton was out with a hamstring injury against Dallas. Hochstein also began the Pittsburgh game at tight end and has lined up in the backfield in short-yardage situations.
“Whenever I’m called upon, I try to work as hard as I can,” he said. “I’m eager to help any way I can.”
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Hochstein’s flexibility was one of the reasons he was brought in, along with his familiarity with McDaniels’ style of offense dating back to their days together with the Patriots.
“We feel like he’ll be competitive in there and we’ll see how it goes,” McDaniels said.
Hochstein will have his hands full Sunday when he sees a steady dose of Albert Haynesworth, the enormous anchor of the Redskins’ defensive front.
“Whew, the guy’s a great player,” said Hochstein, a ninth-year player out of the University of Nebraska. “A very physical presence.”
Outside of missing the 2007 season with concussion symptoms, Hamilton has started every game – when healthy – with Denver since 2002. He came out of the Oakland game on Sept. 27 with a hamstring injury and then sat out the following week, Hochstein stepping in on each occasion.
Hamilton is a holdover from the old regime, when the team ran a zone-blocking scheme under then-coach Mike Shanahan.
Still, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy thought Hamilton and the other linemen who were groomed on that way of blocking were making a quick transition.
“I think they’ve done a great job up front, adapting to what we do,” McCoy said. “We have plenty of things in there that they’ve done in the past. We’ve put a few different types of plays in there, scheme plays, maybe they haven’t run as much. But they’ve bought into what we’re doing and done a nice job.”
Lately, the Broncos have been struggling in the running game. Correll Buckhalter and rookie Knowshon Moreno combined to gain just 27 yards on 14 carries against Pittsburgh on Monday.
In the wake of that, Hochstein is replacing Hamilton.
“This is not an anointment of anybody or anything tremendously negative about Ben Hamilton,” McDaniels said. “We’re just going to see if this makes the situation any better. If it does, great. We’ll always do what’s best for our team. If this can help us, we’ll be happy with it.”