The Denver Broncos are looking to the offensive line group to protect valuable asset QB Russell Wilson and create running lanes for RBs Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordan, and Mike Boone. This means putting out the best five men to do that job
With training camp just around the corner, roster projections and interesting player stories emerge – as we are all in anticipation of the start of pre-season (if you are a fan of it) and regular season.
The Big Guys Up Front
Tackles: Garett Bolles, Billy Turner, Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton, Quinn Bailey, Casey Tucker, and (2022 undrafted college free agent from Minot State) Sebastian Gutierrez.
Guards: Dalton Risner, Quinn Meinerz (“the Gut”), Netane Muti, Ben Braden, Zack Johnson, and (2022 undrafted college free agent from Temple) Michael Niese.
Center: Lloyd Cushenberry III, Graham Glasgow, and (2022 5th round pick out of Washington) Luke Wattenburg.
With new OL coach Butch Barry at the helm, it will be interesting to see how the Offensive Line will look and perform, especially with the change from former OL coach (and Hall of Famer) Mike Munchak to Coach Barry.
Butch Barry coaching experience
- Assistant Offensive Line in 2021 with San Francisco 49ers.
- Senior Analyst in 2020 with Green Bay Packers.
- Offensive Line coach in 2019 with the University of Miami Hurricanes.
- Assistant Offensive Line coach from 2015-18 with Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- At Central Michigan University: was Offensive Line coach in 2014, Tight Ends coach from 2010-13, and Graduate Assistant in 2002-03.
- Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line coach/Recruiting Coordinator in 2009 at North Greenville University (Tigerville, SC).
- At Michigan Technological University (Houghton, MI): was Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line in 2007-08 and Offensive Line coach in 2006.
- Offensive Line coach in 2004-05 at Southwest Minnesota State (Marshall, MN).
Offensive Line Review
Pro Football Focus (PFF) has projected the 2022 Denver Broncos offensive line to look like this: (also great conversation starter and starting point)
LT Garett Bolles
LG Dalton Riser
C Lloyd Cushenberry
RG Graham Glasgow
RT Billy Turner
So that is a decent starting group (on paper), there are certainly pros and cons to this combo. The odd man out would be Quinn Meinerz (9 games started last year), but if you do input him in – who should be sent to the bench?
That will always be the sentiment in any lineup, with any position – [player] should start over [player].
Offensive Line Combinations
So let us take a look at the various (hypothetical) combinations that could be sent out:
The “Have Previously Started” combo
LT Bolles, LG Riser, C Cushenberry, RG Meinerz, RT Calvin Anderson
This group has started games on the line together last season – which makes for great continuity. Anderson is considered a good fit and performed well, enough so that he earned an increase in salary for his hard work. But because you have the starts under the belt together, does that equate to success? Should seniority be a factor in deciding who should be the starters?
Option 2 combo
LT Bolles, LG Netane Muti, C Cushenberry, RG Meinerz, RT Turner
Almost similar to the previous combo, the only change – has Muti in front of Riser, so maybe the team is high on Muti’s power & strength (and potential). Riser (Kansas State) started 47 games since being a 2nd round pick in 2019, while Muti (Fresno State) started 4 games since being a 6th round pick in 2020. So it is an interesting thought that Riser could, potentially, not win the starting job (it could possibly happen)
Primarily Analytics Running combo
LT Bolles, LG Riser, C Luke Wattenburg, RG Meinerz, RT Anderson
This was an analytics-based combination – this group is slated to be such a power move, to better create and open up the running game, as it would seem there are those that are high on Wattenburg’s measurables and potential.
With much respect to all the positions on the O-Line, Center is an imperative spot to solidify first off. If the QB and Center exchange (snap) is shaky or there is no cohesion for protections and audibles (see Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday for context), the entire offense will significantly struggle on Sundays.
The “How Are We Feeling About This” combo
LT Bolles, LG Tom Compton, C Glasgow, RG Meinerz, RT Turner
Cushenberry gets demoted and Glasgow gets the opportunity to show his worth (being a “hyped” 2020 free agent signing, but missed games due to injury since coming to Denver). Compton beating out Riser and Muti – an absolute shocker, kudos to him if he does. This is Turner’s second stint with the Broncos – the first stint didn’t come with starts, and since Turner is a seasoned vet, his experience gains him some opportunity to start.
This combo can certainly be dubbed a “shot in the dark” – no reasoning behind it and we are simply “seeing what sticks”.
The “Looks Good, but also Looks Weird” combo
LT Bolles, LG Turner, C Glasgow, RG Meinerz, RT Anderson
The stalemate at Center – whoever is not the starter, will be 2nd string and will come in if the other is struggling or injured. Bolles has been the consistent guy on all the combos, so that is a step in the right direction in locking down the LT spot – which is the side that most star pass rushers align at on the Defensive Line.
Turner is showing his versatility by going Interior – good for him. The final roster spots will go to players that can play multiple positions on the O-Line. It is also interesting that Turner (a Tackle by trade) has certainly beat out some established guards to get the nod. Anderson and Turner in the same combination could be a good and bad thing.
- Good – Anderson and Turner have the most upside and could potentially keep these positions from start to finish.
- Bad – It will, consequently, show that the Broncos potentially don’t draft or sign guards that can be future starters.
There is optimism for the players that we end up liking, but don’t make the final 53-man roster– the practice squad.
With the new rules–teams will be able to keep up to 16 players on the practice squad, which includes up to six veterans with no accrued seasons limits.
For players that are the odd individuals out, the Broncos will end up with some trade bait to dangle out to other teams during trade discussions and negotiations.
If there is curiousity regarding what my OL combination would be, here it is:
LT Bolles, LG Riser, C Cushenberry, RG Meinerz, RT Turner
- Bolles locks down the LT spot, last year was a down year – after finally putting the pieces together in 2020. A 1st round pick in 2017 and being given a sizeable contract a few seasons ago, it is motivation to re-create that magic.
- Riser, with previously mentioned stats, has the starts and experience to be named a starting guard. Could he be better? Yes. This offseason should light a fire underneath him, as Muti or even Turner shifting to guard, will make him see that his starting spot is in danger, if he doesn’t improve.
- Cushenberry and his potential since being drafted are still high. Coming from an LSU team that won a national championship and with yearly consistent and steady improvements to his game- he earns the starts at center.
- Meinerz is sneaky athletic and having a mean streak will help keep your starting position. Players from such small schools, occasionally outperform some players from powerhouse schools.
- Turner, on the narrowest of lines, edges Anderson for the last tackle spot. The Broncos brought him back from the Packers for a reason – to ultimately win a starting tackle spot.
- Glasgow, Muti, Anderson, Compton, and Wattenburg are filling out the reserve roles – as all of them are interchangeable and versatile.
- The other Offensive Line players will designate to the practice squad for more development.
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