Analyzing what Cam Fleming signing means for Billy Turner, Denver Broncos O-line

Cam Fleming (73) in Denver Broncos training camp in 2021. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports.
Cam Fleming (73) in Denver Broncos training camp in 2021. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports.

The only thing consistent with the Denver Broncos offensive line is their inconsistency.

Not only inconsistency in their play, but in their personnel.

Looking back to the Super Bowl 50 year, the Broncos have had at least three different starters along the line every year outside of 2021. That’s a ton of turnover, and depending on what happens in training camp, the team is likely to have at least one, if not two or three new starters again.

On Wednesday, the Denver Broncos kicked off training camp. They also signed tackle Cam Fleming to come in and compete with Billy Turner and Calvin Anderson.

“So for us, we always try to have 15 healthy bodies at that position,” head coach Nathaniel Hackett said when asked if Fleming was signed as injury protection for Turner or Tom Compton. “That’s why there are always three groups to go, especially with the preseason game. I think that’s just one of those things that because of that, we want to be sure we have good depth there.”

Fleming started four games for the Broncos last year. His signing came on the heels of Turner being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list on the eve of training camp (along with Randy Gregory and KJ Hamler).

It raised concerns that Turner — who was signed as a free agent, formerly with Green Bay — may still be experiencing issues with his knee. The veteran lineman who can play up and down the line, had a knee scope this offseason and is still recovering.

“We are just playing that whole thing by ear,” Hackett said of Turner on the PUP list. “We just want to be sure that we work him in the right way. Billy is so great with his body. [He] understands it. We just communicate. We have been together for a while, and I know what he’s all about. We will get him in at the right time.”

Hackett is clearly familiar with Turner from their time together with the Packers, and he was also in the Mile High City from the end of the 2016 season through 2018. In 2018, Turner was a solid contributor with the Broncos, starting 11 games at left guard before becoming a Packer.

That’s a key point in all of this.

Turner was originally signed to play right tackle, but there are little rumblings around Broncos Country that he could be moved to left guard. Dalton Risner — who started the last three years at left guard — had a tough 2021 season and could possibly be supplanted by Turner.

Also, Quinn Meinerz became a valuable piece to the line last year at right guard, and he’s expected to compete with Lloyd Cushenberry III at center.

And what about Graham Glasgow? He should be starting at right guard, with possibly Calvin Anderson or Turner outside at right tackle, if he’s not actually moved inside to left guard.

So, it’s possible the offensive line, which has been a work in progress for a decade, continues that trend. Outside of Garett Bolles, who has become the anchor and most consistent piece, at the crucial left tackle spot.

Despite some injuries and inconsistencies, the Broncos line was so-so last season. Per Pro Football Focus’ final rankings, they were the 19th-best team in the league, or a little bit lower than middle-of-the-pack.

The Seattle Seahawks were ranked 25th by PFF, though, and Russell Wilson is going to need an upgraded line to protect him and help him unleash those deep bombs down the sidelines. Wilson is arguably the best deep passer in the NFL today — even with many young guns — thanks to his superb accuracy, an ability to throw over 20 yards with precision.

But, that can be a weakness, too. Those longer routes take a long time to develop, and that means strong pass blocking from his front.

While the Broncos have a ton of special playmakers, led by Wilson, Courtland Sutton and Javonte Williams, none of them can do damage to defenses without solid offensive line play.

That’s why, when we look back at the start of training camp and this Cam Fleming signing, it could be a defining moment of how the line is constructed for 2022.

The Broncos kick off Day 2 of training camp today at 10 a.m. MT at Dove Valley in south Denver. Gates open at 9 a.m. for the free and open to the public practice.

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