As the Denver Broncos approach training camp, the interior of the offensive line will feature a competition between several veteran players and some promising young talent. With Russell Wilson under center, continuity on the offensive line will be crucial if the team hopes to have success this season.
Denver Broncos Interior Offensive Line Room
The Broncos will enter training camp with competition being wide open at left guard, center, and potentially right guard. The interior offensive line features nine players who will be looking to solidify themselves as starters and premier backup options.
Headlining players returning to camp this season are Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, Quinn Meinerz, and Netani Muti.
New players on the offensive interior feature Ben Braden, Zack Johnson, 2022 fifth-round draft selection Luke Wattenberg, and undrafted rookie free agent Michael Niese.
Which position battles should Broncos fans pay attention to? Let’s dive in.
Is Quinn Meinerz a lock at right guard?
Quinn Meinerz enters training camp as the projected favorite to start at the right guard spot on the Broncos’ offensive line. Meinerz started nine games for the Broncos in 2021 including Week 4 against the Baltimore Ravens, and Week 10 through the remainder of the regular season.
The second-year offensive lineman filled in for Graham Glasgow who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 9 against the Dallas Cowboys. As he approaches this season, he believes his experience as a starter last year has helped him get more comfortable going into his second season.
Entering 2022, Meinerz is 10 pounds lighter as new Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s offensive scheme requires more athleticism in the outside zone scheme.
“Last year, I was floating a couple of pounds under 330,” Meinerz said during the Broncos’ offseason organized team activities. “I kind of had a sense that this offense was going to be predicated on speed and I wasn’t happy with some of the positions I was in last year with some of the things that I was doing wrong. I took it upon myself to lose some weight, I’d say around 10 pounds. I’m trying to stay around 320 or a couple of pounds under. That’s where I’m feeling the best right now.”
He’ll mainly compete at right guard with Glasgow who is returning from injury. Glasgow is a six-year veteran and has played the last two seasons with Denver at right guard, so he may be somewhat difficult to leapfrog. That will certainly be a position battle to keep an eye on.
Is the pressure on for Lloyd Cushenberry in training camp?
Preparing for his third season with the Broncos, Lloyd Cushenberry is hoping to find more consistency in a new offensive scheme. After enduring some struggles during his rookie season, Cushenberry responded in 2021 by demonstrating growth under Pat Shurmur’s offense.
With the addition of Butch Barry as the new offensive line coach, Cushenberry will get the chance to compete to start but will face pressure from Glasgow and fifth-round draft selection Luke Wattenberg.
One thing that has stood out about Cushenberry throughout his first three seasons is his willingness to acknowledge what he’s learned and areas he needs to improve. As he learns a brand new offensive scheme, he’s hoping he can break through this season.
“In my opinion, I think I fit in any scheme. It doesn’t really matter to me,” Cushenberry said during the offseason. “I’m liking this one so far. The past few years didn’t really work out for us, but hopefully this year is the turnaround. I’m loving the system that we have now.”
With Glasgow returning from injury and Wattenberg beginning his NFL journey with more experience than normal rookie centers, Cushenberry will have to consistently outperform those players in order to hang onto his starting job.
Could Netani Muti contend to start at left guard?
For the last three years, the Broncos have relied on former 2019 second-round pick Dalton Risner at the left guard position. Approaching 2022, Risner will face stiff competition from Netani Muti who has split time rotating with him during organized team activities.
Muti enters his third season with the Broncos and is looking to secure a starting job during the regular season.
For the Broncos, they’ve been able to evaluate Muti who has started in four games for them during his first two seasons.
In Muti’s limited sample size, he’s looked impressive as a run blocker, specifically on plays where he pulls and gets out to the second level. He’s had experience starting at both left and right guard early on in his career, but the team views him as an option to start at left guard.
Throughout organized team activities, Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett mentioned areas of Muti’s game that he likes the most.
“He can run. For a big man, he can run,” Hackett said during the team’s organized team activities this offseason. “I think that’s one exciting thing about that. He is very huge person, [and he is] able to get off the ball, run sideline to sideline and do the outside zone stuff. We know that he can get everything downhill, but I think to be able to show that he can do outside zone, too, has been something really good.”
Dalton Risner approaching crucial camp opportunity
On the other hand, Risner has also found himself under similar praise from Hackett during the offseason. With the offensive scheme having similarity to the Denver Broncos’ offense in 2019, where Risner arguably had the best season of his career, it could help him in training camp.
“He’s been another one who’s been an absolute unbelievable surprise,” Hackett said during the Broncos’ mandatory minicamp. “We brought this whole system into this organization, this outside zone world, and it hasn’t been that way [before]. He has really bought in and he’s doing a fine job running off the ball and [he’s] great in pass protection. He’s done a really good job and I’m really excited about where he’s at.”
Competition will be heavy on the interior line as the Denver Broncos get onto the practice field. Who will separate themselves in the eyes of the coaching staff will be on display during camp.
Broncos training camp kicks off on Wednesday, July 27 at Dove Valley in south Denver. Training camp is open to the public and free to attend and runs through Aug. 11.