Due to injuries to both Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner, the Denver Broncos had to start their two backup guards, including rookie Quinn Meinerz. While Meinerz played the second half against the New York Jets, Week 5 was his first career start.
Through the game and a half, Meinerz has been far from perfect, but he has shown off the potential that got him drafted in the third round. It isn't going too far out on a limb to say that his play has been Denver's best at the left guard position since the 2019 season.
Despite the significant jump in competition and not playing in 2020 because of the pandemic, Meinerz is holding his own with strength and awareness. His technique does need overall improvement, but he has enough of a foundation down to not get dominated.
Let's examine his Week 5 performance.
Play 1: First Quarter | 14:28
Calais Campbell going against RG Netane Muti and Meinerz was one of the Ravens' significant advantages in this game. This was the second play of the game, and Meinerz is facing off against Campbell and the rookie held his own, using his opponent's strength against him.
Campbell gets under Meinerz's pads off the snap, but Meinerz's strength keeps him from getting pushed back. LT Garett Bolles comes in with a chip to help Meinerz before going onto his own block. Meinerz does give up the B-gap to Campbell but uses that to open up the A-gap.
Melvin Gordon can get small through the hole and avoid a grasping attempt by Campbell with Meinerz controlling his movement and picking up a good amount of yards. Center Lloyd Cushenberry III also did an excellent job on this play by handling the Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams from start to finish.
While this wasn't the most technical play from Meinerz, it shows the strength he has. Over the first two and a half games, it was common to see Risner get driven back on running plays, leading to ineffectual production. Meinerz has more raw power to keep that from happening.
Play 2: First Quarter | 4:57
While it wasn't done on purpose, there is a brief moment Meinerz blocks two defenders on this play. It's a shame that the blocking of Muti, TE Noah Fant, and WR Tim Patrick all failed on this play because pretty much everyone else did a good job. Muti and Patrick's failure led to the tackle, while Fant's bad attempt led to Gordon being forced to keep it inside.
Meinerz cuts inside to take the nose tackle with some help at the start from Cushenberry. Meinerz not only generates push against Williams, but he also seals off the lane to keep the defender from clogging the running lane. With the positioning, Meinerz uses Williams' body to block the pathway for the under defensive tackle to get by, creating a log jam.
There are a lot of what-ifs on this play, but none of it from Meinerz. Bolles also did a good job as the run wasn't going to the B-gap, so he used the defender's momentum to let him inside and seal the lane with body positioning. Again, multiple blockers had a great play, but all it takes is one to fail.
Play 3: Second Quarter | 15:00
Meinerz's best rep of the day might be this one despite the problems around him. He initially sets in pass protection as Teddy Bridgewater fakes it to turn for the handoff. Then, with good timing, Meinerz climbs and connects with one of the Ravens linebackers.
Fant ends up on the ground almost immediately which forces Gordon to avoid a defender just after he gets the ball. As a result, Gordon can't hit the hole that was created which would probably lead to a touchdown. Adding to it was a slight delay in being able to hit the hole at speed due to Cushenberry losing positioning, and clogging the gap.
There's such a massive hole opened up by Bolles and Meinerz that if Gordon can get cleanly through, the Broncos are in the end zone. The failure of this play started with Fant and then dominoes into Cushenberry. The patience from Meinerz and his technique when climbing and connecting with the linebacker was pretty much textbook.
Play 4: Second Quarter | 10:11
Now to a couple of bad reps from Meinerz that show he still has technical aspects to work on. While he was the best blocker out there against the Ravens and gave the Broncos their best guard play of the year thus far, there is much he has to improve on. He's making his way there but still needs time, though if Denver makes a permanent switch to Meinerz, it would be easy to understand why.
Meinerz's hands are all over the place on this rep and can never get onto the defensive lineman's body. It was excellent hand technique from the defender and Meinerz just wasn't ready for it. The defender then switches it up to pop under the pads and put Meinerz on his heels. From there, it was easy for the defender to clog the throwing lane and get a hand on the pass.
Coming from Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, Meinerz isn't used to seeing reps like this. Even in the preseason, the hand technique he faced wasn't this good, and he managed to make do multiple times.
O-line coach Mike Munchak has to work with Meinerz to improve his combative hand techniques for the future especially if he ends up starting again down the road.
Play 5: Second Quarter | 5:17
Campbell just bulldozes Meinerz and puts him on the ground. He converts all his forward momentum into his initial contact which Meinerz wasn't ready for and blows his way back off the line of scrimmage. From there, Campbell hammers home his advantage as he continues to drive through.
Meinerz has to be more ready for this kind of power than he was here. It isn't so much technique that hurt him here, it was just a lack of experience. This is a teachable moment for Meinerz so let's hope Munchak can help him see it and improve.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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