There is absolutely zero room for complacency as a player in the NFL at any position. The old cliché that says if you aren’t improving, you’re getting worse couldn’t be truer for every player on the Denver Broncos offseason roster.
Competition for multiple positions, most notably the starting quarterback, has already started as the Broncos wrap up their final phase of voluntary OTA’s.
On Monday, head coach Vic Fangio led his team through its first practice featuring 11-on-11 drills this year. Usually, players have already squared off against each other in 11-on-11 team drills by now but Fangio and the team’s NFLPA reps agreed to negotiate a few elements of the practice schedule with the hopes of eliminating injuries and gathering maximum attendance.
Recently signed cornerback Kyle Fuller made his debut as a Bronco on the practice field Monday after not attending the team's previous voluntary practices. Running back Melvin Gordon remained absent from OTAs with the expectation he’ll attend the June 15 start date of mandatory minicamp.
This sets the stage for what was a busy day at UCHealth Training Center as players fight for a job this season. After practice, I asked Broncos' starting left guard Dalton Risner about the competition at center between his teammates Lloyd Cushenberry III and rookie Quinn Meinerz.
“They’re both doing a heck of a job. Lloyd has grown so much, and he worked so hard over this offseason,” Risner said. “I think he looks really good. He’s calling it out really well—that’s who I’m working with right now. So, a lot of respect towards Lloyd. I think he’s grown and he’s going to continue to grow. Man, it’s so fun to be with these guys.”
Cushenberry, commonly referred to by his coaches and teammates as ‘Cush,' started all 16 games as a rookie in 2020. Originally drafted in the third round from LSU, he saw his share of ups and downs as a greenhorn in the NFL.
Game film reveals that Cushenberry must improve his core strength to combat bigger defensive linemen. All things considered, Broncos Country went into the offseason expecting that Cush would return as the clear-cut starter and his career would blossom in his second year with O-line coach Mike Munchak.
Not so fast.
A month ago, new Broncos' GM George Paton saw a rare opportunity to improve and bolster the O-line depth chart by selecting Division III stand-out Quinn Meinerz in the third round. The Wisconsin-Whitewater guard, who’s taught himself center, stole the show at the Senior Bowl in January where I got an up-close look the mountain of a man.
“Quinn Meinerz, being the rookie, man, I have so much respect for him and his story, and who he is as a person,” Risner explained. "It’s been great to get to know him. I love his work ethic, and I think he’s going to continue to grow this year. So, it’s awesome that people are excited about it.”
Following the draft, Fangio stated that the team would work Meinerz out at the center position, even though he’s well versed at guard. This directly leads credence to the philosophy that Paton will leave no stone unturned and will not hesitate to bring in players if he thinks they can help the team win.
So, while each interception or turnover is scrutinized over social media at the QB position, other competitions for playing time unfold.
“There’s competition all over the board; I promise you guys it’s not only at the center position,” Risner declared.
“We’re trying to put the five best guys on the field and 11 on the field for offense. We’ve been working our tails off. There’s competition everywhere. I think that tells us, and tells you guys, that we’re going to have a great team this year because we have so much great competition. I love both those guys man, they’ve been doing a heck of a job.”
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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