The Denver Broncos offensive line has struggled all season long even when the day-one starting five was entirely healthy. The Broncos have also dealt with multiple injuries this season, which has led to numerous backups seeing the field, which is especially true on the interior O- line with Netane Muti and Quinn Meinerz both garnering a few starts.
When the Broncos lost starting right guard Graham Glasgow for the season against the Dallas Cowboys, the team turned to Meinerz. While the rookie Meinerz was viewed as being lower on the depth chart, Muti had to miss the game as he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
At this stage, it's clear that Denver should roll with the rookie as the starter for the rest of the year. Here are three reasons why.
1. Seamless Transition
Meinerz entered the Cowboys game and the offensive line didn't skip a beat, so he got the starting nod against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10, also due, in part, to Muti needing a little time to recover.
The Eagles game was Meinerz's chance to permanently lay claim to the starting job at right guard for the rest of the season, and he did not disappoint. While the Broncos had multiple offensive issues, Meinerz played a rather good game. That doesn't mean he didn't have his warts but he produced vastly more good play than bad.
2. Overcoming Poor Tackle Play
While the offensive line around him failed consistently, Meinerz stood out positively. Denver had to start both backup tackles in Week 10, and that was where a large part of the unit's issues stemmed from. Despite being put in a less-than-advantageous position, Meinerz did enough to secure the job for the season and maybe beyond.
3. Meinerz vs. Muti: The Rookie Reigns
When rushing behind Muti, the Broncos have had a much lower success rate compared to running behind Meinerz. There is also a considerable difference between the two regarding their play in pass protection, which is where playing Muti presents the most concerns.
Meinerz has played nine more pass-blocking snaps than Muti this season and has allowed one-third of the pressures (four) compared to Muti (12). Breaking it down to a per pass-blocking snap, Muti allows a pressure ever 13.5 snaps while Meinerz relinquishes one every 26.
For context, veteran starting left guard Dalton Risner allowed a pressure every 20.4 snaps and Glasgow at 19.3. Meinerz is far more efficient than Muti despite facing a more considerable jump in competition — coming from Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater — and despite being a rookie.
Glasgow's Future in Doubt
Glasgow has likely played his last down in Denver. He has struggled to stay on the field in each of his two seasons with the Broncos.
Plus, with an $8.4 million base salary for 2022 (per Over The Cap) Glasgow is a high-cost player and Denver can get out of his deal without a significant negative impact on the salary cap with a post-June 1 designation. That would put Muti and Meinerz in a competition to be the starting right guard next year.
While Meinerz shouldn't just be handed the job, he has vastly outperformed Muti on the field this year and should have a leg up to be the 2022 starter.
This doesn't mean that Muti's career is over. He had limited experience in college because of injuries, and he simply needs more time to develop before potentially being something.
However, Meinerz has developed at a much faster clip and perhaps quicker than almost anyone expected, which speaks to his long-term viability as a starting lineman in the NFL.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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