Denver Broncos training camp has officially kicked off and all those wonderful position battles we've been previewing for months are underway. One such battle that has been hyped up is at the center position.
The Broncos have invested two third-round draft picks on the center position over the last two years with Lloyd Cushenberry III and Quinn Meinerz just this past May.
Make no mistake, this is Cushenberry's job to lose, but Denver drafted Meinerz in hopes that he can push the former LSU star to dramatically improve over what was a well below-average rookie year. If not, Meinerz could very well take the job from him.
After the first practice, however, head coach Vic Fangio shed more light on where this competition stands, and suffice it to say, the Broncos don't view it the way fans and media have hyped it thus far.
“I think Meinerz first has to show that it needs to be a competition," Fangio said on Wednesday after Day 1 of camp.
Message received loud and clear. This isn't a competition. Yet. It's on Meinerz to actually create a position battle with his play on the field.
While both are recent third-round picks, Meinerz offers more versatility than Cushenberry because the veteran lacks the length and strength to really be a guard. There may be a desire for Cusbenberry to cement himself because there isn't a clear fallback option for him.
Adding to that, Meinerz never took a snap at the center position until the Senior Bowl this past January. Bringing next-to-no experience at a position that demands so much from a player puts Meinerz in an uphill climb to even tread water.
Then you also have a massive level-of-competition jump for Meinerz, whereas Cushenberry had a four-year career in Division I football playing in the SEC before arriving in Denver last year, where he went on to start all 16 games at center as a rookie. Going from Wisconsin-Whitewater, where Meinerz didn't even have a 2020 season due to the pandemic, and jumping all the way up to the NFL while being tasked with learning a new position only increases the difficulty.
This competition hasn't really started yet. It falls on Meinerz to step up and make it one. That is very fitting for a coaching staff that wants its rookies to earn their place.
It's only been one day of training camp, so everything is just getting started at UCHealth Training Center, but watching Meinerz's college tape and his Senior Bowl body of work, it wouldn't be shocking to see this competition really heat up at some point.
It was always going to take time before the heat under Cushenberry's seat really started climbing a few degrees. Fangio's comment on Day 1 of camp had to give Cushenberry a little peace of mind while offering up a dose of reality and motivation for Meinerz.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!