While the Denver Broncos are knee-deep in the offseason training programs, the team will be looking for the best five on the offensive line. The Broncos have multiple options at almost every position, and with the new coaching staff, there could be a significant shakeup in how the starting five look compared to last year on the O-line.
The Broncos have battles at each position, and we will get around to covering all of them. These will cover projections for the starters at each position, and depth, as we work towards a 53-man roster projection.
With that said, let's jump into the offensive line and who the players are.
While the Broncos have plenty of competition along their O-line, the left tackle position has a cemented starter. Garett Bolles had a great 2020 season that saw him garner a big extension, but his 2021 campaign regressed closer to the mean. Even so, Denver will hope he can bounce back closer to that 2020 caliber of player with him cemented as the left tackle.
Dalton Risner is the incumbent starter at left guard and is projected to win the starting job, but unlike Bolles, he isn't cemented as the starter. However, there are a few options for the Broncos outside of Risner to turn to in order to find the best five. These other options include Tom Compton and Graham Glasgow.
Both Compton and Glasgow are expected to be part of the position battles for multiple spots on the O- line. Glasgow has the versatility to play all three spots on the interior, and Compton can play both guard spots and will be part of the competition at right tackle.
There could be a few sleeper options with Lloyd Cushenberry III, Quinn Meinerz, and rookie Luke Wattenberg, but they all seem unlikely for the left guard. Cushenberry and Wattenberg will be part of the competition at the center spot, with Glasgow and potentially Meinerz.
Meinerz seems set to be the right guard but could be in play at center, which we will get to. None of the three appears to be a legitimate competitor for the left guard spot for those reasons.
So between Risner, Glasgow, and Compton, who has the best chance of winning the job here? It will take a lot for Risner to lose it, but his primary foe is likely to be Compton. Glasgow will factor into it, but he seems destined for center, right guard, or a depth piece.
The competition at the center position is one of the most talked-about battles on the O-line. It features the incumbent starter Cushenberry, the veteran Glasgow, and the rookie Wattenberg. There also could be a surprise piece in this battle with the aforementioned Meinerz, though that seems unlikely.
Even though Denver drafted Wattenberg, he's a long shot to win the starting center job out of camp. It would take some outstanding showings during offseason programs, training camp, and the preseason. However, he seems to be more in play after the 2022 season, barring an injury.
So the competition really comes down to Cushenberry, who doesn't fit the scheme and the team has made clear it wants to replace, and Glasgow, who may be taller than what Russell Wilson wants to deal with at center. So that's why Meinerz could be in play, as he would be the compromise between the two as he isn't as tall as Glasgow and is a better scheme fit and player than Cushenberry.
The question is whether Meinerz can improve his snapping enough for Wilson, among other areas that he needed to improve during his time at center last year. Of course, it seems that the coaching staff would rather keep Meinerz at right guard and would only make this move to center if absolutely necessary.
That leaves Cushenberry and Glasgow, and while Glasgow has worked as a center before, it's been a while. This battle is wide open, but Cushenberry seems to be the favorite to win it at the moment. More clarity will come over the coming months.
Barring a move to center, this seems to be Meinerz's spot. The coaches had mentioned keeping him at right guard, so a move to center seems unlikely. If it happens, it will likely be for Glasgow or Compton, with Glasgow being the favorite here after opening the past two seasons as the starter.
While Meinerz isn't cemented as the starting right guard, he is as close to it as possible. In the end, Meinerz will be a starter on the line somewhere.
The battle at right tackle is between Billy Turner and Compton. There is an outside chance Calvin Anderson takes the job, but he would need to take significant steps forward as a player, as he seems destined for the backup swing tackle spot. Even though Compton has a chance, it is Turner's job to lose.
While the battle isn't a farce, as Turner has to do enough to cement himself there, he is clearly the inhouse favorite to win the job. There seems to be a desire to get Compton into the starting lineup, which is why he is in play at left guard.
If Anderson manages to win the job, it would mean that Turner and Compton were major letdowns to the coaching staff.
Projected Starting Five
While there are multiple different ways it can play out, the starters on the Broncos' offensive line currently project to be:
- Left tackle: Garett Boles
- Left guard: Dalton Risner
- Center: Lloyd Cushenberry III
- Right guard: Quinn Meinerz
- Right tackle: Billy Turner
The main spots for competition are left guard, center, and right tackle. Compton is in play for two of them, and Glasgow is very much in play at center. So odds are, the starting five include some order out of those seven players. There is plenty of competition still to be had to find the starting five.
Glasgow and Compton both offer up a ton of versatility with the ability to play multiple spots on the offensive line. That versatility is highly valued in the modern NFL.
Anderson seems set to make the roster as the backup swing tackle, primarily behind Bolles. When Anderson has taken the field, he has consistently looked more comfortable when working on the left side than the right side. That could limit him and is likely the most prominent aspect to overcome to be part of the competition at right tackle.
After those three, the question becomes, how many offensive linemen do the Broncos keep on their roster? The safe number is 10, but with the versatility of multiple players, the team could stick with nine, or even eight, players. So for this, I have Denver keeping nine offensive linemen, with the final one being Wattenberg.
The 10th man was set to be Ben Braden, who just missed because of a lack of versatility to do more than guard. That means Braden, Natane Muti, Quinn Bailey, Casey Tucker, and Denver's two undrafted free-agent signings don't make it.
However, it's safe to expect at least two of them to make the practice squad.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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