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Broncos Camp Preview: Competition at center among key storylines for Denver's offensive line

Recently, Broncos offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey, Quinn Meinerz and Garett Bolles posed for the camera at the team's annual media day.

It's that time of year.

Broncos Training Camp powered by Ford is just a few weeks away, and is starting its annual look at the roster before the final lead-up to the regular season begins.

Over the next several weeks, we'll turn our focus to each area of Denver's roster to get fans set for a pivotal training camp that will feature plenty of competition.

We continue with the Broncos' offensive line.


Change is the only constant in the NFL, and it's not unusual for position groups to feature high turnover over the course of an offseason.

Rare consistency, though, is what stands out about the Broncos' offensive line as Denver approaches training camp.

The Broncos return four of five starters on their offensive line, as left tackle Garett Bolles, left guard Ben Powers, right guard Quinn Meinerz and right tackle Mike McGlinchey all remain with Denver. The Broncos will have to replace just one starter from 2023, as Lloyd Cushenberry III departed in free agency. With Luke Wattenberg, Alex Forsyth and Sam Mustipher competing for the role, though, the Broncos will have plenty of options.

Denver also added to its depth in the offseason, as the Broncos drafted guard Nick Gargiulo in the seventh round and signed veteran tackle Matt Peart, among other moves.


Can the Broncos' offensive line take the next step?

Denver's offensive line featured impressive continuity in 2023, as the Broncos featured the same starting offensive line for their first 16 games of the season. For about 900 snaps, Denver's top unit lined up together and built a foundation in a new offense.

With four of five starters returning to Denver, the offensive line has a chance to improve its play from an already strong foundation. In Year 2 playing under Offensive Line Coach Zach Strief, the consistency is already paying dividends. Meinerz said in June that he's noticed a difference in how the offensive line is moving off the ball at the snap and that he can "100 percent" tell there's an increased comfort level.

"It's been great to come back and have the same staff, same coaches and same familiar faces," Meinerz said on June 11. "It's been really awesome to have the same language, the same kind of plays and the same kinds of blocks I'm expected to do. I can spend the offseason before this process starts knowing what is expected of me and what the system actually is. It's been great."

Asked specifically about 2023 free-agent additions McGlinchey and Powers in June, Payton said he expects to see improvement down the entire line of scrimmage.

"Certainly both of those guys have filled in and provided not only leadership but quality play for us," Payton said. "I think in Year 2, you're going to continue to see that curve, not just for the two of them but the group in general go up."

A team captain in his first year in Denver, McGlinchey will lead a group that will be tasked with protecting a young quarterback, no matter who wins the competition.

"There were a number of things that he brought in a positive way," Payton said of McGlinchey. "There are certain strengths he has; just like all these players, there are things we want to work on in the offseason. It's very important to him. He comes from a winning program. I think that going into Year 2, you're going to see his continued development. There's a toughness to him in how he plays, but I'm glad we have him."

No matter who plays quarterback, the offensive line's ability to protect the signal caller and pave the way for a strong running game will be critical. When training camp begins, that potential will be on display.


Luke Wattenberg, Alex Forsyth and Sam Mustipher

While the quarterback competition will attract the share of the attention, there will be another critical battle going on in front of the signal callers. Wattenberg, Forsyth and Mustipher rotated reps during the offseason program, and the competition will begin in earnest when training camp begins and the pads come on.

A third-year player, Wattenberg has started one game over the first two seasons of his career and has played 128 offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. Wattenberg did appear in 16 games as a special teams contributor in 2023, and the 2022 fifth-round pick could be poised to take the next step in his career.

Forsyth, meanwhile, did not appear in a game during his rookie season but could now be reunited with his college quarterback. Depending on the results of the competitions at quarterback and center, Forsyth could find himself paired again with Bo Nix after the two played together at Oregon.

General Manager George Paton said in January the Broncos believe Forsyth is a starting-caliber player, and Payton said in May that Forsyth has a "high, high football IQ" as a player.

"Well, there is a grit element to them," Payton said in March of both Forsyth and Wattenberg. "They're both athletic and they're both extremely smart. … It's a position that requires not only a certain skill set, but a certain cerebral mindset. I think that both of those guys have that temperament, but they also have that understanding of what we're doing."

Mustipher joins the competition as the veteran of the group, having started 42 games in four years after breaking into the league as an undrafted player. The Notre Dame product started 33 games for the Bears from 2021-22 before joining the Ravens in 2023 and appearing in nine contests.

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