As training camp approaches, it's time to turn our attention toward the season. Ahead of the first open training camp practice, we're examining each of the position groups on the Broncos' roster. In our look at each position, we'll fill you in on what we know about the group and what we hope to find out during training camp. We'll also identify a player to watch when practices begin and the preseason gets underway. We continue the series with a look at the Broncos' offensive line.
For more information on attending training camp this year, click here.
What we know:
While the Broncos tweaked the makeup of certain position groups across their roster, the team's offensive line underwent an overhaul. Denver signed two of the top available free agents, as the team acquired right tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Ben Powers to bolster the line. The Broncos will also return a pair of players — in left tackle Garett Bolles and center Lloyd Cushenberry III — who missed significant time during the 2022 season. Guard Quinn Meinerz, who also missed four games last season, may be the only starter from the Broncos' Week 18 win over the Chargers last season to be back in the starting lineup in Week 1 against the Raiders.
Denver also added to its depth, as the team re-signed Cam Fleming — who started 15 games last season — and acquired veteran center Kyle Fuller. The Broncos drafted Oregon center Alex Forsyth in the seventh round to bolster the team's young talent.
Following the moves, the Broncos' offensive line feels far different than the unit that allowed the most sacks of any team last year.
"That room is completely changed," Head Coach Sean Payton said in June. "If there was one position group [that was like] that show, ["Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"], that would be that position group."
What we need to learn:
Can the Broncos live up to expectations?
The Broncos' offensive line had lofty goals in 2022, but a slew of injuries and overall offensive struggles led to a difficult season. In 2023, after the team invested a number of resources into the position group, the unit will look to rebound.
"Now listen, there was always going to be pressure no matter what," Offensive Line Coach Zach Strief said in June. "I'd rather have the pressure of getting these two really good players [in McGlinchey and Powers] to play with the other three really good [starting] players, you know? I think that this group is doing that. The pressure on the line always exists, because our failures become team failures, and our successes, fortunately, are team successes. If you get to the end of the year and it doesn't go well, it was probably us. We've addressed that in the room, and yeah, there's stress with that.
"But wouldn't you rather have that on your shoulders rather than be reliant on the other group to do it?"
The nature of the unpadded offseason program means it's hard to get a fair evaluation of how the offensive line has progressed, but that will change as training camp begins. As the pads go on and the contact ratchets up, the Broncos' offensive line will have a chance to establish a new identity.
"You've got to have grit," Powers said in May. "You've got to care."
McGlinchey said while he won't weigh in on the Broncos' season last year, he knows that he and his teammates must protect the quarterback and build a foundation in the run game.
"I think our unit is something to be really excited about," McGlinchey said this offseason. "I think we have a lot of talent and a lot of guys that have played football and have certain experiences, but there's also certain things that guys still need to grow. I'm no stranger to that. Obviously coming into a new offense, new head coach, new offensive line coach, things are different. It's all about buying in, getting on the same page and playing as one unit. I think the sky can be the limit for our group."
Player to watch:
The Broncos' new right tackle is a physical force at 6-foot-8, 310 pounds, and he could fill a hole at the position that has existed for nearly a decade in Denver. During training camp, Broncos fans should get a chance to see him work against top-tier pass rushers in Randy Gregory and Frank Clark, and he'll have an opportunity to demonstrate his ability.
McGlinchey, though, seems to also bring a new level of leadership and determination to both the unit and the entire team. During the offseason, he spoke of how he's played in a Super Bowl and another NFC Championship while with the 49ers. As he begins the next chapter of his career in Denver, he's motivated only by getting back to that stage — and by finishing the job.
"That's the only thing that matters," McGlinchey said in May. "We only play this game to win, to win a Super Bowl and to have that moment in our life that we can always look back [on]. No one can take that away from you. I was close a couple times. I went to three title games. Seven minutes away from winning one. That's the only thing that motivates you to get back."
McGlinchey said he believes the Broncos have that potential, but the work must come first.
"This team is capable of that," McGlinchey said. "We have a head coach that has been there and done that, and I think everybody's [champing] at the bit to be able to turn this franchise around and start winning games for Denver."
Previous articles in the series: