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'It's all about buying in': Broncos' offensive line believes in group's potential, working toward 2023 improvement

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In an offseason full of change, the Broncos looked to get bigger and better up front.

Through both free agency and the draft, Denver treated its offensive line as a core priority. The Broncos began free agency by signing tackle Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers, both of whom were considered among the top available free agents in this year's class. Denver later added center Kyle Fuller in the next wave of free agency before selecting center Alex Forsyth in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Midway through the offseason program, the Broncos also signed tackle Cam Fleming back to the roster.

Following the slew of moves, the Broncos were left with a group that had "the biggest turnover" of any position group, according to Head Coach Sean Payton. Denver had several 2022 starters depart in free agency — including Dalton Risner, Billy Turner and Calvin Anderson — which only contributed to the change in the offensive line group.

The new composition of the room is also aided by the return of injured starters Garett Bolles and Lloyd Cushenberry III. Both players missed more than half of the 2022 season with their respective injuries.

As Denver nears the end of its voluntary offseason program, the team is left with a group that is excited about what it could accomplish this season.

"I think our unit is something to be really excited about," McGlinchey said in late May. "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."

McGlinchey referenced guards in Powers and Quinn Meinerz that "are as big and quick and powerful as probably anybody in the NFL." He said he believes he and Bolles can be "upper-echelon" tackles who are working to be the best in the league. And McGlinchey and quarterback Russell Wilson both credited Cushenberry for the work he's done in the center of the offensive line.

"You think about obviously 'Cush' and what he can do up front — he's so intelligent," Wilson said. "Obviously he missed a decent amount of last year, so for him to come back is going to be really exciting for us too. He's really intelligent [and] physical."

A potential starting unit with Bolles, Powers, Cushenberry, Meinerz and McGlinchey would feature four new faces from Week 18 last season — and the main focuses will be to kick-start last year's 21st-ranked run game and to protect Wilson after giving up the most sacks of any team in 2022.

"I'm not here to talk about last year or statistics about last year, but certainly any offensive line's job is to keep the defensive lineman off the quarterback," McGlinchey said. "That's job 1A … to establish the run game, and 1B is to keep them off the quarterback."

Powers, who came to Denver after playing for the Ravens' second-ranked rushing offense, said the key to finding success on the ground comes from a mindset and mentality.

"You've got to have grit," Powers said. "You've got to care."

Finding that success on the ground and converting on third down, McGlinchey added, is "what this league's all about."

In training camp, the pads will come on and the Broncos' offensive line will truly begin to take shape. For now, the focus is on personal improvement.

"It's hard when we're just out there in jerseys, because there's no pads, there's nothing to grab onto, there's nothing to latch onto," Powers said. "You just focus on your personal technique, and you've got to know what's going to work in the fall."

Between the technique work and the strength and conditioning work that has been a constant this offseason, the Broncos' offensive line is aiming to lay the foundation for a successful 2022 campaign.

"I think [for] our group, the sky's the limit," McGlinchey said. "Just being around them, everybody's a workhorse. We love working together. We love coming into work, lifting weights, running with [Head Strength & Conditioning Coach] Dan Dalrymple and his staff.

"The first seven or eight weeks that I've been here, I'm very excited about our group and the attitude that we have and certainly the football will come."

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