With left tackle Garett Bolles suffering a season-ending leg injury against the Colts, the Broncos will be tasked with replacing one of the long-time staples of the offensive line.
The offensive line has already seen quite a bit of movement through the first part of the season, as the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel noted. Right guard Quinn Meinerz only played a handful of snaps this season before experiencing a hamstring injury, and right tackle Billy Turner is still working his way toward making his Broncos debut. As a result, guard Graham Glasgow and tackles Cam Fleming and Calvin Anderson have all rotated in, and their roles will likely increase with Bolles now out for the season.
Gabriel noted that Bolles and left guard Dalton Risner have been a consistent duo on the left side of the Broncos' offensive line for several years, but that will now change for the remainder of the 2020 season.
"That pair had started 48 of 54 games next to each other since the beginning of the 2019 season, but Risner will have a new neighbor on the left side of the Denver line going forward," Gabriel wrote. "Who will it be? The easy answer is to plug in Calvin Anderson at left tackle. The fourth-year man played the final 13 snaps this past Thursday against the Colts after Bolles' injury."
On Tuesday, Risner expressed his confidence in Anderson's ability to fill in for Bolles on the left side. Anderson got the start at left tackle for a few games in 2021, and Risner was impressed with his ability to play the position at a high level.
"I'm very comfortable playing next to Calvin," Risner said. "He's a great football player, he's got great focus. He's hungry for it, he wants to be great and he's been that way all year. He's just been waiting for his opportunity all year and I don't think that we're going to skip a beat."
Gabriel noted that regardless of who slots into the mix, the offensive line has to find ways to improve.
"Denver has not been able to consistently get its run game in rhythm, checking in around the league's midpoint at 4.3 yards per carry and in the bottom third in rushes for first-down yardage," Gabriel wrote. "Quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 16 times and the Broncos are allowing a 27.6% pressure rate according to Pro Football Reference, fifth-worst in the NFL. Those issues do not rest solely on the shoulders of the offensive line, but the front group clearly plays a big role."
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Cornerback Ronald Darby also experienced a season-ending injury against the Colts, and the Broncos will have to replace another key starter for the remainder of the season. Cornerback Pat Surtain II noted the significance of losing Darby, who had played well through the first five weeks.
"It's a tough loss, especially from his perspective," Surtain said on Tuesday. "He's been battling some injures, but especially this year. It's just a tough loss, but at the end of the day, my prayers went out to him and [I'm] praying for him for a speedy recovery. It was a big-time loss because he is a great player on this team, but the best thing is to move on and have guys step up."
One option to fill in for Darby could be rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis, who replaced Surtain during the Broncos' game against the Texans when Surtain exited with a shoulder injury.
"Damarri has been out there and making plays," Surtain said. "I'm sure there is nothing new to him, but it's the NFL. You have to step up when your time comes. I know that he's going to step up to the challenge, he's going to make plays and do his best for the defense."
The Broncos also designated cornerback Michael Ojemudia for return on Tuesday. The third-year player has started 12 career games for the Broncos.