ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After his rookie season ended, guard Quinn Meinerz went back and watched the tape to see how he played.
"I'm not going to lie," Meinerz said. "Last year, a couple of those games when I'm in there, I feel like I'm just kind of running around, almost kind of with my head cut off at times, just because things are happening so fast."
The transition to the NFL for the 2021 third-round pick and former Wisconsin-Whitewater player was uniquely challenging. The Division-III product faced quite the jump in competition level, and his only game experience since the 2019 season was the 2021 Senior Bowl, as Division-III schools canceled the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In spite of that, Meinerz performed admirably in his nine starts, largely filling in for veteran guard Graham Glasgow after an injury ended his season.
With his second season on the horizon, Meinerz will face more challenges and more opportunities. As the offense transitions to zone-blocking scheme, Meinerz' combination of strength and speed is expected to put him in contention for one of the starting spots on the interior of the offensive line.
"It's a ton of fun," Meinerz said of learning the new offense. "That's one of the reasons why I love this game, is being able to learn. And you really never stop learning. I'm trying to be a sponge as much as I can."
To prepare for that style, which Meinerz said requires "being a lot faster and really trying to make the defense play the entire field," he has reshaped his body a little.
"Last year, I was floating a couple of pounds under 330," Meinerz said. "I kind of had a sense that this offense was going to be predicated on speed, and I wasn't happy with some of the positions I was in last year with some of the things that I was doing wrong. I took it upon myself to lose some weight, I'd say around 10 pounds. I'm trying to stay around 320 or a couple of pounds under. That's where I'm feeling the best right now."
That change could also pay off in helping his stamina in pass protection, as he said the mindset for blocking for the ever-elusive Russell Wilson is to "block until the ball is gone."
"We have to block until the ball is gone, and whatever that requires and whatever you have to do is what we have to do," Meinerz said. "Especially with some of the special abilities that Russ has to evade the pocket and move things, there's no other option. You have to keep blocking until the ball is gone. That's the overall mentality there."
OKWUEGBUNAM FOCUSED ON 'SLOWING THE GAME DOWN'
In those kinds of situations, one player that could be a top target for Wilson may be third-year tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, whose soft hands and athleticism should make him a tough cover.
To best capitalize on his opportunities and continue to develop as a pro, Okwuegbunam said Thursday that his chief focus will be on growing his understanding of the new offense.
"I feel like a big thing for me is just my approach of really just grasping the offense," Okwuegbunam said. "That's one thing that I really wanted to take to a whole new level this year as I'm getting older — just having a way better grasp on our offense and defense. Just slowing the game down mentally for me."
Working with Wilson has helped in that regard, Okwuegbunam said, as the star quarterback is able to constantly give pointers.
"I think Russ has done a really good job of always having something to say, always having a pointer to anything that we're installing and anything we're doing," Okwuegbunam said. "He always has something to add onto it to just kind of help our offensive players adapt. It could be just a little detail about protection, it could be a little detail about coverage and what we might do if we see this look. I think that's one thing directly on the field that he's been doing a good job of."