The Broncos agreed to terms with right tackle Mike McGlinchey, 28, on a five-year, $87.5 million contract that includes $52.5 million in guaranteed money. The deal makes McGlinchey, a former top-10 pick who has spent all five years of his career with the 49ers, the fourth-highest-paid right tackle in the NFL on a per-year basis.
Let’s dig into the Broncos’ game against the 49ers from September to take a look at McGlinchey’s strengths and weaknesses.
There’s plenty that McGlinchey does well, but we’re getting the ugly out of the way first. You’re not going to enjoy this, but it’s why 49ers fans aren’t devastated that San Francisco let McGlinchey walk in free agency.
Here is, obviously, the worst rep of the day from McGlinchey (#69):
Randy Gregory is on McGlinchey in an instant and McGlinchey doesn’t stand a chance against the bull rush. He gets buried.
Listed at 6-foot-8 and 310 pounds, McGlinchey’s worst quality is his anchor. He has a high center of gravity and is very lean for a tackle, which leaves him susceptible to bull rushes like Gregory’s.
McGlinchey put on some weight ahead of the 2021 season, climbing to about 320 pounds, and the anchor problem mostly disappeared. He was bulky enough to hold his ground against power rushers. But halfway through the season, he tore his quad off the bone and missed the rest of the year.
When a player adds weight and has a serious soft-tissue injury, it’s easy to guess why the injury happened. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it’s tough to ask McGlinchey to put that weight back on, even if it might solve one of the few flaws in his game. (For what it’s worth, McGlinchey has only missed four games in the rest of his career. He played the second half of 2022 through broken ribs.)
Before the 2022 season, McGlinchey said that he was back to his pre-Covid weight, which is somewhere between 290 and 300 pounds. Some of the anchor issues re-emerged, but it’s also worth noting he couldn’t do any leg workouts during offseason workouts as he continued to recover from the injury. It’s not unreasonable to expect a stronger lower body after a full offseason of work.
But, once again, McGlinchey’s lowlights stand out. The good news is that there aren’t that many of them. Watch a cutup on Twitter and you’d think that he’s being blown off his feet once per series, but he’s beaten because of his anchor once per game, if that.
Here’s a similar play from the next series:
You’d love to see McGlinchey hold his ground a little better, but it’s an alright rep and the quarterback probably could have stepped up in the pocket. He held up even better against a Gregory bull rush in the first series:
In this play, Gregory pulls out a swim move after the bull rush, and McGlinchey is called for holding:
McGlinchey tied with 14 other players for the 13th-most penalties (10) in the NFL in 2022. He tied for the sixth-most holding calls (four) with 21 other players. Those numbers are a little higher than you’d like, but they aren’t far from expectation for a tackle who started every game. They were also career highs.
When watching the clips above, it’s worth remembering that Gregory is one of the league’s best power rushers. When any other Bronco tried to bull rush McGlinchey, it didn’t come close to working.
Here’s an attempt from Bradley Chubb:
Outside of the bull rushes, McGlinchey is really solid. He gets beaten occasionally—every tackle does—but his tape is fairly clean:
And here he is shutting down Baron Browning later in the game:
If you’re keeping score at home, Browning is not good against power rushes and good against speed rushes. In the passing game, he’s at his very best against spin moves.
Here he is locking up Chubb:
And here’s Dre’Mont Jones getting nowhere, on the game-winning interception for the Broncos:
So there you go. The advanced metrics say McGlinchey is a below-average pass protector and that’s probably fair. While he’s generally good in pass protection on a snap-to-snap basis, bull rushes consistently give him trouble, especially when they come from freaks like Randy Gregory. (Reminder: he may improve in that regard given a real offseason of preparation instead of rehab.)
But you don’t sign Mike McGlinchey for his work in pass protection. You bring him in because he’s a very good run blocker.
The 49ers run a wide-zone blocking system. It’s complicated, but the simple version for a tackle the run is designed to follow is this: try to gain outside leverage so that you can seal the edge and the running back can get to the sideline. If you can’t get outside your man, get inside leverage and kick him out to create a cutback lane.
Here’s McGlinchey kicking out the defender to create a running lane:
McGlinchey’s best trait as a run blocker is his mobility. In a world of big bulky defensive linemen, McGlinchey is quick enough to gain leverage, creating a lane to run behind him.
Instead of running a zone system, which allows running backs to read blocks and find running lanes, the Broncos are expected to spend more time in a gap scheme, which means the play is blocked to create a hole for the runner in a specific gap.
In the gap scheme, McGlinchey will often work with the tight end to double-team a player at the point of attack. McGlinchey excels in double teams since he can out-leverage a defender and allow the second player to provide more power.
Since the 49ers call so many zone runs, there aren’t a lot of examples of this type of double team. The run-pass option below was the closest I could find.
We know that McGlinchey excels in double teams in general.
The transition from the wide zone scheme to a gap scheme will be interesting to watch, but there’s no reason to believe McGlinchey can’t continue to be one of the league’s top run-blocking tackles.
We’ll end on a high note.
McGlinchey isn’t just mobile, his athleticism is pretty special for his position. It’s most obvious when he extends to the second level to block linebackers. He can turn a hole at the line of scrimmage into a crease that sparks a big gain.
McGlinchey isn’t the strongest right tackle, but he’s a quick-twitch player who can create advantages in the running game and holds his own in the passing game. Living up to expectations as the fourth-highest-paid right tackle in the NFL won’t be easy, but he’s certainly capable.
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