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Two Broncos offensive lineman "surprised" Nathaniel Hackett in the offseason with their play

Zac Stevens Avatar
June 28, 2022

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Garett Bolles is the only solidified starter on the Denver Broncos’ offensive line entering training camp.

Throughout the offseason, Lloyd Cushenberry had a strong hold on the starting center spot, but Graham Glasgow—who is presumably his biggest competition—was significantly limited in the offseason as he recovered from a fractured ankle he suffered against the Cowboys last year.

That leaves three, if not four, of the five starting positions across Denver’s offensive line up for grabs.

When it comes to the two guard spots, there was quite a rotation during OTAs and mandatory minicamp between Quinn Meinerz, Dalton Risner and Netane Muti at both left and right guard.

Near the end of the offseason, Risner and Muti’s play had jumped out and caught the attention of Nathaniel Hackett.

“He’s been a big surprise for us throughout this whole offseason and I’m excited to see him keep rolling,” Hackett said about Muti during Denver’s mandatory minicamp near the end of the offseason workout program. “He’s picked it up really well.”

At 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, Muti is one of Denver’s biggest and arguably their strongest offensive lineman. But Hackett’s outside zone offensive system typically lends itself better to quicker and faster lineman over powerful and strong lineman.

However, earlier in the offseason, Muti’s speed actually stuck out to the head coach.

“He can run. For a big man, he can run,” Hackett said in awe. “I think that’s one exciting thing about that. He is very huge person, [and he is] able to get off the ball, run sideline to sideline and do the outside zone stuff. We know that he can get everything downhill, but I think to be able to show that he can do outside zone, too, has been something really good.”

Big No. 52 rotated in and out of Denver’s starting line for much of the offseason after starting four combined games his first two years in the league.

Muti fell to the sixth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft due to suffering a number of significant injuries in college. If it weren’t for those injuries, which certainly couldn’t be dismissed, he would have likely been a first or second-round pick.

“He’s doing a really good job,” Hackett added. “He’s running off the ball and he’s a big, strong interior lineman.”

Hackett went one step further when talking about his early impressions of Risner.

“He’s been another one who’s been an absolute unbelievable surprise,” Hackett said when asked about the Colorado Native at mandatory minicamp. “We brought this whole system into this organization, this outside zone world, and it hasn’t been that way [before]. He has really bought in and he’s doing a fine job running off the ball and [he’s] great in pass protection. He’s done a really good job and I’m really excited about where he’s at.”

Risner had the best season of his career as a rookie in a similar offensive system to what Denver will run in 2022. Although he maintained his starting job the past two seasons, the 6-foot-5, 312-pound guard regressed after his strong first year.

There is a belief Risner will benefit greatly by returning to a system that will allow him to use his athleticism. Since the Broncos used a second-round pick on him in 2019, Risner has played, and started, in all but two games.

Now this doesn’t mean Meinerz is necessarily taking a back seat to these two. In fact, he was in the rotation this offseason just as much as Risner and Muti.

As a rookie, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound mauler steamrolled defender after defender on his way to starting the team’s final eight games of the season. He was viewed as a project coming out of Wisconsin-Whitewater, but quickly showed he was ready for NFL competition.

Once again, Meinerz will be in a battle for a starting spot. But he’s not just going up against one other guard, he’ll be battling it out against two or even three other teammates.


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