The Denver Broncos were already going to face a tough challenge against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. It was made even more challenging when it was announced both starting guards, Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow, were out due to injury. Rookie Quinn Meinerz stepped into the left guard spot to fill in for Dalton Risner, while third-year backup Netane Muti stepped into the right guard spot.
How did they fare? Can Denver rely on them moving forward if the starters continue to miss time with injury? I dove into the tape against Baltimore to find out.
It was far from the easiest day at the office for Muti. Baltimore was frequently attacking the right side of the offensive line and Muti had to deal with Calais Campbell most of the game, who challenges even the very best offensive linemen.
According to PFF, Muti allowed one sack and seven pressures against Baltimore. It was a struggle for him for most of the game in pass protection, whether he was lining up against Campbell or Justin Madubuike. Yet when Muti’s hands hit, he’s always been able to generate plenty of pop. He also flashed a few reps where I thought he did a good job figuring out how Baltimore was attacking him.
I'm genuinely not sure where Teddy was going with the throw but Muti showing some good awareness of his own here pic.twitter.com/iZWa54EeV0— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) October 6, 2021
Unfortunately, there were some reps that showed off Muti’s inexperience. On this sack on Drew Lock, watch his hands. He strikes with his inside hand way too high and Madubuike quickly swats away his outside hand. Muti’s already lost leverage and lost the rep. He can’t recover quick enough and Madubuike fights his way through to Lock.
In run blocking, Muti did a good job working on double-teams and working vertically against some pretty stout run defenders. Where I noticed him struggled the most was in pulling and then reaching the second level. Muti still has a problem with lunging and staying disciplined on his second-level targets. Instead of squaring and driving into them, he’d often times lunge and lose his balance or allow enough maneuverability for his target to move around him and still impact the play.
Man, Baltimore just swarms to the ball so quickly. Patrick Queen does a good job working off Muti and making the tackle pic.twitter.com/nPL7IHSHCw— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) October 6, 2021
It’s important to note that Muti is still in his beginning of his NFL career and lined up against a six-time Pro Bowler in Calais Campbell and a young breakout star player in Justin Madubuike through much of the game. Campbell gives even elite offensive linemen trouble. Muti’s main issues right now are simply technical, something that takes time to develop, especially with how much time Muti has missed with injury.
I wrote last week that I was confident in Meinerz’s ability to hold up in the game against Baltimore because of his experience and awareness. He held up fairly well for his first overall start!
From PFF’s charting, Meinerz allowed just a single pressure and no sacks against Baltimore.
The one pressure PFF charted on Meinerz came against Oweh on the final drive of the game pic.twitter.com/62fFgloBvf— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) October 6, 2021
Once again, I was impressed with Meinerz’s overall awareness and IQ. Baltimore was throwing the kitchen sink at the Denver offense and Meinerz handled it well.
Meinerz got caught on a few bad reps (those were bound to happen in his first start). He didn’t look physically out-of-place for a D3 rookie in his first NFL start. Much like Muti, Meinerz has some technique problems to sort out like improving his footwork and getting more keyed in on hitting second-level defenders (missed his defender a couple of times while pulling).
The positive reps of Meinerz far outweighed the negatives, however.
This is a hell of a rep from Meinerz against Brandon Williams. That initial punch...whew. Stoned all 336 pounds of Williams pic.twitter.com/7O8qca2Vz9— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) October 5, 2021
So what’s the plan moving forward?
After seeing multiple games of both of them, I have two main takeaways.
The first, I’m not sure Quinn Meinerz should come out of the starting lineup. When Risner and Glasgow come back to full health, I’d figure out whatever combination works best to get him starting full-time (hint hint: Meinerz should play center). He’s strung together two good performances against two challenging defensive fronts, though the Steelers will be his toughest test if he has to play against them. Even with the few rookie mistakes he made, it was obvious he could handle the NFL game already.
As for Muti, I’m hesitant to say he should be involved more. He’s faced almost unreasonable expectations for two years now and he’s relatively inexperienced. There’s certainly upside to develop and he should be afforded every opportunity to grow, but it’s clear why Denver preferred Glasgow as the starter there at right guard despite the fan desire to play Muti over him.