Rookie offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz has become something of a legendary figure among Broncos Country. Whether it’s because “The Gut” has endeared him to fans, or it’s the struggles the Denver Broncos have had along the interior of the offensive line, a quick Twitter search will reveal Broncos’ fans are desperate to see Meinerz enter the starting lineup.
They got their wish on Sunday versus the New York Jets. Starting left guard Dalton Risner exited with an injury in the third quarter, and Meinerz was inserted into that spot. All told, Meinerz played 25 total snaps against the Jets. With Vic Fangio unsure about how long Risner will be out, these next few games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh will be a tough test for Meinerz.
How did he fare against the Jets? Head Coach Vic Fangio said “he’ll be ready”. Did he look ready Sunday?
Honestly, I was fairly encouraged.
Quinn Meinerz was already a pretty seamless fit in the Denver offense under Shurmur. His offense at Wisconsin-Whitewater featured plenty of power/gap runs and a plentiful play-action approach. Teddy Bridgewater currently has about 26 throws off of play-action, or about 27% of his throws and continues to be one of the highest gap run teams in the NFL.
We knew Meinerz had plenty of athleticism to bring to the table. It popped on his tape and in his Pro Day testing
Not only that, but Meinerz put together reps where his play strength was thunderous and he would flat-out dominate the competition.
That play strength certainly popped a few times in the Jets game.
Meinerz takes CJ Mosley along for a ride (and a nice little pancake) and gets part of the safety too pic.twitter.com/VcXUAVEPBw— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) September 29, 2021
Meinerz has been training over at center for much of the offseason, but Denver inserted him at left guard, where he played in college, and he looked more comfortable there than he did at center. Given how much Risner and Glasgow have struggled in recent weeks (and even against the Jets), seeing a guard overwhelm a defender out of the play was a nice refresher.
Most notably, and why I’m ok with him starting sooner rather than later, is he’s always been able to pair those traits with excellent recognition and awareness. In college, Meinerz was always quick to diagnose various stunts and blitzes and effectively handle them regularly. That trait showed up again versus the Jets.
Quinn Meinerz picking up Franklin-Myers flashing late across the line pic.twitter.com/l7R7lpIBsX— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) September 29, 2021
Some growing pains up front with some new faces, but Meinerz ends up blocking both guys inside, picking up Rankins flashing in late. pic.twitter.com/ZW8mVQ1eqx— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) September 29, 2021
There are a few technical issues to sort out with Meinerz, like there are with most rookies, but there’s already plenty of positives out there on both his college film, preseason film, and against the Jets.
Baltimore does an excellent job of throwing all sorts of different blitzes and exotic looks out at the offense. Don “Wink” Martindale is not afraid of throwing the kitchen sink at opposing offenses, and it makes it tough on any offensive lineman.
Yet, Meinerz has demonstrated an aptitude for being able to identify and handle these kinds of plays. Naturally it will be different against NFL teams and NFL competition, but if it shows up in his first game against NFL competition, it’s not just him doing it against college teams.
There’s been a debate on Twitter about whether Meinerz or Muti should play if one had to choose, and my answer would pretty handily be Meinerz. Meinerz is already plenty experienced and the things Muti does, Meinerz has shown the ability to do better. Yes, Meinerz will be starting his first game against a tough opponent. However, Muti only has two career starts in the NFL and started just five the last two seasons of his collegiate career. Head coach Vic Fangio has already talked about his inexperience. Meinerz has started 29 games in his playing career. We aren’t talking about starting a raw, inexperienced rookie in the sense of someone like James Hudson.
So yes, I’d be far more willing to take a shot with Meinerz and any lumps that come with it. I am in agreement with Vic Fangio that I think he’s ready and capable.