We all know by now that Quinn Meinerz is one of the best guards in the league right now. And he has been for, pretty much, the entirety of the season. While good in the passing game, he is really known for his ability in the running game, and that ability was on full display against the Buffalo Bills on Monday night.
Let’s dive into the game and see why he was the highest-graded offensive guard this week according to PFF.
The big picture
The Denver Broncos ran the ball 29 times, and they ran behind Meinerz for 21 of those plays. This includes runs that were to the right A, B, or C gap and also plays that he pulls on. On those plays that Denver ran behind them, they gained a total of 72 yards or 3.4 yards per carry (in comparison to the 3.2 yards per carry they had in the game). I am not including any of the scrambles that Wilson had. This is only off of the designed run plays.
Over the course of these 29 plays, I gave Meinerz three ‘great’ blocks, 19 ‘good’ blocks, six ‘meh’ plays, and one ‘bad’ play. According to the RGS, this would give Meinerz 26.5 points, or 91%. This is in comparison to the 90.1 that PFF gave him for his run-blocking on Monday.
What I loved most about watching the film was seeing the drive that Meinerz has to dominate people in every play. He ends up on the ground a lot, but it happens typically because he is laying out for blocks and trying to do everything he can to make the team successful. He laid the boom on the first couple of plays of the game, throwing a linebacker, and we’ll be taking a look at one of those.
Quinn Meinerz also has great footwork and is able to drive people because of it. He also had better pad level than most people out there and is able to out-leverage defensive linemen because of it.
Let’s get into the specifics.
For the most part, the entire offensive line is executing a down block on this play. Essentially that means that the gap to your left or your right, in this case it’s the left, is the gap that you are responsible for. If there is someone over the top of you or in a shade over your right shoulder, you leave them for the lineman that is to your right. If there is someone over your left shoulder or in the gap to your left, you block them. And if there is no one inside of you, then you go right to the second level. That later example is what happens in this play.
Quinn Meinerz is able to go directly to a linebacker, and he absolutely destroys him. What he avoids doing is completely lunging to try and get a big hit. In most cases, if you lunge, you’re going to whiff big. Rather, you can see that he keeps his base underneath him, delivers a strong punch right to the chest, and sends the man flying.
Another really important thing to note in this play is how perfectly Meinerz is aligned on the linebacker. He has his head on the proper side of the block, and in the case that he didn’t put the linebacker on the ground, then Meinerz is at least forcing the backer to go underneath and run himself out of the play. If Meinerz’s head was on the other side, then that would enable the backer to be able to come over the top and into where the running lane was supposed to be.
This is a well-executed deuce to backer block by both Meinerz and Cushenberry. First, Meinerz is there to aid Cushenberry with the first-level defender but has his eyes glued downfield on the linebackers. This is how a lineman can block two people at one time. You block one with your body placement and then the other with your eyes.
Meinerz stays hip-to-hip with Cushenberry and doesn’t leave until the linebacker attempts to fill the rushing lane. Meinerz then comes off of the block and picks up the linebacker. At least a little bit. He ended up leaning when he got to the linebacker and that allowed for the backer to spin back inside and get into the rushing lane. If Meinerz kept his base as he did in the previous play, then he would have been able to keep his inside leverage and that backer would have nowhere to go.
Another small detail that could be improved here is Meinerz only keeping his left hand on the defensive lineman and leaving his right hand free. This would make coming off to the backer easier, and if the linebacker immediately shot the gap, then Meinerz would be in a better position to get in front of him.
While Meinerz initially has good leverage on this pull block, which is his head on the right side of the defender, you can see him cross his feet over and allow the defender to turn him inside. After that happens, Meinerz loses his base and then subsequently ends up on the turf.
If he didn’t cross his feet, then this would have been a lot better of a block. When you pull and execute a kick-out block, which is what this is (The two main types of pull blocks are a kick-out and a wrap. A kick-out is a trap-type block where your goal is to take the defender to the sideline, and a wrap block is when you loop behind the line and pull up to linebacker where vertical displacement is the goal.), the goal is to keep your shoulders parallel with the sideline. You get your head on the inside of the defender, get lower pad level than the defender, keep a wide base with your feet, and drive.
Meinerz’s base gets too narrow and he loses his balance. He was able to make sure that his man didn’t make the play so that’s the good part of this block.
Good blocking is mostly about positioning. Even if your hand placement is poor and your footwork is sloppy, if you’re able to block the defender from the running lane and just stay in front of him, then there is a great chance you will be successful with your block. Body positioning is key.
I say that because that is what Meinerz fails to do in this play. This is a designed run to either A gap. That is the beauty of a zone play. You have multiple options of where to go. And since the ball will be ran to the left of Meinerz, that means that Meinerz has to get his head to the left side of the lineman.
It is a hard play to examine, but I think the problem here is that Meinerz keeps his shoulders too square and that allows for the defender to work across his face. Meinerz does get good positioning initially but loses it as the play goes on. If he was able to turn his hips and get his left shoulder upfield, then that may have prevented him from losing inside leverage. I also think that McGlinchey is almost doing Meinerz a disservice here too.
There is a reason Meinerz is a great run-blocker. He has solid fundamentals. His feet are good. His hips are good. He is a really strong man. He also has the intangibles of wanting to be nasty and always wanting to be physical.
I love almost everything I see from him. If the Broncos are smart, Meinerz will likely be playing his entire career in Denver and that would be great news for everyone involved.