It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this point that the Denver Broncos offensive line is good. In fact, they’re turning into one of the best in the league. And for the first time in what feels like forever, they are winning games because of the offensive line and not in spite of it.
Denver Bronco OL has not only been healthy, but they have also been very good according to SIS and PFF. Blown block rate of less than 2% is elite. pic.twitter.com/ETQMQQHWAC— Joe Mahoney (@ndjomo76) November 29, 2023
A new era in Denver has arrived, and there are a few people we can thank for it. I want to give a big shout-out to first-year offensive line coach Zach Strief for helping elevate the play of Garett Bolles, Quinn Meinerz, and Lloyd Cushenberry. There has been a notable difference in performance compared to the last couple of seasons. He has also helped the new guys in Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey fit in so well.
But, this article is specifically about how Meinerz did in the run game against the Browns so let’s get into it. I just had to make sure we gave credit where it was due.
The big picture
To understand the kind of game that Meinerz played, we have to understand the level of talent that he, and the rest of the line, was going up against. Even after this game, the Browns still rank as the best defense in the league in yards per game. They are only giving up 247.9 YPG. Going into this game, the Browns ranked in the top 10 in terms of rushing yards, as they only gave up an average of 99.6 YPG. That was until Denver put up 169 yards on them.
Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (#94) was who Meinerz would face off against for the majority of the game. This season Tomlinson hasn’t necessarily been lighting up the stat sheet, but ask any Browns fan and they’ll tell you that he has been a key contributor in the run-stopping abilities of this Cleveland defense. He is one of their leading Pro Bowl candidates as well.
With this being said, the Broncos had 29 designed run plays against the Browns. 19 of those plays were run behind Meinerz. Those 19 would include either an inside run to Meinerz’s side or a run to the side that Meinerz was pulling to. In those plays that the Broncos ran to his side, they would average 3.7 yards per carry. This number could have been around 4.5 YPC, but Denver would solely run the ball late in the game to burn the clock and the Browns did a good job of stuffing most attempts.
Meinerz, Cushenberry, and McGlinchey have really developed their chemistry throughout the season. Most run plays involved one of them taking over the first-level defender and sending the other to the second level. Most of their transitions were extremely smooth and both defenders were able to be effectively blocked. This is when Meinerz was at his best in this one. His ability to set up the defensive lineman for McGlinchey and then quickly get up to block a linebacker was very impressive. This part of the game was clearly when he was at his best.
His weakest points of the run game were when he was blocking defensive linemen one-on-one. Now, I’m not saying that he was bad. In most plays he was able to get vertical displacement on the defender, and would almost always, at the least, get good body positioning and keep the defender out of the running lane. The Browns have some very strong run stuffers and Meinerz was more than able to hold his own throughout the game. There were only one or two plays that he was driven into the backfield. And stuff like that happens. Look at the Cowboys/ Seahawks game for example. The Cowboys have the best line in the league, and the Seahawks defensive line isn’t anything special, but they were still able to push the Cowboys backward a handful of times.
With all of this being said, let’s get down to my grade for him. In this game, I gave Meinerz two “great” plays, 17 “good” plays, 9 “meh” plays, and one “bad” play. According to the RGS, this would work out to 24.5 points or 84%. He played a very solid game on Sunday. For reference, according to PFF, he is the highest-graded guard since Week 8 with an 86.8 run-blocking grade.
There are a few plays I want to highlight specifically. They just serve as even more evidence as to why Meinerz deserves not only a Pro Bowl nod but also a spot on the 1st Team All-Pro squad.
This is taken from one of their plays early in the game. They are running a variation of inside zone off of a fake jet sweep. This play is intended to hit in either the play side A or B gap. Meinerz and Cushenberry are responsible for the defensive tackle and outside linebacker.
This is an easy(ish) block for Cushenberry to take over as the DT is in an inside tech on Meinerz, meaning Cushenberry doesn’t have to run as far to overtake the defender. Meinerz does a good job of holding the DT at the line of scrimmage while keeping his outside hand free and his eyes downfield. Those two details make it a lot easier to get up to the backer, which he does here. And he gets his head on the right side with good leverage and hand placement. This is a textbook deuce to backer.
This next play is not a clean one and is far from perfect, but it’s Meinerz’s recovery that stands out to me.
This is another inside run where Meinerz is getting bumped off the first-level defender and onto a linebacker. His mistake in this play is that he uses his left hand to block the DT instead of keeping it free. In contrast to the first play we looked at, this increases the difficulty in getting off to the linebacker, especially when the backer shoots the gap as hard as this one does. Meinerz is late to the block, and because of that, the backer manages to get a hand on Perine and slow him down.
But instead of just giving up (something you see way too often across the league), Meinerz jumps into action and helps push the pile into the endzone. Perine may not have scored here if it wasn’t for Meinerz’s help.
I just love this last play. There’s nothing crazy to break down here. It’s just a tremendous amount of fun seeing Meinerz drive a helpless linebacker all the way out of the camera shot.
This is what happens when you keep your base under you when you get up to the second level. An easy mistake to make is to lunge at the backer with your eyes down and without your base underneath you. Meinerz keeps his feet, doesn’t lunge, gets perfect hand placement on the chest of the defender, wins the leverage game, and takes the backer for a ride.
This is the perfect form for fitting up on a backer in the run game.
Yes, Meinerz was not perfect against the Browns. And yes, he did get beat a couple of times. But, in my opinion, this was his hardest test of the season (maybe of his career to this point), and he passed with flying colors. The Browns’ front seven is no joke and they didn’t stand a chance against this rushing attack.
And like I said earlier, this is the kind of performance that gets you those Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Pay that man whatever he wants at the end of the season.