On the surface, it appears like the Denver Broncos offensive line did not show up last week against the Detroit Lions. I slightly held that opinion, and from what I’ve seen, that was an opinion that was held by almost every member of Broncos Country on social media. After further review, there is some truth to this belief, and there is also much exaggeration as well.
For the most part, the offensive line played well. Most of the pressures and QB hits were due to, in my opinion, poor play design. I can’t stand the play-action pass plays where they intentionally leave the end man on the line of scrimmage unblocked. It’s especially bad when the man you’re leaving unblocked is an elite pass rusher like Aidan Hutchinson. It was this sort of play that led to the strip-sack early in the game as well as a handful of pressures and one QB hit.
The line was better in the passing game than they were in the running game, but their run protection was still pretty good. There wasn’t as much movement at the line of scrimmage as you would like though.
The narrative surrounding this game also could have been very different depending on the outcome of a handful of plays and penalties. Between the fumble on their first drive, the Marvin Mims incompletion in the fourth quarter, and the inability to score on the goal line in the third quarter, you can argue that there could have been an 18-point swing. That’s a completely different ball game.
But with all of that being said, let’s get to the main point of this article. How well did Mike McGlinchey do against the Lions?
The big picture
Specifically, we’ll be taking a look at how McGlinchey did in the passing game. That is, from what I saw, the most talked about portion of the game. But I did watch his run protection snaps too, and I have to say that I was fairly impressed by him. I didn’t really see plays that unraveled due to a mistake he made. He was clean with his double-teams and downblocks, and he did a good job picking up linebackers. Now, he definitely wasn’t perfect and did whiff on a couple of blocks, but he was clean through most of the game.
In pass protection, McGlinchey was tasked with going one-on-one with Aidan Hutchinson for the majority of the game. And he did pretty well. Hutchinson finished the game with just three solo tackles, one pass deflection, and one QB hit.
Over 34 pass plays (25 dropbacks), McGlinchey gave up two pressures, one QB hit, and zero sacks. He was one of the most reliable blockers in the game on Saturday. He has clearly improved over the course of the season and is not making the same mistakes as he did early on. Or, at least, is not making them as often. We’ll look at a play where he reverts to a bad habit and the Broncos pay for it though.
Grade-wise, McGlinchey had one “great” block, 29 “good” blocks, three “meh” blocks, and one “bad” block. According to the RGS, this was good enough for 31.75 points or 93%. That’s a great grade.
First up is the lone QB hit that McGlinchey gave up.
The big mistake that McGlinchey makes here is stopping his feet on contact. This changed the entire course of the block as it took away all of his momentum and mobility, forcing him to lunge out at Hutchinson, which then allowed Hutchinson to hand-fight and get the edge. You can see how quickly one mistake snowballs and ruins the entire rep. Such is life on the offensive line.
The good news is that, from what I could see, this was the only time that McGlinchey made this mistake. For the most part, he was solid with keeping his feet chopping while getting ready for contact, and that’s what allowed him to shut out Hutchinson for most of the game.
This rep is from the play right after the previous one, and it goes to show how important it is to move on from failure and to take each play at a time. The difference between this rep and the last one is night and day.
What McGlinchey does well here is that he keeps his feet moving at the point of contact and wins the hand-placement battle from the start. He gets his hands on the inside of the chest plate, which means that Hutchinson won’t be able to hand fight effectively.
Another great part about this rep is how well McGlinchey is able to move laterally to stay in front of Hutchinson when he tries to step back inside, and then back outside again. A key is McGlinchey’s ability to feel and anticipate the next moves that Hutchinson will make. This is probably one of the harder skills to develop, but it can be done by recognizing the slight shift in balance of the pass rusher and the movement of his shoulders. You can also recognize that a defender is about to make a move if his eyes shift inside or out. It’s all about those subtle details.
This last play is simply McGlinchey picking up an outside rusher and manhandling him for the entirety of the play. And one thing you’ll see is that the tone of the rep is determined at the beginning. From the start, McGlinchey keeps his feet moving at the point of contact, initiates contact with solid, inside leverage, and has great hand placement on the chest of the defender.
And when all of this happens, there is nowhere for the defender to go. You can see him try to move back inside, but then McGlinchey does a great job at stepping up into the block while keeping his hips underneath him. This is a textbook block.
Mike McGlinchey did not start the season out well. In fact, he was probably the biggest issue up front. But as time has gone on, McGlinchey has developed into the right tackle that the Broncos need. He might not be living up to his contract yet, but he may end up being the best right tackle they’ve had in a decade.
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