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Broncos Film Review: Cam Fleming against the Chargers

Cam Fleming came off the bench to replace Mike McGlinchey. How did he do?

The Denver Broncos take on the Los Angeles Chargers during week 17 of 2023 NFL season Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Up to this point, the Denver offensive line has been one of the healthiest units in the league and one of the healthiest units that the team has had in quite a while.

An even more impressive stat is that all five game-one starters have started every game this season. But that might be changing depending on the injury report for this week.

Mike McGlinchey went down on Sunday with a rib injury in the first quarter. He took a shot to the ribs from the helmet of Javonte Williams while he was in the middle of his block. He went down and would miss the rest of the game. As of now, it is uncertain if he will play against the Las Vegas Raiders or not. So, the Denver Broncos will have two choices come Sunday: start Cam Fleming or activate rookie Alex Palczewski from the IR and start him.

I will say that I like the film that Palczewski has, but it is more likely that Fleming will be the starter if needed. Is he the best option though? Today we’ll be taking a look at his film from Sunday and see how well he did against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The big picture

Cam Fleming entered the game during the second offensive drive in replacement of Mike McGlinchey. He would play about 72% of the offensive snaps.

In the run game, Fleming struggled at times and was not overly impressive and a downgrade at the position. You should expect that considering he is the back up though. The Broncos would run the ball 20 times while Fleming was in the game, and 11 of those runs would be run behind him. According to the RGS, he had one “great” block, eight “good” blocks, nine “meh” blocks, and three “bad” blocks. This would be good enough for a score of 13.75 or 69%.

His biggest shortcomings were his inability to get good vertical displacement off the line of scrimmage and he was continually out-leveraged during the block. He did have a textbook deuce block though. We’ll take a look at these later.

Fleming was clearly a better blocker in the passing game, and I think that was consistent with the times we’ve been able to see throughout his career. I don’t think there was a dropoff in skill level in this aspect of the game, and I think that Fleming may have performed better than McGlinchey would have. That is just speculation though, and to McGlinchey’s credit, he has been much improved over the last half of the season.

The Broncos passed the ball 28 times while Fleming was in, featuring 21 dropbacks with a handful of screens and play-action. Fleming was clean when it came to protecting Jarrett Stidham and only gave up one pressure, no QB hits, and no sacks. The pressure came on one of his four snaps against Khalil Mack. According to the RGS, he had one “great” block, 22 “good” blocks, and five “meh” blocks, which is good enough for a score of 25.75 or 92%. That would give him a cumulative score of 39.5 for the game, or 82%.

Let’s take a look at some specific plays now.

The run specifics

First off, there are a couple of ways that this play could have been drawn up. One is that Fleming was supposed to block the DT (#93) man-on-man. Two, he was supposed to have a double-team block with the TE, Manhertz, and Khalil Mack (#52) was supposed to be an unblocked, read man. So no matter what, there was a mistake made. And even if Fleming was double-teaming with Manhertz, he should have stayed with the first-level defender a lot longer than he did. A rule of thumb when it comes to double-teams is that you’re not supposed to block the second-level defender until the first-level one is handled.

There isn’t too much technique to break down and he picks up the linebacker well and with good form, so my biggest critique is his understanding of what the play is calling for. Now I will caveat that I don’t know for sure what the play call is and how Fleming is supposed to block it and I’m just making assumptions. But I am certain that there is almost no play that calls for a playside, interior defensive lineman to be unblocked with no puller.

This is the awesome deuce block that I mentioned earlier.

First off, Fleming does a great job of forcefully contacting the DT (#93), forcing him over Meinerz, which makes the block easier for Meinerz to make. A big key here is that he keeps his outside hand free, which is going to make his movement up to the linebacker easier.

When he goes to attack the linebacker he keeps his hand free, his eyes downfield, and his shoulders square. This is a textbook technique and blocking detail. He then locks up with the linebacker without getting overextended and leaning on contact, and swings his butt into the running lane, blocking off the linebacker from the lane.

If it wasn't for the fact that they had Manhertz attempting to block Khalil Mack by himself for some reason, then this could have been a great play.

The pass specifics

This play highlights a near-perfect stunt pickup by Fleming.

In this play the DE slants in front and the DT loops around to attack the outside. This stunt was made useless by Fleming and Meinerz. What Fleming does great here is that when the DE slants to the inside he follows the DE and gets hip-to-hip with Meinerz, and then he tracks the looping DT and kicks out with him.

This was a seamless block that was made possible by Fleming not getting his hands stuck on the DE and turning his shoulders in with the slant. That is what these kinds of stunts are designed to do. When the OT follows the slant, he risks turning his shoulders and giving a free rushing lane to the looping DT. Fleming prevents that from happening. The only detail I see wrong with his block is the involvement of his outside hand when the DE slants, but that is about it.

The Chargers decide to rush six on third down and they try to overwhelm the right side of the line by bringing an extra blitzer to the outside. They rush three to the B and C gap, which is not typically something defenses do. It’s not common to rush two players in the same gap because that likely leads to a lane being opened up, and you can see that with Stidham being able to step up into the A gap to get the ball away.

But what I love about this play is how close Fleming stays to Meinerz. It’s this body positioning that allows for him to essentially be blocking two defenders at the same time for a couple of kicks. His ability to get a hand on either defender to slow them down, close the gap so they don’t have an easy rushing lane, and then commit to a defender and run him up the field is great. It’s not often you see a lineman blocking two guys at once. This is a fun play to watch.

Final thoughts

While I believe that Mike McGlinchey is a better overall lineman than Fleming, I think that Fleming did a solid job stepping into this game. He was put in tough positions but still kept Stidham clean.

If McGlinchey is unable to play this week, I do not doubt that Fleming will stand as a good replacement on the Denver offensive line.


Grade Fleming’s performance against the Chargers

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  • 7%
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