The Denver Broncos' offensive line appears to be significantly improved on paper, but there are still some burning questions that this unit will need to answer. At best, this turns into a top-five offensive line in 2023. During his time in New Orleans, I'm not sure there was ever a year where Sean Payton had a below-average OL unit.
From left to right, the unit is strong. Garett Bolles is a rock-solid left tackle. Left guard Ben Powers was one of the best guards in football last year. Lloyd Cushenberry is the weakest link but perhaps takes a step forward in year four, much like Bolles did. Quinn Meinerz also emerged as one of the best guards in football in 2022, and right tackle Mike McGlinchey is a stellar run-blocker and is one of the better RTs in the NFL.
The unit truly cannot get much more talented than it currently is. Many of us have been advocating for the Broncos to sign Ben Jones to shore up the center spot, but they appear to be content with their current setup. If all goes south, the Broncos, yet again, field a sub-par offensive line that would likely see changes at as many as three positions going into 2024.
Let's look at three burning questions for this unit heading into 2023.
3 burning questions for the Denver Broncos offensive line in 2023
1. What will the center position look like in 2023?
Not only is Lloyd Cushenberry the weakest link on the offensive line, but he's one of the worst projected starting centers in the NFL. He's simply a poor player until he proves otherwise. I guess if you want to be optimistic about his chances at developing, you can look at the shaky guard situations he's had to deal with during his NFL career, specifically related to two former Broncos' guards, Graham Glasgow, and Dalton Risner.
Neither Glasgow nor Risner are with the team anymore, and there's a reason for that. The guard duo of Powers and Meinerz is one of the best in the NFL, so I'm not sure Cushenberry can be placed in a better situation, especially given Sean Payton's history with offensive lines. Even if Cushenberry is painfully average in 2022, this unit will be elite.
If he's anything less than that, I think they yank him from the lineup in favor of rookie draft pick out of Oregon, Alex Forsyth.
2. Will Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey bring the improvement that many think?
Mike Clay of ESPN ranked the Broncos' offensive line as the ninth best in the NFL, and PFF ranked the unit 11th in the NFL heading into 2023. There are significant, knowledgeable people in NFL circles that are high on the Broncos' OL.
Well, it's mainly due to Powers and McGlinchey signing with the team in free agency. Garett Bolles returning helps, but he's been the team's starting left tackle since his rookie season back in 2017, so he's an old face. Both Powers and McGlinchey were two of the best run-blocking OL in the NFL last year. Will they be able to continue that? Will the Broncos' run-first offense play to their strengths?
Will we be second-guessing Sean Payton for these two big free agency moves? I hope not. We've seen other decision-makers in Broncos Country make some poor decisions along the OL in recent seasons. The hope is that Powers and McGlinchey become fixtures on the OL for years to come, but there's no guarantee.
3. Will the up-and-down Garett Bolles play adequately?
Garett Bolles was objectively the worst starting left tackle in the NFL for the first two and a half years of his NFL career from 2017-2019. Then, in 2019, towards the end of the year, something clicked for Bolles. He began and finished 2020 on an insanely strong streak. He was one of the best left tackles in the NFL that year, and his holding issues seemed to disappear a bit.
He earned a second-team All-Pro nod that year and signed a four-year extension with the Denver Broncos. In 2021 and 2022 when he was on the field, he wasn't nearly as good as he was in 2020, and I'm just a bit concerned that Bolles could fall back into his old ways. I think at this point, though, Bolles is slightly above-average. I don't think we'll see him hit his 2020 plateau but there is always a chance that he commits holding penalties like he did when he was a young NFL player.
I think Bolles will be fine, but him coming off this brutal leg injury and still having a significant history of being a bad tackle worries me.