Reed embraces competition, Meinerz and Okwuegbunam improvement

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — They loaded up on Malik.

The Broncos top free agent acquisition? Randy Gregory. An edge rusher. The first pick in the Broncos’ draft? Nik Bonitto. Edge rusher. The top undrafted rookie? Christopher Allen. Outside linebacker/edge rusher.

And to boot, Baron Browning, a nine-game starter at inside linebacker as a rookie last year, has been moved to edge rusher this year.

Malik Reed? He’s an edge rusher.

“I feel like it’s a position they prioritize to really be a force out there on the field,” Reed said. “That’s what you want. You can’t have enough guys that can rush the passer and enough guys that can set the edge. It’s good to have a lot of guys that are out there, and competition brings the best out of everybody. I’m excited for it.”

Yes, sure, steel sharpens steel and all that. But goodness. Reed, who started more games at edge rusher the previous three seasons (34) than either Bradley Chubb (25) or Von Miller (22), will need a solid training camp and preseason to begin his fourth season as the Broncos’ No. 3 edge rusher behind Chubb and Gregory.

Albert Okwuegbunam became the Broncos’ No. 1 tight end after Noah Fant was included in the trade package that brought quarterback Russell Wilson to the Broncos from Seattle. And then in Day 2 of the NFL Draft three weeks ago, the Broncos used their second pick, No. 80 overall, on tight end Greg Dulcich.

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Albert O will be the No. 1 tight end when Broncos begin OTAs (Organized Team Activities) on Monday and most likely when training camp opens in late-July. But he’ll be in a serious competition with Dulcich to stay the start for the season opener Sept. 12 at Seattle.

“No, honestly, I didn’t think too much of it,” Okwuegbunam said when asked of his reaction to the Dulcich selection. “I’m still just focusing and approaching it as being ready to step into that No. 1 spot and do the best to my ability and approach every day the same.”

Just two years ago, Okwuegbunam was drafted, too. He went one round and 38 spots later than where Dulcich did. The key there being Albert O has two years head start on his main competitor in terms of NFL experience.

There may be no rival for Quinn Meinerz. He is the one and only. Yes, veteran Graham Glasgow will soon be back healthy and he was the Broncos’ starting right guard until he suffered a fractured ankle last year. But even if Glasgow does start, Meinerz figures to be among the Broncos’ top five upfront. Especially now that The Belly has been flattened 10 pounds, from 330 to 320 out of respect for new coach Nathaniel Hackett’s zone-moving blocking system.

“The way I approach it, I’m not going out to practice every day going, ‘All right, I’m competing against Graham today,’” Meinerz said. “No, I’m competing every day against myself. I’m trying to become my best version.

“We’re all competing. There’s tons of great interior offensive linemen in our entire O-line room. And so every day it’s a fight. Every day it’s a challenge. But what keeps me motivated is battling myself, every day.”

Always there are guys ready to take your job. Usually, there are younger guys competing for your job. Sometimes it’s lots of guys.

It’s the NFL. The Broncos with Wilson leading the offensive will have 10 OTA practices over the next three weeks, followed by a three-day mandatory minicamp. Then it’s a five-week break before the start of training camp. There will be competition for jobs.

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