Is the third year the charm for Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry?
Jun 2, 2022, 3:33 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2022, 12:38 am
(Photo by Andrew Mason / DenverFan.com)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Between recoveries from injuries and changing to an outside-zone based scheme, the Broncos’ offensive line is in a state of flux during organized team activities.
It’s at the center where stability can be found so far. At that spot, Lloyd Cushenberry’s ups and downs over his first two seasons are well-documented. But his third year appears to be starting off with stability. And in Nathaniel Hackett’s new scheme, he could have his best chance to maximize his skills.
“I love it so far,” Cushenberry said. “We get to show our athleticism. We get out and run on angles, get the defense stretched a little bit. So, I’m loving it, and hopefully we can put it all together once the season comes.”
It’s the first significant experience Cushenberry has as a pro with outside zone after two years in Pat Shurmur’s scheme.
“He’s a guy that you can do downhill stuff with like they have done in the past — the inside zone — but he can run off the ball,” Hackett said. “That’s something that you want to take advantage of.
“He can reach his shade — which he has shown consistently up to this point.”
Getting to the defensive lineman requires a different mindset in outside zone, something Cushenberry is using OTAs to learn.
“A lot of times, you get off the ball fast as an O-lineman, you kind of want to slow down and stay in front of the defender,” he said. “But [I’m] just realizing it’s OK to for the center to reach the shade fast and pin ’em, instead of just trying to keep him in front of you.
“You get on that angle, pin ’em and you’ve created the open space outside. So, just getting used to that, breaking bad habits. But it’s been good so far.”
One thing that helps: Cushenberry is a master of the offensive line’s Kahoot! quiz games. The Broncos use Kahoot! in much the same way that elementary- and middle-school-aged children use it: for quizzes on concepts learned in the classroom.
“He wins every one of them when the whole group is in there,” Hackett said. “That’s a challenge to all of the offensive guys, because we’re trying to figure out how to find someone to beat him.”
Veterans Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow have provided the sternest opposition so far, Cushenberry said.
“Dalton and I go back and forth,” Cushenberry said. “Of course, Graham. He knows a little about a lot. He knows everything. You ask him any questions, and he knows about it. Dalton and Graham are up there with me.”
Glasgow could provide competition at center once he completes his recovery from a fractured ankle. But that’s for another day two months for now — a time when Cushenberry’s true test arrives in the form of padded camp practices.
“I can’t wait to get pads on so I can see even more,” Hackett said of Cushenberry.
And that’s when Hackett and the Broncos will know for certain if the LSU product is their man in the middle for the outside zone.
“In my opinion, I think I fit in any scheme. It doesn’t really matter to me,” Cushenberry said. “But I’m liking this one so far. The past few years didn’t really work out for us, but hopefully this year is the turnaround.
“So, I’m loving the system that we have now.”
The early returns are promising.