Connor McGovern can tell you why the Broncos’ offensive line will be better in 2018.
Or you can just read his shirt.
Walking off the practice field Friday, the sixth day of Denver’s training camp, McGovern carried his helmet, orange No. 60 jersey and shoulder pads to reveal the message printed across his chest in white letters: “O-Line Pride.”
“Everyone is repping them,” McGovern said, “and really taking pride in trying to be the best unit out there.”
McGovern’s role in building that mentality increased greatly over the past eight months. The 2016 fifth-round NFL draft pick (No. 144 overall) was effectively redshirted as a rookie and then appeared in 15 games last fall — including five starts at right guard to close the season. McGovern and Menelik Watson split first-team reps at the position through the offseason program, but McGovern has since solidified the role in training camp.
“It’s nice to play next to the same guys every snap,” McGovern said. “You kind of get in that rhythm in building that cohesiveness. I need all the reps I can get and it’s been really helpful.”
McGovern’s development at right guard took a back seat in 2017 training camp when the void of Matt Paradis, rehabbing from hip surgery, required McGovern fill in at center. When Paradis returned for the regular season, McGovern worked his way up the depth chart at right guard to start by December. He called those live-game snaps “irreplaceable” and “huge for my career.”
The Broncos hope McGovern takes another step forward this fall.
“Connor is a guy who doesn’t make mistakes and he’s a tough guy that does things right,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “That’s a great trait for an offensive lineman, right? Because when you’re wrong, someone may get hurt. So he’s right most of the time.”
McGovern raved about the veterans he’s joined up front, calling the 16 combined NFL seasons between left guard Ron Leary and right tackle Jared Veldheer a “crazy experience.” McGovern has done his best to soak up every ounce of knowledge they can provide. “You come back after a four-play set and they remember every single play and every single thing that happened on the play,” he said. “With those guys, you come back and talk through everything, and the next time you see it, you get it right.”
McGovern, 6-foot-4 and 306 pounds, has in turn earned the respect of his more experienced counterparts.
“(McGovern) takes his job serious, he comes out and works every day,” Leary said. “He wants to be great, and he’s working every day to be great. I’ve got a lot of respect for that.”
Added defensive tackle Domata Peko: “Connor is a strong dude, he’s probably one of the stronger guys in the weight room on our team.”
McGovern, who continues cross-training at center, said the Broncos’ offensive line progress can be measured day-to-day in training camp. But true improvement won’t be measured until preseason games begin — when the unit that allowed 52 sacks a year ago looks to re-instill some pride up front.
“I feel like every play, we build cohesiveness, whether it’s the five of us or if you add Case (Keenum) in there,” McGovern said. “It’s huge to build that rapport because you don’t always get full words out, but you need to understand what they’re trying to do on every play and against every look.”