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As Bradley Chubb watched Calvin Anderson get carted off in the first quarter of Sunday’s win over the Chargers, the outside linebacker turned to his Broncos’ teammates on the sideline and gave a vote of confidence to the Broncos’ next man up at left tackle.
That man? Quinn Bailey.
Bailey was elevated from Denver’s practice squad the day before and has spent most of the past three seasons on that unit. He took over for Anderson and played 63% of the offensive snaps. He was responsible for no bad runs along with zero errors in pass-protection.
“I told the guys when (Anderson) went down, ‘Honestly I’ve had more trouble with Quinn sometimes (during practice) than the starters, so I’m glad to see him in there getting his shot, getting his chance,’” Chubb said. “That was fun to see because he’s always out here making (the Broncos’ first-team defense) better each and every day.
“To see him step up in such a big moment, that was huge.”
For a clutch performance from a practice squad-call-up coming off the bench, coach Vic Fangio awarded Bailey one of the game balls. Bailey was mobbed by his teammates in the home locker room at Empower Field after Fangio awarded him the ball, receiving by far the most rousing reaction of the four players receiving a game ball.
The soft-spoken Bailey, who was originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State in 2019, said: “It meant a lot to have the whole locker room excited and behind me.”
Come for the Victory Speech, stay for the team’s game-ball reactions pic.twitter.com/E4IwSeHxSh
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 29, 2021
“You’re talking about a guy who’s on the practice squad and dressed basically as the eighth lineman — seventh or eighth depending on (center/guard Austin) Schlottmann who can’t play tackle — so all of a sudden, (Bailey) is in there for a good bit of the game,” Fangio said. “He went to the right guys. I don’t think he made any mental mistakes. He did a good job blocking and I really feel happy for him. This is a guy who’s been here now for three years (waiting). He’s a real quiet guy but takes his job seriously.”
Fangio credited offensive line coach Mike Munchak and assistant offensive line coach Chris Kuper for developing and readying Bailey for his big moment. And Bailey, in turn, credited the Broncos’ defense — and the pass-rushing likes of Malik Reed, Stephen Weatherly and Chubb — for his ability to contain the pass-rush of Pro Bowler Joey Bosa, whom he held to no sacks.
“As the scout team, we get to go against a really good first-team every day out here,” Bailey said. “That’s a good way to stay prepared.”
Sunday was Bailey’s fourth career game played, but it was his first real action. He appeared in one game in 2019 and another in 2020, with six special teams snaps across both of those games, and played one snap on the line in Week 10 against the Eagles. But even with that lack of relevant game experience, Bailey’s success Sunday is a result of what Fangio dubbed “better quality backups” across the offensive line overall compared to the coach’s first couple of seasons in Denver.
In the 28-13 upset win over the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver played the majority of the game with just one Week 1 starter on the line, center Lloyd Cushenberry. With left tackle Garett Bolles (COVID) and right tackle Bobby Massie (ankle) out, and left guard Dalton Risner (back) and Anderson (knee) exiting in the first quarter, it was up to Bailey, left guard Netane Muti, right guard Quinn Meinerz and right tackle Cam Fleming to hold the line.
“Meinerz is a good player, Muti is a good player, Calvin is a good player,” Fangio said. “We’ve had better backups to deal with these injuries. That helps, but there’s no doubt that the great job that Mike and (Kuper) do has really helped too.”
As the Broncos prepare for a stiff road test in Kansas City this Sunday, it’s back to grinding on the practice squad for Bailey. He’s not certain when he will get his next shot to play.
Bolles needs negative COVID-19 tests on consecutive days prior to the team’s departure for Kansas City on Saturday. Massie was limited in practice last week and inactive against the Chargers. But the Broncos hope to have one or both of them back, while Cam Fleming (on the active roster and ahead of Bailey on the depth chart) also remains an option at either tackle with Anderson out at least a few weeks.
Bailey will be prepared>
“I’ve got to stay ready, because (another chance) can happen at any time,” he said.