Calvin Anderson gets chance to make case as answer at right tackle with Broncos

Calvin Anderson carved out a niche with the Broncos the past two seasons on the mantra “always be ready.”

Now, the fourth-year pro has a chance to turn that into a starting job at a position that’s been a revolving door for Denver during much of the past decade.

Two weeks into a right tackle competition coach Nathaniel Hackett declared open last spring, the most experienced candidates to solve the annual RT riddle — Billy Turner (68 starts) and Tom Compton (44 starts) — have yet to exit the PUP list at training camp. That’s left Anderson, who’s made five career starts, with a chance to sop up all the reps with the first-team offense and make a case he’s the one who can finally solve one of the team’s most persistent roster problems.

“I told the guys upstairs when I signed (a one-year deal), my goal is to solidify that position and be an impact player on the team,” Anderson said after practice Tuesday.

To be clear: Anyone who can solidify the right tackle position for the Broncos would immediately qualify as an impact player.

It’s been 10 years since a player has started every regular season game for the Broncos at right tackle (Orlando Franklin, 2012). In that time, they’ve trotted out 20 different starters, including two last year in Bobby Massie (13 games) and Cam Fleming (four games), the former of whom is no longer with the team.

A big money contract for Ja’Wuan James in 2019 wasn’t the solution — he started three games over three years. And with the front office unwilling to use any of its high-round draft capital on the spot — none of their first-, second- or third-round picks since 2016 — the Broncos are once again rolling the dice that a veteran can fill the void.

Turner could have been pegged the front-runner heading into the camp, given his 43 starts under Hackett the past three years in Green Bay. Compton has the edge on Anderson in experience and history as well, including 10 regular season/playoff starts with San Francisco last season with Broncos offensive line coach Butch Barry on the 49ers staff.

But until either recovers from offseason surgery — knee for Turner, back for Compton — Anderson is the one making a case.

“Calvin’s getting better every day. He’s battling. He’s fighting,” Barry said. “He’s doing a lot of really good things. And we know Billy really well and been around him a lot. And he’s played a lot of football. … So we’re excited about both guys.”

For Anderson, the key is the same as it’s always been since going undrafted out of Texas in 2019: Be ready … for anything.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Anderson bounced between New England (11 days) and the New York Jets (one month on the practice squad) before landing with the Broncos. In 2020, he got his first NFL starts as an injury replacement at right tackle against Las Vegas (Nov. 15) and Carolina (Dec. 13).

Last year, he started for Garett Bolles at left tackle for three games after Bolles sustained an ankle injury. In 172 snaps, he had 3 bad run blocks, 5 1/2 pass protection disruptions (two sacks), per The Denver Post’s game charting. A knee/ankle injury ended his season in Week 12, but he’s yet to miss a practice thus far in camp.

“I learned very quickly that the NFL is a business, so being signed, undrafted and then having to move around teams in the preseason my first year, you learn how quickly this game can be over,” Anderson said. “That teaches you to appreciate the game a lot more.

“… I always have a chip on my shoulder, I’ve been doubted my whole life. I’ve got a whole roster of people who would’ve told you I never would’ve made it here and here I still stand. I’m still climbing that ladder of being the underdog and I think I embrace that. It puts pressure on my back and pressure is what makes me play my best.”

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