ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The juxtaposition remains striking.
In the span of ten months, Ben Powers has gone from a bubble player to an anchor.
Powers began the 2022 training camp as a fringe contributor for the Ravens. He was good enough to start, but was he good enough to keep?
In his fourth season, Powers emerged as a force, blending his brutish strength in the run game with a season where he did not allow a single sack, an appealing statistic for a Broncos team that watched Russell Wilson get taken down a league-worst 55 times.
"Looking back on my NFL career, the first four years, back then I would tell you how mad and upset I am that I am not getting an opportunity, things aren’t going how I want them," Powers said Thursday in his first meeting with the local media.
"Standing right here in front of all, I am happy with how it ended up.”
The Broncos identified Power as a top priority. Coach Sean Payton values guards as much as any offensive coordinator, wanting to mitigate inside pressure, especially for the 5-foot-11-inch Wilson, while creating a physical presence in the running attack. Denver landed Powers on a four-year, $51.5 million deal with $28.5 million guaranteed — Baltimore "couldn't afford me," Powers admitted — as Payton gave the offensive line an HGTV makeover.
"Ben is all of the things you’re looking for. His skillset — he’s strong, and he’s smart. There are certain things you look for in an offensive lineman. He can anchor, and I think that’s important. The significance of your guards — and we had a couple of really good guards throughout the years with (former Saints quarterback) Drew (Brees) and it is significant for Russell," Payton said.
"Ben's makeup — I mean, he loves football. He certainly was a target and then he also comes from a place that’s used to winning. That room has had probably the biggest turnover of any, and I think that’ll serve us well.”
Powers maintains a simple approach. A good off day is hanging out at home, getting rest. He does not live on social media. His focus is his craft, something former Ravens teammate Robert Griffin III saw in Baltimore.
"Ben was a guy who could play left and right guard and center. I had a lot of conversations with Ben when I was there about getting his chance and becoming the good player I knew he could be. He showed that last year in Baltimore," Griffin said.
"And one thing I want from an offensive lineman — I want a finisher. And Ben Powers is a finisher. He's a guy who’s going to the whistle. I am not saying he’s dirty. He’s not dirty. He’s going to be up in your face the entire game and that’s what makes him the best."
Broncos Country salivates at this description. For this offense to rejuvenate, the ground game is paramount. The idea of a two-headed monster with Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine is becoming more intriguing daily.
So, what is the key to imposing your will on the ground?
"Gotta have grit," the 26-year-old Powers said. "Gotta care."
As Powers navigated his first presser — it's understandably not his element — the "Uncommon" phrase emblazoned across his navy blue shirt was impossible to miss. The significance of the team slogan is not lost on Powers as he attempts to push this hungry Broncos team forward.
"It means winning football in the National Football League is uncommon. It’s hard to do. It's why there are not a lot of winners. There is only one Super Bowl champ. It starts with winning." Powers said. "That is uncommon and that is exactly what we are trying to be."