Chris Clark capable backup?
I don't think so. I want to be so wrong on this front, believe me. Clark is going to get Peyton Manning hit, that's a guarantee. The only question is how much? This is sort of a game changer. It will greatly affect how we game plan and use personnel and players.
Most of what I remember from Clark's preseason play was ill. There were two different settings however. 1) was with the starters where he looked decent. 2) was with other backups where they almost got Osweiler killed. It will help to have Zane Beadles on his side of the line and Manny Ramirez has looked pretty good at center.
The silver lining through all of this is that Clark spent the entire preseason as the starter with Ryan Clady nursing his offseason shoulder surgery. Both he and the other fellahs on the line have familiarity with each other which should help the transition a bit.
My nervousness with the situation isn't so much with change, it is with Clark's skillset and his problem dealing with athletic or powerful pass rushers.
Part of solving any potential protection issues that may come from Clark at LT will be more extensive use of 12 personnel groups. Both Julius Thomas and Virgil Green will be in the game. On the one hand, things can become very interesting and I foresee some usage of one of them in the backfield as that "H" back Aaron Hernandez type TE (minus the murder---um allegedly).
The Broncos went to the 2-TE look in the 2nd half of their game against the Giants and it worked well. The Broncos can theoretically run their entire offense out of 12 personnel (if I know anything about the Manning passing game) with some slight tweaks.
This means (however) that Wes will see less snaps, unless.....
Can Welker be swapped for Decker and can the Broncos take a page or two from the NE playbook circa last year? Thomas is certainly a viable receiving threat, the key to this idea will be the Broncos trusting Virgil to be one as well. We shall see.
More max protect?
In certain situations against capable opponents I would. What I'm talking about here is having both the RB and TE in the shotgun to protect as Manning tries to find the open target. It takes away some receiving threats though.
Less shots downfield?
It's not as if Manning is sitting back there launching balls down the field most of the time. Our passing game relies on precision short and intermediate concepts that look to exploit the coverage underneath and the shell over the top. Duh? Right? Well the deep passing game relies on exploiting favorable one on one matchups. You will almost always see Manning go downfield if he knows DT has single coverage (or Decker/Caldwell for that matter).
Well, if the Broncos are playing more 12 personnel with more protection, means less targets to cover, which means more bodies to double the receivers that are running patterns. That is only one part of the equation.
The other being can Manning trust his protection to hold up if he's going to take a 5 or 7 step drop and try to take some shots downfield? Less time + less targets + more rolled coverages = less downfield shots. Unless....
Running game takes off?
I teased it earlier. The Broncos went to 12 personnel in the 2nd half and their running game got better. One of Knowshon's TD runs was beautifully set up by some stellar blocking from Virgil Green. Perhaps more usage of the 2 TE set will help the running game become more consistent causing the linebackers to step up more, safeties to peek their heads into the offensive backfield, and get totally screwed when Manning keeps it off playaction and hits someone deep downfield.
The downfield passing game will now hinge on whether or not Chris Clark can hold up decently against the rush and whether or not the running game can be a more consistent and potent weapon.
Clady's injury a blessing in disguise?
I'm really trying to look at the glass half full here folks. Peyton Manning has played fantastically for two games, but I'll be completely honest with you. I do not want to see him throwing the rock 40 times a game all season. I think he needs to manage his "pitch count" to keep his arm fresh for a Super Bowl run, and I think the only way to accomplish that is by our running game becoming more of a weapon as opposed to an afterthought.
Clady going down will give the Broncos ample opportunity to improve their ground game. The potency of our offense going forward as well as our quest for the Lombardi will depend on it.
What are your thoughts MHR?