It was a tough choice at number three between Ryan Clady and Demaryius Thomas, but after watching the Denver Broncos offensive line get so horribly exposed in the Super Bowl, I think all of us realized just how important Clady is to this football team and for keeping Peyton Manning clean and lighting up defenses.
With Clady back healthy, the offensive line suddenly looks like the dominant unit it was prior to Clady's injury last season. The depth is still thinner than we would like, so here is to hoping these guys stay healthy and strong all season long. There is some unfinished business to take care of.
Why is He a Top Bronco?
This one is easy. It's called the blind side and now Peyton Manning doesn't have to think about it anymore. That kind of peace of mind will open things up for him and the explosive weapons the Broncos have at the wide receiver and tight end positions.
In fact, I put Clady as the second most important player behind Manning in MHR's season preview. The Super Bowl convinced me of that. When the chips are down and this teams backs are against the wall, stability up front is what will allow the skill positions to rebound and comeback to compete for points and wins.
Having Ryan freaking Clady at left tackle is a game changer for this offense and Week 3 of the regular season is when we'll get to see what could have been, but really the only thing that matters at this point is seizing that Lombardi Trophy for the first time in nearly two decades.
Ryan Clady Career Stats
No sexy tables or charts for offensive linemen stats, instead he gets regular ole print to cover his achievements since entering the NFL in 2008. He finished third in voting for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after giving up just a half sack all season long. In fact, he was the only offensive or defensive lineman to win an NFL Rookie of the Week award that year.
He followed up his rookie campaign with another standout season, earning another Pro Bowl berth. However, he injured his patella tendon during the offseason and really wasn't himself again until Peyton Manning came to town in 2012. He picked up where he left off there, giving up just a single sack all season long. Having had an extra half year to basically heal from the Lisfranc injury he suffered in Week 2 of the 2013 regular season, Clady should be back at full strength in 2014.
Projecting Ryan Clady in 2014
So how do we project how well Clady will do in 2014? I really hate foot injuries, because those tend to linger in athlete's long after they have "fully healed". Fortunately, even a gimpy Clady is better than most left tackles, so I still expect great things from him in 2014. He may not be truly back to his old form until next season, but as Manning proved in 2012, you don't have to be back to old form right away to make a huge impact.
As it stands, the offensive line is Clady, Louis Vasquez, Manny Ramirez, Orlando Franklin and Chris Clark. As exposed as Clark was in the Super Bowl, he should actually be a perfect fit at right tackle. This could very well be the most talent lineup the Broncos have had on the offensive line since Manning has come to town.
I can't wait to see how they do tomorrow night! Yes. I said tomorrow night. Go Broncos!