Name: Matt Paradis
Height: 6’3" Weight: 300 lbs
Age: 27 Experience: 3rd
College: Boise State
Matt Paradis is a throwback player.
He’s one of those guys who could play in any era because of his approach and how he handles the game. He’s also one of the smartest players at this position, and it shows game in and game out.
In an otherwise dreadful offensive year, Paradis was one of the few bright spots. On a unit that was one of the worst in the NFL, he was the shining star.
The Denver Broncos center was consistently one of the top graded by Pro Football Focus week in and week out. That’s evidenced by Paradis being PFF’s highest rated center in 2016. But his great season goes well beyond PFF.
At a time when the quarterback debate remains heated, one area all Broncos fans agree on is that Paradis is a special player. The sixth-round pick spent the 2014 season on the practice squad, was given the chance in the following season and has never looked back. Now, the fate of the Broncos 2017 season may very well come down to the status of his two hips.
The top graded player at every position on the offensive line in 2016. pic.twitter.com/WHLHNUIkLW— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 26, 2017
In Paradis’ rookie season, he played every offensive snap. Paradis proceeded to do it again last season. For those who like statistics, that’s 2,176 consecutive snaps.
To repeat, because this deserves to be said again: Paradis has started and played every single offensive snap the last two seasons for the Broncos. Oh, and he did that in 2016 with two hip injuries that required surgery and have kept him out of the offseason work thus far. That’s a leader, and what Denver’s offense needs in droves.
The hope is that with Paradis paving the way, paired with the additions of Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson and the selection of Garett Bolles, the offensive line will improve drastically in 2017. What also should help is a new system and better coaching, led by new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson.
What’s clear is Denver wants to change the attitude up front. The last few seasons the Broncos have been manhandled in the trenches, and it’s about damn time that trend change. In the words of guard Max Garcia, “Pretty much not taking crap from anyone. Whether it be going against our defense or just going against anybody that lines up next to us, really just not taking any crap. Just going in there, playing our game and running things."
One of the key factors in making that happen is Paradis. That fits his style and personality quite well, at least on the field. Like a former Denver center, Paradis doesn’t do much talking. He allows his play do that for him. That’s one of the reasons I compared him to Tom Nalen last year. It also doesn’t hurt that the two look alike.
When players are mentioned who could benefit the most from Mike McCoy’s offense, Paradis is left off the list. As good as he’s been the last two seasons, if he comes back healthy, he should be on that list because he’ll get even better.
Paradis hasn’t practiced because of his hip injuries. He’s been able to observe and take part in the meetings, but he hasn’t been on the field. Before the offseason work started, I pointed out that’s the first major hurdle for this offense and team to clear.
For an offense in a new system, Paradis not being on the field is a big deal. As the leader of the offensive line, that’s an even bigger deal. He and his fellow offensive linemen haven’t been able to work on timing or get familiar with each other in a new system. The quarterbacks haven’t been able to work with the starting center either.
However you slice and dice it, that’s a setback the Broncos have to overcome. The good news is they have training camp and the preseason to get caught up. It won’t happen overnight, but there is time.
There’s also the question of how Paradis responds to being on the field and active for the first time in over six months. By all accounts, Paradis remains on track to return for training camp, but one never knows how the body will respond. Until he’s on the field, gets a few practices under his belt, that hangs over him and this team as well.
This quote from Peyton Manning that Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann used in her story prior to Super Bowl 50 says it all: “I really enjoy playing with Matt. He really reminds me a lot of Jeff Saturday. He is smart. He's a student of the game. Matt is a tough guy. He is a guy you like having in front of you. You know he is going to fight for you."
The fate of the Broncos’ season rests on the offensive line.
It has to improve or Denver will find itself out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season. As it stands now, PFF has the Broncos’ line as the 25th ranked unit in the NFL.
The most important piece is Paradis. As the leader of the offensive line and the best player at his position in the NFL, at least according to PFF, it becomes even more imperative he come back healthy.