The Denver Broncos‘ win over the New York Giants on Sunday was a big momentum-gaining victory. During the matchup, however, All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady injured his left foot and decisively cut any offensive momentum built. Initially, the injury was thought to keep Clady out for only a few weeks, however, the Broncos announced the bad news on Wednesday and said he will be out for the rest of the season with a torn Lisfranc joint.
Clady is the unmistakable anchor of the Broncos’ offensive line. Since becoming the team’s first-round draft pick in 2008, he has become not only one of the league’s best pass protectors, but is also one of the league’s best run blockers. Moreover, he has done so while remaining incredibly durable. Clady is just one of four linemen in NFL history to make three Pro Bowls and never miss a game in the first five years of their career
At 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, Clady is a powerful left tackle with all of the ideal measurables, but what makes him so special is that he is also an extremely mobile one as well. The Broncos love to get Clady out in space where he has the size, speed and endurance to clear massive lanes downfield for the team’s explosive playmakers. Perhaps the greatest loss in not having Clady is that the number of plays the Broncos use with confidence will greatly diminish. Clady is key in the screen game, wide rushing plays and keeping the pass rush at bay while deep receiver routes open up.
However, the most pressing issue the Broncos face in Clady’s absence is how they are going to protect Peyton Manning. Clady is a big part of the reason why Manning came to Denver in the first place, and a big part of why the he has been so successful thus far. For the most part, Clady single-handedly blocks the opposing team’s best pass rusher and rarely gives up a sack. With so much emphasis on the passing attack in this year’s offense, the Broncos must find a viable replacement.
Clady’s current backup on the depth chart is Chris Clark. He was a collegiate left tackle and filled in for Clady during the off-season, as the Pro Bowler recovered from a shoulder injury, but he has never started a regular season game in the NFL and could struggle in blitz pickups. The Broncos also signed six-year veteran left tackle Winston Justice, who could fill in nicely, but has no experience within the Broncos’ offense and has had his own injury problems missing at least three games in each of the last two seasons. The final option is to slide Orlando Franklin from right to left tackle and move Justice or Clark to the right. Franklin has the size and experience necessary to play the position, but is much better suited for right tackle.
The Oakland Raiders game this Monday should not be too much of a problem for the Broncos’ offensive line and will give the team a time to make adjustments along the offensive front, but the hole left by Clady must be fixed quickly as the Broncos take on a number of teams with potent pass rushes in the near future.
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