There’s no one in their right mind that is going to tell you that the loss of left-tackle, Ryan Clady to a Liz Franc injury for the season is not going to have a significant impact on the Denver Broncos. However saying the sky is falling is just as irresponsible. The bottom line is this; the Broncos are still the heavy favorites in the AFC. Chris Clark, who played a ton in the preseason, will step in for Clady.
The biggest adjustment the Broncos are going to make, especially early, is the fact that they are probably going to keep a tight-end in more to help Clark. The initial worry there is that by keeping a tight-end in, the Broncos offense won’t be as explosive. That’s false; I went back and looked at the game with the New York Giants and the Broncos kept a tight-end into block more often than you might think, and scored 34 points on offense. The return of injured tight-end, Joel Dressen in the next week or two will be a big boost.
Dressen is the Broncos best blocking tight-end and will often be asked to help Clark.
As just stated the Broncos scored 34 points on offense, 7 came on special teams, in that game and left points on the board, so maybe the Broncos go from averaging 45 to 38 points a game. They will win a lot of game scoring 38 points a game.
The Broncos also have the quarterback who is better than anyone, maybe in history, at adjusting to his surroundings. Peyton Manning will help Clark adjust with the right play calls and protection calls. Manning also gets rid of the football as quickly as any other quarterback and that will help his new left-tackle. As Clark gets comfortable, look for Manning and the offense to use a lot of quick passes which is something they do a lot of all ready anyway. The injury to Clady also means that Knowshon Moreno will be the starting running back for the foreseeable future; he’s the Broncos best pass protector among their running backs.
The good news as it relates to Clark is he played a lot in the preseason when Clady was coming back from a shoulder injury. Yes it was only a preseason game but Clark played well versus the front four of the Seattle Seahawks who most believe is among the best in the league. The Broncos did not play well in that game but Manning was not sacked and had a quarterback rating of 122.7. Again preseason is different from the regular season, but Clark more than held his own versus a very good defense.
The coaches for the Broncos have all ready proven in 2013 that they know how to adjust to players being gone. Granted both Von Miller and Champ Bailey are on the other side of the ball but through two games, the Broncos defense has played very well. We’ve touched on Manning’s ability to adjust to the personnel around him and offensive coordinator Adam Gase will also make the necessary adjustments in Clady’s absence.
In addition to Gase, the Broncos also have two of the best offensive line coaches in the league. Dave Magazu is the primary coach and has all ready proven through the preseason how valuable he is; everyone was worried about Manny Ramirez as the starting center and after just two games, those concerns are gone. Alex Gibbs is also on the staff and no one knows how to get a guy ready to play more than Gibbs. Clark has the tools and the support to get the job done.
The Broncos entered the 2013 season as Super Bowl favorites for three primary reasons; Manning, their overall talent and their depth. Manning is off to the best start of his Hall of Fame career, the talent has been on display and the depth has all ready proven its worth.
Losing Clady is a blow but not a fatal one; the Broncos goal of winning a championship remains intact. With all due respect to every other player on the Broncos roster; as long as # 18 is healthy, then the Broncos will remain a heavy favorite.
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