A key reason: Clady suffered a torn patellar tendon in his left leg playing pickup basketball in the offseason. He missed the entirety of OTAs and training camp, before playing for the first time in the final preseason game after just a few practices.
"I think I've played pretty well in spots," Clady said in gauging his season. "It maybe wasn't 100 percent, but there were spots last year that it wasn't 100 percent, either."
Clady seemed to hit his stride midseason but, like the rest of Denver's offensive line, went back to playing in uneven fashion.
The Broncos have just the 28th-ranked rushing attack and yielded 37 sacks through the team's 4-11 start.
The team has played two rookies full time since Week 1 -- J.D. Walton at center and Zane Beadles at left guard/right tackle. Those growing pains, Clady trying to regain full strength and right tackle Ryan Harris' ankle issues have contributed to those numbers.
Also, Denver played several different combinations to start the season up front, while also trying to transition to a more power-based scheme, with less emphasis on the zone-blocking principles that once defined Denver's scheme.
"It's cohesion, moving guys around, some guys getting hurt and dinged up a little bit," Clady said. "But last year we didn't run the ball that well at certain points in the year, especially when we went into that little slide (2-8 finish). We've got a younger line now, too, so we've definitely been dealing with that."
Clady quickly added that inserting Walton and Beadles into the group didn't result in any overall downturn on the offensive line and that "all of us" deserve responsibility for the line play.
From a personal side, Clady was told by doctors that it might take some time for his left leg to catch up to the right leg as far as strength, allowing him to do everything he can do on the football field.
"I'm trying to get that balance back," he explained.
Clady will use the offseason in an effort to even things out physically and regain full strength.
But he also strongly believes that the pieces are in place right now for a strong offensive line in 2011, even if more cohesion and consistency are necessary.
"Just gelling together and coming together and playing well is what we needed to do," he said. "Even in my rookie year we had a bunch of new guys on the line and played well. So sometimes it's not the new guys. It's getting the offense down and performing well. That's what it comes down to."
--WR Brandon Lloyd is tied for the NFL lead with nine catches of 40-plus yards and is setting the pace with 18 receptions of 25-plus yards.
Many of those have come via the spectacular variety, diving, contorting or, like last week against Houston, leaping over Houston cornerback Quin Glover for a two-handed masterpiece.
"I think that's one of those things you either have that or you do not," WR coach Adam Gase said. "Thankfully he has that. I am sure you guys have seen the highlights of him from the beginning of his career until currently, where he makes those catches and you are sitting there going, 'You have got to be kidding me.'
"There have been so many this year -- even last week -- I'm sitting there going, 'I do not know how he just went over the top of that guy and just plucked it off his helmet.' The guy has an ability that I do not think many have had, at least that I've seen in the eight years that I've been in the NFL, to be able to do that."
--Cornerback Champ Bailey was selected as a first alternate for the Pro Bowl, potentially missing an opportunity to become the first player at his position to make it to the all-star finale 10 times. He's currently tied with Mike Haynes.
Bailey surmised that Denver's record was the key culprit but also admitted he's made the Pro Bowl in years he didn't play at his top level, too.
"It's definitely one of my better years, instead of one of my worst years," Bailey said. "It's more in my top six than my bottom six, as far as years."
BY THE NUMBERS: 1972 -- Excluding the strike season, Denver is facing at least its worst season in divisional play in nearly four decades. Not counting the strike year, the Broncos have won at least two games in the AFC West since at least '72. Denver enters Sunday with a 1-4 record heading into the San Diego finale. A loss will match the 1971 club that went 1-5 in the division.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "No, I want to say, '(Expletive) you' -- and I mean that in the most professional way possible." -- WR Brandon Lloyd, on whether he'd like to tell former teams Chicago, San Francisco and Washington 'I told you so' after making the Pro Bowl with Denver.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Denver has been more aggressive with its blitz packages in recent weeks. It's likely something the team would like to continue with Philip Rivers' deadly accuracy operating from the pocket. At the very least, the game plan will be to try and move Rivers off his spot and throw more on the move.
But the Broncos' desire to keep up the pressure hinges partly on the ability to hold up in man coverage behind the extra rushers. And if Champ Bailey can't play, that task becomes more difficult. Perrish Cox would take his place and at times has been picked on consistently this season.
--QB Tim Tebow became just the second QB in franchise history to bring Denver back from a 17-point halftime deficit with Denver's win over Houston last week. Frank Tripucka did it twice -- in 1960 and '62.
--WR Brandon Lloyd's 19.1-yard receiving average is the third-highest since the 1970 merger, trailing only Torry Holt (19.9, 2000) and Roy Green (19.9, 1984).
--RB Correll Buckhalter can surpass the 3,000-yard rushing plateau for his career with 65 yards vs. San Diego.
--WR Demaryius Thomas was close to getting clearance to play last week after practicing for a second straight week. The team's No. 1 pick should play Sunday, giving him a positive springboard potentially moving to 2011.
-- P Britton Colquitt has five games this season with at least a 50-yard gross average, tying him for the most such performances in team history. Dallas' Mat McBriar and San Diego's Mike Scifres lead the NFL with six apiece.
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