After signing a 5-year, $53.5M contract extension in July of 2013, Ryan Clady was poised to have another prolific season protecting Peyton Manning's blind side. Unfortunately for the Denver Broncos, he injured his foot in week 2 vs the New York Giants, and had to miss the rest of the season. Lisfranc injuries are touchy. And for a guy of Clady's size (6'6, 315lbs), it takes some time to get over the injury and pain.
But Clady's progress has been good, and 3 weeks into the 2014 season, he's started every game at left tackle. However, it hasn't been all smooth sailing thus far. Clady has struggled some, especially in the run game. Like his fellow compatriots on the Broncos offensive line, he has looked a bit lost run blocking and has failed to consistently get a good push at the point of attack.
So far on the season, Clady has graded out a -4.5 in run blocking via ProFootballFocus.com. Although run blocking has never been Clady's forte, he's definitely underperformed in 3 weeks of action. But in pass protection, he has been his typical dependable self.
In 113 drop backs, Clady has allowed zero sacks on Peyton Manning. He has allowed 4 hurries and 2 QB hits, which means that he's only allowed pressure on Manning in 5% of his dropbacks. And has allowed Manning to be touched only 1.7% of the time.
That type of production is what earned Clady 3 trips to the Pro Bowl and 3 All-Pro selections. But it's important to understand that he's still getting his game legs back and settling in. One of the most difficult things to overcome with lisfranc injuries is pain discomfort. As an elite, NFL tackle, his best attribute are his feet. He has quick feet and as a result, rarely gets beat by speed rushers on the edge.
But pain is pain. And discomfort can lead to distraction and a dip in performance. Clady's struggles in the run game are primarily a part in parcel of the collective issues of the Broncos offensive line. The unit has failed to open up running lanes and have been as porous as it gets. They have allowed Broncos ball carries to be hit in the backfield on 25/63 runs in 2014.
Everyone expected Montee Ball to take the job as the Broncos featured back and run with it. But when your first contact with the opposition is in the backfield on almost 40% of your carries, it makes it next to impossible to produce. It has been a thorn in the side of the offense.
Offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, wanted the 2014 Broncos offense to be more balanced than their 2013 counterparts. Establishing the run has been a top priority. But lack of execution at the point of attack has crippled that objective. No doubt the Broncos are taking the opportunity of the bye week to iron out the kinks.
As for Ryan Clady, I'm sure Peyton Manning is thrilled to have him back. He has done his job in protecting Manning's blind side. In back-to-back weeks, vs the Seahawks and the Chiefs, he has shut some elite edge rushers out. As the season wears on, Clady will get more comfortable and hopefully, down the stretch, the Broncos offensive line will be firing on all cylinders.