It’s no surprise that people are concerned about the Denver Broncos offensive line. Either rookie Ty Sambrailo or veteran Ryan Harris might be at left tackle. Either Harris or Michael Schofield could be at right tackle. It’s a wild ride this year.
That leaves Matt Paradis at center. He was drafted in 2014 and developed on the practice squad last year. I spent the season checking weekly to see if Paradis had been poached.
I thought that he was too good to be left in that vulnerable position.It worked, though. Matt just finished playing the first quarter of his first NFL season.
Paradis has had to learn the new playbook inside and out. That’s not enough for the Broncos center, though. He also has to know what Peyton Manning wants with each audible and how to change the OL call to match. It’s a huge job—and Matt’s done it extremely well.
How well? He's allowed zero sacks, zero QB hits and just 7 hurries, with just a single penalty. That’s in his first quarter season of starting. He’s a dedicated and powerful player—I expect him to improve even more.
The Broncos found that he had already settled in as the leader of the OL while in training camp. When Evan Mathis arrived, he found that Paradis was already the captain of the OL.
Paradis came from Boise State in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. His college tape (full video at bottom of story) showed a player of unusual intelligence and quickness. He spent 2014 and the 2015 offseason developing his strength, as well absorbing as the new offensive scheme.
His on-field performance has showed that he’s learned it thoroughly. As Brock Osweiler noted,
“He's doing a fantastic job.”
Start with his college highlights tape. You can quickly see why he has had no problems with the zone blocking scheme—he anchored it at Boise State. Among the things that stand out are his comfort in locking up with and pancaking the opponents’ nose tackle.
Additionally, he gets to the second level quickly and smoothly when asked to do so. He’s continued that with Denver. Like most O-linemen, Matt likes to run block. It gives the linemen a chance to hit someone else for a change.
Move to 3:12 on that tape. Sometimes, when Paradis wants to get to the second level, he just drives the defender into the defensive secondary. He does that here.
At 3:50, you can see his comfort with the full stretch zone blocking scheme.
At 5:10, his quick hands and power drop the nose tackle before the play even gets started.
When you move to Denver Broncos film, not that much is changed. When both Paradis and rookie guard Max Garcia were given reps with the first team, a simple film piece was done by the Broncos.
At 0:40 of the clip, you can see Paradis and Sylvester Williams hand-fighting like mad, competing for position. Sly’s been excellent this season.
Whether you’re on the offensive or defensive line, the essentials are still the same. Being first off the snap, winning the centerline, getting your hands into your opponent and achieving leverage are still the keys.
Sly had a +2.39 grade from Pro Football Focus against the Kansas City rushing attack. KC out-rushed even Adrian Peterson against Denver. Without Sly, it would have been worse. That’s Matt’s daily training partner.
It’s a good way to test his development. He’s giving up some size and power to Sly, who also has a .29 second snap-to-reaction time. That’s half of the average NFL player’s response time. Paradis has to beat that every day in practice.
In the Detroit Lions game, Paradis ‘struggled’ somewhat—which is to say that he had 2 hurries and a penalty. That’s a weaker outing for him. What you’ll notice if you only watch the offense is very little from Paradis, unless he’s run-blocking.
That’s exactly what you usually want to see from a center. He gets into his man quickly and well. He protects Manning without a QB hit or a sack so far. He rarely takes a misstep.
There are plays were a block turns a short gain into a splash play. The center is rarely featured—that usually comes from the tackles or tight ends on the edges. The center’s work is to assess the defense, make sure that the O-line is in the right formation and that everyone’s on the same page.
When Manning calls an audible, the center has to make sure the O-line knows the call and the change. When the center doesn’t function, neither does the O-line. When that happens, everything seems to go wrong.
Stopping that is the secret to winning a lot of games.
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