Two short years ago he spent his rookie season on the Denver Broncos practice squad—now he is the longest-tenured offensive lineman. Matt Paradis played all 1,101 offensive snaps for the Broncos, establishing himself as one of the better young centers in the NFL. In 2016, he will be the only returning starter on the line from a season ago.
"It feels weird," Paradis said on being the veteran despite only starting one season. “It’s weird being the vet and this is Year Three for me. It’s a role I played in college. It’s not that different. Just getting everyone on the same page.”
The front office has spent the offseason remaking the Broncos offensive line, signing tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson and drafting guard Connor McGovern, while releasing Louis Vasquez, trading Ryan Clady and allowing Ryan Harris and Evan Mathis to sign elsewhere in free agency.
“I’m very excited about this group we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of smart guys, athletic guys and guys that are going to work hard. It’s hard to give you an exact [example] of how better we’re going to be, but I think we will be better,” Paradis said.
Asked about taking on more of a leadership role this season, Paradis said:
“I think there are a couple of us that shoulder that. Trying to get the O-Line together and do some stuff as a unit and build that cohesion because like you said, we’ve got a lot of new guys. Just looking that from my rookie year, it’s myself and [T Michael] Schofield. The only guys back from that year and that have been there for that long. Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of turnover. We’ve got to build that cohesion and unity.”
Part of the leadership void Paradis will be looking to fill is that which was left by Harris.
“Ryan was a great vet and a great friend to me. I still talk to him weekly. He helped me a lot as far as things [like] body work off the field and how to do some extra film stuff and some of the old tricks. Ryan was a great team leader."
The offensive line is going to look a lot different in 2016, with second-year players Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia expected to take a step forward and start at the guard positions, with Okung and Stephenson taking over the as bookend tackles. This weakness from 2015 could become a strength for the Broncos in 2016.