Florham Park N.J. - When D'Brickashaw Ferguson retired on April 8, the Jets lost a former Pro Bowl left tackle with extreme durability and veteran presence. A 6'6", 310 pound hole had to be filled on the left side of New York's offensive line. Two days later, the organization announced the trade and eventual signing of former Denver Broncos' tackle Ryan Clady
Clady was once considered one of the top offesive tackles in the league for Denver. But, injuries have trimmed the amount of time Clady has played in recent seasons. The tackle has started only 18 games since 2013, but he is a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro player.
He missed the entire 2015 season due to a torn ACL he sustained during practice and was forced to watch his Broncos win the Super Bowl from the sideline. That was two years removed from a Lisfranc injury that made Clady miss 14 games. To save money and get younger, Denver looked to part ways with their former first round pick in 2008 in favor of Russell Okung.
There is no doubt a heavy risk was involved when Clady was brought to New York. Yet, when healthy, the 6'6" tackle can be a dominant and stable force on an inconsistent Jets offensive line. Clady continues to gain strength and confidence little by little as he expects to be ready to practice again during training camp in the summer.
"I'm feeling more comfortable playing on [my leg], cutting on it, but it's feeling good," said Clady. "I'm moving very well."
It is a promising sign for the Long Beach, California native as he looks to play his first full season since 2014 when he started in all 16 games for Denver. He is entering his first campaign with the Jets with a chip on his shoulder.
"I feel like I have something to prove. I'm ready for the challenge," said an eager Clady.
Someone who knows Clady's potential is wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The two played on the same team in Denver and became friends through the years. Marshall went as far as saying his friend and the man he replaced, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, are "the same exact guy. [They both don't] say much. There are times we go on double dates, and he just sits there. He's a boring date."
A healthy Ryan Clady is all Jets managment can hope for as his talent and skill far outweigh any injury concerns or faults in his game. For now, Clady is taking his time to still get adjusted to Todd Bowles' system and his new teammates.
"He is doing a lot more than we initially thought," said Bowles when asked about Clady's recovery. "He is getting better."
With Clady in green and white, the organization believes it is the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap between the retired Ferguson and a rookie replacement on the depth chart that may not be ready for primetime. Instead, the Jets have an experienced lineman who now has a larger role in blocking for a 50-50 run and pass offensive scheme.
Now that the dynamic Matt Forte and Bilal Powell are running out of the backfield, Clady will be placed under the microscope especially during training camp to see how his leg holds up while blocking. Any quarterback, whether it is Geno Smith or the unsigned Ryan Fitzpatrick, will benefit from an athletic pass protector on a right-hander's blind side.
As of now, the team remains patient with Caldy. They do not want to rush him back from injury causing further damage. But doubters and skeptics are providing more fuel to drive Clady to recapture the excellence hs experienced in his Pro-Bowl sesons with Denver. If he can stay healthy, the Jets will have officially found their Ferguson replacement.
*** Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone) or email (email@example.com)