The Denver Broncos have littered national sports coverage with stories and tidbits throughout the 2013 NFL season. It started with Von Miller‘s suspension this off-season, it continued with Peyton Manning‘s historic start and his visit to his brother Eli Manning in week two, on it went with his historic play on offense through those first weeks and in a 51-48 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and now it has shifted to the controversy with Manning’s return to Indianapolis this week.
Not to be lost in those stories was the loss of left tackle Ryan Clady for the year. That was a lead story on Sportscenter and every other program for a 48 hour window as people wondered about how negatively it would affect the Broncos. The concerns were valid. Clady is an All Pro and the quarterback he protects is considered to be fragile goods thanks to multiple neck surgeries.
If that was a story, then the outstanding play of his replacement Chris Clark should be a big story too. Louis Reddick of ESPN pointed out as much:
Given how important the LT is to Peyton Manning and his style in particular, it can not be emphasized enough, up to this point, (cont)
just how well Chris Clark has played in place of Clady. The kid has looked dominant at different points in time. Rare situation. #Broncos
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) October 18, 2013
The transition has truly be seamless. Frankly this past weekend’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was when they had the most trouble keeping Manning on his feet. Clark wasn’t the problem though: according to the grades given out by Pro Football Focus each week, Clark graded out the best of all of the offensive linemen with a 4.3 mark (with anything about a 2.0 being considered exceptional). It was actually the best grade on the entire offense for the day.
For the season Clark has a cumulative grade from PFF of 10.6. Only Louis Vasquez has a better grade on the offensive line with an 11.3. What we’re saying here is that Clark has not just been a competent replacement for Clady; he has been one of the best linemen on the team since he took over as the starter.
Clark deserves credit beyond being an acceptable replacement; he deserves credit for being a big reason why the Broncos have the best offense in the NFL through the first six weeks of the season.