Clady was the team's starting left tackle before he was placed on season-ending IR with a foot injury, as noted by Mike Klis of the Denver Post:
LT Ryan Clady is gGoing on season-ending IR. Done. Team is signing veteran OT Winston Justice. Details coming at http://t.co/ZrVr3NbPFg— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 18, 2013
A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Clady had started 82 consecutive games since being drafted by the Broncos in 2008. He was a stalwart blind-side protector who anchored the league's second-ranked pass-protecting offensive line last season—a unit that allowed just 21 sacks all year long.
In his place, the Broncos will trot out veteran Winston Justice or unheralded Chris Clark, who recently signed a two-year extension after making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
Neither player is anywhere close to being on Clady's level, but it won't matter on Sundays.
This is Manning we're talking about here.
Before missing the 2011 season while he recovered from multiple neck surgeries, Manning had led the Indianapolis Colts to nine straight playoff appearances.
He won 10 games with the Colts in 2010, losing to the New York Jets in the Wild Card Round. That season, Manning was sacked just 16 times while he passed for 4,700 yards with 33 touchdowns.
Then, while he rocked a ball cap instead of a helmet on Indy's sideline in 2011, the Colts eked out just two wins and won the "Suck-for-Luck" campaign.
Without Manning, Indianapolis' roster was exposed.
The trio of Dan Orlovsky, Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins was sacked 35 times that year and threw just 14 touchdowns—playing with essentially the same players Manning did the year before.
|Year||Player(s)||Comp. %||Yards||TDs||INTs||Passer Rating|
|2011||Dan Orlovsky, Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins||56.6%||3,223||14||14||72.2|
The Manning factor cannot be overstated.
He's going to find a way to make his offense run like clockwork in Denver this year without Clady—he's done it before and he'll do it again. Manning will get plays off quicker, get his passes out with more efficiency and attack secondaries with more ferocity.
Working with a group of receivers that tops anything he ever had in Indy, the future Hall of Famer will utilize his overwhelming knowledge to outsmart his opponents.
Wes Welker is dangerous in tight quarters, and his quickness will come in handy on hot routes when teams send more than four rushers.
Demaryius Thomas will continue stretching the field vertically on deep routes and horizontally on screens, and Eric Decker will continue making plays on the sidelines.
Tight end Julius Thomas is proving to be a worthy target in the middle of the field, too. In two games this year after catching just one pass in his previous two seasons, Thomas has three touchdowns and will continue seeing the ball come his way.
While most quarterbacks would be thwarted by the loss of a top offensive tackle, Manning will take the loss as a personal challenge to get better.
Losing Clady will ______ on Manning's fantasy value.
Don't get me wrong, losing Clady won't be easy for Manning to overcome.
But given the way he's done more with less throughout his entire career, nobody should expect Denver's superstar quarterback to suddenly start struggling without his blind-side protector.
Fantasy owners won't regret drafting Manning this year. He's already put up staggering numbers in two weeks, and with the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles on the schedule, he's going to continue doing so.
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