DENVER (CBS4) – The Broncos offensive line took a big hit last week, with the loss of 4-time Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady for the season with an ACL injury.
For now, it looks like second round draft pick Ty Sambrailo will get the first shot at replacing him.
When ranking the most “irreplaceable” players on the team, it is a combination of what they bring to the team, but also who is behind them. For example, C.J. Anderson was a breakout star last year, but with Gary Kubiak’s new zone blocking scheme, the hope would be Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman could easily step in if need be.
5. Louis Vasquez
With Clady out, the Broncos have four offensive linemen positions up for grabs this offseason, with Vasquez the only certainty at right guard. The Broncos are hoping he can return to his All-Pro form from 2013 and anchor the line this year while all the other positions get sorted out.
4. Demaryius Thomas
Gary Kubiak’s offense needs two good wide receivers. The Broncos have two good wide receivers in Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Denver has a promising 2nd year player in Cody Latimer, but he is still unproven and certainly wouldn’t be a guarantee to replace D.T.’s Pro Bowl numbers.
3. Von Miller
The Broncos are changing to a 3-4 defense this year, and they have three really good edge rushers in Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray. But Ware slowed as the season went on last year, and while expectations are high for the team’s first round pick, Ray is coming off a foot injury and is a rookie. The Broncos need Von to be the Von of 2012 and 2014 again.
2. Chris Harris
Just like at linebacker, the Broncos have three good cornerbacks in Harris, Aqib Talib and 2014 1st round pick Bradley Roby, but Harris is clearly the shutdown corner of the three. Harris didn’t allow a passing touchdown during the 2014 season, and the Broncos made him their top free agent priority, re-signing him before the season even came to a close.
1. Peyton Manning
While some fans were ready for the Brock Osweiler era to begin this year, at this point there is no way of feeling confident that Brock could step in right now and do what Peyton does. In three years in Denver, Manning is 28-10 during the regular season, has won three AFC West titles, and breaks NFL records on what seems like an almost weekly basis. Those will be big shoes to fill.