- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Denver Broncos reporter
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Clady, who is entering his eighth season, is the only remaining Broncos player from Mike Shanahan’s 14-year tenure as the team’s coach. Clady was the Broncos’ first-round pick in the 2008 draft and has been a starter since in the offensive line.
So, not only will he now play for his fourth different head coach and participate in yet another playbook re-tooling, but will be a part of one of the biggest turnovers in the offensive line that has taken place in his time with the team.
“The chemistry just takes time, repetition," Clady said this week. “I think we’ll work on that and get to that, but I don’t think there is any new responsibility [for him]. I’m just trying to learn the system with everybody else and trying to improve as a player … It’s a little different. It’s all an adjustment. I played with probably five or six different guards in my career here. It’s nothing new."
The Broncos, with Clady at left tackle and Louis Vasquez set to return to right guard after finishing the 2014 season at right tackle, the Broncos are on the hunt for three new starters in the offensive line – center, left guard and right tackle. They have some of their own players, such as Michael Schofield, Matt Paradis and Ben Garland, they hope can compete, and even earn, one or two of those spots.
They have spent at least some free agency capital as well, signing guard/center Shelley Smith and making a trade for center Gino Gradkowski. And the Broncos have 10 picks in the coming draft and it would be a surprise if they did not use, at minimum, one pick in the draft's prime real estate during the first two days on an offensive lineman. But Clady is the starting point.
He will turn 29 in the days before the regular-season opener in September. His salary-cap figure of $10.6 million is the third-highest on the team and he has had three major surgeries – knee, shoulder and foot – on his medical resume. Many personnel executives in the league believe all three have taken their toll on the athletic Clady and that he certainly wasn’t quite himself last season in the wake of a foot injury that caused him to miss all but two starts in 2013.
Clady started every game last season – he played 1,052 snaps in 2014 – but seemed to struggle at times with thigh and groin injuries. But it was an extended recovery from his foot surgery the year before that had an impact as well.
“I was feeling a lot better toward the end of the season, for sure," Clady said.
Asked if the foot injury took far longer to put in the rearview mirror, Clady added: “Yes, it’s a pretty tough injury for sure."
While there is still plenty of on-field work to be done before the Broncos line up in a regular-season game, the new offensive scheme will have a little different to-do list than it has in the previous three seasons with Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Last season the Broncos had just three games when they lined up for more snaps with two tight ends in the formation than they lined up with three wide receivers. They figure to use two tight ends far more this season, figure to run more and figure to put the offensive linemen on the move more, with more zone-blocking, in which the linemen block defenders in a given area rather than a specific defender.
It will have a similarity to the offense Clady was a part of in 2008 as a rookie -- current offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was Shanahan’s offensive coordinator.
“I like it," Clady said. “As a tackle, I like to be able to show off my skill in the zone scheme for sure. … I’m not completely comfortable, but I definitely feel like the wise vet, for sure."
What's old is new again as Clady is playing for his fourth different Denver head coach and participating in yet another playbook re-tooling.