Ryan Clady's injury makes Broncos' offensive line a bigger work in progress

Broncos' O-line suffers another blow with Clady injury

ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discusses LT Ryan Clady's torn ACL.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In a decidedly unexpected turn of events, the Denver Broncos' search for three new starters on the offensive line suddenly, with one awkward pass set, has become a search for four new starters.

Left tackle Ryan Clady, who along with right guard Louis Vasquez was one of the starters the Broncos actually had in place in what will be a shuffled offensive front this season, tore his left ACL Wednesday in practice. Initially the Broncos believed Clady's injury was not serious, but an MRI Thursday morning told them otherwise, and Clady is now poised to miss the 2015 season.

That makes Vasquez the only player currently working on the Broncos' offensive line who started games at the same position for the team in 2014. In short, the Broncos now have openings at left tackle, left guard, center and right tackle.

"I'm kind of the only man left standing who's been in the line the past three years," Vasquez said. "With a leader like Clady going down, I put it upon myself to kind of carry the group."

"Obviously up front we've got some young guys; they're going to have to accelerate their process here," said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. "... It's a tough road, but it's one where you've got to step up and accept the challenge."

Although Michael Schofield has worked as Clady's backup in recent workouts, rookie Ty Sambrailo, who was the Broncos' second-round pick in this year's draft, moved into the left tackle spot with the starting offense in practice Thursday.

The thinking, Kubiak said, was the Broncos like Sambrailo's potential so the coaches decided to see if that potential could be turned into performance as quickly as possible.

"We felt like when we drafted Ty he was athletic enough to play on both sides," Kubiak said. "The situation being what it is ... hey let's do it right now, let's put him over there, let's see how he does, let's not waste any more time."

Kubiak also added: "We felt like 'let's start working him there today.' ...We'll see what happens."

Sambrailo started 42 games at left tackle at Colorado State and the Broncos drafted him with the idea that would eventually be his primary position in the NFL and he would play at right tackle if needed.

"He's not a rookie any more," Kubiak said. "As of today, he's about a four-year player. We've got to get him going."

However, Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said both Schofield and Chris Clark would get some work at left as the Broncos move forward. Initially, having had just two organized team activities, the Broncos used Clark at right tackle with the starters, Gino Gradkowski at center, Ben Garland at left guard to go with Sambrailo at left tackle on Thursday.

The Broncos have made it fairly clear they're pushing a tough movement overall in the offensive front, but they did sign guard Shelley Smith in free agency as a depth player with experience in Kubiak's offense, and Thursday they agreed to terms with tackle Ryan Harris, who has played for both the Broncos and Texans.

Dennison, a long-time offensive line coach with the Broncos previously in his career, said the Broncos would like to keep working Clark at right tackle at the moment, but left open the possibility the Broncos would move players around up front for the remainder of OTAs, training camp and into the preseason.

When asked if Clady's injury and the number of new starters the team will have compared to last season would potentially impact how the Broncos would plan for the regular season, Dennison said: "We're going to do what we do best. ...I don't know that it will change it, I don't know if it will or won't, I don't have a crystal ball. Certainly we have a lot of talent; we'll win some games, do our part."