When you play the offensive line, anonymity is part of the genetic mix that goes along with the job.
The television announcers and cameras naturally focus on the quarterback and other skill positions, and the defense gets its fair share of attention with sack masters in the line, hard hitting linebackers and ball hawking defensive backs.
Meanwhile, like Old Man River, the offensive line just keeps rolling along, and nobody notices anything until there is a sack or penalty.
We also hear all the time how offensive linemen have to be developed, that it takes two or three years for a draft choice to work his way into the lineup as a productive player.
We know this is true, because that’s how it almost always happens.
The “almost” part is the exception, we have is Ryan Clady.
Not only was the Broncos’ first-round draft choice from Boise State anointed as the starting left tackle on draft day by Head Coach Mike Shanahan, but he has not just performed to the Broncos’ lofty expectations.
He has exceeded them.
Clady is a pure rookie, and he has taken every snap at left tackle for the Broncos this year.
He has not allowed a quarterback sack.
He has picked up just one holding penalty.
The Denver line at this time is on pace to allow the fewest sacks per pass attempt in National Football League history.
Of course, it is a long season with most of it still to come, but that is a sobering reflection of just how good the line and Clady have been.
In addition, while down the last three weeks the offensive stats still are such that one might easily expect the Broncos to finish in the upper echelons of NFL total offense.
Jay Cutler and a bevy of star receivers legitimately get the lion’s share of attention, but let’s not overlook the guys in the trenches, and particularly the rookie at left tackle.
Clady’s position is widely understood as the key point of pass protection for a team with a right handed quarterback, and the Broncos this year celebrated the induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame of left tackle Gary Zimmerman.
The point is, it is a really important position, and the left tackle faces the best pass rushers in the game, week in and week out.
It is understandable that other guys get more attention, but when you think of who the top rookies in the NFL are this year, don’t forget the mild mannered young man from Boise State –who is protecting his quarterback better than any other left tackle in the game.