DENVER — On a team that has experienced significant change over the past few seasons, center Matt Paradis has remained a constant in the middle of it all.
After being taken in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft and spending his first year on the practice squad, Paradis has started 57 straight games. He entered Sunday's contest against the Texans having played 3,850 straight snaps to start his career, the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
But after after Head Coach Vance Joseph announced Paradis fractured his fibula late in the first half, the Broncos will have to move forward without one of their offensive captains and one of their most reliable players.
“It’s a huge loss, obviously, losing one of our captains and a guy who’s played a lot of football for us," Joseph said.
Paradis is one of just two offensive starters from Super Bowl 50 who remain on the Broncos. Since that triumph, he has snapped the ball to five different quarterbacks and blocked for 10 different running backs or fullbacks.
But on a moment's notice, the Broncos had to do some significant shuffling to their offensive line, with Connor McGovern sliding from right guard to center and Elijah Wilkinson stepping into McGovern's vacated right guard role.
"The name of the game in this league is next man up, and Connor, I thought, came in and did a great job of communicating,” Case Keenum said. “Especially when we're having to pass the ball late in the game, [the Texans] pin their ears back, and they've got some pretty good rushers. I thought they did a great job adjusting on the fly to that."
It's yet another tough break for a group that has already seen left guard Ron Leary go down with a season-ending Achilles injury and right tackle Jared Veldheer — who returned to the lineup Sunday — miss four weeks.
With a bye next on the schedule, the Broncos have two weeks to work in their newest offensive line combination. The Broncos limited the Texans' potent pass rush to just two sacks Sunday, there was reason to feel optimistic about the newest combination up front, but Paradis' injury weighed on the minds of Denver players as they exited Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
"He's as solid as they come," Keenum said. "He's awesome to play with. I don't ever like comparing guys, but, man, he's incredible, top-notch, first-class. It's a tough deal. I'm hurting for him."