Englewood, Colo. — **One of the biggest storylines for the Broncos this offseason has been the changes on the offensive line. With the chief returning starters upfront being Louis Vasquez and Ryan Clady, news of Clady's torn ACL Thursday morning was expected to be a huge blow.
"Yesterday we thought it was minor, that was kind of the feel we were getting and then the news we got today was obviously unfortunate," said Vasquez. "As a group upfront, our prayers are going out to him. He's still a part of this family but this is going to give us a chance to see what these young guys are about."
Now, the team will look to replace four key starters on the offensive line. Five if you consider Vasquez's return to guard from tackle last season. Although they seem to be starting from scratch this offseason, Vasquez does not have any excuses for their production on the field.
"Just our nature upfront, we don't look to get any slack," he says. "It's our job to protect Peyton and we have to do our job so that he can do his. There's no room for error upfront."
The offensive line has brought in eight new faces to compete for a starting job upfront. With a group loaded with rookies and now Clady likely to miss the upcoming season, Vasquez has felt the pressure to step up as more of a leader.
"With Ryan down, there is a little bit more sense of leadership out of me," he said. "I'm not really feeling it from the coaches but I'm putting it upon myself. I'm the only man left standing that's been on the line for the last three years. I put it upon myself to be the anchor.
"I'm working with the young guys as much as I can to get them rolling going into training camp," says Vasquez.
While there will be a learning curve for the new players, the offensive line has to be able to produce effectively and quickly. The competition upfront will force a number of players to grow up a lot faster than they may have expected.
"At the end of the day I can only do so much," said Vasquez. "They have to produce. I'm going to help them as much as I can to get ready to play but it's up to them to pick up the slack that's there and not have that drop off in production."