ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The circumstances are 180 degrees removed from ideal, but nevertheless the Broncos on Friday welcomed back an old friend just when they needed him most.
If not for the torn anterior cruciate ligament Ryan Clady suffered during Wednesday's practice, Ryan Harris might not have returned so soon. But with Clady out perhaps for the season, the Broncos needed a veteran -- preferably one familiar with the style of offense Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison plan to run.
Harris started 15 games last year for the Chiefs, matching his total of starts from the 2010-13 seasons combined. During his only season in Kansas City, Harris improved as the season progressed. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Harris allowed just one sack in the final seven games of the season after conceding four in the fist nine, including two against the Buffalo Bills in Week 10.
But his work with the Broncos from 2007-10 -- particularly in 2007-08 -- and with the Texans in 2012-13 makes him valuable.
Harris, a career right tackle, also offers the Broncos an experienced option at that spot -- a priority in building offseason depth. He can also work at left tackle in a pinch; he started two games at that position for the Kubiak-led Texans in 2013 while Duane Brown sat out with a toe injury.
With Harris aboard, the Broncos have someone with substantial starting experience, extensive work with Kubiak and Dennison in zone-blocking intensive schemes, or both at every offensive-line position currently up for grabs over the course of OTAs and training camp:
- LT:Chris Clark (currently working at right tackle, but a 17-game starter on the left side in the 2013 regular season)
- LG:Shelley Smith
- C:Gino Gradkowski
Young options abound; rookies Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia, 2014 practice-squad member Matt Paradis, former defensive lineman Ben Garland and last year's third-round pick, Michael Schofield, could all represent the core of a future offensive line, pending their development.
But it's helpful to have veterans who know the drill. Harris gives the new generation of Broncos offensive linemen another mind to pick and probe, and provides veteran reassurance and steadiness to a unit that needs it.