One of the best matchups within the matchup Sunday will be Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers against Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady.
In his contract year, Peppers has returned to the dominating player he once was, ringing up 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Clady, Denver’s first-round draft pick in April, has allowed a half-sack all season. He still hasn’t allowed a full sack in a game despite going up against pass rushers such as Miami’s Joey Porter, Atlanta’s John Abraham and New Orleans’ Will Smith.
Clady has been for the Broncos what Joe Thomas was for the Cleveland Browns last season.
“We have a lot of confidence in Ryan and his ability to block against the high-profile defensive ends,” Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler said. “It will be a good test for him.”
And with the Pro Bowl teams scheduled to be announced Tuesday, it could be the last bit of validation for Clady.
“Ryan Clady definitely deserves consideration,” Cutler said. “We knew that he was going to be good. You just don’t expect a rookie to be able to step in there and play at that level right away and play as consistently as he has been. There were some times when he had some rough games, and he missed some assignments, but his consistency level has been incredible.”