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The Top 10 Players in 2009: #8 - LT Chad Clifton

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Before I get further into the list, and start pointing out some of the players who are obviously the best players on the team, I'm discussing a couple players that might be more important than you think. Yesterday it was RB Ryan Grant, and today it's LT Chad Clifton.

He's been a fixture at left tackle since the middle of his rookie season in 2000. He's been a solid player who arguably had his best season as a pro in 2007 when he made his first and only trip to the Pro Bowl. He entered 2008 as the unquestioned left tackle and one of the better pass blockers in the league.

But 2008 was his worst season. He was listed on the injury report for every game because of his bad knees. He had surgery on both of them this offseason and was held out for all of the OTAs. He started out strong last season; in week, DE Jared Allen didn't record a sack or tackle against him. But for most of the season, he struggled, as I'm sure his knees were bothering him.

Can Clifton rebound? If healthy, he's the most valuable player on the offensive line. But has the 10 year vet still got something left in the tank or will his bad knees keep him from returning to the Pro Bowl? Something else that makes him so valuable is there is no clear alternative. This summer, the coaches took a long look at rookie OL Jamon Meredith at left tackle, but the idea of starting a 5th round rookie at left tackle is scary. This is also a contract year for him; the six year contract he signed in 2003 is in its final year. Hopefully he's got at least one more good year left in him because there are not a lot of other options.