The Broncos had a great offseason as they added some good players to get even better. But, they lost one of their better pass rushers in Elvis Dumervil via a fax snafu and they will be without Von Miller the first 6 games due to his suspension. This probably just means Peyton Manning and company will be lighting up the scoreboard at a record pace. Regardless, once the playoffs roll around, this will be a team to watch out for.
It starts and stops with Manning, if he gets hurt and misses a significant amount of time, they are drafting in the top 5. So, it’s surprising that they would not sign a veteran backup and decide to go with Brock Osweiler as the 2nd string quarterback. Manning is the trigger man and his offensive talent needs to come through.
Manning had a great year (career high 68.6%, 291 yards per game, 37 touchdowns, just 11 interceptions) coming off neck surgery and he should be even better this year.
Keeping Manning healthy is of vital importance, like I mentioned earlier. Willis McGahee was the best blocking running back they had and they released him after he was upset they drafted Montee Ball. Ball and Ronnie Hillman should be effective running the ball, but they will have to improve their blocking. Knowshon Moreno is facing a make or break year in his 5th NFL season, he needs to step up or be a casualty of failing to meet expectations.
The wide receivers are possibly the best trio in the NFL. Demaryius Thomas had a breakout season last year (94 catches, 15.3 yards per catch, 60 first downs, 29 plays of at least 20 yards, and 10 TD’s) and is the game changer Manning needs to stretch the field. 538 of his yards came after he caught the ball. He may be the next Calvin Johnson.
Eric Decker had a pretty damn good season also (85 catches, 12.5ypc, 52 FD’s, and 13 TD’s) and he provides Manning with the possession receiver. Actually, Decker reminds me of Ed McCaffrey, the possession WR John Elway had when they were winning Super Bowls.
The rich got richer when they signed free agent Wes Welker (118 catches, 72 of those for first downs and 6 TD’s) away from the New England Patriots. Welker will be an upgrade over last years slot receiver, Brandon Stokely. Welker will give Manning all kinds of interesting combinations to work with, especially in 3 receiver sets. Andre Caldwell was banged up last year (played in just 8 games) and managed just 1 catch, but he should be able to rebound and give them 35-40 catches as a backup. If he can stay healthy, Manning might be a serious candidate for MVP.
Manning will also have a good 1-2 duo of tight ends, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen. Tamme had a solid season last year being reunited with Peyton (52 catches, 10.7ypc, 29 FD’s and 2 TD’s ) and Dreesen (41 catches and 5 TD’s) gives them a solid blocker.
The offensive line is very good, Manning was sacked just 21 times in 583 pass attempts. The man protecting Manning’s blind side is Ryan Clady, probably the best left tackle in the entire League. Zach Beadles is the left guard and gives the left side a definite strength. Manny Ramirez is a decent center. On the right side at guard will be former Charger Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin at tackle. Vasquez is one of the better guards in the NFL and was a huge loss for San Diego. Franklin will benefit from playing next to Vasquez.
The defense is expected to be just fine without Von Miller for the first 6 games, primarily because of the schedule. But, it will also be due to Manning and the offense’s expected explosion, but the Broncos do have some talent on defense.
They picked up free agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (51 tackles, 17 passes defended and 3 interceptions) to play opposite the seemingly ageless Champ Bailey, who is expected to miss a couple games to start the season. Chris Harris had a breakout year last season (61 tackles, 12 PD’ed, 3 INT’s, and 2.5 sacks) and could fill in for Bailey and provide some quality depth when he comes back.
The safeties are a question mark. Free safety Rahim Moore isn’t very good against the pass, something a free safety is supposed to be good at. His 7 PD’ed were 4 fewer than strong safety Mike Adams. They are both pretty solid tacklers as they combined for 152 tackles, but they combined for just 1 INT. The CB’s are going to be expected to carry the pass defense.
The loss of Von Miller (68 tackles, 18.5 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles) hurts more than it would because of the way the front office dropped the ball in the negotiations with Elvis Dumervil (54 tackles, 11 sacks, and 6 FF’s). Shaun Phillips (50 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries) will probably start for Von Miller in his absence, but at 32, how much does he have left? The hope is he can hold down the fort for 6 games until Von Miller returns and then just provide some depth. The questions arise about the middle linebacker position where Nate Irving and Stewart Bradley will try to fill in as an adequate starter. That’s the expectation, at least. The weakside LB spot will be filled by Wesley Woodyard (117 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 INT’s and 6 PD’ed) and filled very well.
The defensive line has the most questions. Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams will start at DT, but will be bookended by defensive ends Derek Wolfe (40 tackles and 6 sacks) and the disappointing Robert Ayers (just 6.5 sacks in 4 years). If Ayers continues not to live up to expectations, Phillips could see increased playing time at DE, once Von Miller returns.
Jason Elam was an excellent kicker for many years for Denver and Matt Prater is continuing to kick as well as Elam used to. Prater converted 26 of 32 FGA’s (81.3%), including 3 from 50 yards or more. Prater is consistent and was also perfect on all 55 extra points he atempted.
Britton Colquitt averaged a career high net 42.1 yards per punt in his 3rd season. Every season, he has improved his punting and he also converted 40.3% of his kicks inside the 20 yard line.
Trindon Holliday will be the primary kick returner as well as punt returner. Holliday averaged 26.3 yards per kick return (9th in the League) with a 105 yard TD. He averaged 10.2 yards per punt return (10th) and a 76 yard TD.
Welker may see some action as the backup punt returner.
The Broncos may not go 13-3, but they are still the class of the AFC West. The defense may take a minor hit the first half of the season as they adjust to playing without Von Miller and him taking some time to get into shape when he returns, but I don’t think it will be a huge hit. Adding Welker and Ball improves the offense and they will be very potent. I forsee them winning the West with an 11-5 record. And I think they will face Houston in the AFC title game, possibly going to the Big Game.
EJ with the 2nd Opinion:
I love the Broncos. They’re not my team, but they are the team that I will keep my eye on. Why? Peyton Manning. The Broncos might not have a proven running back but they have Peyton and he has Thomas, and a new weapon in Wes Welker to throw to. The Broncos might have also lost Dumervil and be without Von Miller for 6 weeks, but they’re still a stout defense. I have the Broncos at 12-4 and the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.
Tiny URL for this post: