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Old 08-02-2013, 02:37 PM    (permalink
Eazy Picks
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Default Broncos Season Preview

Mile High Expectations
Denver Broncos 2013 Season Preview

When Broncos’ president John Elway recruited Peyton Manning last offseason, there was no question what he had brought him to Denver to do. Legendary quarterbacks like Elway and Manning set their sights on nothing less than Super Bowl victories. Elway had a storybook ending to his career by winning back-to-back Super Bowls before retiring, and he would like nothing more than to give Manning the same end to his career. There were plenty of questions about the Broncos entering the 2012 season, but they answered them all forcefully. Manning took care of questions about how strong he could come back from his neck injury by finishing second in the league with a QB rating of 105 and winning Comeback Player of the Year honors. His supporting cast showcased the talent that made Manning choose to sign with Denver as the team enjoyed a 13-win regular season. The Broncos were unable to win in the playoffs, as they came up on the losing end of an instant classic overtime game against the Ravens. Manning didn’t do anything to help his legacy as a regular season superstar who struggles in the playoffs by throwing a game-deciding interception in overtime, but all the great throws he made in that game shouldn’t be ignored. Manning and the rest of the Bronco team surely recognize they have a great opportunity with a small window to win a Super Bowl.


QB: Peyton Manning, Brock Ossweiller
HB: Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Knowshon Moreno
TE: Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreesen
WR: Demaryus Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Andre Caldwell, Trindon Holliday
LT: Ryan Clady
LG: Zane Beadles
C: Dan Koppen
RG: Louis Vasquez
RT: Orlando Franklin

The Broncos are set up to have a prolific passing game this year. Demaryus Thomas and Eric Decker are both young, talented, big-bodied receivers who blossomed last year with Manning under center. Wes Welker represents a huge upgrade over Brandon Stokley, and Manning is one of the best in the business at utilizing his slot receivers. Tamme and Dreesen give Manning two solid options at tight end, and give the team a lot of schematic flexibility. With the benefit of one of the games premier left tackles headlining an outstanding offensive lines, Manning can be expected to be mostly untouched as he picks defenses apart. At 37 and coming off a serious injury, Peyton no longer has the arm strength he once had to drive the ball into tight windows downfield, but he showed last year that his accuracy, touch, timing and general command of his offense make him one of the best signal callers in the business.

Position Battle: Running Back
Right now, the starting job is up for grabs. I expect rookie Montee Ball, who was an ultra-productive workhorse at Wisconsin, to claim the starting job. Ronnie Hillman is viewed as more of a third down back, but he has made it clear he wants to change that perception and claim the starting job for himself. 2009 1st round pick Knowshon Moreno, who has shown flashes but mostly been a disappointment, seems to be buried on the depth chart. Whoever gets the carries this year will be in a great position to succeed with defenses sure to be focusing on stopping the passing game, and an excellent offensive line opening holes. There may be no one better in the game than Manning at utilizing play-action fakes, so if a strong running game emerges, it could make this offense near-unstoppable.


DE: Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers, Quanterus Smith, Jeremy Beal, Malik Jackson
DT: Sylvester Williams, Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson
SLB: Von Miller, Shaun Phillips
MLB: Nate Irving, Joe Mays
WLB: Wesley Woodyard, Danny Trevethan
CB: Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Harris, Omar Bolden, Tony Carter, Kayvon Webster
FS: Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter, Quentin Jammer
SS: Mike Adams, David Bruton

The Broncos’ defense has a striking resemblance to the defense of the Colts during the Peyton Manning era. They are fast, great at rushing the passer, and built to play with a lead. This tends to work out quite well, as Manning does an outstanding job of building leads and controlling the tempo of the game. However, this defense could have some struggles against physical running teams that keep them on the field and wear them down.

Star Pupil: OLB Von Miller
It’s hard to talk about the Bronco defense without starting with their dynamic pass-rusher. Miller, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, has already established himself as one of the game’s marquee players. Miller has used his brute strength and a nice array of moves to blow by right tackles and brutalize quarterbacks to the tune of 30 sacks in two years. The scary thing is Miller has the potential to get better if he can improve his pass coverage and recognition in the run game. However, he now needs to prove that he is truly dedicated to his craft after being slapped with a 4-game suspension over apparent substance abuse issues.

While Miller is sure to continue tormenting QBs, the Broncos need to find a way to replace the production of sack-artist Elvis Dumervil, who signed with the Ravens after a restructured contract negotiation turned ugly. Robert Ayers has been a first-round bust thus far in his career, but the team will look for him to win the starting job and take over Dumervil’s spot. Shaun Phillips was a nice under-the-radar signing, but it’s unclear what his place on the Broncos’ 4-3 defense will be after making his living as 3-4 OLB for so many years. His most natural position would be the strong side linebacker spot that Miller occupies, so the Broncos’ coaches will need to get creative to find ways to get him on the field. Derek Wolfe showed some ability by tallying six sacks in his rookie year, but he is looked at as more of a run-stopper than pass-rusher.
Wesley Woodyard is a rangy playmaker at the weakside linebacker spot who is coming off a breakout season where he racked up 117 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. The team has retooled their interior defensive line by drafting Sylvester Williams and signing Terrance Knighton away from the Jaguars, and will be looking for MLB Nate Irving to emerge in his third season. The hope is these new faces will make the defense tougher up the middle.

Deep Coverage
The lasting memory of the Broncos season will be Joe Flacco airing out a deep ball that free safety Rahim Moore badly misplayed, allowing Jacoby Jones to catch a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game with 30 seconds left. In that same game, Torrey Smith beat Champ Bailey for a 59-yard touchdown and Joe Flacco had his way with the Denver secondary. Bailey is a sure-fire hall-of-famer and still one of the league’s top corners, but he is no longer fast enough to play single coverage without safety help over the top. Chris Harris is a promising nickel man coming off an outstanding rookie campaign, but he is best used near the line of scrimmage and in short and intermediate zones. Rahim Moore and Mike Adams make up a pedestrian safety duo, and neither have the catch-up speed to recover from missteps. As a result, the Broncos needed to keep their safeties in deep coverage and rely heavily on their pass rush in order to stop the deep ball. In close games against teams that can run the ball to set up the deep ball, the Broncos were susceptible to the big play. In an attempt to remedy this, the Broncos signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, an extremely talented player with the deep speed and ball skills to be left on an island. Rodgers-Cromartie had the makings of an all-pro early in his career, but his career has been in a slump the last few years. This will be a great opportunity for him to turn his career around, and the Broncos are banking on it, as he could be the solution to their deep coverage woes.

Special Teams

K: Matt Prater
P: Britton Colquitt
RS: Trindon Holliday

Special teams is definitely a strength for the Broncos. Prater has been very solid for the Broncos and has shown the ability to hit kicks from long range and Holliday has proven to be the kind of return specialist who can change a game in an instant.

Schedule Analysis

Much like last year, the Broncos start their season with some very tough games, but see their schedule ease up in the second half. Their week one playoff rematch against the defending champs is definitely one to circle. There is no good reason the Broncos shouldn’t once again dominate their division and get a good playoff seed, but the question will be how this team fares in the playoffs. Peyton Manning has been a historically poor performer in the playoffs, but he is staunchly determined to change that part of his legacy and end his playing career the same way as his team president.

Week Opponent Projected Result
1 vs Baltimore L, 0-1
2 at New York Giants L, 0-2
3 vs Oakland W, 1-2
4 vs Philadelphia W, 2-2
5 at Dallas L, 2-3
6 vs Jacksonville W, 3-3
7 at Indianapolis L, 3-4
8 vs Washington W, 4-4
9 Bye
10 at San Diego W, 5-4
11 vs Kansas City W, 6-4
12 at New England W, 7-4
13 at Kansas City W, 8-4
14 vs Tennessee W, 9-4
15 vs San Diego W, 10-4
16 at Houston W, 11-4
17 at Oakland W, 12-4
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