Last season was a difficult year for the Denver Broncos, and showed just how spoiled Broncos fans had been since Peyton Manning arrived. After five straight AFC West titles, four under Peyton, the Broncos crashed to 9-7 in their Super Bowl defence, missing out on the postseason. The Super Bowl hangover was there for all to see, Von Miller missed most of the offseason workouts, and the Broncos were left with Trevor Siemian and Mark Sanchez fighting for the quarterback job as Brock Osweiler walked away. With Trevor at the helm, a shambolic offensive line and no run threat after CJ Anderson went down, the 2017 season petered out.
However, things are now looking up for Denver. Three new offensive linemen have been brought in, Jamaal Charles and De’Angelo Henderson will add an extra dimension to the run game, Siemian is a year older, there is a new coaching staff and there is no hangover for the defence. If Siemian can improve behind the new-look line and with a new run threat, there is no reason why he can’t lead the Broncos into the playoffs.
After the retirement of Gary Kubiak as Head Coach, Denver moved swiftly to appoint Vance Joseph as his replacement, who brought with him Mike McCoy as the Offensive Coordinator. McCoy has had success in Denver before, and will look to provide the spark to a talented offence, with a scheme built around the players in Denver. Seventh round pick Trevor Siemian once again beat out the competition to take the starting QB job, although he does need to take more risks and throw more touchdowns if Denver are to be successful. But with new pieces in place around him, it should be easier for him to move into scoring positions, and as we have seen with his pass to Jordan Taylor against the 49ers, he can pick out that perfect pass when required.
The Running Back room in Denver is currently stacked with talent, although much of which has a point to prove after difficult years, which makes a change following a dismal 2016 season in which there simply was no threat for the opposition to deal with down the stretch. CJ Anderson is back healthy and has shown the potential to be the 1000-yard rusher this team needs. Devontae Booker is currently injured but will help to produce a one-two punch in his second year. Jamaal Charles could prove to be a shrewd acquisition if he stays healthy, as could De’Angelo Henderson and Steven Ridley which gives Denver real options out of the backfield.
Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas could become one of the best receiving tandems in the league with more productive quarterback play, but it is the slot and tight end positions that have caused issues for Denver. Bennie Fowler has had an excellent camp, whilst Isaiah McKenzie will offer a threat as a lightning-quick, diminutive receiver who could end up featuring in the return game, run game and receiving game such is his potential and excitement. At tight end, it is time for Jeff Heuerman to make a real impact, as if not his career in Denver could be short-lived one once 2017 draft pick Jake Butt returns from injury. AJ Derby and Virgil Green will also be competing for reps, but the Broncos need a player to stand-up and really become a productive tight end.
The Broncos defence is the best in the NFL, there is little doubt about that, but if there is one area of weakness it is the run defence. With Joe Woods promoted from cornerback’s coach to Defensive Coordinator, it means the Broncos will be running a similar system to last year with a 3-4 defence. The Broncos brought in Domata Peko and Zach Kerr as free agent signings, with Peko slotting in to the Nose Tackle position adding much needed power against the run. Derek Wolfe is a terrific player to have on any defensive line, and is expected to be fit for week one. Denver has depth on the line now with Adam Gotsis having bulked up and is ready to challenge Jared Crick for reps on the right side of the line.
Where Denver are supremely strong, is behind the line, and that starts with their linebackers. Von Miller is in the conversation of the best player in the league and is the face of the franchise, and will be for at least the next five years after signing a bumper contract last summer. Opposite Miller, Denver has one of the brightest pass rushing prospects in Shane Ray, however he is expected to miss the first two weeks. However, Shaq Barrett has been taken off the NFI list in a huge boost and could be healthy for the first week. Brandon Marshall is incredibly reliable at inside linebacker, but needs Todd Davis to show improvements opposite him, especially if Marshall goes down at any point throughout the season.
At the cornerback position, there is no debate. Denver has the best cornerback trio in the league. Fact. Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib are almost impossible to throw at and once they make the big play, you better turn your eyes towards the end zone because both of them make highlight reel plays all game. Supporting the superstar tandem is Bradley Roby, a first round draft pick entering the fourth year of his contract, and would be the standout cornerback on almost any other franchise in the NFL, which speaks volumes for the depth Denver has at this position.
Safety is also a position where Denver has incredible depth. T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart are hard hitting safetys, and are as reliable as they get, who love to get in the faces of the opposition. Justin Simmons and Will Parks have incredible potential and promise and when T.J Ward and Stewart eventually leave, Denver will be in more than capable hands at the safety position.
Players to watch
1. The player to watch in Denver is Von Miller, the face of the franchise. If he plays sixteen games this season he could certainly break the sack record, and could carry this team through the playoffs should they reach them.
2. Garrett Bolles has already made a huge difference to this offensive line, adding a real toughness and desire that has been missing in recent years. Cut out the penalties and he could be outstanding.
3. This could finally be the year CJ Anderson breaks the 1000-yard mark, something he has threatened to do and had the potential to do each of the past three years. Staying healthy is the key, but with a new-look line it would be no surprise to see CJ break the 1000-yard mark.
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