The last time we saw the Denver Broncos they were leaving Sports Authority Field in Denver with their heads down after a difficult loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The 2013 season is almost upon us with the first training camps opening up in less than a week for rookies and with that a renewed hope for all teams across the NFL. The Broncos have Super Bowl expectations this season and have surrounded the now comfortable Peyton Manning with more talent than maybe ever in his career. It’s easy to forget that going into last season the hope for the Broncos was to win the AFC West and get Manning through the season healthy. They finished 1st in the AFC with a 13-3 record and had everyone in Denver thinking Super Bowl a year ahead of schedule. No matter how good a team looks or is there is always question marks when starting a new year. Let’s look at a few of the questions surrounding the Broncos this season.
1. Who Replaces Elvis Dumervil? Elvis has left the building for the Broncos and he took with him his 11 sacks from 2012. Looking to replace him is Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers. Answer: Ayers will provide a solid replacement and Phillips is capable of providing the speed rush lost by Doom. I think the defensive line as a whole is better than it was with Doom. The addition of Terrance Knighton, rookies Quanterus Smith and Sylvester Williams gives the line more depth and possibly more talent than last year. Add to that mix the 2nd year talent of Derek Wolfe who’s ceiling is still very high and you have reason to believe that there is enough talent to make up for the loss of Doom.
2. Can Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shine across from Champ Bailey? Cromartie was brought in to Philadephia and was asked to play the nickel spot in the secondary and for all intensive purposes failed. Can he rebound now that he will be placed in his more comfortable spot outside? Answer: Cromartie is scarily similar to Tracy Porter who was brought in last year and struggled so much that he was relegated to street clothes for games. I do think Cromartie is more talented and will benefit from the switch back outside. If he shows signs of struggle the under-rated Chris Harris is waiting in the wings. A change in scenery and the chance to practice against Peyton Manning everyday should help Rodgers-Cromartie regain the form he showed with the Arizona Cardinals.
3. How fast can Montee Ball pick up the offense? I don’t think its a matter of talent for Ball but a matter of how quickly he can gain the trust of Peyton Manning. Answer: Everything points to Ball being the guy in Denver including Manning taking him under his wing. Ball should provide the uptick in rushing the Broncos were missing last season. And maybe more importantly provide the ability to finish off games on the ground. The Broncos sorely missed a consistent rushing ability in the Ravens game after Knowshon Moreno went down. Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball weren’t able to keep the Ravens defense honest and allowed them to focus on Manning and the passing game which came to a screeching stop and concluded with the sometimes forgotten Manning interception in overtime. Ball will Ball. Watch the highlights and enjoy, Bronco fans salivate…
4. Who takes over for D.J. Williams at MLB? The candidates: Nate Irving, Steven Johnson and Stewart Bradley. With the nickel defense becoming more and more prevalent across the league due to the increased passing, the MLB spot is often replaced by a nickel linebacker who in this case would be Danny Trevathan. Answer: Nate Irving was drafted to eventually start and I think he is the guy who will win the position in camp.
5. Can Rahim Moore recover from being blamed for the loss to Baltimore? Chances are if you heard the name Rahim Moore in the last 4 months it was tied to his blown coverage against the Ravens in the playoffs. However, Moore was having a very good year last year and Pro Football Focus actually named him one of their “Secret Superstars” saying, “ Amazingly, he’d transformed himself from one of the worst-tackling safeties in the league into one of the best. And with a +9.0grade in the regular season that tied for the 10th-highest of any safety, he was one of the more promising young defenders in the league. This would have been the lasting image of Moore heading into the upcoming season, except for the outcome of one play.” Answer: I think Rahim Moore will be eager to put that game and play behind him. Expect Moore to play at a high level this season.