The Denver Broncos, like all NFL teams, are in the midst of their voluntary OTA’s (off-season training activities) and will hold a mandatory OTA next week. After that, however, the next step is training camp. Yes, football fans, we are that close! I thought this would be a good time to offer up some thoughts, insights and opinions on a number of subjects as it relates to the Broncos.
- As with anything surrounding the Broncos these days, we have to start with Peyton Manning.
All indications are that Manning is healthy.
While he may not be completely back, there’s no doubt he will be ready for training camp, pre season games and the opener versus the Steelers. Manning still has some rust to knock off his game but that’s what these OTA’s are for.
- I read an article last week and they were all ready previewing the opener with the Steelers. One of the points they made in favor of Pittsburgh was that the Broncos secondary was weak, and would be exposed by Ben Rothlisberger. Have they missed the off-season? I grant you that the secondary was a huge weakness last season but should be a strength for Denver now. The additions of Tracy Porter, Drayton Florence and rookie Omar Bolden make this a very deep and talented group.
- The biggest question for the Broncos remains defensive tackle, especially with Ty Warren’s contract situation. They need to get that position fixed so teams are not able to run on them as they did last season. I will say this, however, the addition of Manning will help the run defense. If Manning has the Broncos up 17-0 in the 2nd quarter, then teams are not going to be able to run like they want to.
- I mentioned Warren’s contract situation and usually I am pro player when it comes to this type of stuff, but I don’t understand Warren’s stance on this one. He hasn’t played in 2 years and the Broncos asked him to take a pay cut, and he’s balking. I understand that no one wants to take a pay cut but he has no leverage. The guess here is that something gets done and Warren is in camp but if I’m the Broncos, I’m not budging too much.
- All of the talk when it comes to Manning and the receivers is about Eric Decker and Decker will have a ton of catches in 2012. However I think the guy to watch is, Demaryius Thomas! Thomas is a big receiver who can out muscle people and out run others. Manning has never had a target like Thomas and I firmly believe we are about to see a new star receiver in the NFL.
- Denver needs to get kicker, Matt Prater locked up long-term. He’s one of the best kickers in the league, especially in the clutch and would be a huge loss if they cannot come to terms. Recent reports are that progress is being made, so hopefully it is done before camp starts.
- The starting running back versus the Steelers will be Willis McGahee but he may not be there for long. The Broncos love their 3rd round pick, Ronnie Hillman and not just as a change of pace back. They drafted him to be “the guy” and he will be at some point this season. How quickly that happens depends on how quickly Hillman picks up pass protections. The Broncos will not play anyone who might put Manning at risk but, make no mistake, John Elway and John Fox love Ronnie Hillman.
- Don’t be stunned if the Broncos say goodbye to DJ Williams at some point this summer! Williams is a very good player and is coming off of his best season as a pro, but the team is growing tired of his off-field antics. He is currently facing a 2nd trial in a DUI case and is suspended for the first 6 games of the season for performance enhancing drugs. Williams is suing the league, saying the drug test was flawed but Elway may have had enough. Not saying it will happen but it could.
- One last note or word of caution on these OTA’s, especially when it comes to Manning. Don’t get too excited when the reports are that Manning had a great day, and don’t panic when the reports are that he struggled. These OTA’s are designed for all players to get back into the swing of things and work out the kinks. By the time the opener arrives on September 9th, Manning will be ready to go!
The players and coaches will work though mid-June and then a lot of them will take a month or so off, and then it will be go time! Hang in there, folks! Football Sundays are closer than you think!