Sure, the Denver Broncos have had an amazing and wild off-season, dealing with QB Peyton Manning, then dealing with QB Tim Tebow, then dealing with Manning AND Tebow for a short time. Bronco fans have every reason to be excited and to have images in their mind of Manning, Elway and Owner Pat Bowlen up on the stage February 2, 2013 at Metlife Stadium, hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
Well, I hate to be the bear of bad news and bring fans back down from cloud 9, but it isn’t going to happen.
Even months after he is gone, we still mention Tebow and the Broncos in the same sentence. The Broncos wouldn’t have been an attractive location for Manning had Tebow not had a couple 4th quarter comebacks and the thrilling victory in the playoffs against the battered Pittsburgh Steelers. Without Tebow’s work, the Broncos are a 6-10 team and appearing to be still in complete rebuild mode.
The Broncos are now on the upswing and some experts are talking about the Broncos in the same breath as the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans. But in all reality, the team has more question marks than answers going into training camp and the 2012 season. Obviously, having a legitimate training camp and off-season will benefit the team, but this is a young, raw and inexperienced team.
The biggest question mark was Manning and his health, reports have come out that he is healed and that it’s just a matter of getting into football shape. But what if Manning takes a hard shot week one against the LB James Harrison and the Steelers, the Broncos will have to go to backup QB Caleb Hanie, who at his best in relief of CHI QB Jay Cutler posted a 79.9 QB rating, and that was against the Broncos and their weak secondary. His TD-INT ratio is 1-3….not comforting going forward. Bronco fans best pray that this doesn’t happen.
The offensive line is a major work in progress. Ryan Clady has regressed since his stellar rookie season, JD Walton and Zane Beadles both have a nasty attitude to their game, but their game itself is childish. When they get locked up with a D-Lineman that has multiple moves, they are going to struggle in pass protection. Same with Orlando Franklin, outstanding run-blocker, but his pass protection need much more work. The Broncos did bring in a former player in Ryan Harris who used to play Franklin’s position. But he was brought in to replace a solid lineman in Chris Kuper, but he is coming off a major leg injury. The Broncos would be wise to move Harris to the RT position and keep on building up Franklin.
Willis McGehee benefited the most having the Option Read offense around, he was able to prolong his career, just as he did as a backup ton Baltimore. Now, he will be the feature back, first time since 2007. He did defy odd with his age at 30, posting 1,199 yards on the ground. But history will also say that McGehee will come back down to earth. They have Lance Ball, who is a Josh McD holdover that hasn’t been impressive, Jeremiah Johnson has shown flashes to be a good third down back, Mario Fannin is coming off a ACL injury, no guarantee that he makes the club, along with Knowshon Moreno for the same reason, he has been VERY inconsistent as a RB being a first rounder. There is high hopes on third round pick Ronnie Hillman, but he has yet to sign and camp is several weeks away. Fannin and Moreno will be gone, and with age and inexperience, the running will be BOON OR BUST.
The Wide Receivers led by Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker showed glimpses, but now it’s time for them to grow up quick, fast and in a hurry playing with Manning. Even playing with a QB in Orton that was suited for a Pro Style offense, neither really showed anything promising, playing with Tebow, the guys just went out and played football, Tebows indecisiveness lasted longer than it would take to lick and get to the center of the Tootsie Pop! Now with Manning, they have to run routes….something that Demaryius has admitted to having NOT done since he has got to Denver.
Luckily for Manning, the Broncos did go out and sign a couple very solid Tight Ends in Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen.
The Broncos are rolling the dice on the D-Line. They will most likely go with Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson on the inside. Vickerson has been a good pickup, and surprisingly the team brought back Bannan. When Fox came in, he let go of Bannan cause he didn’t think he would fit his system, I see him more of as a “bandage” for the time being. The depth behind these guys is a mix of guys that may have never played a down in the league before or are past their prime. The ends are in acceptable position. No need to discuss Elvis Dumervil, but with Robert Ayers on the other side, he’s essentially John Engelberger. a DE that can hold the edge at times on the run but lacks power or moves to get around the Tackle.
Linebackers, led by Rookie Phenom Von Miller is questionable. Von Miller will continue to improve and I expect him to be like what Elway said when he drafted him….the next Derrick Thomas. But how much longer will the team keep putting up with DJ Williams and his antics, a recent citing for a DUI and now serving a 6 game suspension for failed drug tests, behind him is Wesley Woodyard, who lacks size to be a force in the running game. Then theres undrafted rookie Danny Trevathan, I am curious to see what this kid can do. Joe Mays makes big plays that would show up on NFL Films “Biggest Hitters”, but as a Middle Linebacker, he’s average at best, the team had hoped that Nate Irving would change him last season, but that didn’t happen, and now there is hopes that he does take the job from him. If he doesn’t, I would not be shocked to see the Broncos draft a MLB on day two or go after someone in free agency.
The secondary is completely revamped. Led by a seasoned veteran, but still dominant Champ Bailey, he will get help this season with Tracy Porter and Drayton Florance. Offenses will have trouble now spreading our secondary compared to last season in which the Patriots figured out by matching their Tight Ends on our nickle and dime backs and just “using and abusing” the seconday….in both the regular and postseason. Mike Adams was a name that not very many people would know, but this guy is a very solid signing at a low cost. The team holds out hope the Rahim Moore will still recover mentally from the vicious hit he put on Buffalo Bill WR Donald Jones in preseason. Should he not, the team is prepared to move onto Quinton Carter.
Having said all this, there is more questions than answers. Manning can cover up for a lot of those flaws, apparent in Indy this past season. The 2010 Colts team essentially the same squad in 2011, the team went from 10-6 to 2-14. The Broncos are definitely not in the same situation, but they must be prepared for life after Manning, even before it starts. The Manning Era could last five weeks or five seasons, in either case, the Broncos need to make plans for any situation, or they can fall back into the abyss that they were in with Josh McD and Kyle Orton.