NFL PREVIEW: DENVER BRONCOS
June 28, 2012Eastern Indiana Sports
NFL PREVIEW: KELCI BAKER, EIHSS SPORTS
Last year: 8-8, 1st in AFC West, lost divisional round
The Broncos have faced several changes in the past year that most wouldn't have to worry about in 5 years. A new head coach, John Fox has taken the lead. Returning as an executive is John Elway. They've drafted the Defensive Rookie of the year Von Miller. But despite all of these changes, the Broncos' division title was kept away from them by a quarterback who didn't fit into their long term plans. The team was 1-4 and the fans had no love for Kyle Orton who was full of silly mistakes. That was when the team turned to Tim Tebow, overhauling the offense on the fly using zone-read options that made the offense look at times like something out of the Southeastern Conference. Somehow it worked, the result becoming the league's most productive rushing offense. On the flip side, it was also the second-worst passing game in the league. After Tebow replaced Orton, the team went 7-1 in the first eight games but ended 1-4. They took a beating from the New England Patriots in the playoffs, losing 45-10 as the weaknesses of Tebow were exposed and exploited. The solution? Peyton Manning! Manning was released from the Indianapolis Colts with four MVPs to his name. On March 20th things were official and the next day, Tebow was traded to the New York Jets. Depending on how well Manning returns from his neck injury will be the template for how this team will do this coming season.
Mike McCoy is going to be using the no-huddle style of offense Peyton was accustomed to when he was a Colt. Few huddles, precise passes, great timing, dump-offs to running backs in space and liberal use of tight ends. Wide recievers Eric Decker and injury prone Demaryius Thomas have both shown sparks of brilliance as a young receiving corp but both have been inconsistent. The offensive line has shown development as three of five starters were drafted in 2010 and only one is older than 26. Willis McGahee is 30 and is starting to show signs of aging. To help relieve him is rookie Ronnie Hillman. Until Manning takes a couple of hits, no one's sure how the offense will hold up this coming season. Backups for Manning aren't nearly as positive with ex-Chicago Bears reserve Caleb Hanie (0-4 as a starter) and second-round pick Brock Osweiler is being considered a work in progress.
Jack Del Rio worked for Fox in 2002 and has plans on tweaking the defensive unit with a 4-3 style defense. He'll be dealing with a pair of Pro Bowl edge rushers in Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Former Saints cornerback Tracy Porter will be kept busy as teams continue to throw away from Champ Bailey. The Broncos continue to have faith in defensive tackles Ty Warren, Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson even though Warren hasn't played a regular season snap since 2009 and Vickerson missed most of last season with an ankle injury. Brian Dawkins' retirement leaves a leadership hole that will be filled by either Bailey, Miller, Dumerveil or safety Mike Adams.
Special teams is being led by coordinator Jeff Rodgers. Four of Denver's eight regular season wins ended with field goals from Matt Prater. Showing big improvement is punter Britton Colquitt. In his second season he improved from 22nd to ninth in net average. Rookie cornerbacks Omar Bolden and Coryell Judie should get looks on kickoff and punt returns now that Eddie Royal is gone.
For a seventh consecutive season there has been a change of coordinators after Dennis Allen became the coach of the Oakland Raiders. Allen moved on because of Denver's defensive improvement. That change allowed Fox to combine forces with Del Rio who was his first defensive coordinator when he was with the Carolina Panthers. McCoy received praise for the Tebow inspired midseason offensive makeover and will be rewriting the offense for Manning which should prove to be less of a problem.
2012 Draft Recap
When the draft was all said and done the Denver Broncos left with a total of seven picks, the best one being RB Ronnie Hillman of San Diego. For an offense that will be led by Peyton Manning, his pass-catching ability out of the backfield and moves in space make him a nice fit.
DT Derek Wolfe. Cincinnati
Second round. 36th pick overall.
Their counting on Wolfe to change the lack of pass rush impact and defensive tackles from last season. He could potentially start immediately and has 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles from last year.
QB Brock Osweiler. Arizona State
Second round. 57th pick overall.
He'll be an understudy for Manning more than likely for the next three years. He has arguably one of the strongest arms in his class but started only one year and was erratic at best.
RB Ronnie Hillman. San Diego State
Third round. 67th pick overall.
CB-KR Omar Bolden. Arizona State
Fourth round. 101st pick overall.
More than likely he'll play in dime packages right away and might usurp Chris Harris as the nickel back. He could also fill voids as a kick-returner
C-G Philip Blake. Baylor
Fourth round. 108th pick overall.
He will likely back up at all three spots as a rookie and projects at guard as a pro
DE Malik Jackson. Tennessee
Fifth round. 137th pick overall.
Spent a lot of time at defensive tackle
LB Danny Trevathan. Kentucky
Sixth round. 188th pick overall.
Will probably get his start at special teams
The Tim Tebow era was fun while it lasted, but now it's time for John Fox's squad to get serious about competing for championships rather than scrounging together miraculous comebacks week after week. The offense around Manning isn't particularly impressive, but the defense is improving and, well, Manning has dragged teams with lesser talent either to the Super Bowl or a stone's throw away from it.
Of course, the Broncos have a long way to go before they can even dream about bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to the Mile High City. The rest of the NFL will certainly have something to say about it, especially considering that Denver's schedule ranks as the second-toughest in the league heading into the 2012 season.
Let's have a look at what lies ahead for Manning and his new 'mates.
Week 2, Sept. 17: Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Week 3, Sept. 23: Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 4, Sept. 30: Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 5, Oct. 7: Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 6, Oct. 15: Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Week 7: BYE
Week 8, Oct. 28: New Orleans Saints vs. Denver Broncos 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
Week 9, Nov. 4: Denver Broncos vs. Cincinnati Bengals 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 10, Nov. 11: Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 11, Nov. 18: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 12, Nov. 25: Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 13, Dec. 2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Denver Broncos 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 14, Dec. 6: Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Week 15, Dec. 16: Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 16, Dec. 23: Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 17, Dec. 30: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
2012 DENVER ROSTER