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There were a lot of people who had concerns over how Peyton Manning would return after four neck surgeries. One guy who had no doubt was John Elway. Just a few years ago the Broncos had one of their worst seasons since the 1960’s. In steps Manning and last season ended after taking the eventual champs to a double-overtime nail biter. This team is a clear cut favorite to win the AFC West and is a very serious threat to win the whole thing. They have almost half their roster built from young talent that is likely to improve. When you mix a young, talented roster with a few very talented veterans good things will follow.
The offensive coordinator of this team is not nearly important as the average offensive coordinator in the NFL. I don’t mean to take anything away from Adam Gase, I’m sure he is good at what he does, but everyone knows this is Manning’s offense. Manning stepped in and did everything the Broncos could have wanted and then some. In an offense that is as detailed and timing oriented as the one he runs, to come in and have that much early success is very impressive. Manning has continually said that after another offseason we will see big improvements. He took Thomas, Decker and new addition Welker to Duke for some training sessions. But the truth is he made me a believer a long time ago.
The team wasn’t very happy with the production it got from the running backs last year. To help boost production the team picked up Montee Ball from Wisconsin in the draft. Ball has a running style that fits the offense perfectly, along with some very good physical gifts. Hopefully Moreno will continue on the momentum he started to build on late last year.
The receiving corp is a very strong unit. Thomas and Decker are young but they really stepped up last year. Each one stayed healthy and adapted pretty quickly to Manning and the new offense. When you think of what they did last season, and consider that they added Wes Welker, this is a grade A unit. Welker may not get the 100 catches he’s used to, there’s only so much to go around, but he will be extremely effective. He’ll line up in the slot the majority of the time, like he did in New England, which will let Decker move outside more. It’s going to be a good year.
Jack Del Rio stepped in last year and did a job with the defense. They were tied for first in the league in sacks and No. 2 in yardage allowed. Those are two good categories to be tops in. Manning has always wanted a stingy defense and now he has one.
Make no mistake about it, losing Dumervil is going to take a hit. The team had to release him to avoid a $12 million dollar salary cap hit and due to a missing fax he moved on to the Ravens. Del Rio has built this line like he had in Jacksonville, with massive tackles. Vickerson and Knighton are two huge guys that they love to use to clog up the middle. They also drafted Williams in the first round to add depth to the rotation.
Miller was a beast last season setting a single season sack record with 18.5 He is extremely athletic and versatile which allows the team to move him to DE when they go into their nickel and dime packages. Woodyard stepped in last year as his first full season as a starter. Before that he came off the bench and did little more than add depth to the roster. He did prove to be very effective all around notching 100 tackles, 5 sacks and three interceptions.
Camp Bailey has been considered a top cornerback in this league for many years. Even in his mid-30’s at a position that needs extreme athleticism he continues to dominate. The team added Rodgers-Cromartie opposite him to add a dynamic 1-2 punch. There aren’t any tandems of wide receivers in the league that they can’t match up with. It almost seems unfair.
The team has built a solid core of young players through good recent drafts. If they can continue to draft well and manage the cap there is no reason to think that Denver can’t be a consistent contender for many years to come. However, there are two very important players who aren’t thinking about the future, only now. Manning and Bailey are entering the twilight of their careers and they know this is the season to take advantage and win it all.