The Denver Broncos are now Peyton Manning's team. He has swiftly taken over for the long-gone phenom Tim Tebow, and is a lock for the starting quarterback position. However, there remains a lot of competition for key spots around the rest of the team.
Here are my predictions for how this season’s depth chart will pan out.
Peyton Manning will undoubtedly be the starting QB this season. Now, what about the second and third string QBs?
The Broncos drafted Brock Osweiler out of Arizona State in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. He was handpicked by John Elway, the team’s Executive VP of Football Operations and former hall-of-fame quarterback.
The Broncos also added Caleb Hanie, a CSU product formerly with the Chicago Bears who looked more like a backup than a starter during his relief of Jay Cutler last season. In addition, the team also has Adam Weber, who spent 2011 on the practice squad and is the only returning quarterback from last year's roster.
The Broncos have added a couple of talented veteran receivers this offseason, but also lost Eddie Royal. Demaryius Thomas has shown improvement in his first two NFL seasons, but has also been consistently plagued with the injury bug. Eric Decker has also flashed his abilities, and has gotten the most repetitions of anyone thus far with new QB Peyton Manning.
Denver added Brandon Stokley, who played with Manning during his time with the Colts. Stokely is also a former Bronco from the McDaniels' era. The team also added talented slot receiver Andre Caldwell, who can pick up key first downs to extend drives.
As far as undrafted free agents go, the Broncos added Gerell Robinson—Brock Osweiler’s teammate from Arizona State—who looks like a steal. Eric Page is another undrafted guy from Toledo who looks to help out the Broncos' return game this season.
WR No. 1
WR No. 2
WR No. 3 (Slot)
Brandon Stokley, Gerell Robinson, Matthew Willis, Eric Page
D’Andre Goodwin, Jason Hill, Tyler Grisham
Willis McGahee enjoyed a career year with running quarterback Tim Tebow under center, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in four seasons. He is a power back who can pick up first downs on third-and-short.
The Broncos also drafted speedy running back Ronnie Hillman in the third round, who has great hands. Hillman will likely challenge McGahee for the starting spot, but he will likely end up being a third-and-long threat out of the backfield for Manning.
Knowshon Moreno got himself into some trouble this offseason when he was arrested on a DUI charge, which he is now fighting in court. If experience tells us anything, Moreno could be this year’s Perrish Cox, who was released before the start of the 2011 season amidst his own legal troubles.
Lance Ball and Jeremiah Johnson will also return this season to vie for a roster spot. Last year’s undrafted free agent Mario Fannin, who spent 2011 on the IR, will also be in the mix.
Lance Ball, Jeremiah Johnson
The Broncos have a whole new stable full of tight ends this season after letting Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario leave in free agency.
The Broncos brought in two up-and-coming tight ends who are young, athletic and built in the same mold as some of the league’s top tight end tandems.
Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen will immediately impact this team. They have great hands, possess the ability to get open and are huge targets that Manning will seek out early and often—just like he did with Dallas Clark while in Indianapolis.
The Broncos also have a couple of young tight ends that are still maturing; which include Virgil Green, Julius Thomas, Anthony Miller, and Cornelius Ingram. All of these guys have been in the league two seasons or less. Some will make the active roster, while others will be cut or land on the practice squad.
Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen
Julius Thomas, Virgil Green
Anthony Miller, Cornelius Ingram
The offensive line is one of the least glamorous positions on the field, but is still one of the most important—especially with a 36-year-old quarterback in Peyton Manning. The Broncos enjoyed one of the healthiest offensive lines in the entire league last season. The O-line’s continuity was one of the reason the Broncos had such great success in the running game.
The biggest offensive line battle this offseason will be at center. J.D. Walton has done an okay job in his first two NFL seasons, but the Broncos drafted his former Baylor University teammate Philip Blake in the fourth round of the of the NFL draft to challenge him. Blake also has some versatility, as he has experience at the tackle position, too.
For the most part, the rest of the line should be business as usual. However, keep an eye on the contract talks of Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady, as he is one of the Broncos' best linemen. Chris Kuper’s recovery from a gruesome ankle injury last season is another question mark. If he doesn’t fully recover on time, veteran right guard Manny Ramirez may assume that role.
Philip Blake (C/T), Manny Ramirez (G), Ryan Harris (T), Chris Clark (T), Tony Hills (T)
C.J. Davis (G), Adam Grant (T), Mike Remmers (T), Austin Wuebbels (G), Wayne Tribue (G)
The Broncos have added some key talent on offense for 2012. There will be some heated battles on the offensive line and at wide receiver. The Broncos will also be looking at some of the young talent they have recently added to bolster depth—a serious problem they had last season.
The future looks bright on offense and there is an air of excitement surrounding this Broncos squad.