Expectations are running high for the Broncos heading into 2012, and the front office has got a lot of investment in the new players coming to Denver to help meet those expectations. Still, there are players currently on the roster that the team needs to step up in order to find success.
Many of the players are still relatively young, but the time is running out for using "time to develop" as a crutch for their lackluster performances that occasionally show up.
In fact, some of the players are only entering their sophomore seasons, but with the mentality of "winning now" that Denver seems to be embracing, they are going to be expected to grow up quickly.
Here are five players that Denver needs to step up and improve in 2012.
As a middle linebacker, Mays was underwhelming in big moments for the Broncos, as evidenced by the gashing of Isaac Redman that almost cost the Broncos their WIld Card playoff victory.
Mays was given a vote of confidence by the front office with his extension, especially when there were more than suitable replacements available on the market in free agency.
For the Broncos to take the next step on defense, Mays needs to channel his inner "Al Wilson" and become a solid presence on the inside.
The young former college hoopster was slowed by injury last season, but that won't stop the expectations from being sky high for the tight end in 2012.
Denver needs production from every pass-catching position on the field under Peyton Manning, and Thomas offers the best big-play potential from the tight end position.
It will be more important for Thomas to establish a rapport with Manning in the red zone and be able to convert on touchdowns in short yardage through the air.
Franklin was not a bust by any means for the Broncos in 2011, and he can certainly continue to prove his draft position as his career goes along.
However, there were instances where Franklin had to be relieved due to ineffectiveness early on in the season, and those types of situations cannot occur for the sophomore tackle in 2012. Especially considering the investment that he is now helping to protect.
Franklin needs to get comfortable with the protection calls that Manning uses, and then subsequently changes at the line, so masterfully in order to be effective.
Rahim Moore began the season as one of the prize jewels from the rookie class, and his hard-hitting style was exciting for Broncos fans.
Eventually though, the rookie's inexperience got the best of him, and he landed in the doghouse rather quickly, which was hard to fathom considering his fast start.
In 2012, the Broncos are expecting Moore and fellow 2011 draftee Quinton Carter to take over the safety position for Denver, and the defense sorely needs both players to play with poise beyond their years to be successful.
Ayers began to come into his own around the end of the Broncos' season and chipped in with some very affective plays on defense for Denver.
Still, for the Denver defense to be truly disruptive and feared around the league, Ayers needs to add an ample amount of pressure from the defensive end position, opposite Elvis Dumervil, in order to make Von Miller a monstrous force on defense.
Ayers has had a slow ascension in Denver, but the time is now for a major jump in the impact he provides for the defense in 2012.