Highlighting the Best Weapons in Peyton Manning's Arsenal

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMay 24, 2012

Highlighting the Best Weapons in Peyton Manning's Arsenal

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    2012 will be a year of great change for both quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

    Not only does Manning have to acclimate to a new team after 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts and the idea of playing home games (gasp!) outdoors, but the Broncos receivers will need to adjust to a quarterback with a throwing style that's just a bit different than Tim Tebow's was last season.

    By "different," I mean "accurate."

    Manning may not have the likes of Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark at his disposal anymore, but that's not to say that the cupboard is bare in the Mile High City.

    Here's a breakdown of some of the offensive weaponry that Peyton Manning will have in his arsenal this season.

Willis McGahee, Running Back

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    No team in the National Football League ran the ball more than the Denver Broncos last year, and the lead back in the Denver ground game was Willis McGahee, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored four touchdowns in 2011.

    The Broncos may not employ as ground-heavy an attack this year as they did a season ago, but it will still be important for Denver to ride the running game somewhat, both to keep pressure off Manning and to help set up the play action passing game.

    McGahee is 30 years old with nearly 1,800 career carries, however, so the Broncos will also likely look for substantial contributions from reserves Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball and rookie Ronnie Hillman.

Demaryius Thomas, Wide Receiver

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    Third-year wide receiver Demaryius Thomas didn't see the field much early in the 2011 season due to an Achilles injury, but by season's end it was a very different story.

    Thomas emerged as Tim Tebow's "go-to" wideout down the stretch last year, racking up at least 70 receiving yards in six of Denver's last seven games a year ago including the playoffs.

    Thomas is the "vertical threat" among the Denver wide receivers, and if he and Manning mesh quickly that would not only portend good things for the Denver offense but it would also seem to be an indicator that Manning's arm strength is at or near 100 percent.

Eric Decker, Wide Receiver

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    Whereas Demaryius Thomas' role in the Denver Broncos offense grew as the 2011 season wore on, the exact opposite held true for wide receiver Eric Decker.

    The two-year veteran started out the season well, but the insertion of Tim Tebow sent Decker's stats into a tailspin, with Decker notching over 50 receiving yards in a game only twice after Week 9.

    Decker still managed to finish the season with 44 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns, and with Peyton Manning under center Decker has an excellent chance of besting those numbers as the Broncos' primary possession receiver.

Jacob Tamme, Tight End

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    There will be at least one familiar face in the Denver Broncos huddle this season for Peyton Manning, as the team signed free agent tight end Jacob Tamme in the offseason, possibly at the urging of their new star signal-caller.

    Tamme spent the last several seasons as Dallas Clark's backup with the Colts and responded very well when called upon to produce, including racking up over 600 receiving yards in eight starts for the Colts in 2010.

    Manning has always been a quarterback that used his tight ends extensively in the passing game, and with speculation already circulating that the tight end will be the first read in the Denver offense at times this season, it appears that Tamme and fellow tight end Joel Dreessen will be big parts of the Broncos offense in 2012.