Denver Broncos: AFC West Defenders Peyton Manning Must Be Wary of
As we continue to forecast the Broncos upcoming season, most of the talk around the team continues to be centered on their huge free agent acquisition, Peyton Manning.
The Broncos' success during this new era will undoubtedly rest on the shoulders of No. 18, but it all starts inside the AFC West division.
The following slides will showcase the top defenders within the division, those players that Manning will have to be extra aware of as he will see them all at least twice this season.
Tamba Hali, Outside Linebacker, Kansas City
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The biggest question concerning Manning relates to his health.
After missing the entire 2011 season and undergoing multiple neck surgeries, that question is one that holds a lot of weight.
Manning will have to come out very early and prove he still has the form that has made him a four-time NFL MVP.
One thing the Broncos definitely don't want to see is Manning taking a lot of hits, and it will be imperative that the offensive line protects him as an injury to the man they just signed to a five-year, $96 million contract would be devastating.
Tamba Hali has become a fierce pass rusher, and the division may have no better sack artist.
Hali has 26.5 sacks the last two seasons and will definitely be gunning for Manning.
Eric Berry, Strong Safety, Kansas City
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In his rookie season, Berry made 92 tackles and had four interceptions.
Berry may be the complete package. He has great speed and tremendous coverage skills for a safety. He is also very effective in run defense and has a nose for the football. If he gets the ball in his hands, look out.
The only question is how he will bounce back from injury, but when he's on the field, Manning must account for him.
Richard Seymour, Defensive Tackle, Oakland
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At age 32, Richard Seymour is still a very effective player.
Coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2011, Seymour had two of his six sacks on the season against the Broncos.
Seymour will also help the Raiders stuff the run game, and he is the main player on the Raiders defense that Manning must plan around.
Brandon Flowers, Cornerback, Kansas City
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When they meet the Broncos, he'll likely draw the assignment of Demariyus Thomas, unless they decide to match Stanford Routt up with him, the former Raiders cornerback whom they signed in February.
In four years, Flowers has made 13 interceptions as well as having 70 passes defensed.
What Flowers lacks in size he makes up for with his quickness and athleticism.
My feeling is that whichever wide receiver Flowers is not matched up on, whether it be Thomas or Eric Decker, will have big games when the Broncos play the Chiefs.
Eric Weddle, Free Safety, San Diego
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After making his first Pro Bowl in 2011, Eric Weddle is one of the league's emerging defensive players.
In five NFL seasons, Weddle has averaged about 89 tackles per year and has also victimized Manning before.
The games between the Chargers and Broncos will be very key to the division this season, and the matchup between Manning and Weddle is definitely going to be one to watch.
Shaun Phillips, Outside Linebacker, San Diego
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Shaun Phillips is one of the league's more underrated players.
He has 60 career sacks, including 11 during the 2010 season, and he always seems to make a big play when the Chargers need one.
He's a player similar to Hali, a strong pass rusher off the edge who could give Manning problems if he gets into the Broncos backfield.
He will likely play right behind Phillips, and he has very good pass rushing ability as well. Whether or not these guys can get to Manning could be a big factor in those all important games between these two rivals.