With only a few days left before training camp and the start of the 2012 season, the Denver Broncos are gearing up for, hopefully, a long and fruitful season. The Broncos have had a big summer, signing Peyton Manning and re-signing other key players such as Matt Prater to multi-year deals.
The Broncos are a favorite to win the division, but only one thing could hold them back: health. The talent and strength is there, but can the key players stay healthy all season? Below are a few players the Broncos cannot afford to lose in 2012.
Manning is the biggest question mark for the Denver Broncos. Will his surgically repaired neck hold up against NFL defenses? Will he be able to return to pre-surgery greatness? Only time will tell, but the Broncos absolutely cannot afford to lose Manning if he gets hurt. There is little depth in the quarterback position.
Adam Weber, the backup quarterback, has completed only one pass in a preseason game during the 2011 season. Caleb Hanie, the third-string quarterback, has had a less-than-stellar NFL career so far, acquiring 613 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions.
If Peyton Manning were to be injured, the Broncos would have to rely on Weber, who has little NFL experience, or Hanie, who has experience but isn't exactly the greatest NFL quarterback. The Denver Broncos are more likely to win nine or more games under the leadership and expertise of Peyton Manning.
The Broncos took a big blow on the defensive line last week when Elvis Dumervil was arrested. Although this is not health, it is a personal concern and hopefully he gets this worked out and can return to football. Without Dumervil, the Broncos have a depth chart of players recovering from injuries and rookies fresh from the NFL draft and free agency.
Ty Warren has missed most of two years because of injury and it is questionable how great he will play in 2012. The Broncos did get a great player in the free agency with Justin Bannan, an 11-year veteran with over 300 tackles in 144 NFL appearances. Von Miller is also a defensive player the Broncos cannot afford to lose. After missing time last season with a broken right thumb, Miller is back and stronger than ever for 2012. The Broncos are hoping Miller will make a huge impact on DC Del Rio's new defensive line.
Without effective production from Miller, Bannan and hopefully Dumveril, the Broncos would be left to rely too heavily on the offense of Peyton Manning.
Thomas is entering his third year in the NFL and is looking to be an even bigger impact than he was in 2011 and to be Manning's favorite receiver. Thomas' speed is something the Broncos would miss if he was injured. Last season, Thomas was remembered for his game-winning 80-yard touchdown in the Wild Card Game against the Steelers (h/t Sam Davis, DenverBroncos.com). Thomas led the Broncos in receiving yards in the last stretch of the 2011 season and set a franchise record.
Without Thomas, the Broncos would lack speed at the wide receiver position. The Broncos would look to Eric Decker to make big plays on offense every time.
Yes, Bailey is 34 years old, but he is still a very important part of the Broncos roster and the team would suffer without him if he were to get hurt. Even with the additions of Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence, the Broncos need a veteran to remain consistent and support the backfield. After the loss of Brian Dawkins to retirement and D.J. Williams to suspension, an injured Bailey would be the final blow to the backfield.
All of the Broncos on the roster are important to the team's overall success, but without these select players listed above, the Broncos would not be a threat in the AFC West. It is critical that these players avoid injuries and give their best effort on the field every Sunday in order to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Mile High Stadium.