5 Denver Broncos Facing the Most Pressure Not to Let Peyton Manning Down
Peyton Manning can't do it by himself.
Though he 'kinda-sorta' did on some Indianapolis Colts teams, guys like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday fostered the tremendous play we saw from the legendary quarterback each season.
With the Broncos in 2012, Manning will be forced to count on five key players on the Broncos' roster.
These guys can't let him down or the Manning experiment will ultimately be labeled a failure in Year 1.
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Tamme played with Manning on the Colts in 2010. Not surprisingly, the Kentucky alum set career highs in all the major statistical categories.
He had 67 catches, 631 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 93 targets.
Clearly operating as the dependable, chain-moving possession tight end, Tamme adequately fulfilled his obligations.
In a similar role in 2012, again, he must find soft spots in zone coverage and keep the ball moving so Peyton isn't forced into coverage sacks.
Though he isn't a flashy player, he'll be vital to the Broncos' aerial success this season.
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Thomas is the most physically-gifted receiver on Denver's roster, and at 6'4'' and 225 pounds, he has the natural size to overwhelm smaller defenders down the field.
Some of his downfield prowess was on display last season, when he caught 32 passes for 551 yards (17.2 yards per reception) and four touchdowns.
His game-winning touchdown on the first play of overtime in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers demonstrated his ability to run away from defenders and use his strength to his advantage.
A Manning-to-Thomas connection has the potential to be quite electric in 2012.
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Eric Decker led the team with 95 targets in 2011 and will likely be the go-to chain-mover for Peyton Manning in 2012.
He's a smooth route-runner with solid hands and a big body.
The former Minnesota Golden Gopher is coming off an MCL sprain suffered in the playoffs, but he's fully recovered and caught three passes in the team's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears.
He'll need to be the reliable possession wideout and someone who can get openly quickly, as he'll frequently be Manning's first read when he drops back.
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Dreessen is the other tight end, a capable starter that'll likely take away targets from Jacob Tamme.
Playing behind Owen Daniels in Houston, Dreessen was never able to blossom into a fabulous tight end target, but his size, blocking skills and deceptive speed made him someone the Broncos wanted to acquire in the offseason.
Dreessen and Tamme formulate the team's "Gronkowski and Hernandez" set and will be underrated keys to the Broncos' control of the clock in 2012.
Remember, though known for his big plays down the field, Manning frequently used Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard in Indianapolis.
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The pressure's on Ryan Clady in 2012.
He's got the unenviable task of protecting the blind side of the team's 36-year-old, $96 million quarterback legend who's coming off multiple neck surgeries that cost him the entire 2011 campaign.
Clady's one of the league's more agile and effective left tackles, so he's up for the challenge.
He, more than anyone, cannot let Manning down or Manning may stay down in 2012.