Must is expected of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in 2012, and while on the surface everything seems great, the team is actually dealing with several big-time injuries. Those issues threaten to derail what has looked like a promising season.
Linebacker D.J. Williams, who has been the Broncos' leading tackler in five of his eight seasons with the team, is already facing a six-game drug suspension to open the season. He could face further punishment after being found guilty of driving while impaired and driving without his headlights.
Williams could conceivably be lost for a significant portion of the season thanks to that conviction—which means backup Wesley Woodyard will take his place.
The Broncos have also been hit with two major injuries to starters this week. Defensive end Jason Hunter and right guard Chris Kuper will both have to undergo surgery. Hunter has a torn right triceps and is likely done for the year, while Kuper broke his left forearm and will be sidelined for about six weeks.
Rookie second-round draft pick Derek Wolfe will likely step in to replace Hunter at left defensive end, and Manny Ramirez will probably be the guy to replace Kuper while he recovers.
Meanwhile, on Thursday morning defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson suffered a concussion, while backup cornerback Joshua Moore injured his hamstring. The linebacking corps has also been further decimated by injuries to rookie Danny Trevathan (ankle) and Keith Brooking (hamstring).
Kuper is a big loss for the Broncos as he is a solid presence along the offensive front. And any losses to Denver's front seven are devastating when you consider how soft the team's defense was last season.
Von Miller did a great job getting after the quarterback, but the rest of the team's defensive front was incredibly weak. That's an area the Broncos must improve this season.
Manning will definitely improve the team's offense, but Denver must get healthy soon if it wants to contend in the AFC West this season.