The Biggest Question Marks Surrounding Denver's Offseason
The Denver Broncos' 2012 season is one of mixed emotions for most Bronco fans.
Denver went 13-3 in the regular season and clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
The Broncos looked dominant at times. They outscored their regular-season opponents by a total of 481-289, newly-acquired quarterback Peyton Manning looked great as he threw for over 4,600 yards and the Bronco offense averaged 398 yards and 30 points per game.
On the other side of the ball, the defense more than held its own, allowing just 18 points per game.
But the 2012 season ended with a fizzle instead of a bang.
The Broncos hosted the 10-6 Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoff game and were beaten in double overtime 38-35. The Ravens defense stymied the Bronco offense and forced three turnovers, while the Baltimore offense racked up nearly 500 yards.
It was a painful ending to what had been such a promising season, but they should be a Super Bowl contender again in 2013.
So where do the Broncos go from here?
Here are the biggest questions that the Denver Broncos must answer in the offseason.
Can Rahim Moore Bounce Back?
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Rahim Moore, the second-year safety, had been making strides in 2012.
Following a rookie season of being out of position and missing assignments, he was eventually removed from the starting lineup in 2011.
Moore came to training camp in 2012 with something to prove.
And he had been proving his ability more and more each week.
He finished the season with 72 tackles, seven passes defended and an interception, yet what will be remembered is his mistake at the end of regulation in the divisional playoff game.
With the Broncos leading 35-28 and under one minute remaining in regulation, Moore misplayed a deep pass and allowed Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones to get behind him for the game-tying touchdown.
As a defensive back, you must play with confidence. Can Moore put that play behind him and continue to improve, or did the Broncos lose a young, promising player in the loss as well?
Who Are the Defensive Tackles?
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The Broncos consistently used four defensive tackles during the 2012 season.
Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson were the starters and were spelled by Mitch Unrein and Sealver Siliga.
Bannan is consistent, if unspectacular, and managed to lead this unit in tackles with 42 but no sacks.
Vickerson may have shown the most improvement, and he logged in with 40 tackles and two sacks.
This unit clearly needs more production in 2013, and both Vickerson and Unrein are going to be free agents this spring.
One would think that Broncos management has to be looking at the NFL draft, as well as free agency, to bolster their interior line play.
There are a few free agents out there that may be of interest. Randy Starks, Glenn Dorsey and Alan Branch are all set to be free agents as well.
Do the Broncos simply re-sign their own and hope to improve through the draft, or do they spend some money and try to bolster the position through the free-agent market?
How Will the Offense Change Under Adam Gase?
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2012 offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is now the head coach of the AFC West division rival San Diego Chargers.
Upon McCoy's departure, the Broncos wasted very little time naming quarterback coach Adam Gase to the position just two days later.
One would think that Gase must have Manning's blessing having worked with him since his arrival in Denver.
Gase has learned under both Nick Saban and Mike Martz in his career, which tells me he knows something of aggressive play-calling.
Will Gase be the man to take this offense to the next level?
Who Is the Middle Linebacker?
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Joe Mays began the 2012 season as the starting middle linebacker, but he seemed to struggle in pass coverage.
Thirty-seven-year-old veteran Keith Brooking replaced Mays and did an admirable job, making 54 tackles and even getting a sack.
But how long can the Broncos depend on Brooking?
Sitting behind Brooking is Steven Johnson, who will be entering just his second NFL season. Johnson has shown some very good things when he has gotten playing time, as he is a ball hawk and a very able tackler.
The Broncos will have to make a decision on their defensive signal-caller this offseason.
What to Do with the Running Backs?
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Bronco running backs combined for over 1,800 rushing yards in 2012.
However, both Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno battled through injuries for much of the season.
McGahee played in the first nine games before being lost for the season in Week 11 with a knee injury. McGahee finished the year with 731 yards and a strong 4.4 yards per carry average. McGahee will turn 32 this fall.
Moreno began the 2012 season on the active roster and played sparingly in the first two games. He then was declared inactive after a fumble in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Moreno remained inactive until he returned to the lineup Week 12 and was eventually named the starter. Moreno ran hard down the stretch for the Broncos, and his injury in the playoff game against the Ravens seemed to trigger a shift in the game.
He wound up with 525 yards for touchdowns in just eight games in 2012.
But Moreno has suffered through more than his share of injuries in his young career. In his four seasons in the NFL, Moreno has already missed 20 games.
So do the Broncos stand pat and hope McGahee and Moreno both bounce back in 2013, or do they look to the NFL draft to bring in some new blood in the backfield?
Can the Broncos Re-Sign Ryan Clady?
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Ryan Clady is set to become a free agent this spring, and signing him will be a major focus for Broncos management.
Clady is not a great run-blocker, but he is a terrific pass-blocker; Clady gave up just one sack in 2012.
And when you have spent $96 million dollars on quarterback Peyton Manning, you better be sure to take care of the man who watches his blind side.
Clady is still one of the most athletic offensive tackles in the NFL, and at just 26 years of age, his best years could still be ahead. He is going to cost the Broncos a sizable contract, and he will most likely be designated with the franchise tag.
Clady has already turned down a five-year, $50 million dollar deal.
Can the Broncos get the deal with Clady done so that they can get to the business at hand?
The Broncos hope to be in East Rutherford, New Jersey next February for Super Bowl XLVIII.