Denver Broncos: Ranking the Broncos' Biggest Offseason Needs
Forget about all of the Broncos' "accomplishments" last season.
The Broncos were on the couch watching the Super Bowl along with billions around the world last season, and that is not good enough.
They finished atop the division for a second straight season, but also suffered a second straight divisional round playoff loss.
The blame for their playoff demise is widespread, and there remains several team needs for the Broncos, who need to take it to the next level in 2013.
5. Running Back
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There is some uncertainty on the Denver Broncos about who will be carrying the ball in 2013. Knowshon Moreno went out of the team’s devastating loss to the Baltimore Ravens with another injury resulting in surgery at the end last season. He may be cut with a big paycheck due for the final year of his rookie contract.
Ronnie Hillman, last season’s high draft pick didn’t give the team the spark they were hoping for. He hasn’t got his body into “football shape” yet and was a step too slow against NFL defenders.
Willis McGahee turns 32 early in the 2013 season and is also coming off of a season-ending injury last year.
Who ends up bearing the weight of carrying the football in 2013 remains to be seen. It’s surely an important need, but with a veteran like Peyton Manning at quarterback, the running back position tends to get overlooked. Right now the Broncos can afford to neglect this position some, but it is definitely a position to keep an eye on.
4. Offensive Line
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In order to keep your most important commodity—Peyton Manning, the Broncos’ elite quarterback—healthy, you need a talented front line.
There are concerns of Pro Bowl star Ryan Clady holding out as the team reportedly plans to use their franchise tag to keep him around in 2013, although contract talks have been ongoing.
Right guard Chris Kuper is a top-notch veteran lineman and a team captain. However, each of his last two seasons were marred with injuries.
The team’s center position is probably is the most up in the air as Dan Koppen, who filled in for the injured J.D. Walton last season, performed above average, and is now an unrestricted free agent.
This year’s draft is loaded with offensive line talent. Look for the Broncos to add a big body in the upcoming NFL draft to help shore up any uncertainties on the O-line.
3. Middle Linebacker
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Middle linebacker is an a position that typically is the “quarterback” of the defense. They call the defensive “plays” so to speak. Joe Mays, an average defender, filled the middle for several years until this season he suffered an injury and then was replaced with the veteran Keith Brooking.
Brooking was signed on a one-year contract as he is advanced in years and has filled in on several teams as a “journeyman” defender.
The Broncos have decisions to make as head coach John Fox is high on Nate Irving and Steven Johnson to fill the middle next season, but neither is proven, leaving the middle of the defense as one big question mark.
2. Defensive Line
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The interior of the defense has been a problem area for the Broncos for several years. Even with the addition of the versatile Derek Wolfe last season, who was a bright spot on a below-average defensive line, the Broncos need to continue to make improvements next year.
I am not convinced that the answer is on the current roster. Robert Ayers hasn’t panned out. The team can finally call him a bust after several consecutive seasons of disappointments and underachieving.
On the interior of the defensive line, clean house. Ty Warren couldn’t stay healthy; let him go. Kevin Vickerson has been “meh;” he’s not worth keeping around at the contract he will be expecting in 2013. Justin Bannan can’t keep up in the NFL anymore; bring in youth.
Thankfully, the draft is flush with talented defensive linemen. The Broncos should use up to two picks to upgrade the D.
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The image to characterize the 2012 Broncos’ season is the out-of-position, out-of-his-league Rahim Moore getting burnt by Jacoby Jones late in the AFC divisional playoff game, sending it into overtime. Local sportswriter Mark Kiszla with The Denver Post has recently called for Moore’s head.
Inexperience and mediocrity mark the safeties on the Broncos’ roster. In back-to-back seasons, poor safety play has contributed to the team’s exit from the playoffs. Last year, Moore’s inability to cover Rob Gronkowski, who had 10 catches for 145 yards, was a major factor and helped Tom Brady amass 363 yards passing and throw for six touchdowns.
Quinton Carter, a strong safety who was injured during the season was replaced by Mike Adams, a free agent signed during last offseason. Adams was average and at times was also out of position allowing big gains down the stretch this season.
Champ Bailey isn’t getting any younger and was beaten by one of the league’s speediest receivers, Torrey Smith, for a 59-yard bomb for a touchdown early in the first quarter of the team’s elimination game in the playoffs.
Tony Carter was increasingly targeted late in the season for big receptions by opposing teams. Tracy Porter is an unrestricted free agent who spent most of the season injured. I don’t expect to see him back in 2013.
In a pass-happy league where a team’s secondary is the only way to neutralize a top quarterback, the Broncos have to get extra help this offseason. There are major concerns which need to be addressed right away for Denver in 2013.