What Every Fan Needs to Know About the 2013 Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos enter the season with a target on their backs.
As the offseason comes to a close and we enter training camp, the Broncos have only added more pieces to that 'stacked' roster.
The Broncos signed guard Louis Vasquez as their first free agent signing. Vasquez has not drawn a penalty since the 2010 season.
After signing Vasquez, the Broncos signed former Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Cromartie is expected to start opposite of Champ Bailey, while Chris Harris moves back to his more natural position, covering receivers in the slot.
That list does include draftees who figure to make a major impact during their rookie seasons—defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, running back Montee Ball and defensive end Quanterus Smith come to mind.
The Broncos are one of the elite teams in the league, coming off of a league-best 13-3 season in 2012.
Denver fans know what to expect out of the Broncos this season, but what should all fans know about the 2013 Denver Broncos?
The Offense Will Be the Best in the League
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The 2013 Denver Broncos are stacked.
They may not finish with an undefeated record, and who knows at this point who will be playing for the Super Bowl in 2014, but one thing is a lock—this offense is going to be dangerous.
It's hard not to envision the Broncos becoming the NFL's best offense in 2013. After a 2012 season which saw them finish second in the league in points per game (30.1) to the New England Patriots (34.8), Denver returns the NFL MVP runner-up, Peyton Manning and three wide receivers coming off 1,000-yard seasons in Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
Add in the draft selection of Montee Ball at running back, and the Broncos' running game should improve from their ranking of 25th in yards per attempt (3.8).
The Broncos played in the three-wide look for the majority of their offensive snaps in 2012. On 64% of their snaps, the Broncos used three wide receivers.
With the addition of Welker, the Broncos will utilize the three-wide look even more often this season—which should only make Denver's offense even more lethal.
Julius Thomas Should Make an Impact
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Denver's 'stacked' offense isn't just limited to the quarterback, wide receivers and running back.
The Broncos are pretty stacked at tight end, too.
Denver's top two tight ends—Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen—combined for 93 receptions for 911 yards and seven touchdowns.
This was with the Broncos featuring a three-wide look, with less of an emphasis on two tight end sets.
Now Julius Thomas is in the mix.
The third-year tight end who was drafted with a fourth round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Portland State University, turned heads during OTAs, and with Dreesen's knee surgery, has taken advantage of the extra reps during offseason workouts.
With Thomas finally healthy for the first time in two years, after dealing with a severe ankle injury that limited him to nine games, it may be Thomas—and not Dreessen or Tamme—who emerges as Denver's best tight end in 2013.
Denver's Cornerback Trio May Be the Best in the League
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As mentioned in the intro slide, the Broncos added several big-name free agents—with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie being one of them.
Overshadowed by the Welker signing, the Broncos signed Cromartie to a bargain deal, agreeing to a one-year, $5 million deal.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Broncos had two of the top 10 cornerbacks in the league in Champ Bailey and Chris Harris—meaning they had the league's best cornerback duo.
Although Rodgers-Cromartie's past two seasons after being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles were disappointing—along with the rest of the Eagles squad—he remains a talented corner, who is just 27 years of age.
Historically speaking, the corner that starts opposite of Bailey has always seen an inflated number of targets thrown his way.
Due to Bailey's talents as an elite cornerback, Cromartie will have all of the opportunities in the world to prove that he's still a top-flight corner.
If that happens, with Harris as Denver's nickel cornerback, Denver may just claim to having the league's best trio of cornerbacks in a pass-heavy league.
Quanterus Smith May Denver's Best Value Pick
The defensive end out of Western Kentucky was drafted in the fifth round with the 146th overall pick.
Smith was named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the year after leading the NCAA in sacks in 2012 with 12.5 sacks.
So why was Smith drafted so low?
Outside of playing at a small school in the Sun Belt Conference, Smith suffered a torn ACL in a mid-November regular season game.
Smith's highlight game of the season was when he posted three sacks versus the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
Although the Broncos signed veteran Shaun Phillips to help replace the sack totals of the departed Elvis Dumervil, it is Smith that has the most potential to replace Dumervil's void along the defensive line.
The only problem in Smith's way is recovering from surgery that took place on his torn ACL just 7 1/2 months prior.
Montee Ball Will Be This Year's Alfred Morris
Remember how Alfred Morris was drafted out of Florida Atlantic University with a sixth-round draft pick last season by the Washington Redskins and proceeded to run for over 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns in his rookie season?
Although Ball may not match those numbers—this is an offense that revolves around Manning as the quarterback—Montee has all of the tools needed in order to become this year's Alfred Morris.
The talent in the supporting cast is there, and Ball has all of the tools in order to become a successful running back at the pro level—he was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy during his junior season of 2011.
We're just kind of going through plays, going through games, getting him comfortable hearing audibles at the line of scrimmage. Because we are going to count on him in a big way this year," Manning said. "He's a rookie, but coach (John) Fox isn't going to bring him along slowly.
If the University of Wisconsin product is able to hold off Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno for the starting running back position, the sky is the limit for this former Heisman runner-up.