6 Denver Broncos Players Poised for a Breakout Campaign in 2014
On offense, they have most of the players that helped the team break many records in 2013. Defensively, free-agent signings DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib make the team much more formidable on that side of the ball.
The Broncos intend to compete for the Super Bowl, but it will take a total team effort.
Of course, players like Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker should be expected to put up big numbers, but who are the players that will break out and help the Broncos reach the top of the mountain?
Here are six players who will break out in 2014.
Chris Clark, Tackle
From an early point in the 2013 season, Chris Clark was asked to step in and play a big role for the Denver Broncos.
After starting left tackle Ryan Clady went down with a season-ending injury, Clark was forced to come in and play left tackle—one of the most important positions on any team.
The Broncos couldn't have asked for much more than he gave them.
Undrafted out of Southern Mississippi, Clark will be entering his seventh season in the league. In that time, he has started just 20 games—14 of which came last season.
With the team experimenting with moving Orlando Franklin inside to guard, it will allow them to put an even better offensive line on the field.
Clark's play was just one of the reasons why Pro Football Focus named the Broncos offensive line third-best in the league for 2013. In 2014, he might help the team be even better.
With Clady and Clark playing anchoring the offensive line at the tackle positions, the throwing lanes should be even better for Peyton Manning.
Malik Jackson, Defensive End
Malik Jackson went from a rookie who rarely saw the field to a player that was second on the team in sacks in his second year.
Jackson worked his way into the rotation and stepped up when Derek Wolfe missed time with injury. He had six sacks on the season and added one against the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs.
In 2014, Jackson should push Wolfe for snaps and could legitimately be the team's other starting defensive end opposite DeMarcus Ware by season's end.
After the Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil following the 2012 season, they needed someone to step up, and Jackson helped fill the void.
This season, the Broncos will scare offenses with the duo of Ware and Von Miller. That will free up Jackson to get to the quarterback often, eventually making him a sack master that all teams must be ready for.
Montee Ball, Running Back
Montee Ball will have a ton of pressure placed on his shoulders in 2014. He'll have a breakout year because there's no choice for him but to have a breakout year.
Ball will be the primary running back in an offense that will be more balanced this season. For that to work, Ball will be the key factor.
Knowshon Moreno proved that he could run for over 1,000 yards and also have 500 yards receiving in this offense, but the Broncos chose not to retain him.
Ball will be tasked with moving the chains while also protecting Manning and catching the ball out of the backfield. He seemed to only get stronger as the season wore on, and he will receive a heavy workload in his second year in the league.
Ball lost three fumbles as a rookie, and that is something that can't happen this year. However, if he has fixed that problem, expect him to be a huge part of Denver's offense going forward.
Danny Trevathan, Linebacker
One could argue that Danny Trevathan has already broken out. But if you polled the average NFL fan, most probably couldn't tell you what team he plays for.
That will change in 2014.
Trevathan has blossomed into one of the best young linebackers in the NFL, and in 2013, only 10 players in the league had more than the 129 tackles he posted.
Trevathan is a tackling machine who can also drop back into coverage. He will be aided by the additions of DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward, as well as a healthy Von Miller.
Don't be surprised if a Pro Bowl selection is in his very near future.
Gerell Robinson, Tight End
This will be the third consecutive season in which Gerell Robinson will be in Denver's training camp. Surprisingly, the former Arizona State product has failed to crack the main roster.
That changes this year.
Denver recently converted the former wide receiver into a tight end, and with his athleticism, size and ability to run after the catch, Robinson has the ability to knock Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme down the depth chart—and maybe off the roster.
Robinson has good hands, and he can create mismatches against slow linebackers or small defensive backs. It will be exciting to see him transition into his new position.
Chris Harris, Cornerback
Chris Harris just doesn't get the recognition that he should.
Through his time in Denver, he has been overshadowed by other cornerbacks such as Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Bailey and Rodgers-Cromartie have both left town, and the Broncos have replaced them by paying big money for Aqib Talib and using a first-round draft pick on Bradley Roby.
That isn't a bad thing, quality depth in the secondary is a must in today's pass-happy NFL.
Many people would consider Harris as one of the best nickel defenders or slot corners in the league. That's true, but he's more than that. He's one of the best overall cornerbacks in the entire league, too.
Harris can stick with his man. He has seven interceptions and 32 passes deflected in his career that speak to that.
But he's also an excellent tackler as well. In his three years in the league, he has averaged 66 tackles per year, and though he was injured during the team's postseason run last year, he has been relatively durable, missing just one regular-season game in his career.
Guys like Talib and Roby will get the early publicity, but the best player in Denver's secondary is Harris. After 2014, many more people will know that.