Fact or Fiction for Denver Broncos' Biggest Offseason Question Marks
After getting to the Super Bowl last year, John Elway opened the checkbook to marquee free agents T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware, thus declaring a Super Bowl or bust season for the Broncos.
This means the Broncos are going to get their opponents' best shot in most of the games they play this year.
Before that happens, the Broncos have several questions that need to be answered.
Like most teams, Denver faces questions of players returning from injury, players shifting positions and finding the right player to fill certain roles.
But the Broncos also face a question that no other team in the NFL will deal with this year: how will they respond after their loss in the Super Bowl?
Here, we take a look at some of the more pressing questions in Denver and determine what is fact and what is fiction.
Fact: Quinton Carter Will Make an Impact in 2014
Safety Quinton Carter has missed most of the last two NFL seasons, and many fans may have forgotten he's still with the team.
But with that said, Mike Klis of The Denver Post reports that Carter saw plenty of reps in OTAs, an encouraging sign for the former fourth-round draft pick.
The Broncos added veteran T.J. Ward in the offseason, but there is plenty of room for Carter to make an impact on the team.
The Broncos and fans alike were anticipating seeing Carter become one of the league's best young safeties, but that hasn't happened. However, it still can.
The Broncos haven't held onto him for this long for nothing. They know they have a very good player. If he can stay healthy, he could be a major weapon on defense.
Fiction: The Broncos Need a Dominant Middle Linebacker
For years, the Broncos have been sorely missing a physical leader in the middle of their defense.
Middle linebacker figured to be one of the first things the team addressed this offseason, but they focused on other players in free agency, and when a linebacker didn't fall to them in the draft, they didn't reach for one.
Mike Klis reports that Nate Irving has the inside track to become the starting middle linebacker in 2014, but Denver fans shouldn't worry about who will end up in that position because of another move the team made this offseason.
That was the move to acquire free-agent safety T.J. Ward.
Ward will give the Broncos the physical presence they need on passing downs, dropping down from his safety position to cover the middle of the field and put a body on tight ends and slot receivers that have given Denver issues over the last couple of seasons.
If Irving can help the team slow down the run, that will be good enough for this defense.
Fiction: Von Miller's Health Will Be a Concern
Von Miller is coming off an extremely disappointing season that was marred by an injury and a six-game suspension.
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold (h/t Chad Jensen of predominantlyorange.com), he may not be able to suit up for the team in the season opener. That's fine. The Broncos should not be in any rush to get him back on the field.
Denver will want Miller at 100 percent for the critical part of the season.
Coming off the year he had should be enough to motivate Miller, who is still one of the league's best defensive players. But the addition of DeMarcus Ware can make Miller even more dangerous.
The Broncos hope that having both of them on the field at the same time will be too much for the opposition, and when both players are healthy, they have all the ability to be that and more.
Look for a huge year from Miller, one that could even net him the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Fact: The Offensive Line Will Need to Be Even Better in 2014
This season, the offensive line will have to change to a more traditional, smash-mouth line that opens holes for the running game and pushes people around. And of course, protecting Manning will be a key objective.
Mike Klis reports that Orlando Franklin is not paying any more attention to what his critics say and is settling in at his new position at guard.
For Denver, one of the biggest priorities they will have in training camp is finding the best fit at right tackle.
The primary battle figures to be between Chris Clark and Winston Justice, but the team also selected Michael Schofield out of Michigan in the third round of the draft, and he will get his chance as well.
Clark did a good job filling in for Ryan Clady at left tackle last season, but he is not guaranteed the right tackle spot. It will be a serious battle to watch in training camp.
Fact: Depth at Running Back Is a Concern
This is something Denver fans will hear ad nauseam this offseason, but it is a valid concern until someone steps up that isn't named Montee Ball.
The Broncos are obviously very satisfied with Ball's ability, but he won't be able to be on the field every single snap.
That means C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman needs to solidify himself as the team's go-to guy when Ball comes out of the lineup.
It's hard to trust Hillman after the ball security issues he exhibited last season, and Anderson has just not been tested at this stage in his career. However, he does have tremendous upside as a power runner.
Aside from that, it would be a huge bonus if one of the players the Broncos signed as an undrafted rookie could show enough to make the roster.
Both Kapri Bibbs and Juwan Thompson are very good candidates to do just that.
The Broncos should rely much more on the run this season than they did last year, or even the year before that. They will need three or four players to make that happen.
For Ball, the biggest question surrounding him entering his second year has nothing to do with him carrying a football. Can he protect Peyton Manning?
Every fan in Denver sure hopes so.
Fiction: The Broncos Will Not Be Affected by NFL History
The Broncos were crushed in Super Bowl XLVIII by a score of 43-8. They've had to stomach that defeat for nearly five months. But it's time to get past it and use it as a motivator for this season.
The number 35 is one every member of the team should be very familiar with at this point. After all, they are using it to drive them going into 2014.
The Broncos will not have history on their side going into this season, as Jeff Legwold pointed out following the Super Bowl.
Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins went back and won the Super Bowl the year after losing it, and that was part of their undefeated season.
For the Broncos, getting back will be tough. Winning it will likely be even harder as they will have to face a tough NFC opponent.
But this Broncos team will be hungry. They have added quality free agents that could make the defense one of the best in the league.
The offense won't miss a beat with Peyton Manning and the bevy of weapons he has around him.
On top of that, they also face all four NFC West teams in the regular season. Those four games will help prepare them for what they could face later in the year.
History changes all the time, and if any team can match what the Dolphins did over 40 years ago, it's these Broncos.
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