6 Biggest Areas of Concern for Denver Broncos Heading into Training Camp
The Denver Broncos had a magnificent season in 2013—all except for one game.
Peyton Manning set individual records for passing yards and touchdowns, while the team set a record for most points scored in a season.
They return with their sights set on the Super Bowl, and every player on the team likely shares the opinion of cornerback Chris Harris, who recently called the season "Super Bowl or bust," per ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold.
The Broncos have the team to get there and should be every bit as good as they were last year, but they have some things to be concerned about.
Heading into training camp, the Broncos' concerns center around whether some of their key players can bounce back from injury as well as whether the thumping they suffered in New York to close the season taught them any lessons.
Here, we will dive into each of these concerns and determine how the Broncos should approach them.
Depth at Running Back
The Broncos should look to emphasize the running game more in 2014 so Peyton Manning doesn't have to put up NFL-record numbers as the offense becomes a little more balanced.
Second-year running back Montee Ball will see a huge increase in his touches, but he can't shoulder the load by himself.
Last season, the Broncos got an excellent contribution from Knowshon Moreno, who became the first player in Denver history to rush for over 1,000 yards and have over 500 yards receiving in one season.
But the team allowed him to walk via free agency, and on top of that, they chose not to find a suitable replacement. Instead, the team has nothing but question marks behind Ball.
They certainly aren't ready to give up on 2012 third-round draft pick Ronnie Hillman, but his ball security needs to have improved for him to have any chance of seeing more playing time than he did last year, which wasn't much.
C.J. Anderson looked good in the preseason opener last year, but he needs to show much more before he is moved into the spot of No. 2 running back on the depth chart.
Aside from Hillman and Anderson, the team has three undrafted rookies who will be looking to make an impact.
The Broncos probably don't care which of these players step up to take on an important role within the offense in 2014, but one of them needs to separate himself from the pack and show the coaching staff that he can be trusted.
Each running back behind Ball should be given ample opportunities in camp and preseason, regardless of their tenure or draft position.
The Health of Chris Harris
The Broncos may have ended the season of their division rival, the San Diego Chargers, in the playoffs last year, but it didn't come without any casualties.
Chris Harris suffered a partially torn ACL during that game and was lost for the remainder of the postseason. But that was only six months ago.
Harris is supposed to be available for the season opener, but the Broncos need not rush him. He is an important piece in the grand scheme of things and should not come back until he is 100 percent.
The Broncos may be best on defense this coming season when Harris, Aqib Talib and first-round draft pick Bradley Roby are on the field at the same time.
Harris is not only one of the best defensive players in Denver, he is quietly becoming one of the best defenders in the entire league.
Hopefully, his injury doesn't have any lingering effects in 2014.
Peyton Manning Getting Hurt
Through two full seasons in Denver, Peyton Manning has yet to miss a game. In fact, you can count on one hand how many hard shots the opposing quarterback has taken.
That is a testament to how good the offensive line has been in protecting him as well as the coaching staff for providing a game plan that keeps Manning away from trouble.
Still, the question of "What would we do if Manning gets hurt?" has probably been in the back of every Bronco fan's mind for the past two seasons.
The idea of having to turn to a quarterback that has never thrown a meaningful pass as a professional makes it even more worrisome.
Although the Broncos have been excellent in steering Manning away from trouble, it only takes one shot to change all of that.
As proficient as Denver was on offense last year, defensive coordinators will be spending countless hours trying to find a way to put pressure on Manning. If they pop in game tape from the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks, they'll likely find some tips.
Denver must stay focused and relentless as a unit in protecting their franchise quarterback. A serious injury would derail the entire season.
Can Von Miller Bounce Back?
Most people will read that question and answer it with a resounding "yes," based mainly on the fact that Von Miller has been so good through the early part of his career.
Let's all hope that 2013 ends up being the worst year of Miller's career, but whether he returns to his dominant form is all on him.
Last year, Miller missed time due to a league-imposed suspension and an injury. As a result, the Broncos played most of the season without their best defensive player and still made it to the Super Bowl.
Miller will have to overcome all of that in 2014, establishing himself once again as one of the league's premier defensive players.
On the field, the Broncos should have little to worry about. However, it is off the field where Miller could burn them and all his fans if he doesn't clean up his act.
Miller's legal matters have mostly been traffic related, but his attempt at cheating the NFL's drug-testing program last year should not be so easily swept under the rug. He was probably lucky to only receive a six-game suspension.
Going forward, Miller needs to keep his nose clean and let his play on the field be the only reason he gets headlines.
Will the Team Be More Physical?
In last year's Super Bowl, the Broncos found out how important it is to be the physical aggressor. Seattle lined up and punched Denver in the mouth, and that set the tone for the entire game.
On paper, the Broncos appear to have made the necessary moves to remedy this. The signings of T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib should allow them to be much more physical in the secondary.
But it also needs to happen up front, specifically with the offensive line. Yes, the offensive line will need to make sure Peyton Manning is wearing a clean jersey at the end of the game, but they also need to line up and push people backward in the running game.
If the Broncos are able to do this, it will change the way the rest of the teams in the league perceive them.
Because of the way Seattle has built its championship team, many teams in the league would love to be able to copy that model. The Broncos actually have the pieces to do it.
Will There Be a Super Bowl Hangover?
After the record-breaking season the Broncos had in 2013, it wasn't supposed to end with a 35-point defeat in the Super Bowl—but it did.
It was a scenario no expert predicted, but the Seattle Seahawks thoroughly dominated the Broncos in all facets of the game, demoralizing them and all of their fans.
It would be tough for any team to come back from that, but the Broncos need to close the door on that season and use it as fuel to motivate them to return to the big game once again.
The team appears to have done that, using "35" as a rallying cry this year.
The team will also be battle-tested by the time the playoffs roll around this season, having to face each team in the NFC West—including those same Seahawks.
The Broncos will be fighting a bit of NFL history as well, as no Super Bowl-losing team has returned to win the Super Bowl the following season since 1972.
That team just happened to be the Miami Dolphins, and they went undefeated.
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