Denver Broncos: 3 Positions They Could Bolster During Training Camp
Yes, the Denver Broncos roster looks about as perfect as can be entering training camp.
However, the Broncos, like all other teams, aren’t perfect. They also are, like all other teams, susceptible to damaging injuries during training camp and during the regular season. Teams without quality depth aren’t going to survive in the long run.
The Broncos have depth, but they could stand to improve it in some areas. But where do they need the most improvement?
Five-time MVP Peyton Manning is clearly not a question mark for the Broncos after throwing for 55 touchdowns in 2013. However, the depth behind him is a bit shaky.
Rookie Bryn Renner, sophomore Zac Dysert and third-year quarterback Brock Osweiler are the candidates for the backup quarterback job. All three have limited experience.
Osweiler has put up decent numbers as a backup, posting a fairly average 84.1 passer rating and spectacular 68.8 completion percentage in 2013. However, he also led the Broncos to a mere three points against the Oakland Raiders in the second half of Denver’s Week 17 game. According to The Denver Post, he's done a solid job during training camp, but he's also struggled a bit during other offseason activities.
He has little experience, while free-agent veterans like Kyle Orton have ample experience.
Sure, Orton struggled a bit as a starter in Denver. He was the starting quarterback for most of Denver’s 4-12 year in 2010, but he’s still a capable backup. He posted an 87.5 passer rating in 2010, which would be phenomenal for a backup. Signing him on the cheap could come in handy for Denver, which, according to OverTheCap.com, still has a bit of money to play with.
Orton would be able to pick up the playbook quickly from experience playing with John Fox in 2011, and he would likely be intrigued by playing for a championship contender.
The Broncos want to develop Osweiler, but they need to prioritize winning now. At this point, Orton or another qualified backup (such as Kevin Kolb) would give them a better chance to win than Osweiler would.
If Manning suffers a short-term injury, Orton could step in and help the team remain in contention. It might be worth giving him a chance if the Broncos don’t feel confident in Osweiler’s development during training camp.
The Broncos added two starting-caliber cornerbacks during the offseason in Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby, and the two will complement underrated star Chris Harris in the secondary. However, a team can never have enough quality defensive backs. Kayvon Webster and Tony Carter are mediocre backups, and there are still available cornerbacks on the open market.
Asante Samuel is old at 33, but the former star could bring much-needed veteran leadership. Talib, the oldest of the cornerback bunch at 28, is a newcomer in Denver, with legal issues having clouded his past. Adding Samuel could help the defensive backs stay in check, and it could give the rookie Roby, who also has a checkered past, a mentor.
Samuel could also help on the field, though. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he posted the eighth-best opponents passer rating as recently as 2012.
Terrell Thomas is another available corner, one who has had success in the past. Injuries have plagued him, but he might be worth a flier as a low-risk, high-reward option.
The bottom line is that Carter, who has received deplorable marks from Pro Football Focus, and Webster, who also didn’t grade out highly, are below-average players who were pressed into action a lot last season. Unless an undrafted free agent steps up, the Broncos could lack quality depth at the position. Replacing one current corner (almost certainly Carter) with a more capable, veteran player could serve the team well.
Montee Ball, who had an average of 4.7 yards per carry last year, has been mentioned frequently as a breakout candidate for 2014. However, he, in addition to Denver’s other running backs, is unproven.
Third-year back Ronnie Hillman is the most seasoned running back, and his roster spot isn’t guaranteed.
C.J. Anderson, who ran for 38 yards on seven carries and did a good job in the preseason (69 yards on 15 carries against the stout San Francisco 49ers defense), is an option for Denver’s backup job, but he also isn’t a sure thing.
Personally, I think Anderson, who has been putting up remarkable numbers since college, is a reliable backup. However, having veteran leadership and a proven player is never a bad thing.
Adding someone like Isaac Redman or Michael Bush (who has 29 career touchdowns) could serve the Broncos well. Ball is penciled in as the starter, but bringing in a proven veteran to compete with unproven players could serve the team well from a production and a mentorship standpoint.
Many expected the Broncos to shore up this potential issue earlier, but they haven’t. They might not do anything to stabilize the position, but if they’re not satisfied with Hillman (which could happen) or the undrafted free agents they signed, they could bring someone in soon.