C Coming off a less than stellar 7-9 season, the Broncos have added some new faces, shaken up the coaching staff, and switched some players around. Hoping now that last year's off-field issues are behind them, the team looks to make drastic improvements. Here are seven reason that Broncos will be better this year.
1. A Healthy Jay Cutler—One of the biggest headlines lately has been Jay Cutler’s sudden diagnosis with type 1 diabetes. While it was an initial shock and could prove to be a distraction, Broncos fans should be excited to see what a healthy Cutler can achieve.
He has already been an above average quarterback throwing for nearly 4,500 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first 21 games. This all despite losing 35 pounds and playing through abnormal fatigue in the ’07-’08 season.
Now with a much stronger line in front of him, and an upgraded set of receivers, Cutler’s proper blood sugar levels could make all the difference. Given the additional help, if Cutler can handle the pressure and spotlight that will accompany his playing with diabetes, we might see him take his game to another level.
2. Revamped O-Line—The Broncos badly needed to bolster their offensive line, and they did just that when they selected Ryan Clady with the No. 12 pick in the draft. While some fans might have been less than pleased, Clady will have an immediate impact as a starter, playing in a zone blocking system much like that at Boise State.
The Broncos desperately needed to give Jay Cutler some help, and now with the return of center Tom Nalen and guard Ben Hamilton, the O-Line should be much improved, greatly boosting both Denver’s run and passing attack.
3. Marcus Thomas and Dewayne Robertson Inside—Without a doubt, one of the Broncos’ weakest points last season was its run defense, starting with the middle of the D-line. Toward the end of the season, Thomas came on and began to show why the Broncos took the risk drafting him in the fourth round. The signing of a proven defensive tackle in Dewayne Robertson, combined with Thomas’ maturity, should provide a solid foundation in the middle, one that was clearly lacking last year.
4. Running Backs—For a few games last season, Travis Henry rose to expectations and showed how his one-cut, no-nonsense running style could fit well in the Denver scheme. However, he quickly exhibited how his injuries and off-field problems could prevent him from ever returning to his once imposing self.
This opened the door for Selvin Young, the rookie out of Texas, who excelled at times, and proved he could carry the rock with a respectable 5.2 yards per carry. Denver has always been effective at grabbing talented backs in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, and this year was no different as they selected Arizona St. running back Ryan Torain in the fifth round. He is surrounded by question marks since he was injured midway through his senior season, but he is the north-south runner that has the ability to shine in Denver’s system.
5. 'Baby T.O.'—The Broncos' receiving corps was severely depleted following the retirement of Rod Smith, and Javon Walker’s whining his way out of town (fittingly to the Raiders). Now all eyes have turned to Brandon Marshall to fill the gap and emerge as Cutler’s number one target. Assuming he can ditch his childish antics and get healthy, ‘Baby T.O’ has the potential to have a monster year.
Brandon Stokley showed last year that he can be a consistent threat in the slot, and with the offseason additions of veterans Darrell Jackson, Keary Colbert, and Samie Parker, the Broncos have strengthened the WR position and added much needed depth and experience.
6. DJ Back to the Weak Side—Despite dominating performances in his first few years at weak-side linebacker, DJ Williams turned out to be less effective replacing Al Wilson in the middle spot. Now he’s back to the weak-side where he played so well. This means that the Broncos will be able to get more out of Williams, but at the same time leaves big holes to be filled by two newcomers in Niko Koutouvides in the middle and Boss Bailey outside.
7. Eddie Royal's Returning—During the ’07-’08 season, the Broncos' return game was virtually non-existent. Mike Shanahan obviously recognized this as a pressing need by drafting Eddie Royal, the return man out of Virginia Tech, who displayed an impressive 14.7-yard average per return as a Hokie. Royal will enter Dove Valley with especially high expectations, since not only was he the team’s second pick, but DeSean Jackson was still on the board.