The Denver Broncos, a once dominant franchise, have faltered recently and are currently riding a four-year playoff drought, the longest in 34 years.
In particular, the past two seasons have been a rocky ride. With unorthodox roster moves being made left and right, it's tough to predict how the team will perform this season as we no longer know what to expect. What we do know, however, is that unless their fortunes change, there will be change.
I believe that whether or not the team can develop their raw talent at receiver into consistent targets will determine their ultimate success.
Kyle Orton, while not great, played well last year. However, with his two best weapons gone, he will need someone to step up.
Is Jabar Gaffney a legitimate No. 1 receiver? Can Demariyus Thomas make an impact in his rookie season? Can Eddie Royal have a Welker-like impact in the slot? All of these questions will have to be answered with a firm yes if this team wants to win games.
QB Brady Quinn
Quinn, a former first round pick, has been a major disappointment so far. However, he has shown flashes of promise and may be able to develop his full potential.
DE Justin Bannan
Bannann was a solid reserve contributor in Baltimore last year. However, in Denver, he will have to be a full-time starter. Luckily, he has experience as he started fifteen games in '08 as a Raven.
NT Jamal Williams
The Broncos were desperate to add a 3-4 nose tackle, which is why they had to resort to the 34-year old Williams. It's clear that he is no longer the great player he once was.
ILB Akin Ayodele
Even though Ayodele had 71 tackles as a starter for the Dolphins last year, he's a very mediocre player incapable of making a significant impact.
WR Brandon Marshall
It's unfortunate that the team couldn't receive more in return for such a great talent like Marshall. He is one of the top five receivers in the game today, and his big-time play ability will definitely be missed.
TE Tony Scheffler
Scheffler, a productive tight end for the Broncos over the past four seasons, was let go in a puzzling move. I think they will definitely feel the impact of his absence
G Ben Hamilton
Hamilton was benched midway through the season last year. His services won't be missed.
C Casey Wiegmann
Despite being a solid player, he was released due to a blocking scheme change.
DE Kenny Peterson
Peterson did a decent job as a starter last year. However, the team decided to cut ties with him.
ILB Andra Davis
Even though he exceeded expectations, he was surprisingly let go.
1st Round (No. 22 Overall): Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas
1st Round (No. 25 Overall): Florida QB Tim Tebow
2nd Round (No. 45 Overall): Utah G Zane Beadles
3rd Round (No. 80 Overall): Baylor C J.D. Walton
3rd Round (No. 87 Overall): Minnesota WR Eric Decker
5th Round (No. 137 Overall): Oklahoma State CB Perrish Cox
6th Round (No. 183 Overall): Notre Dame C Eric Olsen
7th Round (No. 225 Overall): California CB Syd'Quan Thompson
7th Round (No. 232 Overall): OLB Lajmmie Kirlew
The Broncos made several interesting moves early on in this year's draft. While I understand why they did so, I'm skeptical of them passing on Dez Bryant in favor of Demariyus Thomas. Moreover, drafting Tim Tebow in the first round was the biggest shocker in the draft aside from Tyson Alualu. However, they did a nice job revamping their offensive line.
Josh McDaniels will be entering his second as the Broncos Head Coach. He's faced tremendous criticism from fans so far, and I'm surprised they haven't run him out of town yet. However, the front office seems to have confidence in him. They allowed him to take the reigns and put his imprint on this roster.
Mike McCoy is heading into his second season as the team's offensive coordinator. He has a daunting task ahead and will have to be innovative in his playcalling in order to make up for their lack of proven weapons.
Due to conflicts between McDaniels and Mike Nolan, he was fired as the team's defensive coordinator. Therefore, Don Martindale was promoted from linebackers coach. He will be responsible for building on the success they had last year.
This offense has undergone a major transforomation over the past two seasons.
They traded away their two superstars, and are left with none.
Kyle Orton played well at QB last season as he threw for 3,800 yards, 21 TD, and 12 INT. Of course, they did bring in Quinn and Tebow, so it' still yet to be seen what their future plans are.
As I referenced to earlier, the team lacks playmakers. Even though Thomas, their first round draft selection, possesses good size and athleticism, he is a poor route runner and has questionable hands. Aside from him, their only other real options are Gaffney and Royal.
Moreno, last year's first round pick, had a great start to his rookie campaign. However, he began to struggle towards the end. Moreover, he had some fumbling issues. However, he is a talented running back and his future looks promising.
The offensive line, led by Ryan Clady, will look very different next year. McDaniels decided to make a switch from their zone-blocking scheme to a more traditional power blocking team. The team drafted the pieces to play it, now the question is whether or not they can translate that into on-field production.
Surprisingly, the Broncos' defense played rather solid last year. They transitioned to a 3-4 scheme, and it clearly paid off.
Their defensive line, while not great, should improve. Even though, Williams is 35 years old and coming off an injury, he can still be an effective two-down player.
Alongside him will be Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green, both of whom have had relative success in similar schemes. Overall, they are nothing special but should be able to hold their own.
However, their back seven is very talented. Elvis Dumervil emerged as an elite pass rusher, amassing 17 sacks. Opposite him, Robert Ayers has yet to develop as he struggled, both, in generating a pass rush and in coverage.
In the middle, though, they don't have much. D.J. Williams is talented, yet appeared out of place in the new scheme. Next to him, Mario Haggan and Akin Ayodele will compete for the starting duties.
Their secondary, despite their old age, was a strong group. Corner Champ Bailey had one of the best seasons in his career, and Brian Dawkins proved he can still make plays at safety. Andre Goodman and Renaldo Hill also had solid performances.
I think the defense may take a hit with the loss of Mike Nolan. He's definitely one of the best defensive coordinators in the business.
Matt Prater really improved last year, nailing 85.7% of his field goal attempts. He should continue that success.
Since Mitch Berger was let go, Britton Colquitt will take over as the team's punter. He is yet to take a single punt in the NFL.
Eddie Royal was impressive as a return specialist, scoring once on punts and once on kickoffs. Unfortunately, the coverage unit is not as reliable as they gave up two scores themselves.
RB Knowshon Moreno
Moreno played well for the majority of last season. I think he's a solid No. 2 running back. Be aware of his fumbling issues though (ranked tied for fifth worst among all running backs)
QB Kyle Orton
Orton will be a risk pick. His stats will drop due to the loss of Marshall and Scheffler, and he may not even be the starter.
WR Eddie Royal
Royal will most likely have a bigger role with the offense this year, making it likely he replicates his brilliant rookie season (91 receptions, 980 yards, 5 TD)
WR Demariyus Thomas
He may be a decent late-round option. I wouldn't expect anything great from him yet though.
Week 1 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 2 vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 3 vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 4 @ Tennessee Titans
Week 5 @ Baltimore Ravens
Week 6 vs. New York Jets
Week 7 vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 8 @ San Francisco 49ers
Week 9 Bye
Week 10 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 11 @ San Diego Chargers
Week 12 vs. St. Louis Rams
Week 13 @ Kansas City Chiefs
Week 14 @ Arizona Cardinals
Week 15 @ Oakland Raiders
Week 16 vs. Houston Texans
Week 17 @ San Diego Chargers
The Broncos have a moderately tough road ahead of them. The AFC West and NFC West may seem like jokes to some people, but both have made strides. What really jumps out at me is how after two mediocre opponents, five of their next six opponents are potential playoff teams. Then, after the bye, they play five of their final seven games on the road.
I, honestly, don't think you can expect much from this team in the upcoming season. They are currently undergoing a rebuilding phase which will make it tough for them to post a winning record. They completely collapsed towards the end of last season, and I expect that to carry over.
Final Record: 7-9 (3rd in AFC West)