The Denver Broncos will look to improve upon their 4-12 record from a season ago. Kyle Orton will be at Quarterback after a much publicized and dramatized QB battle with second-year player Tim Tebow. With that position settled for now, let's take a full look at the quarterback situation and also see which veterans maintained their starting spots and which new faces won out in training camp.
The most talked about position battle in the NFL has been the QB competition between Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow.
Kyle Orton has landed the top spot in the most widely publicized position battle for any team. Orton has been named the starting quarterback for the first preseason game.
Analysis: Orton has outplayed Tebow during the preseason, and some believed Tebow may have fallen as low as three at the QB position. Brady Quinn wrapped up third, with rookie Adam Weber behind him. This was to be expected despite the Tebow faithful’s cries for him to start. It appears that for now Tebow will continue to learn and Orton will be given the shot to start, as long as he can win (or show that he is better than Tebow or Quinn).
Long-Term: Orton will be on a short leash and if he is unable to produce victories, look for Fox to try out Orton’s backups.
Knowshon Moreno will be the starter, however, he will be sharing significant time with the newly acquired Willis McGahee, who has been brought in to complement Moreno.
Analysis: Ranking Moreno number one on the depth chart indicates that he will most likely get the bulk of the carries. However, expect to see McGahee in the mix as well. McGahee has been especially valuable in the red zone, a place where the Broncos have been miserable for several seasons. A notable name way down on the depth chart is LenDale White, who is listed among the “others.” This indicates that unless his play warrants more time on the field, he may be released as the Broncos finalize the roster.
Long-Term: Moreno will be the number one running back for the Broncos this season (barring a major injury), with McGahee backing up and coming in, in key situations where they need a first down or in goal line circumstances. Expect White to be cut.
Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal sit atop the depth chart at wide receiver. It is no surprise to see both of these players as first team starters.
Analysis: Hopefully, Royal can bounce back from a couple of disappointing seasons after his breakout rookie campaign. Matthew Willis has moved up the depth chart with the injury to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who has continually improved since coming to Denver last year, looks to back up Royal. In three receiver sets look for Matthew Willis to line up opposite of Lloyd, or maybe one of the receiving tight ends, such as Julius Thomas lining up opposite Lloyd to offer a powerful, big receiving target.
Long-Term: Brandon Lloyd’s spectacular play in McDaniels system in 2010 has earned him the top spot at wide receiver (with good reason, he was a pro-bowler in 2010). When Demaryius Thomas is healthy, look for him to rise up the depth chart. Several of the back receivers such as David Anderson look to fill roles on special teams, covering punts or kick-offs, or on the hands team.
Daniel Fells has been named the starting tight end despite big competition.
Analysis: It’s surprising since a lot of print recently has been dedicated to buzz around training camp that rookie tight end Julius Thomas has generated. However, Fells appears to be similar to last year’s starter, Daniel Graham who was a big blocker, used as an extra tackle, with limited pass receptions. As a blocking tight end, Fells is definitely the best of the bunch. One of the things that stands out at tight end is that last year’s backups at tight end, Richard Quinn and Dan Gronkowski sit at two and three on the depth chart. Dante Rosario, a player John Fox coached in Carolina is listed among the other backups at fourth string, and last on the list is Virgil Green.
Long-Term: Fells will most likely remain atop the Tight End depth chart, but with the coming games the backups might be shifted around. Rookie Virgil Green will likely spend much of the season on the practice squad. One or two of the other backups (Quinn, Gronkowski, Rosario) will make the final team.
Coming off of a mediocre season that began with an offseason knee injury, Ryan Clady says he feels 100% coming into the 2011 season. That's very good news for Kyle Orton, who was sacked 34 times last season in only 13 games. Also, coming back for their second seasons is LG Zane Beadles and C J.D. Walton, both of whom will benefit from the run-minded John Fox's offensive schemes. Chris Kuper has beat out the aging Russ Hochstein at RG, and the rookie RT Orlando Franklin rounds out the starting offensive lineman in the Broncos first depth chart.
Analysis: Clady remaining healthy in 2011 will be key for the offensive line to succeed in 2011. He will keep QB Kyle Orton clean and healthy. The others besides the rookie Franklin should continue to grow and pick up where they left off last year. However, last year at times they appeared overmatched against opposing defenses.
Long-Term: John Fox needs to find out if this offensive line is what he needs to get the run game going for the Broncos in 2011. If they cannot generate running lanes, forcing Orton to throw as much as he did last year, it remains to be seen if Orton can handle another barrage like he endured last year, and remain in the line up. The offensive line has more question marks than answers and must prove they can get it done, or else an overhaul on the offensive line will mark 2012, much like the defensive line marked 2011.
Elvis Dumervil is a special talent. He will immediately improve the defense as he comes back in 2011. Last year's pectoral muscle tear is long behind him and he has already started harassing offenses, including a Tebow-led first team offense in an inter-squad scrimmage at Invesco Field. Across from him is Robert Ayers, who was converted to a linebacker in the 3-4 defense with little success last season.
Analysis: Dumervil will make a huge impact for the Broncos in 2011. He will regain the form of just two years ago when he had 17 sacks and drove offensive coordinators mad with his quickness and harassment of opposing quarterbacks. He's a beast and will be complemented by Robert Ayers, who is still growing on defense. Newly acquired backups Jeremy Jarmon (from the Washington Redskins) and Derrick Harvey (from the Jacksonville Jaguars) find themselves as backups with the Broncos former backups, Jason Hunter and Jeremy Beal, behind them.
Long-Term: As long as Dumervil is healthy he will be a starter for the Broncos. However, Ayers will likely face more competition for his starting spot. Hunter and Beal are fighting to remain on the team and have their work cut out for them.
Brodrick Bunkley, one of the Broncos latest additions, has seized the starting position over the other newbie Ty Warren at nose tackle. Also, Kevin Vickerson looks to have held on to the starting position over free agent pick-up Marcus Thomas, who played for the Broncos last year.
Analysis: Ty Warren hasn't had much time yet with the Broncos, so at this point, fans have little reason to worry. Warren will be ready for the opening of the season. For now, Bunkley appears to have caught John Fox's eye, he has moved past two of last year's tackles—Ryan McBean and Louis Leonard. Expect Thomas to stay behind Vickerson who has also garnered attention from his new coach.
Long-Term: It will be a battle for the starting nose tackle position between Warren and Bunkley. Continue to monitor this development. Likely McBean or Leonard will be released by the Broncos as Fox added Warren and Bunkley.
No. 2 overall draft pick, Von Miller was considered by most one of the best bets of the 2011 NFL draft. The Broncos went after him and they are hoping that their bets pay off. Miller will start at strong side linebacker to complement Elvis Dumervil rushing the quarterback. Beside him in the linebacker positions are Joe Mays at middle linebacker, and D.J. Williams at weak side linebacker. Combined this is an exciting group with a huge upside.
Analysis: Expect Von Miller, combined with Elvis Dumervil on defense to bring quarterbacks to their knees. There will be little to no time for opposing quarterbacks to make plays and find open receivers, every play they are going to have one or both of these guys in their face. Joe Mays stood out last year for the Broncos on defense as a leader and a guy with heart. He will lead the defense. D.J. Williams is very explosive and can make tackles in the open field. He has consistently been a stand out on defense for the Broncos.
Long-Term: Mario Haggan appears to be the odd man out on defense. He figures to see some time, but not as much as he did last season in the 3-4 defense. Wesley Woodyard too looks to be on the outside looking in. However, expect them both to make contributions on defense since it is a long season, and there are bound to be injuries. Several other players new to the team acquired in the draft or among undrafted rookies figure to be projects for Fox on the practice squad.
Last season, the Broncos brass made a deal with Champ Bailey to keep him around for the duration of his career. It was a great move. The aging veteran seems to put out dominating seasons year after year. Expect the trend to continue in 2011, especially with the upgraded pass rush. Across from him is the less consistent Andre Goodman, whose season was cut short by injuries throughout the year.
Analysis: The Broncos have a great group of cornerbacks led by two proven veterans. Behind those veterans there are a handful of unproven, young guys looking to learn and grow. Nate Jones and Cassius Vaughn back up Goodman and Bailey respectively, and are solid cornerbacks. Perrish Cox is a wild card, who may face league punishment for off-field legal issues he faces. Syd'Quan Thompson is a speedy, exciting talent which may contribute the most on special teams. He's listed as the backup punt returner.
Long-Term: Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman do not figure to be going anywhere in the near future. Cox might find himself with a lengthy suspension, which could mean the Broncos release him. The backups of the backups may land on special teams, or on the waiver wire. Vaughn is listed elsewhere on the depth chart as the starting kick returner.
Brian Dawkins recently re-worked his contract with the Broncos to remain in Denver. It appears he will be the short term answer at strong safety. The bigger news is that Rahim Moore, the rookie free safety, is projected to start in 2011.
Analysis: Darcel McBath and David Bruton, who both saw time in the line-up in 2011, are listed behind the rookie Moore. Neither is likely to be released for depth at the position, but Moore's rise to the top likely indicates a keen interest that head coach John Fox has in Moore's potential at free safety. Young talents Kyle McCarthy and Quinton Carter will backup Dawkins in 2011 and probably learn quite a bit from Dawkins' intensity and strong personality.
Long-Term: Barring injury, Rahim Moore projects to start alongside Dawkins at safety. There will most likely be some growing pains but with a lot of upside. It appears that if it works out the Broncos may have found their free safety of the future in Moore.