Whether Broncos fans like it or not, Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback in Denver. Whatever deficiencies or faults that fans believe him to have are not enough to keep him from being the best option to squeeze the most out of this offense.
Notice the choice of words there. Orton may squeeze the most statistically out of this offense as is possible, but statistics don't always win games. (See Kyle Orton the last two seasons for reference.)
Hopes are cautiously high in Denver, and in some cases for good reason. An improved defense and running game should pay dividends for Denver. Will that help Kyle Orton match or exceed his output from seasons past?
The first, and most obvious, reason to assume that Orton will at least match his output from last season is that he will have more games in which to do it.
When a player gets named the starting quarterback we must assume that barring injury the player will start all 16 games. Of course, nothing is that simple in Denver, but let's pretend for a second that it will be.
The team does not really show signs of being worse than last year's squad. In fact, it appears that the team is progressing slightly ahead of schedule, especially on defense. So if that trend continues, it is not crazy to think that the team will NOT find themselves in a position where the season is totally lost.
Armed with that belief, it is logical that Kyle Orton will remain the starter for the duration of the season, making 3,500 yards-passing very attainable.
It could be too soon, but it might be time to jump on the bandwagon and drink the kool-aid on Thomas. If you can forgive his lack of zest in the run-blocking arena, which hopefully picks up, then Thomas is going to be a great rookie.
Kyle Orton had two very good seasons in the passing game and he did it without a serious pass-catching threat at tight end both seasons. Daniel Graham has his merits, but never earned his contract money in the passing game.
Thomas is going to add a new wrinkle to the Broncos passing attack that was already fairly potent last year. Don't be surprised to see Thomas have an immediate impact in the red zone and help Orton get back to 20 TD tosses this season.
One of the great mysteries of the last two NFL seasons is how Kyle Orton became regarded as an above average play-action passer, when the Broncos never struck fear into any team with their rushing attack?
That mystery aside, John Fox is out to prove that the Broncos are committed to running again. If that ends up being true, Orton will now have an actual running game to compliment his play-action ability.
There might be some who see an increased focus on the run as a hindrance to Orton's ability to achieve lofty stats in passing, but that is not so. While it is true that Orton's total attempts might be down from last year, what will go up are his quality attempts. Orton will no longer have to try and squeeze the ball into tight coverage and risk tips, deflections, or passes defended if the running game is doing its job.
Look for the running game to help Orton's completion percentage get back over 60 percent this season, despite the fewer attempts.
Even though there is improvement, this is still a team that went 4-12 last season. With teams like Green Bay, New England, New York, San Diego (twice) and others on the schedule, the Broncos are going to be playing from behind.
The only difference might be that if the team really is improving, then experts won't look at the stats as garbage stats if the Broncos aren't too far behind these teams. In some cases, Orton might even play valiantly and lead the team to the precipice of a few upsets.
If he wants to win over fans, this will be the one area where he can do it. Orton needs to shake the reputation of shrinking when the game is on the line, and only gobbling up stats when the game has long since been decided.
If the other parts of the team come together, then he might have the opportunity to be the reason that the Broncos steal a few games against heavily-favored opponents. If he is unable to do that at all, and the team shows signs of being able to win these games with the right presence at QB, the Tebow fires might be stoked.