NFL Denver Broncos

Five Unsung Denver Broncos That Have Gotten Them to the Playoffs

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There is More to the Broncos Resurgence Than Just Manning

Ron Chenoy-USA Today Sports

Ever since the spring, much has been said of the signing of Peyton Manning that has now looked like the best steals of all-time if you are a Denver Broncos fan. John Elway clearly had a vision of the way to set up this team on all sides of the ball, and so far, everything he has done has brought them to an AFC West division title.

Each week, it is evident that while Manning directs this team to win after win and is clearly the leader, it has been a full team effort to get them to 10 wins. Many players have come together and filled roles that easily could have become detriments to the team and kept them as mediocre. While Manning, Elway, Willis McGahee, Von Miller, Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil may get most of the recognition, there are those that have stepped up and become a force that has given Head Coach John Fox the flexibility and assurance when setting the lineup.

Many have said that the Broncos are now the class of the AFC even though the Houston Texans have the best record and the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens are both on top of the standings. But without these five players, it might have been more difficult to protect Manning, stop opposing offenses, and set themselves above the rest of the AFC West.

So this article is not about Manning being an MVP, or Miller a defensive MVP or even Bailey as a shut down corner. This is about the names you do not recognize game in and game out, but are the ones who have stepped up and helped just as much as anyone has to get this Broncos team into the playoffs.

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Veteran Center Acquisition Pays Off

Jake Roth-USA Today Sports

On September 11th, the Denver Broncos front office had the foresight to sign a veteran center that had the privilege of dishing snaps to future Hall of Fame QB, Tom Brady. Dan Koppen was a solid center for years in New England, and the signing payed off as J.D. Walton broke his ankle and was put on season-ending IR.

The Broncos might not have been as stout on the offensive line if either C.J. Davis or Manny Ramirez were starting in Walton's place. What Koppen has done is merely solidify the line with a veteran presence that resonates throughout the younger players. With Ryan Clady and when G Chris Kuper is healthy and playing, the line is the best in the NFL. Koppen may not get a lot of recognition, but this piece to the Broncos puzzle has been well placed and may even be the key to keeping Manning healthy and progressing each week.

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Rookie DE Has Been Solid

Ron Chenoy-USA Today Sports

Everyone knows Elvis Dumervil. The name Mitch Unrein has suddenly emerged in the papers. Even Kevin Vickerson gets some notice from time to time. Throughout the game, the announcers will mention rookie DE Derek Wolfe, but outside of the broadcast, not many know his name. They soon will.

While Wolfe may not be the prolific pass rusher that Dumervil is, he is stout at the line and does the little things well that allow Elvis and LB Von Miller to do their damage. Every rush, forced fumble, sack and disrupted play will usually have Wolfe in the mix. For a rookie, he will only get better, and John Elway must be satisfied that another draft pick has worked out very well. Wolfe's athleticism and tenacity has given Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio peace of mind to just call his plays and rely on Wolfe and the rest of the defense to execute.

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The "Other" Corner Has Played Great

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA Today Sports

Second year CB Chris Harris was nothing more than a back-up after the preseason. In 2011, he had his moments but usually looked over-matched and lost on some plays. Talk about a complete turn around for a player that was supposed to be watching Tracy Porter almost every play.

With Porter missing a lot of this year with symptoms related to seizure, Harris has not only been starting in his place, but we might not even see Porter in a Broncos uniform again because of how well not only Harris is playing, but Tony Carter as well. Harris has covered the field opposite Champ Bailey as well as anyone could have imagined recording 2 INTs, 10 passes deflected, and he even has 2.5 sacks on the year.

I am not sure if Carter alone could have filled the void left by Porter, but Harris has allowed the Broncos defense more flexibility in becoming one of the league's best. Teams keep testing him because of bailey on the opposite side, and Harris keeps coming up big. He is a huge reason the Broncos are at 10-3 and looking for a solid run into the playoffs.

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Another Veteran That Stepped Up Huge

Kelley L. Cox-USA Today Sports

The Broncos linebacking unit was the biggest question mark coming into 2012. With D.J. Williams suspended for nine games, Wesley Woodyard having to start consistently for the first time, and young players such as Danny Trevathan and Steven Johnson backing up, nobody knew what to expect. Then the injuries began to mount with Nate Irving getting a concussion and Joe Mays breaking his ankle and put on season-ending IR.

The signing that actually transformed the linebackers into a complete unit was Keith Brooking. Say what you will about Brooking, he's old, he's this and that, but his play calling and veteran presence has been a huge boost for younger players such as Von Miller and Woodyard. Brooking may not show up every game in the stat sheet, but he is not needed to rush the QB or simply stop the run. He is the commander-in-chief on the field and is respected amongst his teammates. While Mays might have been a better than average Mike LB, Brooking's intangibles have made this unit the strength of the Broncos.

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Two-Headed Monster Moves the Chains

Chris Humphreys-USA Today Sports

I understand that this is an article about five players not named Manning that have helped the Broncos into the playoffs, but these two represent the two-headed monster that has made the biggest difference on offense. So they should be considered one player because it doesn't matter which one is on the field, the result is the same.

TE's Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme may not be as good as the Patriots Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but they do exactly what the Broncos need: move the chains and score TDs. In the Broncos offensive scheme, Coordinator Mike McCoy and field general Peyton Manning can spread the ball and know that at dire times, one of these two will get open. Their blocking abilities and sure hands are assets that the Broncos needed to give Manning an opportunity to succeed in Denver.

While most of the throws go to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, nobody can argue the fact that 7TDs and over 700 yards between these two are not needed. Without these two on the field, Manning and the offense has a more difficult time moving the chains and might not have gone as far as they have.