Denver Broncos: Five Players Who Must Step Up in 2013
Denver Broncos: Five Players Who Must Step Up in 2013
By now everyone knows that the Denver Broncos came up short of their stated goal in 2012, and it was a tough way to end a promising season. However the past is the past, and it is time to look forward to 2013.
The goal for the Broncos will not be any different - win the Super Bowl. They have the veterans in place at key positions to walk away with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and those veterans will do their job.
Peyton Manning is going to put up another 4,700 yards and 35-40 touchdowns, and those numbers may actually increase. Manning will be in his second season with the Broncos, and he will be more comfortable. He is also expected to be even healthier with another off-season for the nerves to re-generate.
Manning’s receivers, particularly Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, will also be more comfortable with Manning and should be productive from game one. Thomas could be on his way to being a top-five receiver.
Von Miller will continue to get better in his third season as a pro, and will once again contend for the defensive player of the year. Elvis Dumervil and Wesley Woodyard are going to do what they do, make plays and be disruptive.
The Broncos are set in the leadership positions but for them to take the next step, some of their younger players must step up. Just because they are on this list does not mean they had a bad season last year, it just means it is time to take that next step.
There’s no better place to begin than with the player who is under the most scrutiny, at least from the fans.
Whether fans want to believe it or not, Rahim Moore had a solid second season, but he’s only going to be remembered for the mistake versus the Baltimore Ravens. Moore started all 17 games, including the playoffs, and played well, but now it is time to take the next step. Coming out of college, Moore was known as a ball hawk, but he has only one interception through his first two seasons.
The safety position in the NFL has changed over the years. It is no longer about big hits and intimidation - it is about playing center field and making plays on the ball, that’s why Moore was drafted. The Broncos need to force more turnovers in 2013, and Moore must contribute to that with some interceptions.
At the end of the 2011 season, Quinton Carter was easily the best safety for the Broncos. He missed all of 2012 due to an injury suffered on the second day of training camp, but he should return in 2013. If he can re-gain that form, then the Broncos are set at safety. It is easy to forget about a player when he doesn’t play for a year, and it is understandable why many people are screaming for the Broncos to draft a safety. However if Carter is healthy, they don’t need another safety.
Moore and Carter were drafted two years ago to be the safety tandem in Denver for the next ten seasons, and it is far too early to abandon that plan. Moore is coming off of a decent second season, and Carter is returning from injury. If the Broncos get to where they want to be, then Moore and Carter have to be a big part of it.
Derek Wolfe had an outstanding rookie season, but he can be better. Depending on what the Broncos do in free agency and the draft, Wolfe could be back at defensive end or be moved inside to defensive tackle. The belief here is that he is better suited for the tackle position, and he could be the answer for the lack of a pass rush up the middle.
Regardless of where the Broncos decide to play Wolfe, he needs to continue his development and make more impact plays in 2013.
A lot was expected of Ronnie Hillman in his rookie season, but he struggled to adjust to the pro game. The Broncos love his big play potential and he will be better in 2013. We saw glimpses of what Hillman can do in the loss to the Ravens, as he ran tough inside and showed some of that explosiveness. It’s important to remember that Hillman was the youngest player in the league last year. The biggest reason Hillman saw limited playing time last year was his inability to pick up blitzing linebackers, and that must improve if he wants to play more.
If the Broncos are going to be even better on offense in 2013, then Hillman has to be a factor, especially in the passing game. He can be a factor as a check down receiver or as someone who gets the ball in space versus a linebacker. Hillman has to be better, but the Broncos also need to do a better job of getting him the ball in spots where he can do some damage. It’s way too early to give up on Hillman; he has unlimited potential, and could be a big weapon for Manning and the Broncos.
Nate Irving and Steven Johnson
Unless there is a change of plans, the middle linebacker for the Broncos will be either Nate Irving or Steven Johnson. The two players will battle through training camp for the starting job. Irving was drafted two years ago and hasn’t developed as fast as the Broncos had hoped, but he was fantastic on special teams in 2012. He was drafted to be the middle linebacker for the Broncos and now he is going to get his shot.
Johnson made the team as a rookie free-agent, and the Broncos love his raw ability and instincts. The smart money is on Irving but don’t be shocked if Johnson wins the job - he’s just a football player. The bottom line is that one of these players must step up and win the job, and the Broncos are counting on one of them.
The Broncos are going to be a very good team, and a Super Bowl favorite in 2013. But if that’s going to happen, then the younger players must step up and make a difference.
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