It may be safe to assume that the Denver Broncos have largely improved their chances for a Super Bowl run after another stellar offseason from executive vice president of football operations John Elway. The signings of WR Wes Welker, G Louis Vasquez, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were important, but not nearly as effective as bringing in DT Terrance Knighton.
In order to argue this fact, we can look back at the 2012 NFL season, determining the areas of need for the Broncos to improve in order to advance further towards their championship goals.
It is difficult to say that a team that boasts two 1,000 yard receivers with 23 touchdowns amongst them, to go along with a slot receiver and two tight ends that recorded almost another 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns would need a player like Welker. This signing was a fashion statement that will undoubtedly help keep the chains moving and the double-teams nonexistent. Yet, for all intents and purposes, the Broncos didn’t really need Welker. But anytime you take away from a conference rival, it turns into a win-win situation.
The only thing better than taking away from a conference foe, is straight stealing from a divisional nemesis. The Broncos acquired G Louis Vasquez, arguably the best offensive lineman in free agency this offseason. By signing Vasquez, Elway takes away the San Diego Chargers only quality lineman. Talk about a win-win.
Vasquez will undoubtedly help the Broncos in the pass rush and hopefully replace an oft-injured Chris Kuper. The injury concerns across the line made this signing a need, while allowing the first and second round focus in the draft to angle in on a running back or pass rusher. But even a patchwork offensive line in 2012 was stellar and protected their commodity: Peyton Manning.
We all collectively gasped when Rahim Moore allowed Jacoby Jones behind him to tie the game in the playoffs. While stats will prove that the Broncos had one of the best secondaries in 2012, the signing of Rodgers-Cromartie gives defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio the opportunity to stretch the defense by having Chris Harris play the inside on their nickel package. The Broncos were third in pass defense in 2012, and it will not be difficult for them to match that this season, but Rodgers-Cromartie has been an underachiever his whole career and the jury is still out.
In Knighton, the Broncos were able to add a bulky, 330 lb. run stuffer to compliment the re-signing of Kevin Vickerson. The inside of their line will be stout and fill a void the team has seemed to missed the past few years. While Denver may have been third against the run in 2012, that is a bit deceiving due to the fact at how good Harris and Champ Bailey were in the backfield.
Shutting down the corners allowed the Broncos to get extra help in the run from the linebackers and safeties. With Knighton, this defense can spread out even further, hopefully avoiding future gaffes that happened against the Baltimore Ravens.
In years’ past, the Broncos did not have two big bodies in the middle of their line that were anchors. In 2011, the Broncos allowed opponents to rush for over 100 yards 14 of 18 games. In 2012, they reduced that to only four games with a 91.1 average. This was the biggest area of need because of the exposure in the playoffs by the Ravens. Ray Rice was able to pace his runs and move the chains which allowed Joe Flacco to find the seams in the secondary and connect on the long pass. If the Broncos are able to limit the touches by Rice and co. then the secondary may not have the problems and last season ends differently.
So while most would believe it was Welker to make the big splash, I beg to differ. Welker was the equivalent of walking the red carpet with Kim Kardashian. She’s beautiful with a great body and will make you look a hell of a lot better than without her. But Knighton can be likened to Katherine Webb, the anti-Kardashian. Not only does she have the same attributes as Kim, but will actually make you better, not just look better. That is why, in my opinion, Knighton has been the best signing for the Broncos this offseason.
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