Denver Broncos: 5 Position Battles To Watch
Denver Broncos: 5 Positional Battles
Coming off a 13-win season, you may be under the impression that there are not many position battles to watch for during the Denver Broncos' upcoming training camp. While the Broncos are formidable in all areas, they, like every other NFL team, have their questions. After a disappointing loss in the divisional round to the Baltimore Ravens, the Broncos vowed to get better, and they have, but they do have some interesting spots in which jobs are still up for grabs.
How are they going to deal with the running game? What about their secondary, which was absolutely torched by Joe Flacco in said playoff loss? The offensive line, which has made headlines all over Denver during the offseason, has many questions. Did Broncos VP John Elway continue to build his roster in the right direction?
Like any contender, Denver has questions. Fortunately for them, the questions are minor. This bodes well for a team that has Super Bowl or bust written all over them. Unlike years past, the Broncos are solidified in the most important positions. There are not any Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow debates. Peyton Manning is the starting quarterback. There are not any questions regarding who will catch the football. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker are your starting wide receivers. We know Vonn Miller will pressure the opposing quarterbacks. Champ Bailey is locked in at one of the corner positions.
These are the “must have” positions on any team looking to win a championship. So, in this regard, Denver looks good. But where can they get better? Let’s take a look at five position battles the Broncos will have heading into training camp. (No were not going to discuss which executive will win out as best power drinker)
No. 5: Tight End
Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen are the incumbents, but watch out for Julius Thomas, who turned heads during the teams OTAs. Thomas has battled injuries during his short time in the league but looks to become a factor in the Broncos' already potent passing attack. “It’s impossible for a quarterback not to complete passes to him,” said Manning, gushing about Thomas’ potential after one of the offseason practices.
No. 4: Middle Linebacker
Gone are the days where the middle linebacker was the lynch-pin of a defense. Nowadays, the middle linebacker is on the field for roughly 40 percent of the plays as the league continues to focus more on the passing game. This does not mean it’s no longer an important position, just less so than in years past.
The Broncos have said all offseason they intend to give 2011 third-round pick Nate Irving a long look in training camp. Irving certainly has the athletic ability to succeed in the middle, but with only a handful of snaps on defense in his career, the special teams standout will have to show his worth when it counts.
No. 3: Defensive End
With the fax snafu that landed Elvis Dumervil in Baltimore behind them, the Broncos will be watching closely during camp to see if anyone can help fill the big shoes he left behind. I see this becoming one of the more interesting camp battles across the league, as the Broncos have many options.
They could insert former first-round pick Robert Ayers in the spot. Ayers is much better against the run than he is rushing the quarterback –- maybe he plays on rushing downs only. Denver used a draft pick on Quanterus Smith from Kentucky. Smith made it on many scouts radar after his three-sack game against Alabama last season. Smith has all the tools needed to become a force, but he is battling knee problems that may hamper him.
The Broncos also signed Shaun Phillips away from the San Diego Chargers in hopes he can learn to play with his hand on the ground. Phillips is no stranger to opposing quarterbacks, but he is learning a new scheme and battling age.
No. 2: Safety
Rahim Moore’s gaffe in last year's playoff loss to Baltimore aside, Denver would really like to improve the back line of the secondary. Thing is, Moore is not really the problem. You can pencil him in at free safety.
The Broncos questions lie at strong safety, where Cleveland Browns castoff Mike Adams played a season ago. Adams is savvy and serviceable, but the Broncos want more. Denver officials can only hope Quinton Carter recovers from his knee problems -- which kept him out all of last season -- quickly enough to be a factor this summer.
The Broncos also signed former Charger Quentin Jammer to compete at safety, although he has played the majority of his 11-year career at cornerback. David Bruton has also turned heads during OTAs and remains a wild-card.
No. 1: Running Back
With the departure of Willis McGahee, the Broncos backfield is as wide open as it has been in years. Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno will all compete for the starting gig.
Moreno has the most experience of the three and is the best of the bunch and pass protecting, something that is very important in a Manning-run offense, but he may still be relegated to third string. Hillman looks to become Denver’s change-of-pace back, while Ball will probably get the majority of the carries.