With the skill player acquisitions made during the 2013 off-season, the Denver Broncos showed a desire to give Peyton Manning additional weapons to work with and turn what has been a franchise with a defensive focus to one with a greater degree of balance between the two sides of the ball.
The loss of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller due to a six-game suspension for violating the NFL‘s drug abuse policy, what would have been a luxury for Denver to have offensive and defensive balance, suddenly becomes a necessity for the offense to be the focus.
Assuming that the loss of Miller somehow turns the Broncos from a favorite in the AFC — and prohibitively, a favorite to make it to a Super Bowl for the first time under head coach John Fox — to an also-ran or a middle-of-the-pack team is overkill. Miller has a dynamic presence on the field, no doubt, but his loss in no way cancels out the additional production the offensive unit will provide for Denver.
Manning arguably has the most lethal trio of receivers in the AFC at his disposal in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and newcomer and first-tier slot threat Wes Welker. The Broncos will continue to search for a reliable option at tailback — something that has always been a foregone conclusion in the Mile High City — but between Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball the production will be good enough to provide decent balance.
If one wants to argue that Miller’s loss somehow affects the overall picture for Denver, the attention should instead turn to veteran linebacker Shaun Phillips, whose ability to play different positions will now be more important than ever in a unit that will need some guys to quickly rise to the occasion.
Stewart Bradley and Nate Irving could just as easily be asked to occasionally play out of position to add depth to the middle linebacking slot abandoned in the short-term due to Miller’s absence, and their ability to be productive both in natural and unfamiliar alignments will speak volumes.
In the background, each of these guys will have new, increased expectations that wouldn’t have been present if Miller was roaming the second-level on opening day. Their teammates on the offensive side of the ball, however, have just a tinge more pressure on their very capable shoulders to light up the scoreboard day in and day out through the season’s first-third to make sure what promises to be a great season for the Denver Broncos isn’t derailed by the temporary loss of a single star.