The Broncos enter 2015 with uncertainty on so many levels. Was Peyton Manning’s atrocious form in December and January a direct function of the quad injury suffered in a week 15 game in San Diego or is #18 simply a shadow of his former self?
Sadly, as a Broncos die hard, I lean towards the latter. The reason for this is that Manning looked poor dating all the way back to the defeat in St Louis, and was playing badly even before the supposed injury occurred. To put things plainly, I think the window is still open for Manning to win a second superbowl ring, but only if he’s willing to take a back seat and guide us there rather than putting the whole gameplan on his arm. Three of the top four receivers from the 2013 record breaking offense are no longer with the team, and even if Cody Latimer does break through it’s hard to see Owen Daniels creating the same mismatches from the tight end position that Julius Thomas was able to exploit the last couple of years, and that’s ignoring the biggest issue on the team. Our offensive line was porous last year, and we’ve lost two of the better starters since then. Ryan Clady suffered a torn ACL during mini-camps and is out for the year, whilst Orlando Franklin has defected over to division rival San Diego.
The line will consist of – from left to right – rookies Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia, second year man Matthew Paradis, stud Guard Louis Vasquez and journeyman Ryan Harris, who is in his third stint with the Broncos. All of these players project as good scheme fits in the Gary Kubiak offense, but it’s easily the most inexperienced line Manning has ever played with. Two of our top four draft choices were used on day one starters on the offensive line, whilst Paradis was a 6th rounder in 2014 and spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
The offense will largely return to a run based zone scheme that worked so well in the Mike Shanahan days. CJ Anderson will be the bell cow back and has the talent to establish himself as one of the best in the league, whilst Ronnie Hillman should see some success using his pace to run at tired defenders late on in games. 2013 draft pick Montee Ball has struggled with ball security in the past and simply wasn’t as explosive as Anderson and Hillman last year, but will be given an opportunity to earn playing time as part of the rotation.
On the defense, it could be the best D that Manning has ever played with. We’ve transitioned to a 3-4 and that suits all of our front 7 guys, none more so than Von Miller who I fancy to win the defensive player of the year award. In the back end, Chris Harris Jr and Aqib Talib are two of the best corners in the league, and with Wade Phillips calling the shots we have a chance at a top 3 overall defense.
Prediction: Our talent should see us win the division with a 10-6 record, however we’re likely to come undone again when faced with a trip to Foxboro or Indianapolis in the postseason.
You can follow die-hard Broncos fan Daniel Mackie @danz026.