Last season was an odd one for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. After a couple of years where he was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL (Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the top quarterback in 2012 and 2013) but this past season he came back down to earth at the same time that several other quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger comes to mind) had tremendous ones.
Of course as Adam Schefter of ESPN reported after the Broncos were eliminated, Manning was dealing with a torn right quadriceps. Schefter said at the time that Manning had been hurt since a December 14 game against the San Diego Chargers.
So our first concern is Manning because while he should be healthy come the start of this season, he’s not getting any younger and even healthy, his skills have noticeably started to decline. It’s hard to see him rebounding post-injury and looking like he did prior to it. Even before the injury, he had struggled several times during the year.
This year he has lost Julius Thomas to free agency and it seems as if Demaryius Thomas is unhappy with his franchise tender, though he promises not to make waves, per ESPN’s Jeff Legwold. Of course, Legwold also reported Thomas is skipping both the offseason program the Broncos put on and Manning’s workouts at Duke University. On the surface it’s not a big deal, as the quarterback poked some fun at Thomas’ absence with some Photoshop help. However, sessions like this are good for chemistry and while Thomas and Manning have plenty of experience, it shows he’s not happy and that could cause issues.
The Broncos have some issues on the offensive line, with a need at center (though the trade for Gino Gradkowski helps) as Will Montgomery was average at best and Manny Ramirez was plain bad, as well as a big need at right tackle.
There’s also a hole on the defensive line where Terrance Knighton once resided since ‘Pot Roast’ has departed for Washington. That’s going to be a tough one to fill, as Knighton was tremendous against the run. Second-year player Sylvester Williams could be the starter there (he was a first round draft pick two years ago) or the team could draft to fill position as well, as this is a deep defensive tackle draft. It’s a problem though.
The team also lost Rahim Moore in free agency, and Darian Stewart (grabbed off free agency) isn’t terribly exciting.
The Broncos seem to have gotten a little weaker at some key spots. Meanwhile they face some tough opposition this year. The Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers are both tough games on a yearly basis, but the Oakland Raiders might not be pushovers this season. The Broncos also see the AFC North (with Pittsburgh and Cleveland on the road), and the NFC North (with Detroit and Chicago as away games) in addition to Indianapolis, New England and Green Bay.
That’s a tough schedule. An aging quarterback, some holes to fill and a tough schedule makes me very nervous about this Denver team.
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