The Broncos have a lot of improving to do before the season begins. Both sides of the ball need to improve before they can even hope to challenge San Diego for the AFC West. If we play the way we did at the end of last year, we have no chance. In fact, with the division being stronger then it has been in a long time, if we play the way we did last year, we could be at the bottom of the division.
With that being said, I have identified 7 people who need to step up if we want to win the division and go to the playoffs. The players I list are based off of projected playing time, role on the team, and year in the league.
1. Robert Ayers
I think this is the most obvious one. If we want our defense to be in the top 10, Robert Ayers has to step up and play well in his new role.
One of the biggest problems last season was that Andra was one of many who faded down the stretch. He certainly struggled against the run. When Denver cut Andra, a lot of people thought that they were going to go for Rolando McClain. However, now it seems that Denver cut Andra so that Robert could take over the OLB position. With Haggan switching to the ILB position that Andra played last year, there is an open position at OLB. Ayers is being penciled in as a starter. If we are going to compete, Ayers needs to step up. He already has an advantage against the run by being bigger in size. In fact, our entire right half of the linebacker corps is going to be bigger.
Now it is going to be:
Elvis Dumervil D.J Williams Mario Haggan(6 ft 3, 267 lbs) Robert Ayers (6 ft 3, 272)
The 2010 linebackers look to be better suited against the run on paper. We will see how they perform during the season. One thing is for sure, if we want to win, Ayers needs to step up and perform.
I am thinking that a good season for Ayers is something around 50-70 tackles and 5-10 sacks.
Another player you probably predicted right off the bat.
Knowshon was fine in his first year. Not great, but sufficient. If we want to win, Knowshon has to do more. I would like to see his ypc go up to around the 4 area. With Brandon gone, we need to find a new way to move the chains. Marshall was a constant double team. He drew coverage away from everyone else. With Marshall gone, we have to get yards from someone. Relying on two rookie receivers is probably not the smartest thing to do. So if we can't get it through the air, we have to get it through the ground. Knowshon is going to be a big part of our offense this year.
In his first year his stats went like this:
This is what I would like them to look like this year:
My 2010 stats would be a very nice 1 year improvement and would mean that Knowshon is a very big contributor in our offense. Whatever his stats may be, they need to be better then 2009 if we want to win. Knowshon, it's time to step up.
3. J.D. Walton
I feel bad for the guy. He is being asked to straight into the NFL and be a starting center for a team who wants to make the playoffs. It's a tough spot to be in. He can do it, but it's going to be difficult. He doesn't have much time for a learning curve. He needs to step in and not let anyone get to the QB. His scouting reports describe him as nasty and a leader. He was a 4 year starter at Baylor. He needs to step up and be our starting center. I think he can do it.
I picked these 4 because I believe they are the only 4 who are a lock to make the team. Brandon Marshall is gone. We are going to feel the effects at some point this season. These guys need to step up and soften the blow, particularly Royal. Here are last years stats, and the projections for this year.
If all of these were to happen, Orton would have thrown 252 completions for a total of 3.094 yards and 20 touchdowns. That doesn't count any of the other receivers that are going to be on the team. Last year Orton threw 336 completions for 3,802 yards and 21 touchdowns. So it's not totally unrealistic. Then again, that is assuming he is our starting qb. Speaking of which...
Whoever is our QB definitely needs to step up in this coming year. Whether that is Orton, Quinn, or Tebow, they need to step up and perform well if we want to make the playoffs. Last year, Kyle had his best statistical year. However, his lack of an accurate deep ball resulted in teams playing tighter coverage. It hurt us down the stretch. My pick to be the starter is Brady Quinn. I think we trade Orton for a 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th round pick. If Brady wins the QB battle, I think Orton is going to be gone at any cost. If nothing else, McD is a classy guy and likes Orton. He would let Orton go just so he had a fair chance at being a QB somewhere else.
If Quinn progresses well and is leading our team, I can guarantee he will have his best statistical year in the league (Not saying much considering he hasn't had very good years since coming to the league). Whoever our QB is, he needs to step up and play better then Orton did last year. I'm not saying Orton played bad, but there were definitely some areas where he could have played better. Whoever our QB is, I would like to see 20+ td's and 9 and fewer ints.
We drafted him last year in the 2nd round. He has had a year to learn the system. It's time for him to step up. We traded Tony. The other tight end spot is his to lose. He is known as a "blocking tight end". However, he displayed soft hands at the NFL combine and may be a better receiving threat then most people give him credit for. If we want to win, he needs to display his use in blocking and receiving. A successful year for Quinn would be 20+ receptions for 200+ yards and 1 or more touchdowns.
7. Elvis Dumervil
Now, before you yell at me for putting our best defensive player on this list, hear me out. He is a great pass rusher. He is a sack machine. However, he is plain bad against the run. He had just 49 tackles last year. He needs to improve his skills against the run. We were terrible against the run last year and everyone needs to improve, including Doom. Additionally, Elvis needs to be around the same sack level as he was last year. He had 17 sacks in 09. I would like to see 12 sacks at the very least. We need him to sack the quarterback if we are going to win.
There you have it. 7 players who need to step up and perform in 2010 if we want to win. However, it's not going to be easy. It is going to be hard. Realistically, the whole team needs to step up. However, these 7 especially need to step up for us to have a chance at the playoffs. Who do you think needs to step it up?