Potential. That's arguably the greatest aspect of the NFL offseason. No matter if it's through the draft, free agency, or offseason activities, NFL fans have so much reason to be excited about the coming season because their team is undefeated, and no matter how cynical you are, there has to be some sense of optimism among the fan base.
So is the case with the Denver Broncos, fresh off of an AFC West title and signing probably the best free agent of all time. I don't know about everybody else, but I am more excited for this season than most, because the Broncos have something that they've really not had since the mid-late 1990's, which is a proven superstar quarterback capable of taking over games.
But lost in the quarterback shuffle in Denver is the continued defensive makeover, which is an area of this team that has gone largely ignored up until John Elway and John Fox took over as the leaders of the organization. Since last year's draft, the Broncos have added quite a few young defenders, and have also added some older veterans into the mix. Here are some offseason matchups between players and positions that I am really intrigued by on the defensive side of the ball this offseason.
The Broncos have a really intriguing battle about to happen at the safety position with Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter, and Mike Adams going after two spots. I don't think Mike Adams has anything locked down, but the Broncos certainly didn't want to go without getting a veteran at the safety position this offseason. Rahim Moore was benched as a rookie, and Quinton Carter struggled at times but looks like he has some upside.
These guys are all really hard workers, and the competition should only help them, but as fans of the team, we'd obviously like to see our young guys develop sooner rather than later, meaning the tandem of Carter and Moore would be the ideal starters in an ideal world, but I think that based on last season, the starting safeties will be Carter and Adams.
An interesting name to watch in these offseason battles is rookie undrafted free agent Duke Ihenacho, who was at one point considered one of the top safety prospects in the country. He has very good closing speed and has great anticipation. I'm not sure why he was undrafted, but I think he has a shot at making the roster and cracking the rotation as a young guy.
We all know Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter are likely to be the starters, but I love the depth the Broncos are building at the cornerback position. A mixture of injuries and lack of talent prompted the Broncos to throw undrafted rookie Chris Harris into the mix last season, but he has proven that he is more than worthy of a roster spot for his ability to play the nickel cornerback position as well as safety at times, which he played in college.
This offseason, the Broncos also added veteran Drayton Florence, who really upgrades the nickel and dime defensive packages. He will be a very solid addition to the defensive backfield, as will 2012 draft pick Omar Bolden.
Bolden is coming off of a season-ending injury that he sustained prior to the 2011 campaign with Arizona State, but he is a playmaker and a guy who can contribute in a variety of ways. Between those five guys, it looks like Denver has at least eight spots in the secondary locked up between Bailey, Porter, Florence, Harris, Bolden, Carter, Moore, and Adams.
I could see up to 12 spots being used in the secondary, but likely only 10 or 11 will be taken. Since I've only listed three safeties above, I think David Bruton will also make the roster (though he seemed to be on the cusp last year), and I hope that Syd'Quan Thompson and Coryell Judie also make the roster.
Thompson is coming off of a torn Achilles injury, which is going to be really tough to come back from, but he has a knack for making plays and I think he brings great dept hto the secondary. Judie is a guy who could potentially return kicks and punts, and he has great raw ability. He will be a candidate for the practice squad if he doesn't make the roster right away.
This is the position battle that I'm probably the most intrigued by. The Broncos have used quite a few picks on the linebacker position the last two years, between Von Miller, Nate Irvin, Mike Mohamed, and Danny Trevathan.
D.J. Williams is facing a suspension to start the year, and Wesley Woodyard will likely start in his place, and right now, the two other starting linebackers would be Joe Mays and Miller. Mays re-signed with the Broncos this offseason, but they maintain that they have high hopes for Nate Irving, who didn't see hardly any time last year at linebacker.
Irving was a high third round pick, so I have high expectations for him. He needs to come out in training camp and in the pre-season and win the inside linebacker job.
One interesting name to watch for is 2009 undrafted free agent Cyril Obiozor, who signed with the team in the winter. Obiozor has bounced around the league from Green Bay to San Diego, then to Arizona. Obiozor is from Texas A&M where he played defensive end and he will play a similar "joker" role for the Broncos, who really don't have anyone who plays that position on the roster other than Miller.
There are a ton of individual position battles on this team that I'm encouraged about, and this is a really brief look into them, but it's something we can get more in-depth into as the offseason progresses.