An in depth look at "PLAN A"

The first week of OTAs is over and that September 9th Sunday night match-up against the Steelers is creeping closer and closer. Everyone is trying to figure out what this team is going to look like on that night. You have your haters/pessimists/etc that think that Peyton Manning is going to get hurt for the season in pre-game warmups or that our roster is so bad that even he can't help us. As far as Manning's health, if you haven't seen metalman's write up, do yourself a favor and check this out. Peyton Manning is not anymore likely to get hurt than any other QB this year. As far as the roster goes, this is really what the post is going to be about....

When Peyton Manning chose to sign with the Denver Broncos, almost everyone pointed to John Elway as the sole reason for his decision. While I am not going to downplay Elway's importance in convincing number 18 to don the orange and blue next year, I will say this; Peyton Manning is not going to choose where he will finish his legacy based on a friendship. Peyton Manning is possibly the most studious player to EVER play in the NFL. The 2 weeks leading up to his decision, I assure you, he was watching game film of all of his potential suitors. When Peyton Manning signed with Denver one thing was assured; this roster is capable of a deep playoff run. Now I will finally get to the roster.


Peyton Manning is the QB of this team, I'll leave it at that.


Willis McGahee is the primary RB going into the 2012 season and he has definitely earned it. I actually like our stable of RBs going into this season. Everyone knows that we drafted Ronnie Hillman in the 3rd round, but first I want to talk about 2 RBs that we already have on the roster, Knowshon Moreno & Mario Fannin.

I know what most people think about Knowshon and up to this point they are right. He has not lived up to the #12 overall pick. The real issue with Knowshon has been health. The (what seems like) 10 total minutes of his career that he has been healthy have actually been solid. If by some miracle he can be healthy for a change, this offense with Manning is going to be perfect for him. I know that's a big if, but the window isn't shut on him yet.

Mario Fanin is a guy that can come in and be the best RB on the team. He has a rare combination of size (5'10" 235 lbs) and speed (4.37 seconds in the 40 yard dash). The big knock on him is the fumbling, which you can not get on the field if you put the ball on the ground. The good thing about fumbling, you can coach to correct it. Everyone remembers Tiki Barber's fumble issue, after some good coaching he was all better. I'm not saying this kid is going to come in and take the starting job or even make the team. I'm only saying that if he does, it won't shock me at all.

Ronnie Hillman has been a hot topic since he was drafted. I don't know what to expect from him because I don't know too much about him. If he is cut from the same cloth as Darren Sproles, I like his chances to come in and make plays for this offense. It will be interesting to hear what people say about him during training camp.


I have heard some people say "Peyton Manning will have no one to throw to in Denver" and that makes me sick. Maybe I'm in the minority but I LOVE our WRs. We have 2 young guys in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker that will only be in their THIRD year this year. I would say that they both had very solid seasons last year and that came from Orton and Tebow. Just imagine what they can accomplish with one of the best QBs to ever play the game!

I truly believe that Mr. Demaryius Thomas is going to make the Pro Bowl this year. This guy is has great size, great hands and if you want to know if he is fast, go play the film of that playoff win against the Steelers this year. If you play fantasy football, don't forget his name when you go to draft your team.

Eric Decker is also going to become a household name this year. He filled in very nicely as a No. 1 WR after Lloyd was traded and while Thomas was still recovering from his Achilles injury. He has great size and great control of his body. He was a third round pick in 2010 but most people forget that he slid in the draft due to injury. Expect big things from him as well as Thomas this year and beyond.

Andre Caldwell is a guy that isn't going to "wow" anyone. He is a good WR and he will makes some plays for us this year. Peyton Manning makes players like that look a lot better than they are, he will be a factor for us. After Caldwell, the depth at WR definitely drops off so we sill need to stay relatively healthy at WR. The good news is we brought in some solid TEs....


Jacob Tamme and Joel Dressen were brought in as free agents after Manning signed. We also have the 2 young men drafted last year, Julius Thomas and Virgil Green. While we don't have an absolute game breaker at tight end, we now have solid talent, experience and depth at the position.

Tamme and Dressen will see most of the work and with Peyton Manning slinging the rock, they will be difference makers in the offense. The both aren't freakish athletes but they have high football IQ and they know how to make plays.

Orange Julius Thomas and Virgil Green will mainly be around for depth as they continue to develop. This will be their first NFL offseason, so expect improvement but not miracles. Green will be more ready to see playing time while Thomas is still more of a project.


I wanted to talk about the group as a whole before I go into each position. A lot of people seem to think that the O-line was poor at pass protection due to the high number of sacks given up. I think you need to go back and watch some of the work this group did last year. Tim Tebow usually had great pass protection, but he couldn't read defenses and he held the ball for far too long. That is going to lead to sacks no matter who you have on your O-line. I promise you that Peyton put that film on and realized that these guys can give him plenty of time to pick defenses apart. As I said earlier, everyone credits Elway for getting Manning to Denver. Well I credit our offensive line just as much.


Ryan Clady is an All-Pro and I expect him to have another great year. Orlando Franklin really came on a lot stronger than I expected as a rookie. Everyone knew he could run block and he did not disappoint, some of his run blocks were like poetry in motion. What he really does not get enough credit for is his pass protection. I'll admit that it wasn't pretty to begin with but he improved a lot during the season. He was responsible for protecting Tebow's blind side because Tebow is a left handed QB. Defenses try to attack the QBs blind side, so Franklin was tested much more than typical right tackles. While he wasn't superb, he did a great job under the circumstances. He too will be going through his first real NFL offseason and I expect him to make a big jump this year.


I believe Chris Kuper has been one of the best guards in the league. He is coming off of that nasty injury but he is also expected to have a full recovery and to be ready for camp. I expect him to continue to play at a high level. Zane Beadles is a young man entering only his third season. The former second round pick has been a starter almost his entire pro career. While he isn't an Pro Bowler, he is a solid starter. If he can build on the season he had last year, he is going to be just fine.


This is the weak link on the offensive line. J.D. Walton had a decent year last year but he is going to need to work his tail off this offseason because Peyton Manning is going to expect a lot out of him. J.D. Walton was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft, so he is still pretty young. He has started every game since coming into the league. This will be a make or break year for him and I fully expect him to rise to the challenge.


Aside from Peyton Manning and Willis McGahee, this offense is very young. While they are also young they are also very experienced. I expect this offense to be good for about 3 TDs and 2 FGs every game, 27 points a game for you folks that aren't mathematically inclined. That should be more than enough to get the job done on most weeks.

Now let's look at the other side of the ball, the men who will have the responsibility of protecting Peyton Manning's leads.


Our weakest link on defense for many years now, defensive tackle is still a question mark. We have old timers Ty Warren and Justin Bannan, we have rotational vet Kevin Vickerson, former free agent rookie Ben Garland and 2 rookies in Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson (Jackson will also play defensive end).

With Justin Bannan, we know what we're getting, a solid run stuffer who is a liability in passing situations. He will be sufficient in running situations. Ty Warren is a wild card this year. He is coming in having missed the last 2 seasons due to injury. Now there are a 2 things that could happen; 1. He is injury prone and he won't see the field yet again due to injury. 2. He finally stays healthy and actually earns some of that money he has made the last 2 years. If he is healthy, missing the last 2 years could actually be good for him. Two NFL seasons puts a lot of miles on the body of a big man in the trenches. He is only 31 and if he can stay healthy and benefit from missing 2 years of NFL pounding, he can be a solid fit to a position of need.

Kevin Vickerson is a solid contributor, not a superstar by any means but he is dependable. Another wild card is Ben Garland. A lot of people had high hopes for this young man but because of his obligation to the U.S. Air Force, he had to leave the game for 2 years. I don't know what he can do, especially after his time away, but I know to never count out a guy that is willing to die for his country.

Derek Wolfe is going to be that guy that comes in on 3rd down to get to the QB. The thought of our front four on passing situations puts a big grin on my face. Von Doom on the outside with Wolfe and Ayers/Jackson on the inside, QBs will have nightmares about our pass rush. Derek Wolfe is another guy that people questioned in our draft. I watched some film on him and LOVED what I saw. High motor guy who lives in opposing backfields, what's not to like? As far as Malik Jackson, he is a DE/DT tweener. He will probably rotate at DE on 1st and 2nd down and then rotate at DT in passing situations. This is a guy with a very high ceiling, I expect our staff to utilize him in ways that set him up to do great things in this defense.


We all know what Elvis Dumervil brings to the defense. I don't think I need to tell anyone how good this guy is. On the other side you have Robert Ayers, a first round pick in 2009. His first two season were basically wasted trying to convert him to an outside linebacker in a 3-4. This guy is a pure defensive end. Last year was his first year back at his true position and I think he had a pretty good year. I really think he is poised for a break out year this season, but even if he doesn't break out I expect him to be a solid contributor.


Von Miller was a home run with the #2 overall pick last year. He was recently voted as the 52nd best player in the NFL by his peers coming off of his ROOKIE season. In addition to playing outside linebacker, he will also put his hand on the ground in passing situations. He should be the anchor of this defense for years to come.

There will be competition at MLB between veteran Joe Mays and second year player Nate Irving. While I expect Mays to win the battle, I still like Irving's chances to over take him at some point. Mays is solid veteran who won't "wow" you with his play but he knows how to play the position. You could do worse at MLB than Joe Mays. Nate Irving is another player that missed his rookie offseason due to the lockout. While first round talent like Cam Newton and Von MIller can usually overcome that, the later round guys are the ones who suffer. Guys like Nate Irving, Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter should benefit immensely from getting a real offseason this year. Don't sleep on Nate Irving.

D.J. Williams is currently set to miss the first six games of the year. He is suing the league to get his suspension overturned but we will proceed as if he will miss those games. In his place will be the captain of our special teams, Wesley Woodyard. The guy is a tackling machine, I am sick about hearing about his size, the man knows how to tackle. I would have to double check but if I remember correctly, Woodyard was leading the DIVISION in tackles at one point early in the season last year.


Champ Bailey.

We really upgraded our CB position through free agency and the draft this year. Like everyone else, I knew Tracy Porter from his big interceptions during the Saints' Super Bowl run in 2009. What I didn't realize is that HE IS ONLY 25! Swapping out a 33 year old Andre Goodman with a 25 year old Tracy Porter is a huge upgrade.

We also signed savy veteran CB Drayton Florence. Florence was drawing a lot of interset from other teams but he saw Denver as a team that was ready to contend. He will play primarily as a nickel CB. He can also play outside in a pinch if he is needed there. I really like this signing, in the modern NFL you need to have depth at CB and Florence provides that.

Undrafted CB Chris Harris was very solid for us last year. He will be competing with Florence for that nickel spot this year but I expect him to see the field a lot especially against pass happy teams like New England.

Omar Bolden is a guy that has huge upside if he can stay healthy. The rookie CB from ASU provides depth and he also has the luxury of developing behind Champ Bailey. He should make an impact on special teams as well.


Safety is a position that should be improved this year as well. I fully expect Quinton Carter to nail down the Strong Safety spot after a solid rookie season. At Free Safety there will be competition between veteran Mike Adams and second year player Rahim Moore.

As I said earlier Moore and Carter should really benefit from their first true NFL offseason. With that being said, Moore had better bring it because Mike Adams is not going to just let him take that starting Free Safety job. I am excited to see how that position battle plays out.


The defense has a very nice balance of veterans and youth. I expect the defense to take another big leap in the second year of John Fox's system. Throw in a defensive guru like Jack Del Rio and there is no reason to not have very high expectations of this unit.


We actually have one of the better special teams units in the league. Matt Prater has been consistent at anything inside of 60 yards but he also has the leg to give you a chance at something a little bit longer. On kick offs, it's almost an automatic touchback.

Britton Colquitt is a solid punter, hopefully he is not needed too much this year though.

One other thing I want to talk about is our schedule. Even the people who think the Broncos are a contender argue that our schedule is too tough. Based on last year's records, we have the second most difficult schedule in the league. What people don't realize is that we have the exact same schedule as every other AFC WEST team with the exception of 2 games.

Denver's 2012 schedule

6 AFC WEST Division games

4 AFC NORTH games

4 NFC SOUTH games

1 AFC EAST game (Patriots)

1 AFC SOUTH game (Texans)

San Diego's 2012 schedule

6 AFC WEST Division games

4 AFC NORTH games

4 NFC SOUTH games

1 AFC EAST game (Jets)

1 AFC SOUTH game (Titans)

Oakland's 2012 schedule

6 AFC WEST Division games

4 AFC NORTH games

4 NFC SOUTH games

1 AFC EAST game (Dolphins)

1 AFC SOUTH game (Jaguars)

Kansas City's 2012 schedule

6 AFC WEST Division games

4 AFC NORTH games

4 NFC SOUTH games

1 AFC EAST game (Bills)

1 AFC SOUTH game (Colts)

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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