Excuse the poor formatting, but I thought it would cool to take a quick look at the roster breakdown for 2011 and 2012, and see exactly where we are different and what looks better.
First, here are all the players that made an appearance on the field for the 2011 Broncos, and also Brady Quinn who never saw the field. Names in bold were on the opening day roster, names in italics arrived later.
Now, here is the first cut of our 2012 roster (at least until they swap things around on the waiver wire this week).
OL: JD Walton, Zane Beadles, CJ Davis, Chris Kuper, Manny Ramirez, Philip Blake, Ryan Clady, Chris Clark, Orlando Franklin
Specialist: Matt Prater, Aaron Brewer, Britton Colquitt,
Safety: Mike Adams, David Bruton, Quinton Carter, Jim Leonhard, Rahim Moore
So, what are really the differences? If we remove the players that are on both rosters, then here's what it basically comes down to:
OL 2011: Russ Hochstein, Tony Hills
OL 2012: CJ Davis, Philip Blake
Looks like we got younger. Hochstein definitely had more flexibility and experience, and HIlls was thought to have potential after we snagged him from Pittsburgh. As for existing players - they're mainly young and should be more experienced now. I have to give this to 2011 though just because Hochstein has more in-game experience. There's also a Manning effect here though, which should reduce the pressure on the OL.
WR 2011: Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd
WR 2012: Andre Caldwell, Brandon Stokley,
Sorry, I don't think this is any question... Royal and Lloyd beat these two by a mile. Even if you don't count Lloyd, I think Royal gave us more weapons, and the only thing that is helping us is that Stokley has a mind meld with our QB. 2011 wins it here. The other thing to keep in mind, though, is that Thomas/Decker/Willis are more experienced and better, and the Manning effect will help a lot.
Specialists 2011: Lonie Paxton
Specialists 2012: Aaron Brewer
Our other specialists were already in their prime and should stay steady. This is a pick-'em - give it to Lonie since Brewer is a rookie, or give it to Brewer out of trusting the front office.
LB 2011: Mike Mohamed, DJ Williams, Mario Haggan,
LB 2012: Keith Brooking, Steven Johnson, Danny Trevathan,
When you look at it this way, 2011 looks better because of DJ and Mario. Trevathan should help, but it's an uphill climb to match the quality of our 2011 linebacking corp. Hopefully Mays has improved as the rumors have said.
Safety 2011: Brian Dawkins,
Safety 2012: Mike Adams, Jim Leonhard
Ouch. Hopefully Carter/Moore have improved since last season, but I don't think Adams and Leonhard make up for losing Dawkins.
RB 2011: Spencer Larsen,
RB 2012: Chris Gronkowski, Ronnie Hillman
I think Larsen is better than Gronkowski, but we added Hillman, so 2012 wins here easily.
DL 2011: Derrick Harvey, Marcus Thomas, Brodrick Bunkley, Jason Hunter, Ryan McBean,
DL 2012: Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, Justin Bannan, Ty Warren
Unrein has apparently improved, and we have 40 pounds of Vickermuscle that we didn't have before. Plus, we also have a Ty Warren. I think we've clearly improved on the DL for 2012 - this is probably the most improved position on the team, after quarterback.
CB 2011: Andre Goodman, Jonathan Willhite, Cassius Vaughn,
CB 2012: Omar Bolden, Tony Carter, Tracy Porter
Wow, our only two returning corners are Champ and Chris Harris. I think this is a tough one because I liked Goodman and I think Vaughn is a bit better than Bolden, at least at this point. Still, it's a close one. We didn't really improve so much as shuffle things around.
TE 2011: Daniel Fells, Virgil Green,
TE 2012: Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme
We also had Dante Rosario for most of the season - while I liked both him and Fells, I think our top two are better - plus, we get Virgil Green back in a month. I think 2012 wins easy.
QB 2011: Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn
QB 2012: Peyton Manning, Caleb Hanie, Brock Osweiler
Well, I think most people would agree that Tebow is better than Hanie, and that Quinn would be more ready to step in than Osweiler. But Manning over Orton? Ha! 2012 by a mile.
So, there you have it - clear improvement at QB, TE, and DL, while the rest of the team is pretty unclear. The big question this season? The pass defense. Hopefully our improved pass rush will help, and hopefully Trevathan will help shut some passes down.