When outsiders think of the 2013 Denver Broncos, they likely think of the two high-profile players added in each of the past two offseasons in free agency.
Combined with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, the passing threat the Broncos pose might be one of the NFL's all-time greatest. It is generally accepted that the Manning-led passing attack is the greatest strength of this Broncos' team, on paper.
(Or, on magazine cover).
A close look suggests other aspects of the team might be nearly as strong as its passing offense. These Broncos aren't Super Bowl co-favorites because they have one strength - they draw from many strengths. Their roster is deep from top to bottom.
Where does their next-greatest strength lie? Here are the options.
I would argue that the Broncos' greatest hidden strength is their pass defense, led by returning stars Champ Bailey, Chris Harris Jr., Von Miller, and the defensive expertise of coordinator Jack Del Rio. The addition of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the emergence of safety Duke Ihenacho look to be potential improvements to Denver's secondary as well. Finally, this is a team that was historically good at getting off the field on third downs last year; with another year under Del Rio, that should continue.
The Broncos just paid their punter a lot of money to continue to be a weapon for this team - the Broncos are intent on winning the battle of field position every game. And they have the tools to do it. For all of his inaccuracies a year ago, Matt Prater is still a touchback machine, and the Broncos definitely have a weapon in the return game in playoff record-setter Trindon Holliday.
Denver's rush defense only allowed 91.1 rushing yards per game last year - 3rd best in the league. Before you start arguing that Denver's pass offense actually served as a decent run defense last season, benefiting from teams having to pass to catch up on Denver's big leads, let's refer to Football Outsiders. Denver's -18.1% rush defense DVOA was 4th best across the NFL. The addition of Big Hog Terrance Knighton in the middle and a sterling competition at middle linebacker could even see this unit improve further.
This unit heads into the 2013 with too many unknowns for me to consider it a strength, but it has potential. If you do see it as Denver's greatest hidden strength, please justify it in the comments!