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Denver Broncos are loaded with talent, especially on defense - Horse Tracks

It's a kind of day and today it's all about the best players in the NFL and how many of them don the orange and blue in 2014.
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Orange Crush returns?

I’ll probably be ready at the beginning of training camp, but I probably won’t do anything until mid-training camp. -Chris Harris Jr.

The Denver Broncos suffered mightily on defense last year, losing two of the three defensive players PFF listed in their Top 101 players in the NFL before the Super Bowl last February. It's no wonder the Seattle Seahawks were able to put up 40+ points that day. It did help that Peyton Manning and the offense could never find rhythm due to the stellar defense on the other side. Perhaps we will be blessed with another chance in February of 2015.

With Chris Harris Jr. on schedule to return healthy, along with Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Derek Wolfe and Kevin Vickerson, the Broncos defense could become what it should have been in 2013. Dominant. Especially with the addition of Bradley Roby, Aqib Talib and Demarcus Ware. Jack Del Rio could not be happier with the gifts John Elway has provided this year.

Loaded with talent

For those who love DVOA, cough Seahawks fans cough, we should all celebrate that the Denver Broncos are loaded with talent according to Their Top 101 players should equate to roughly 3 players per team given all this parity we have, right? Wrong...

100. T.J. Ward, SS

Ward would finish 2013 as our third-ranked safety overall, but our voters clearly felt it was a bigger priority for safeties to excel in coverage. That is why Ward, who had the highest run defense grade of any man at his position, saw others overtake him here. That’s not to say Ward was poor in that area with his +4.8 coverage grade indicating he more than held his own covering the shorter and intermediate areas, just that it wasn’t his specialty.

Best Performance: Week 15, CHI @ CLE, +4.6

Key Stat: 29 defensive stops in the run game were five more than any other safety.

68. Von Miller OLB

The crazy thing about Miller? He got this high just playing in nine games, that’s how good he was in those games. Missing the early part of the season through suspension and late part through injury, it was all about Weeks 7 to 16 for the Bronco who still picked up his customary best grade for a 4-3 outside linebacker thanks to his fantastic pass rushing and impact plays against the run. His explosion off the snap and ability to get off blocks (and often avoid them altogether) makes him as destructive a player as there is in the league.

Best Performance: Week 12, DEN @ NE, +11.7

Key Stat: Picked up 41 quarterback disruptions in just nine games.

64. Chris Harris Jr., CB

The Broncos were dealt a severe blow when Harris went down halfway through the Divisional Playoff victory against the San Diego Chargers. They lost their best and most versatile cover corner who was having another stellar year. With the rare ability to cover outside receivers on early downs and switch to defending the two-way release of slot weapons in nickel and dime packages, Harris earns a repeat spot on this list.

Best Performance: Week 1, BAL @ DEN, +3.3

Key Stat: Allowed just one reception for every 10.9 snaps in slot coverage. Seventh-best of all cornerbacks.

53. Demaryius Thomas, WR

An explosive playmaker, it’s no surprise to see Thomas make this list again even if he has dropped a few places. The NFL leader in yards gained on wide receiver screens, while finishing behind just two others when it comes to go-routes, there’s no denying that Thomas excels when it comes to making the big plays. Four times he took the ball more than 50 yards while finishing with a receiver best 14 touchdowns. Explosive.

Best Performance: Week 10, DEN @ SD, +3.8

Key Stat: Picked up 706 regular season yards after the catch. The most of all wide receivers with his 7.7 yards after the catch per reception also the joint highest.

50. Terrance Knighton

When you look back at the 2013 free agent market, you won’t find many people who look at the signing of Knighton as one of the big moves. A big talent who struggled to consistently show it in Jacksonville, he went to Denver and, after a decent enough start, really exploded into life the second half of the season before taking his game to another level in the postseason. His work against New England was some of the finest in his career as he really proved an every down terror. Too physical for linemen at the line of scrimmage and too quick when it came to getting into the backfield, Knighton became the player he had the potential to be.

Best Performance: Week 16, DEN @ HST, +6.9

Key Stat: Graded positively in all bar 4 games in 2013.

45. Louis Vasquez, OG

Finishing the year our top ranked right guard, Vasquez more than proved worth the money the Broncos invested him in the 2013 offseason. Giving up just 12 combined sacks, hits and hurries all year, Vasquez was a big asset for Peyton Manning while also earning the ninth highest run blocking grade of all his peers. He achieved these with sheer consistency, with just two negatively graded games all year.

Best Performance: Week 12, DEN @ NE, +5.3

Key Stat: His 98.4 pass blocking efficiency score was the third best score of all offensive guards.

3. Peyton Manning, QB

It didn’t end with the Super Bowl he coveted, but it did end with the highest grade of any quarterback in the league (+43.3) once again. Manning didn’t have his best game in the Super Bowl, but it was one of only five negatively graded games all year and it was against a defense that shut down all his weapons. So while it certainly prevented Manning challenging the spots beyond him, we weren’t going to overreact to a fine year as Manning broke records throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. He had some help after the catch but he dominated our QB rankings with a season for the ages.

Best Performance: Week 14, TEN @ DEN, +7.5

Key Stat: Is it really a surprise that Manning’s 58.1% completion percentage when under pressure was the highest in the league?

These numbers exclude guys like Ryan Clady who most certainly will be on this list in 2014 if he stays healthy. Even so, that is seven guys that made the list. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made the list too, but as we all know John Elway decided to go with Aqib Talib instead.

Get yo Uverse ready!

That's right. As if AT&T wasn't already enough of a monopoly, but I'll hold my politics in favor of finally having access to NFL Sunday Ticket again! As an out of market fan, I hated that I would have to try and catch the game somewhere, somehow... no more!  I hope...

Horse Tracks

  • Kapri Bibbs is hoping to make the roster as an undrafted running back, but the uphill climb is steep as it would likely mean unseating an actual draft pick in Ronnie Hillman. I'm pulling for him though!
  • The Broncos appear to be willing to bring Cody Latimer up to speed slowly, but the kid looks like he might be able to contribute quite a bit for a rookie wide receiver - even in this potent passing offense.
  • I am personally pretty high on the Atlanta Falcons rebounding from their tough 2013 campaign, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that Peter King agreed. Maybe. The bigger news from his MMQB was that the 2015 NFL Draft may not be held in New York City.
  • What exactly should we expect from the 2014 Draft Class during the 2014 NFL Season?
  • Oh and former-Bronco Brandon Marshall signed a three year extension to remain with the Chicago Bears. It's good to see the 2008 Broncos will stick together up there in Chicago.