2013 preview: Denver Broncos

The 2013 NFL regular season is right around the corner. With that being said, it’s time to launch our team previews. FOXSports.com contributor Taylor Jones will answer important questions for every franchise.


2012 Record: 13-3. Lost in the divisional round to Baltimore.

What is the team’s biggest obstacle?

The Broncos will have to overcome the loss of two of the best pass rushers in the entire game after the fax machine mishap that eventually landed Elvis Dumervill in Baltimore and the drug suspension that will have Von Miller in a spectator role for the first six weeks of the season. Over his six-year career, Dumervill has tallied 63.5 sacks and that is only second to Robert Mathis in the AFC for the most sacks over that time period. As a pair, Dumervill and Miller accounted for 29.5 sacks last season and this was supposed to be a strength, not a weakness entering 2013.

Across the board, the Broncos may have the most talented offense in the league and that means the Broncos will either be playing with a lead or exchanging punches in a high-scoring slugfest. Either way, the defense is going to have plenty of opportunities to rush opposing quarterbacks. The only question now is … who will actually get there?

What is the team’s biggest asset?

Peyton Manning is obviously the MVP of this team. His quick passing game is his and this team’s greatest asset. Manning isn’t the fleetest of foot, yet he has only been sacked an average of 18 times a season during his 14-year playing career (he is entering his 16th season, but missed all of 2011), and that is in large part due to his ability to get the ball out of his hands so quickly. Of his 583 passing attempts last season, 302 of them were within 10-yards of the line of scrimmage. Not only does he do it often, he does it well too as he carried a 108.6 passer rating on those 583 plays.

Demaryius Thomas is a big, strong receiver that is very tough to tackle in the open field. He’s a very underrated run-after-the-catch player, but as we saw in the 2011 playoffs, his ability to catch a quick slant and take it for a long touchdown shouldn’t be overlooked. Now, add Welker to the mix and this quick passing game may be the best we have ever seen in the NFL. Welker had 118 receptions last year with an average catch point of 5.5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. That meshes very well with Peyton’s style and makes for a very efficient and explosive offense all at the same time.

Which rookie stands the best chance to succeed?

Manning has never had a workhorse running back in his career but he may have found one in Montee Ball from Wisconsin.

The rookie was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft and has the ability to win the starting job outright with the inconsistent play of Knowshon Moreno and fumbling issues of Ronnie Hillman.

Ball is more like a young Willis McGahee, who the Broncos released this offseason, as is tough between the tackles.

Ball can carry a heavy workload as he had 924 carries in college, an average of 231 attempts per season. If Ball can improve on just one thing to win the starting job, it is in pass protection. He has been shaky this preseason and anytime you are putting Manning in jeopardy that is going to cause some negative attention. Once he gets more comfortable in that capacity, the sky is the limit for Ball in this offense.

What is the team’s biggest addition/loss from the previous season?

As the Broncos try to replace the 29.5 sacks between Miller and Dumervill, they brought in Shaun Phillips. Phillips is no slouch in the pass-rushing department as he has a career total of 69.5 sacks. He has two seasons of double-digit sacks during his nine-year career and just an average of 6.5 over the last two seasons. Is Phillips past his prime or will he be able to step up in a time of need?

Where do you predict the team will finish in the division?

The AFC West is probably the worst division in football and the Broncos are the best team in the AFC. The Broncos will easily sweep the division and be the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture. Is that clear enough for you?