STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
If there was ever a question as to who is calling the shots in Denver, head coach Josh McDaniels has made it very clear over the past two offseasons that it's him. After seeing franchise quarterback Jay Cutler dealt to Chicago in his first summer, McDaniels and Co. shipped wideout Brandon Marshall to Miami this past April and made arguably the biggest splash of any team at the 2010 Draft by picking former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow late in the first round.
While the Cutler move looked good early on for McDaniels-as the quarterback struggled in Chicago and the Broncos started the 2009 season 6-0-things evened out by the end of the year as the team collapsed down the stretch and finished 8-8. While new quarterback Kyle Orton ended with a respectable 3,802 yards and 21 touchdowns, McDaniels obviously wasn't fully confident in either him or former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn. McDaniels has said a number of times that Orton is his starter for 2010, but with Quinn
and Tebow ready to compete during training camp, it appears the job is available to the best-performing signal-caller.
Despite heavy preseason expectations, rookie running back Knowshon Moreno struggled at times, finishing with a 3.8 yards per carry average. While his 1,160 total yards and nine TDs overall were a solid
contribution over the course of the season, Moreno didn't have a single 100-yard rushing game and had only three games with more than 100 total yards. Moreno was expected to do more in Denver in 2009, but
he certainly has the upside to do so this year due to the absence of Marshall, the Broncos'
previous primary offensive weapon.
One player who was glad to see 2009 end was second-year receiver Eddie Royal, who followed up his 91-catch rookie season with a disappointing 37-catch, zero-touchdown sophomore season. With Marshall now gone, Royal will really have to pick up the slack in 2010 for the Broncos to succeed.
On the other side of the spectrum, there isn't much more linebacker Elvis Dumervil could have done in 2009, leading the NFL with 17.0 sacks. At press time though, he had yet to sign his contract tender and a holdout could be on tap.
Finally, left tackle Ryan Clady leaves another question mark on the offense after tearing his left patellar tendon while playing basketball in the offseason. The injury should sideline Clady for three to four months, which means he should return for the team's opener against Jacksonville on Sept. 12. Unfortunately, Clady will miss all of training camp and the preseason, so it wouldn't be much of a surprise if he started slowly when he gets into game action.
Round, Overall, Player
1. (25) Tim Tebow, QB, Florida-The quarterback of the future for the Broncos may see some trick-play snaps this season.
2. (45) Zane Beadles, OT, Utah-Will provide depth along the offensive line.
3. (87) Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota-Should get onto the field to help replace the lost Marshall production.
5. (137) Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State-Will provide depth in the secondary.
6. (183) Eric Olsen, G, Notre Dame-Versatile enough to play either guard or center.
7. (225) Syd’Quan Thompson, CB, California-Will primarily be a special teams player.
7. (232) Jammie Kirlew, LB, Indiana-Slots in as an OLB in the 3-4.
Brady Quinn, QB (Browns) Will make Orton earn the starting job.
Jamal Williams, DT (Chargers) Run-stuffer is part of a rebuilt defensive front line.
Jarvis Green, DE (Patriots) Brought in to bolster the defensive line.
Brandon Marshall, WR (Dolphins) Talented, but troubled receiver will be hard to replace.
Tony Scheffler, TE (Lions) Never lived up to expectations in Denver.
WHO IS TAKING THE SNAPS IN DENVER?
Kyle Orton was more than serviceable last season, but apparently head coach Josh McDaniels is looking for someone better, or perhaps flashier, to run his offense, trading for Brady Quinn this offseason and drafting Tim Tebow to put some added pressure on him. While it appears as though the incumbent has the upper hand to retain the starting job, Quinn could give him some competition during training camp, and McDaniels has already stated that he would like to get Tebow involved in certain goal-line situations. The question is, will Orton be able to handle getting yanked for a rookie after he leads the offense 75 yards to the five-yard line?
AND THEN, WHO IS CATCHING THE PASSES?
Brandon Marshall finished the 2009 season with 101 catches, 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns, his third consecutive season with at least 100 catches and 1,100 yards. Off the field things weren't always so rosy for him, so the Broncos traded the restricted free agent to Miami for two second-round draft picks, creating a major void at wideout. The immediate issue will be figuring out who is going to make up the difference. Eddie Royal was downright awful in 2009, with just 345 receiving yards and no trips to the end zone and the only other holdovers of note are steady but unspectacular vets Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokley, who combined for 73 catches, 1,059 yards and six touchdowns last year. The Broncos used a first-rounder on Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, a 6-3, 224-pound target, with big-play potential. While rookie wide receivers don't usually make huge contributions in their first year, Thomas should see plenty of time on the field due to the lack of high-end talent on the depth chart. To go along with Thomas, who is bouncing back from a foot injury, the Broncos picked up 6-3, 217-pound Eric Decker from the University of Minnesota in the third round to add a player with good hands and playmaking ability to the mix.
WILL MORENO MAKE THE JUMP?
Knowshon Moreno was the first running back chosen in the 2009 Draft and entered with high expectations as the starting tailback for a franchise that had generated a 1,000-yard rusher every year except for one since 1995. Unfortunately for fantasy owners looking for an impact rookie, Moreno didn't deliver a huge season, but he enters 2010 as the best offensive weapon on the team's roster thanks to the Brandon Marshall trade. With an uncertain quarterback situation, the Broncos figure to rely heavily on Moreno to move the chains and he should be a valuable fantasy play in 2010. While Correll Buckhalter is still around to take some snaps, health permitting, Moreno will be the one carrying the load in Denver.
Elvis Dumervil, LB Led the league with 17.0 sacks in 2009 and shows no hint of slowing down.
Champ Bailey, CB Still one of the best, but gets few interceptions because quarterbacks shy away from him.
D.J. Williams, LB Has averaged 118 tackles over the last three seasons.
RotoWire Rank: 7