The Denver Broncos won the AFC West with ease in 2014, finishing last year ranked in the top five in both total offensive yards and defensive yards allowed. However, they cleaned house over the offseason and brought in a new coaching staff. With great talent and new coaches, will this finally be the year that the Broncos take the next step and win the Super Bowl?
How will the running back situation play out?
With Peyton Manning at quarterback, it can be easy to overlook the Broncos' depth at running back. There is some competition at the position, but coming off a Pro Bowl campaign, C.J. Anderson should be the starter. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman will also compete for plentiful playing time as backups. Ball played very little, after suffering a groin injury, while Hillman played well as both a starter and backup. Even Juwan Thompson played well in the mix last year. With an added emphasis on the run this year, it will be more of a question of who to play as opposed to how good it will be.
How will the line be in protecting Peyton and fostering the run game?
With Peyton Manning still going strong at 39 years old, the offensive line will need to protect him from taking hits. Losing four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Clady has to be one of the biggest losses in the league to date, considering the overhaul on the offensive line. During training camp, the starters were Chris Clark, Louis Vasquez, Gino Gradkowski, Ben Garland, and Ty Sambrailo. Of those five listed starters, only two of them made starts last season. That certainly has to be of concern to Peyton Manning and the running game. However, Gary Kubiak will be implementing a zone blocking scheme, which worked extremely well in Baltimore last year. Peyton Manning is also arguably the best at avoiding sacks, but there should still be some concern. With an emphasis on the running game, the ability for the line to create lanes will be more crucial. Manning can get the ball out of his hand quickly, but with an expanded running game, the offensive line has to outperform preseason expectations.
How will Gary Kubiak change this team?
One decade later and Gary Kubiak is back with the Broncos, now as the head coach of an already dominant team. After leading the Baltimore Ravens’ offense to an impressive season, he looks to take the Broncos to a Super Bowl that they’re definitely worthy of. With his zone blocking scheme and added emphasis on the run, he should be able to bring some more balance to the Broncos’ offense. Just these small adjustments could ultimately be the difference between just another playoff run and a Super Bowl appearance. Kubiak is solely an offensive mind, so new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be handling any changes on that side of the ball.
Will the linebackers be fully healthy?
While the Broncos have star outside linebackers in Demarcus Ware and Von Miller, they have some concerns about the health of their two inside ones. Brandon Marshall is recovering from an offseason foot surgery, while Danny Trevathan missed most of the 2014 campaign because of a knee injury. Both are very young players, who have demonstrated great instinct and athleticism in their playing time. However, they only have 30 totals games started between the two of them over the past three seasons. With health concerns looming in the near past, they will be looked at with a cautious eye. They’re certainly not the premier players on this defense, but they’ve proven to be valuable assets.
Is this the last season for Peyton?
Toward the end of the past season, Peyton had a significant drop-off in production that led to an early playoff departure. That has to be a little concerning to the team this year, but more importantly to his future. While he has denied that this will be a farewell season, there has to be some chance that it could be. He’s now 39 years old, and a few years removed from a serious neck injury. As the season progresses, it will be important to keep an eye on his production and health. Even if it’s not his last season, perhaps it might be the Broncos' last best shot to win a Super Bowl. This team has been close over the past few years under his leadership, but time is running out.