The term “rebuilding” gets thrown around rather loosely in the world of sports. Even though the belief after a disastrous season is that a team has to start from scratch to improve is a popular one, it is highly exaggerated. Very seldom does a team have to completely rebuild after events from the previous season, and the Denver Broncos are no different. Even though it may seem that way after a lowly 4-12 season in 2010, the Broncos will not have to start from square one come Week One.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Broncos only need a few tweaks to be exceptional. However, the extent of their success will be determined by which of the teams top two quarterbacks will be under center in 2011. With Kyle Orton, the Broncos probably have their best chance of staying competitive in the passing game, where they were ranked seventh in the league last year in passing yardage. With Tim Tebow, it is possible the passing game won‘t be as productive, but his ability to make improvisational decisions with his feet gives the team an advantage. Regardless of who is throwing the ball, he will have a solid group of receivers on the other end. Led by Pro Bowler Brandon Lloyd, the receiving core is the most stable of any position on the team. The only question here is if receivers Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas, who both underwent off-season surgeries, will be back to full health once the new season starts. However, the glaring hole on the Broncos offense is the teams running game, or lack thereof. The tailback injury bug continued to bite the Broncos in 2010, with injuries to Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter throughout the season hampering productivity. Additional injuries to the offensive line didn’t help either, especially when the team lost All-Pro tackle Ryan Clady for the year when he suffered a partially torn Patellar Tendon before the season even started. With key members of the running game down, the Broncos offense became one dimensional. The return of these players next season will help make the team more consistent in both phases of the offense. That is of course, if they can stay healthy.
The defense is a different story however, where “rebuilding” is exactly the right term to use. The team needs to do an almost complete overhaul after several disappointing seasons, including last year, where the Broncos ranked last in the league in points and yards allowed per game, and next to last in rush defense. The season ending injury to linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who was the NFL’s sack leader in 2009, was devastating to the team, and they were never able to replace the impact that he made on the field. His return next year will help tremendously in making the defense better, but he may have to go through an adjustment period after not playing for a year and having to get reacquainted with the defensive end position, after the Broncos’ change from a 3-4 defense back to a 4-3 for 2011. More help for the defensive line can be found in the 2011 NFL Draft, where the Broncos can use their second overall pick on either Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley or Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Either player would give the defense an instant boost and would greatly assist in fixing the defense’s biggest issue, the lack of a pass rush. As for the defensive backs, their success will depend significantly on if the Broncos re-sign All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey. After a contract extension deal was pulled off the table earlier in the season and more recent talks broke down, it doesn’t look promising that Bailey will return to the team. If he doesn’t, it will be yet another setback for the defense, and the Broncos may have to use their second pick in the draft on LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson to help fill the void left by Bailey’s departure. They could also look to free agency, where cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is expected to become obtainable, and safeties Bob Sanders and O.J. Atogwe are now available. Whatever the defense looks like come next season, it will have to put forth a substantial effort to help make the team as competitive as it needs to be.
In summary, the Denver Broncos offense doesn’t need a lot of work, just a little luck in staying healthy. The same goes for the defense pertaining to injuries, but many changes are needed to make that side of the ball better. The problems that afflict the Broncos won’t be fixed overnight, but it can be done. With veteran and defensive minded head coach John Fox at the helm, better days are assured. So as much as you may want to, hold off on any calls to Extreme Makeover. It isn’t entirely necessary.
Follow Dustin on Twitter.
Make sure to follow Predominantly Orange on Facebook.
Topics: Bob Sanders, Brandon Lloyd, Champ Bailey, Correll Buckhalter, Da'Quan Bowers, Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Eddie Royal, Elvis Dumervil, John Fox, Knowshon Moreno, Kyle Orton, Nick Fairley, Nnamdi Asomugha, O.j. Atogwe, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Clady, Tim Tebow