Jun 10, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) warms up during mini camp at the Broncos practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
It’s hard to say the Broncos’ offense in 2014 is going to be better than the team that set an NFL record with 606 points a year ago, but I think that’s a real possibility that we’re all staring in the face.
There will be doubters of course. How could you duplicate such production? Furthermore, how will they be able to even come close to that total with some of the guys they lost this past offseason?
Not to be taken lightly are the departures of Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker, and Zane Beadles in this offense, but also not to be overlooked are the ‘additions’ of Montee Ball, Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer, and Ryan Clady. Let’s start by taking a look at Ball.
In watching some Broncos games from late last season when the rookie running back was getting more carries, it’s clear to me that his skill set is much more dynamic than that of Moreno. Ball has an explosiveness through the hole that Moreno didn’t always have. Moreno sprinted hard for his yards last season, and earned every single one of them, but there was never really much big play ability with Knowshon. With Ball, I think that’s a bit different.
I don’t view Ball as a Chris Johnson by any means, but I think he showed — specifically in games like the one in Kansas City — that he is more than capable of busting the top off of a defense, and I think we’ll see him do that more with the Broncos this year, which will set up the passing game even better.
As a third-down back, I also feel like Ball has the potential to be better. He’s improving as a pass protector and receiver, but he was a pretty effective receiver at Wisconsin when their pass game was more of a factor with Russell Wilson (Ball’s junior season) catching 24 passes, six of which were touchdowns.
Speaking of catching passes, I think the Broncos lost plenty with the departure of Eric Decker. They lost a great possession receiver who could explode at any point in time and who was a very effective weapon in the red zone. Decker caught four touchdowns in the Broncos’ win over Kansas City (in KC) last year and proved over the course of the last two seasons that he is one of the best number two receivers in the NFL.
That being said, the Broncos did their darndest to bring in a guy in Emmanuel Sanders who can be that possession guy at times, but who has much more speed and quickness to make plays happen off of press coverage. Sanders isn’t known as overly physical, but the Broncos feel like his speed gives them a distinct advantage in the passing game that they didn’t have with Decker.
Not to mention in all of this, the Broncos added a guy named Cody Latimer in the 2nd round of the draft who is roughly the size of Eric Decker and who has Demaryius Thomas’ speed. Latimer is more of a #1 type of receiver that can give the Broncos essentially a much faster version of what the Bears have in Chicago with basically two #1 receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
That’s pretty scary.
Up front, the Broncos lost Zane Beadles but didn’t have Ryan Clady for much of last year. With some shuffling on the line, they should be okay but the jury is still out there. With Orlando Franklin moving to guard, the Broncos figure to be much more physical up the middle of their offense and still maintain elite pass protection on the outside. To me, that would seem to be an upgrade.
If all these players can come in this year and make the impact they are capable of, I see no reason why the Broncos’ offense won’t be even better in 2014 than it was in 2013 when they set all those records. I don’t know if Peyton Manning is going to come out again and break his own touchdown record, but I do think that if the Broncos are a little more aggressive and more effective in the early stages of games, they could at least substantially increase last year’s point differential even with a tough schedule.
I just wonder if the rest of the NFL is ready.