2015 NFL Preview: Denver Broncos

2015 NFL Preview: Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos have won four straight AFC West crowns, and only three of those came with Peyton Manning under center. The other quarterback to guide the franchise to the playoffs went to Florida and has the initials TT. Moving on, the 2015 Broncos are definitely in “win now” mode due to Manning closing in on the end of his Hall of Fame career. The 39-year-old signal-caller clearly faded down the stretch of 2014 making it safe to wonder how much zip he has left in his aging right arm. Despite a solid veteran defense, as Manning goes so go the Broncos. The exit of another playmaker from the potent offense, and a brand new coaching regime are reasons for concern. Will this be the year this team takes a step back, or do they have the talent and drive necessary to reach Super Bowl 50? Here’s a preview of the 2015 Denver Broncos.

Outlook: Gary Kubiak replaces John Fox and brings along a whole new staff with him. Rick Dennison takes control of the offense, but all he has to really do is stay out of Manning’s way on gameday. Wade Phillips returns from a year off to coordinate a defense that finished 3rd in total yards allowed in 2014, but only 16th in points allowed. The offensive line is near disarray after losing Ryan Clady to a torn ACL, and the backfield is crossing its fingers that C.J. Anderson isn’t a one-year wonder. They are still the favorites to seize the division because none of other three teams appears capable of making a significant jump in the standings. However, Denver falling back to the pack wouldn’t be shocking in the least.

Later, dude: Julius Thomas parlayed 24 touchdowns over two seasons into a lucrative $46 million deal with the Jaguars. He’s a quality tight end, but the front office was wise to let a player with chronic foot issues go elsewhere. Guard Orlando Franklin was a reliable cog on the offensive line and his exodus to rival San Diego is compounded by Clady’s season-ending injury. Safety Rahim Moore took his 8 career interceptions and steady play to Houston. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton was a big reason why Denver’s run D ranked second in the league in 2014; he’s now a Redskin. Linebacker Nate Irving was on his way to a great 2014 before tearing up his knee; he should upgrade a Colts defense in need of talented depth.

Welcome aboard: Ryan Harris, Shelley Smith, and Gino Gradkowski will be tasked to patch an offensive line that may have to use three rookies as primary backups. Peyton’s release better be on point or he could be spending a lot of time on his back. Tight ends Owen Daniels and James Casey were inked to fill the void left by Thomas. Daniels is still a threat, when healthy. Safety Darian Stewart is an average at best fill-in for Moore. Rookie pass rusher Shane Ray doesn’t have to contribute right away, but if he can find a role early he will provide excellent depth behind Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

Over/Under wins – 10.5: Matchups with the AFC North and NFC North, along with showdowns against the Pats and Colts, means Denver can ill afford any missteps. The West still stinks though, so 11 wins is more than reachable.

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