Let’s face it, 2014 was, compared to what we were hoping for, a bit of a disappointment. From the first snap of the Super Bowl against Seattle, to the way the 2014 regular season and playoff run ended. Like me I am sure you have endured plenty of comments about the Broncos were done and everything would need to be rebuilt. But I am here to say no and give us a little positivity and encouragement about how this might just be a great year for those of us of an Orange persuasion.
Right let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way early. Peyton Manning is back, and if preseason is anything to go by, despite all expectations to the contrary, actually looks better and with a stronger arm than this time last year. It’s obviously not the strength he had 10 years ago, but as his neck injury continues to heal, Manning seems to have something in the tank. Following the Quad injury last year, it’s fair to say that there was thought given to what would life without No.18 be like. Rumours of a possible trade with the Houston Texans surfaced, but Manning is back and Emmanuel Sanders has commented following practice that there seemed to be more velocity on the ball, something backed up by the eyeball test in preseason.
Talking of players being back, special mention must be given to Vonn Miller, although he played last season coming off his injury the year before, he now looks to be back to the quickness and speed of his rookie season. The move to the 3-4 defence should only benefit him in terms of stats, as Miller should have a licence to hunt the opposing QB’s. Opposite Miller, DeMarcus Ware reverts to the outside linebacker position he has played for most of his storied career. Rookie draft pick Shane Ray will come in and provide relief for these guys to ensure there is no let up in pressure on the opposition.
Another returning player who has recently signed a new contract which rightly puts him near the top of the salaries for his position is of course Demaryus Thomas. Thomas has thrived with Manning and returns to the receiving corp opposite Emmanuel Sanders who had his best career season last time out.
Of course not everyone has returned, losing Pot Roast on the DL will be a problem, but not insurmountable. The guys coming in are both younger, faster and importantly cheaper! Got to fund the Thomas deal somehow after all.
There is of course a new head coach in town. John Elway’s former backup and friend Gary Kubiak will likely bring with him some resemblance of the famed zone blocking rush attack made famous in Elway’s days, which he recently employed with success in both Houston and last year in Baltimore. There is talk around the league of how that system will mesh with Manning. Some think its a problem. Personally I believe that gives a QB like Manning a just about guaranteed 1000 yard rusher, be it CJ Anderson or Monte Ball and make the opposition respect the run.
When you look at the main AFC contenders, most agree it will be the Steelers, Patriots and Colts. There are issues on each; the Steelers defence, the Patriots loss of Brady for four games and the lack of DB’s and the Colts defence. These can not stop the big teams racking up the points, no matter how inflated the balls.
Compared to those teams, I believe the Broncos stack up very nicely. If everyone stays healthy I can see a scenario where Manning literally does ride off into the sunset with another Lombardi trophy.