Claiming the Broncos need a defensive upgrade is like claiming the CBA negotiations are a painstaking process.
It’s not news.
Due to that CBA gridlock, it’s also surprising to no one the Broncos front office is looking for those defensive upgrades in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine.
While the Broncos will undoubtedly make defense a priority in the draft, the team’s eyes will also be stealing glances of offensive talent. Â General Manager Brian Xanders said this past week the Broncos will examine every position, seeking to increase competition and talent across the board. Â So, in that spirit, here’s a look at the little-discussed side of the Broncos football equation, the offense, and how it may factor into the Combine.
Running backs – Another poorly kept secret in Denver is the Broncos’ yearning for DeAngelo Williams. Â If the team manages to land Williams, he’ll likely become the primary back, but Knowshon Moreno will get enough playing time in 2011 to once and for all determine if he’s worth keeping around. Â Laurence Maroney is likely as good as gone after providing no positives to the team. Â That leaves LenDale White and Lance Ball. Â Ball will likely be retained. Â White could be moved after underwhelming, injury-riddled performances. Â If both White and Maroney are in the crosshairs, the Broncos will be looking to the later rounds of the draft for depth in the offensive backfield.
Fullbacks – Spencer Larsen has performed admirably as a blocker. Â That said, you have to wonder if the Broncos would be interested in looking for that next hybrid of ball-carrying, head-knocking, 3rd-and-2 getting player that Josh McDaniels banished in Peyton Hillis.
Receivers – Expect Denver to thoroughly evaluate this receiving class. Â With rehab concerns for both Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas, a receiving corps that looked too deep in January is now a Jabar Gaffney away from unsustainable. On the flip side, the Broncos have to like the receiving talent currently on the team. Â If Royal and Thomas return, and remain healthy, using an early round pick on a premium receiver may become overkill. Â In the end, Denver will be keeping a close eye on receivers with solid mid- to late-round value.
Tight Ends – Solid blockers, empty receiving threats. Â That’s the tag on Denver’s current tight end crop. Â Daniel Graham is a seasoned veteran, but his receiving prowess that made him a weapon at the University of Colorado and a “can’t sleep on” guy in New England is gone. Â Richard Quinn has yet to bloom as a reliable receiver. Â Both Graham and Quinn’s value may fit well with head coach John Fox’s run-heavy offensive philosophy, but Fox’s boss also fully knows the value an elite pass-catching tight end brings to the arsenal.
Offensive Line – Coach Fox is a man that appreciates two things in football: good defense, and a running game. Â The Broncos currently have neither. Â The team may be able to plug some defensive holes through the draft and free-agency (if that ever happens), but you can’t completely rebuild a broken defense in one offseason. Â Enter the running game. Â Getting consistent production on the ground keeps the defense off the field, and that keeps the pressure off a work-in-progress unit. Â Ryan Harris appears to be the most moveable part in the offensive line equation. Â His status as an unrestricted free agent could have the Broncos looking closely at premium offensive line talent. Â Despite last year’s OL inadequacy, the rest of the line may need little tweaking. Â Two consistent starters (J.D. Walton & Zane Beadles) were rookies, the starting line combination changed 6 times in 9 games, and Denver was operating under a power-blocking scheme that didn’t suit its personnel. Â Experience, consistency on the starting roster, and a move back to zone-blocking could provide substantial improvement without needing to turn to the draft.
Clearly, Denver won’t just be focused on the defensive players being evaluated in Indianapolis. Â Nearly every offensive position contains a question mark. Â With John Elway declaring the Broncos “can’t [afford to] miss” in this year’s draft, there is much to take in at Lucas Oil Stadium.