Von Miller SCOREBOARD DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES SPORT 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH SB DIV DIV - - REGULAR SEASON W-L 13-3 13-3 8-8 4-12 8-8 POINTS PER GAME 37.9 30.1 19.3 21.5 20.4 POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME 24.9 18.1 24.4 29.4 20.2 YARDS PER GAME 457.3 397.9 316.6 348.9 341.4 YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME 356.0 290.8 357.8 390.8 315.0 TURNOVERS 26 25 30 27 23 TAKEAWAYS 26 24 18 18 30 Broncos Defense The Broncos got off on the wrong foot in 2013, and even though they reached the Super Bowl, these Broncos never did fully recover from a slow start which had its defense playing from a hole from the very get-go. Remember when an agent’s fax-machine faux pas cost Denver their defensive end Elvis Dumervill? Or when Von Miller’s fumbled urine test cost him a six-game suspension? Justin Bannan’s exit? It is no wonder Denver’s D dropped. After all, it all started when the 2013 Denver D started allowing 6.8 more points per game than the 2012 Denver D (18.1 to 24.9 points per game), ultimately grading out at Football Outsiders as ninth best in run defense and 21st in pass defense. But that’s good enough when you also had Manning and the NBA’s premium offensive army at your service. To succeed in 2014, GM John Elway and Broncos management made sure head coach John Fox and his defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had the extra ammunition going into the season. Namely, the offseason loss of Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie has already been offset with the additions of three studly DBs in safety T.J. Ward, corners Aqib Talib and firstround rookie Bradley Roby. Add defensive end extraordinaire DeMarcus Ware to the pass rush and Denver’s D cannot help but return to 2012 level, quickly turning that No. 21 pass-defense ranking stain into a thing of the past. Who knows? These big additions may make Denver’s D so good that Miller starts going back to Pro Bowls again, perhaps bringing along deserving veteran teammates like corner Chris Harris, linebacker Danny Trevathan or defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. Defensive Player to Watch After coming through for Denver’s defense time and time again in 2012 and 2011, two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Miller finally got to see what happens when he isn’t there for his teammates, suffering a six-game suspension in 2013 for failing a drug test (spilling his sample) and then suffering an ACL injury upon his return. The team defense results weren’t pretty, with the Miller-less Broncos spilling points away in games left and right. Thankfully, the team had Peyton Manning and his receiving corps on mop-up duty, game after game, winning the typical contest by a 38-25 margin. No joke, that margin was the team average. Miller is now back from surgery. The team has added DBs and a mirror pass-rush image for Miller in DeMarcus Key Additions: CB Aqib Talib, SS T.J. Ward, DE DeMarcus Ware, C Will Montgomery Key Subtractions: G Zane Beadles, WR Eric Decker, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, RB Knowshon Moreno Rookies: CB Bradley Roby, WR Cody Latimer, LB Lamin Barrow, T Michael Scofield Ware, who will take the weak-side slot. All in all, most folks in Denver are hoping Miller returns to the form that once sacked 35 QBs in 40 career games as a promising 6-3, 237-pound 25-yearold. If he becomes that guy, Denver can become great again. Broncos Special Teams Matt Prater is one of the top field goal kickers in the game, going 19-for-19 on his 49-and-unders, along with another 6-for-7 in the 50-plus yarders. He also was a league-leading 75-for-75 on extra points. Otherwise, the Broncos special teams is somewhat marginal. Punter Britton Colquitt is good, though his 2013 season was somewhat subpar for him (28 of his 60 44.5-yard punts were returned for a 9.8 average). Last season’s backup returners Omar Bolden (kickoffs) and Wes Welker (punts) will now see frontline duty, now that Trindon Holliday is a New York Giant. Prediction Tim Tebow once turned this 7-24 Denver franchise into a 7-4 second-round playoff team that made Denver suddenly appealing to Manning and others who have since taken the Broncos to two 13-3 seasons and one Super Bowl appearance. That said, a 13-3 prediction seems perfectly in line, but remember it all can come crashing down if a great quarterback isn’t there to hold the pillars up.
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