Elvis Dumervil’s 17 sacks led the NFL for the 2009 season.
Will the real Denver Broncos pleased stand up?
One of the bigger mysteries entering the 2010 NFL football season is whether Broncos fans and NFL bettors are going to see the team that started last season 6-0, or the squad that finished with just two wins in its last 10 gams.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Josh McDaniels, Denver won its first six games of the season (6-0 ATS), including a dramatic Week 5 win over the Patriots, 20-17. The victory was extremely gratifying for McDaniels who not only beat his former employers, but silenced a few of the critics who claimed he was too young for the job.
The following week the Broncos not only avoided the emotional letdown of the Pats' conquest but played even better in San Diego where they beat the Chargers, 34-23.
However, that was the high water mark for the Broncos who proceeded to post a pair of four-game losing streaks in their final 10 games, finishing with an 8-8 mark.
The Broncos on Offense
Denver averaged 20.4 points per game to rank 15th overall, averaging 341.4 yards in total offense. The 13th-rated passing game contributed 226.7 yards per game with Kyle Orton leading the way. Despite working in a spread offense for the first time in his career, Orton threw for 3,802 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The Broncos obtained QB Brady Quinn from Cleveland and drafted Florida’s Tim Tebow in the first round to add depth to the position. But those moves also raised a bunch of questions in the process. Is Orton still the QB or will Quinn or Tebow replace him? And what is John Elway doing at camp?
There’s no such controversy at the running back spot where Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno is the man. Moreno got plenty of work in his rookie season, rushing for 947 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had 28 receptions for 213 yards and two scores. He’ll need to improve though on his 3.8 yards per carry average.
The left knee injury suffered by All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady has put a cloud and a huge question mark over the Broncos offensive line. It's hoped that Clady, who was hurt playing basketball in April, will be able to play in the season opener September 12 at Jacksonville.
The Broncos on Defense
It was one and done for NFL football defensive coordinator Mike Nolan who spent the ’09 campaign in Denver but left to take a similar position with Miami. Under Nolan the Broncos defensive unit ranked seventh in total yards and third in the NFL against the pass.
The Broncos should be a defensive force again this season unless Elvis leaves the building. Elvis Dumervil had 17 sacks in 2009 and became the first player in Broncos history to lead the NFL in that category. Despite his stellar season, he is in tough contract negotiations with the team. Dumervil and the defense were big reasona for the Broncos going 6-2 to the 'under' at home last season.
The Broncos at the NFL Draft
In terms of hype there was no bigger first round pick than Tebow. The former Florida quarterback was projected by most to be a second- or third-round pick at best, but the Broncos gave up second, third and fourth round draft picks to move up and get him 15th overall.
How Denver uses him remains to be seen, although my guess is we’ll be seeing plenty of him in short yardage situations.
With WR Brandon Marshall out of the picture, rookies Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker could be playing sooner than later.
Denver also picked up a pair of top-flight cornerbacks in former Cal corner Syd'Quan Thompson and Oklahoma State’s Perrish Cox, although Cox was suspended for two games for off the field problems.
NFL Betting Odds
The Broncos at the Betting Window
Denver is listed at 50/1 to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next February and 50/1 to win the AFC crown. The Broncos are a plus 600 choice on the NFL betting chart to unseat the Chargers atop the AFC West. Denver's season win total for the 2010 campaign opened and remains at 8.5.
It’s a shame the Broncos weren’t able to work out a contract with Marshall. It’s not every day that a guy with that kind of talent comes your way, but owner Pat Bolen did what he felt he had to do and sent Marshall on his way to Miami.
The bigger deal in my mind is letting Nolan leave. He’s the best defensive coordinator in the game and there’s no doubt he’ll work wonders in Miami with that young defense.
The Denver Broncos are a team in transition. They took a big step (and a big chance) last year in turning the team over to the youngest head coach in the league. Now the Broncos hope the always risky “addition by subtraction” strategy will accelerate the rebuilding project in the Mile High City.