The Denver Broncos start training camp in 22 days (yes, I’m counting down the days). As a Super Bowl contender, you’d think that it’s business as usual at Dove Valley. But that isn’t the case. The Broncos have experienced a whirlwind of an offseason and there are plenty of unanswered questions. This has been highlighted at milehighsports.com where staff writers came up with 30 questions surrounding the Broncos this season.
While there are several position battles that must be settled during training camp, the biggest questions revolve around four men: three players and a coach. These four men hold the fortune of the 2015 season in their hands.
Thomas is going to show his hand next Wednesday. The 15th of July is the final deadline for players and teams to negotiate a long-term deal or move forward with their franchise tender. If Thomas plays hardball and doesn’t pen his John Hancock on his franchise tender on the 15th this situation could go from messy to train wreck. Thomas hasn’t stated publicly that he’s willing to skip training camp or regular season games if he doesn’t have a long-term deal but he hasn’t stated the opposite, either. If No. 88’s franchise tender remains unsigned Thursday morning expect his holdout to last deep into training camp. And, expect this situation to hang over Dove Valley like a dark cloud the entire time.
John Elway needs to find a way to calm the waters with his most talented receiver because this team can’t win a Super Bowl without him. Denver’s receiver depth is extremely thin without Thomas. Which brings us to our next question mark.
During training camp last year all everyone could talk about was how good Latimer looked. The words “beast” and “uncoverable” were used without regard. Then, when it came time to strap on the pads for real, Latimer couldn’t find the field, only playing in half of Denver’s regular season games. As a second round pick, Latimer’s lack of contribution was beyond frustrating.
This offseason Latimer admitted that he didn’t know the playbook and that was the root cause for his absence on the field. With Wes Welker and Julius Thomas gone (and Demaryius Thomas’ status up in the air) Latimer has to make an impact on the field. It’s time for the Indiana product to grow up and prove last year’s growing pains are behind him. If he can’t, he’ll stand out as a huge bust considering the wide receiver draft class he was part of.
Phillips has said that he is going to “unleash Von Miller.” That’s a great sound bite but what else was he going to say? “I’m going to drop my best pass rusher into coverage 80% of the time.” Come on. Phillips can talk the talk but can he walk the walk? If you think that’s harsh, be reminded that Phillips was unemployed for two years and Denver was the only team asking for his services.
Phillips has to prove that he is a great defensive coordinator, not was a great defensive coordinator. His biggest task wont be “unleashing” Miller, it’ll be finding ways to get Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray on the field at the same time. If Phillips can consistently put his three best rushers in situations to succeed he’ll earn the praise he deserves on his current accomplishments, rather than being praised for his accomplishments of yesteryear.
Lets call it like it is. Manning has had the finger of blame pointed at him since November 16, 2014 for no reason. Following Denver’s loss in St. Louis the Broncos changed their offense and Manning dealt with it, taking a lesser role while being told he’d lost it, all while finishing the year 5-1. The Broncos then lost a playoff game in embarrassing fashion and Manning took the blame, even though virtually no one showed up to play that day. Then, Elway demanded Manning take a pay cut (and most likely kicked the tires on trading him) and he did. Manning has been the punching bag for the Denver Broncos for almost eight months now. How will he respond?
Will No. 18 step onto the field July 31 in “F-you mode” and prove everyone wrong? Or, has he truly lost a step? No one knows for sure but anyone betting against the greatest quarterback of all time is silly. If you had to gamble the mortgage it’d be a safe bet to count on an angry Peyton Manning trying to prove everyone wrong.
Denver has multiple position battles to solve come July 31. Who will play safety opposite T.J. Ward? Who’s going to start at right tackle or left tackle or center or left guard (pretty much the entire offensive line)? The point of training camp is to answer those questions. The biggest questions surrounding the Denver Broncos surround four men: Demaryius Thomas, Cody Latimer, Wade Phillips and Peyton Manning.
How those four men respond will define the Broncos season.