This years’ Denver Broncos off-season is one of the most exciting ones in recent memory. The Broncos might have finally found their post-Peyton Manning era franchise quarterback. All eyes will be on Case Keenum this off-season, but that is far from the only storyline to watch for this offseason. With that being said, let’s start with Keenum.
Denver Broncos Off-Season: Four Key Storylines
Case Keenum’s Timing/Connection With His Receivers
No matter how good a quarterback is, there is always an adjustment period in terms of timing with his receivers. The Broncos have good veteran receivers to lead the way, which will likely make the transition a bit smoother. Also, the Broncos hope to employ a similar offense to what Keenum did last year in Minnesota, so don’t be surprised if his timing with the receivers starts off better than expected. But it will be interesting to see how Keenum fairs in 7-on-7 drills against a top-tier defense like the Broncos. Will he be able to make those timing routes with his new receivers? It may take some time, but expect Keenum and his receivers to find the timing and make some big plays this offseason.
Who Will Emerge as the Number Three Receiver?
The starting wideouts for the Broncos will clearly be Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but the third receiver is up for competition. Rookie Courtland Sutton has emerged as a fierce target on the outside. Sutton will likely back up Thomas and Sanders and the number three outside receiver. But who will start in the slot? That competition is likely down to two players: DaeSean Hamilton, a rookie out of Penn State, and second-year wide receiver from Louisiana Tech, Carlos Henderson. Henderson is the forgotten man. He received a lot of hype after being drafted last year in the third round, but an injury shelved him for the season. Henderson is the quicker out of the two, but Hamilton is the more polished receiver. I think Hamilton will likely start the season in the slot, but don’t be surprised if you see some big plays out of Henderson throughout the season.
Who Will Emerge as the Starting Running Back?
The C.J. Anderson era is over in Denver. Anderson was a very solid running back for the Broncos, but his injury issues and inconsistencies forced the Broncos to move on. The Broncos will likely have a running back- by committee approach this year, but the lead bell cow is still undetermined. Carries will be split between Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman. Expect De’Angelo Henderson to make some appearances as well on third down. Booker is entering his third year and is poised for a breakout season. He has shown flashes in the past but has yet to be able to sustain that success for a whole season, albeit mostly due to injury. Freeman is a rookie out of Oregon and was regarded as one of the top backs in the draft. I think both Booker and Freeman complement each other quite well. I believe Booker will get the opportunity to start the season as the lead back, but Freeman will get more and more carries as the season progresses.
The New Look No Fly Zone
The original “No Fly Zone” is now down to only two (three if you include Bradley Roby) original players. Chris Harris, Pro Football Focus’ top-graded slot cornerback in the league is back for another season. For the first season, Bradley Roby will start at cornerback. He will be taking over for Aqib Talib who took his talent to southern California to join the Los Angeles Rams. Roby has proven his ability to cover top-tier receivers and is poised for a great first season as a starting cornerback. At safety, Justin Simmons will once again start at strong safety. He had an up and down first year as a starter last year. He has big-play ability but made plenty of mistakes that led to giving up significant yardage. The starting free safety position is up for grabs. Darian Stewart has been the starter over the past few years but the Broncos acquired Su’a Cravens this off-season to compete with Stewart. Expect to see packages that will include both Stewart as well as Cravens by moving Cravens up as a linebacker, and keeping Stewart back in the secondary. The Broncos may no longer have the original No Fly Zone, but this group has the potential to be just as effective. And with a top-tier pass rush, expect many big plays out of NFZ 2.0.
- The Broncos pass rush seems to be back to what it was a couple years back when they won the Super Bowl. With Von Miller still playing at his MVP caliber level, now paired with Bradley Chubb, there is no limit on what this group can do and this is definitely an area you will want to keep your eyes on this offseason.
- Jake Butt took a redshirt year in his first season to heal his knee. He is back now, and from the looks of it, he’s better than ever. He is already making big plays in camp and has been one of Keenum’s favorite targets. Keep your eye on Butt as he should be a treat to watch fully healthy.
- Can Isaiah McKenzie fix his fumblitis? The human joystick has so much natural talent, but he needs to be able to secure the ball. It will be interesting to see If he can once again win the punt returner job this offseason, despite his mishaps last year.