The 2013 Denver Broncos will be remembered for three things; their record setting offense, the disaster in the Super Bowl and all of the injuries they overcame to win the AFC Championship. Now six months after that dreadful night in New Jersey, those injuries are turning into a benefit.
Everyone knows that the Broncos are loaded at nearly every position but it goes deeper than that, literally. Because of all of those injuries last season, many players were forced into duty and now give the Broncos some incredible depth.
Defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson and Derek Wolfe both missed extended playing time in 2013 opening the door for rookie Sylvester Williams, and second year player Malik Jackson.
Now Vickerson and Wolfe are both healthy and ready to contribute. Wolfe looks better than he has in two years, and is having a great camp. Vickerson was having his best season as a pro last year and is a force versus the run.
After a slow start to his rookie season, Williams really came on at the end of the year and has been dominant at times early in training camp. A big part of his development is because he was forced into a starting role due to the injury to Vickerson, and that trial by fire is now paying huge dividends.
Jackson was also forced to play more snaps than was probably planned at the start of the year due to the injury to Wolfe. He, like Williams, took full advantage of that playing time and projects to be a huge contributor in 2014. Everyone is talking about DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller as it relates to the pass rush, but both Wolfe and Jackson have the ability to get to the quarterback as well.
In addition to the return of Vickerson and Wolfe, the Broncos also get second year players Lerentee McCray and Quanterus Smith back. McCray was going to make the team last season as a situational pass rusher, and Smith led the NCAA in sacks during his senior season at Western Kentucky. Smith is now fully recovered from an ACL injury and has a lot of people excited.
The Broncos signed cornerback Aqib Talib to team with Chris Harris Jr. to give them one of the better tandems in the NFL. In this day and age though, teams need at least three quality corners to compete. Kavon Webster, a rookie in 2013, was forced into action due to injuries to Champ Bailey and Harris Jr. in the playoffs.
Although he struggled at times, Webster gained valuable playing experience and has shown tremendous progress in camp. It’s also important to remember that Webster was playing very well during his rookie season before breaking his thumb versus the San Diego Chargers. He is now healthy and he is showing it on the field.
Throw in the first round pick of Bradley Roby this season and the Broncos go four deep at cornerback.
On offense Andre Caldwell played a lot in place of Wes Welker late in the season and through the first four days of camp, has been extremely impressive. The Broncos also added Emanuel Sanders through free agency and drafted Cody Latimer in the second round. For those of you who don’t know, Latimer has been one of the stars of camp and will see significant playing time as a rookie.
There is also depth at the safety position all of the sudden with the return of Quinton Carter. Carter has missed two seasons but appears to be completely healthy. Rahim Moore also returns from a bizarre leg injury and looks to build on what was turning into an outstanding season. Combine those two with the free agent signing of TJ Ward, and the Broncos are as deep at safety as they’ve been in years.
The Broncos starters are as talented as anyone in the league but they are also as deep as any team in football. The numerous injuries were tough to swallow last season but it might pay big dividends in 2014.