Broncos have pieces needed to succeed

It’s all over, even the shouting.

Now, it’s time for serious tinkering.

John Elway, upon taking the reins of the football operations for the Denver Broncos almost a year ago, said rebuilding the team would take three years. Welcome to Year Two.

The Broncos overachieved in the minds of many in their 9-9 season, playing two postseason games very few saw coming. And even though they lost 45-10 to the New England Patriots in their 2011-2012 finale, things are looking up.

What do they have they can be happy with next year?

1. A front office and coaching staff that should be back en masse. The pieces are in place, starting with team President Joe Ellis, then working through Elway, head coach John Fox and the rest of Fox’s staff. Both coordinators, Mike McCoy on offense and Dennis Allen on defense, are being considered for head coaching jobs, but both should return.

2. A quarterback in Tim Tebow who will do nothing but work to improve for the next six months. Improve he will.

3. A solid running back in Willis McGahee, he of almost 1,200 yards rushing on the regular season despite missing a few significant slices of playing time.

4. An offensive line that some were saying was the best in the league. Those people were reaching, but the line is young and talented and will do nothing but improve.

5. Second-year wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, perhaps the league’s most dangerous wideout from December through Saturday’s loss.

6. Defensive ends Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers and linebackers Von Miller and D.J. Williams, all of whom should be regulars on the front seven.

There is a lot of talent there, talent to build around. But if you’re keeping track, that means there are a lot of holes still to fill. In order of priority, here’s what the Denver staff needs to address:

1. Defensive tackles who can pressure the passer. Both Broderick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas are free agents and the team needs someone who can push the pocket from the middle. Ty Warren was the team’s big money free agent signing last summer, but injured all season. He should return, but will be in his 10th year.

2. Safeties. Brian Dawkins would be in his 17th season and was injured and greatly missed the last month. Quincy Carter had moments as a rookie, but Rahim Moore, David Bruton and Rafael Bush had no clue.

3. Another corner. Andre Goodman looked clueless too often. Chris Harris is a keeper after surprising as an undrafted rookie, but more of a fifth back, not as a starting corner opposite Champ Bailey.

4. Thomas can run, but they need someone on the other side of the field who is more than a possession receiver, someone who keeps opposing safeties off the line. Eric Decker is a good possession receiver and Eddie Royal is quick, but neither keeps defenses from stacking the line … and Royal is a free agent.

That’s my shopping list for the Broncos. As you might surmise, they need help first on defense. There are lots of holes to fill and several ways to fill them. With the new collective bargaining agreement in place, draft choices and young veterans will no longer eat up disproportionate chunks of the payroll — meaning there should be more money to spend on free agents.

Barring a trade, the Broncos will pick 25th in the first round. There are enough defenders from Alabama and/or LSU to immediately help their defense even at that spot. There are a number of quality corners and defensive linemen to consider as free agents that can help immediately.

Let the planning, drafting, signing and improvement begin. Next season is upon us.


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