In the NFL, it doesn't matter how you win. All that matters is that you do win. As the great Vince Lombardi once remarked, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." Some might argue with the premise of that statement, but in the NFL, there isn't a maxim that better reflects the harsh realities of pro football. Two days later, all that matters is that the Broncos are 1-0.
EMMANUEL SANDERS IS GOING TO BE DEADLY
You would think that following a season that saw the Broncos offense set a new NFL record for most points scored in a season, with 606, that the only way to go is down. But it's important not to measure, or quantify, an offense's level of success based soley on points, but also on wins.
Despite their romping success in 2013, the Broncos were missing an element on offense; the element of being able to consistently stretch a defense and take the top off. Demaryius Thomas scored 14 touchdowns. But a lot of his longest and most explosive scoring plays came on wide receiver bubble screens that he was able to deftly take to the house.
Eric Decker is no slouch. He notched 11 TDs in 2013. But he cannot do what Emmanuel Sanders can do. Decker has a difficult time getting separation off the line of scrimmage, when playing against press-man coverage. Sanders has no such issue.
Look no further than the Broncos' week 3 preseason matchup vs the Houston Texans. Both of Sanders' TDs came on long, explosive plays. There aren't many NFL defensive backs who can keep pace with him down the field, especially with how fast he gets off the snap. And his quick twitch, short area burst, is an element that will confound defenses all throughout the year.
In Sunday's win, Sanders was targeted 9 times, hauling in 6 balls for 77 yards. He also carried the ball once for an 11 yard gain, a creative wrinkle that is sure to keep game-planning defensive coordinators on their toes. Sanders and the offense, are going to have a big year.
DEMARCUS WARE IS GOING TO HAVE A DOMINANT YEAR
I understand why some people had their doubts about Ware, when the Broncos signed him back in March. At the time, he was almost 32 years old and was coming off of an injury-plagued 2013 campaign that saw him produce a career low in sacks, with 6. But if I've learned anything since John Elway took over as the Broncos' V.P. of Football Operations and de facto General Manager, it's that I've got to trust his free agent evaluations. He set his sights on Ware, the moment he was released, and when Ware made Denver the first trip on his free agency tour, Elway made sure he didn't leave the building without inking a contract.
Ware left the Dallas Cowboys as their all-time leader in sacks, with 117. He is the quintessential example of a player who has learned to maximize his God-given talent, in combination with textbook technique. Just watching him on Sunday night, the way he used his hands, was a thing of beauty that I had to marvel at.
Von Miller may have had a quiet night, but it won't be long before he has full confidence in his knee again and will be tormenting quarterbacks. Teams will have to pick their poison. And even when offenses double team, or chip Ware, he still finds a way to get pressure. I have the utmost confidence that the 10-year veteran is far from washed up. And anyone who watched that game vs the Colts who thinks otherwise, is fooling themselves.
T.J. WARD AND RAHIM MOORE COULD BECOME ONE OF THE BEST SAFETY TANDEMS IN THE NFL
When the Broncos selected Moore in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, they expected him to carry on into the pros, what he was able to do at UCLA. Namely, be a ballhawking centerfielder. Those hopes have yet to come into fruition.
But with the new addition at strong safety, T.J. Ward, that is going to change. Ward's ability to play sideline to sideline and wreck plays from inside the box, will free Moore up to truly play centerfield, and feed off of the pressure that the pass rush will generate and the tipped balls that the Broncos' aggressive trio of cornerbacks will cause.
On Sunday night, Moore picked off 2 Andrew Luck passes. Moore earned a +1.6 overall grade via ProFootballFocus. He and Ward have the opportunity to establish themselves as one of the NFL's premier safety tandems. And with all of the obstacles that Moore has had to overcome over the last 10 months, he certainly deserves it.
NATE IRVING IS A BONA FIDE MIDDLE LINEBACKER
The Broncos drafted Irving in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft to be their "Mike" linebacker of the future. His rookie year, he wasn't able to absorb the playbook and had a difficult time adjusting to the speed of the NFL game, in large part due to the NFL lockout. Since then, a series of extenuating circumstances have led to Irving not being able to fulfill his great promise in the middle of the Broncos defense.
That all changed this year. Irving has been given every opportunity to succeed at Mike and has nailed down the job. On Sunday night, Irving rewarded the Broncos faith in him by flying all over the field and being highly productive. On the night, he notched 5 total tackles, all of which were stops. 2 of them were tackles for a loss. He also managed to sack Andrew Luck. This earned him an overall grade of +2.1 from PFF. Broncos Country wants to see him produce like this all year long, but for now, kudos to the 4th-year pro.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS
The Broncos have been without All-Pro left tackle, Ryan Clady, for almost a year. He missed most of last season with a lisfranc injury. But he's back in the saddle. Orlando Franklin moved from right tackle, over to left guard. And last year's left tackle, who stepped in for Clady, Chris Clark, has moved over to right tackle. Only center, Manny Ramirez, and right guard, Louis Vasquez, have not had to endure any new juxtapositioning in the trenches.
I firmly believe that this combination of players, at these positions, is going to pay huge dividends for the Broncos, both in the running game and in pass protection. But the reality is, it's probably going to take a little bit of time to gel. 3 of the 5 starters on the offensive line are either easing back into things, or playing a new position.
Against the Colts, they held up fine in pass protection, only giving up one sack on Peyton Manning, a sack that came as the result of a blitz. Where they struggled was in the running game. Montee Ball carried the ball 23 times, but was only able to average 2.9 yards per carry, despite often making initial tacklers miss. This was due to the Broncos offensive line struggling to open up holes and get to the second level.
For now, I expect there to be some growing pains. But with the Kansas City Chiefs coming to town, the Broncos big men up front better have an answer for the Chiefs trio of ferocious pass rushers, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and rookie, Dee Ford. Missing Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker, and Mike Devito at defensive end, should open up plenty of opportunities for the Broncos to gash the Chiefs on the ground.
You can find Chad Jensen on Twitter CJ_Broncos.