Plummer is back for his second season in Denver, after a pretty successful first year. Plummer went 9-2 as a starter in the regular season last year, but he also had Clinton Portis, Shannon Sharpe and Ed McCaffrey around him. All three are gone this season, and more pressure will be on Plummer to carry the offense. Kanell looks much more comfortable as the backup than he did last year when he was thrown into the lineup after injuries to Plummer and since retired Steve Beuerlein.
It seems like every back who has been the workhorse in Denver's offense gains over 1,000 yards and Griffin should be no exception if the 195-pounder stays healthy. If he were a little taller and heavier, he would be widely regarded as a potential superstar. He has fantastic quickness and vision. Hearst took over as the primary backup when Mike Anderson suffered a season-ending groin injury. Bell will be a good player but missed a lot of time in camp and needs to catch up. Droughns is dependable as a blocker and catching balls out of the backfield.
The Broncos will likely use a committee. Putzier could emerge as the top guy in that committee -- he was the best tight end throughout training camp and preseason. Chamberlain and Hape know the offense and are ahead of Weaver, who started 15 games with San Francisco last year but has never seemed comfortable in Denver's offense.
This unit could make or break the Broncos. Smith is a possession receiver at this point in his career, but he's still one of the team's hardest workers and a great leader. Lelie needs to show more than he did through the preseason. Watts is ready to take his spot away if he doesn't. Luke and Jackson will only be used if there are injuries.
The development of Lepsis, who is moving from right tackle to left tackle this season, and Foster, who was active for only one game as a rookie last year, will be important. The interior of the line is very good, especially in the middle where Nalen returned from a knee injury that ended his 2002 season to once again make the Pro Bowl. There's decent depth, but nobody who will push for a starting job.
Starters -- DE Trevor Pryce, DT Monsanto Pope, DT Luther Elliss, DE Raylee Johnson. Backups -- DE Reggie Hayward, DE Marco Coleman, DT Darius Holland, DT Nick Eason, DT Mario Fatafehi, DE Bryant McNeal.
Pryce had a great camp after getting his body in shape during the offseason. He might end up at tackle if Elliss can't shake the injury bug that he's had for the past few years. Pope came on late in the preseason to claim a job. Hayward's regression left the Broncos shaking their heads. He had 8.5 sacks as a backup last year and will start the season as a backup again after he couldn't hold onto a starting job in camp. Johnson, who was let go by San Diego in the offseason, has showed signs of the quickness he was known for early in his career.
The best move the Broncos made this offseason was re-signing free agent Wilson, one of the best in the game at middle linebacker. Williams will make rookie mistakes, but he's got a lot of talent. Sykes entered training camp as a starter but hurt his knee in Denver's first exhibition game. Spragan is probably better suited for the weak side and could end up battling Williams for a starting spot there. Chukwurah cemented his spot by showing flashes of brilliance as a situational pass rusher in preseason.
The acquisition of Bailey could mean great things for the Broncos' defense. His presence will allow the Broncos to blitz more. Walls won't have the pressure of covering the opponent's best receiver as he did last year and should benefit. The Broncos have three safeties that can play at a high level, and Ferguson is the odd man out. The Broncos have a lot of confidence in him though. Herndon might be better suited as Denver's nickel cornerback this season instead of a starting role like he was in last year.
Elam is almost automatic, and is a fantastic clutch kicker. In his last 10 seasons, he has only had one season with a field-goal percentage lower than 75 percent. Knorr and Leach are each entering their third season with the Broncos and are solid. Droughns is not going to break many long returns, but he won't make many mistakes either. Luke's emergence means the Broncos won't have to use Rod Smith or Champ Bailey to return punts.
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