Mike Nolan is out as defensive coordinator, replaced by Don "Wink" Martindale. One of the reasons the Broncos promoted Martindale from linebackers coach is they needed some sense of continuity. Whoever took over as Denver's defensive coordinator was going to be the fifth in the past five years. By tabbing Martindale, not much should change.
There are some changes, aside from the boilerplate offseason talk about the new coordinator being more aggressive. Denver could play more man defense, trying to create more turnovers, and Martindale could add in a few different blitzes, which might help free up Elvis Dumervil.
Martindale is a wild card himself, however. He has never been a NFL coordinator. His last coordinator job was 2003 at Western Kentucky University.
--Be dynamic on offense: Last year, the Broncos simply weren't an offense that could beat a team with one big play. They did a good job gaining yards, but most of their drives were long, grinding trips down the field.
The Broncos want to push the ball downfield more often in the passing game. They didn't do that last year relying on Brandon Marshall, who simply is not a great deep threat. The problem is there might not be a great deep threat on the roster, unless rookie first-round pick Demaryius Thomas can fill that role right away. He averaged 25.1 yards per catch at Georgia Tech last year, but not necessarily because he has blazing speed.
Big plays lacked in the running game, as well. Knowshon Moreno had just two runs of 20 yards or more, a startlingly low number for a player who was pretty good at breaking big gains in college. The Broncos think with another year of experience, Moreno can turn some moderate gains into huge plays.
--Fix the offensive line: If Ryan Clady, Ryan Harris and Russ Hochstein are all fully healthy by the season opener, the offensive line isn't much of a concern. But going into camp with 60 percent of the projected starting line dealing with various problems is far from ideal.
Clady is obviously the biggest concern. His knee injury, sustained playing basketball this offseason, could keep him out the entire preseason. The Broncos' hopes of getting Clady back by the season opener could be very optimistic, but not out of the question. The Broncos can't replace Clady, who is arguably one of the best left tackles in the NFL. He might be the best player on the roster. But Tyler Polumbus, or perhaps even rookie Zane Beadles if he goes back to tackle, have to prepare during camp for the possibility of starting the season opener.
Harris at least returned for some practice reps late in the offseason, but was limited. The toe injury he suffered was quite serious, and it's fair to wonder if he'll be back to his old self right away. Hochstein is yet another injury concern, coming off a knee injury. He started at left guard last year, but could start at center if the team decides rookie J.D. Walton isn't ready.
Getting the entire unit on the same page during camp will be a challenge considering all the injuries.
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