AFC West: Andre Goodman

Reviewing what I missed

April, 16, 2012
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I took last week off. It was not an overly busy week, but some things did occur, so let’s review the game film of some of the events of the week:

Denver

The Broncos signed defensive tackle Justin Bannan.

My take: Bannan, who also was a Bronco in 2010, is a solid player who will help in the rotation. Denver still needs a young defensive tackle, but this is a good addition.

The Broncos cut cornerback Andre Goodman.

My take: This has been coming since the Broncos signed Tracy Porter to replace Goodman. This is not a shock at all. I wonder if Oakland coach and former Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will look at Goodman. He will turn 34 this year and he is in decline, but Goodman has strong experience, which could interest Oakland.

Receiver Demaryius Thomas made some critical comments about former quarterback Tim Tebow and expressed happiness with the Peyton Manning signing.

My take: Is anyone surprised by this? Thomas is a receiver. Playing with an erratic passer had to get frustrating for all Denver receivers. A Manning-Tebow swap is a receiver’s dream.

Kansas City

Tight end Leonard Pope signed with Pittsburgh.

My take: He wasn’t in the Chiefs' plans. Pope is a favorite of former Kansas City coach Todd Haley, who will now coach Pope for a third NFL organization. They were in Arizona together before Kansas City.

Oakland

The Raiders signed college basketball player Andre Hardy in hopes of making him a tight end.

My take: Why not? Former college hoopsters turned tight ends have hit it big. So it’s a low-risk endeavor. Don’t expect much from Hardy soon, though. He is probably a practice-squad prospect. This signing does not affect Oakland’s need for another tight end in 2012.

San Diego

The Chargers re-signed fullback Jacob Hester.

My take: He will back up Le'Ron McClain and will play special teams. Hester is a solid role player.

The Chargers signed former Oakland starting offensive lineman Mario Henderson.

My take: This is a depth move. Having a former starter as a backup is never a bad thing.
MillerRon Chenoy/US PresswireSure, the Broncos have Peyton Manning, but their success may rest on Von Miller and the defense.

Barring a setback from the neck injury that cost him the entire 2011 season, Peyton Manning has the Denver Broncos’ offense covered. That side of the ball will be fine and will be in playoff form.

But what about the defense?

That side of the ball will be a key to Denver's season. If the 2012 Denver defense can make the strides it did in 2011, the Broncos have a chance to be a serious contender.

Bill Polian, who knows Manning well, has said he thinks the potential of the Broncos' defense is one of the reasons Manning chose to play in Denver. Polian, the Colts’ former general manager who brought Manning to Indianapolis and who is now an ESPN analyst, said last week he thinks the Denver defense could be a spark for the Manning-led offense.

“John Fox is going to coach up that defense and it has a chance to play great defense,” Polian said. “That will only help Peyton.”

However, I believe the Broncos have work to do before they can start playing great defense.

Tracy Porter
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireTracy Porter joins the Denver secondary and will pair with Champ Bailey.
This unit is a work in progress. It went from No. 32 in 2010 prior to Fox’s arrival to No. 20 in 2011 under the guidance of Fox and coordinator Dennis Allen, who is now the head coach in Oakland. The 2011 Denver Broncos will be remembered for the wild days of Tim Tebow, but it was the defense that rose up and solidified the team. With Manning running the offense and former Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio running the defense, the team has a chance to go to the next level.

The defense in Denver starts with pass-rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. The pair combined for 21 sacks last season and they should be one of the most dynamic pass-rush duos in the NFL for years to come. Polian called the pair special and an anchor for the defense.

Denver upgraded at cornerback by signing Tracy Porter of New Orleans. He is a solid No. 2 cornerback and will make a strong pairing with the aging, but still dominant Champ Bailey. Porter, who has had challenges staying healthy, is an upgrade from Andre Goodman. Underrated safety Mike Adams was signed from Cleveland. He will pair with second-year player Quinton Carter, who made strides as the season went on. The team will give 2011 No. 2 pick Rahim Moore a chance to rebound from a rookie season in which he regressed. But Adams and Carter should be a serviceable pairing.

There are some problems, though. Outside linebacker D.J. Williams, one of the better defenders on the team, is facing a six-game NFL suspension for using a banned substance. He is fighting it in the form of a lawsuit. Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley signed with New Orleans. Bunkley was a tone-setter, and even though he played only 43 percent of the snaps, he will be missed.

Denver has a major void at defensive tackle and it probably will take advantage of a strong draft class at the position and use the No. 25 pick on a player such as Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox, Penn State’s Devon Still or LSU’s Michael Brockers. They also want to re-sign Marcus Thomas and hope 2011 free-agent signee Ty Warren is healthy after missing the past two seasons.

There is no doubt this is still a building project and that concerns Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

“I was very worried about this defense, but now I feel a little better about it after it signed Porter, who is a very solid No. 2 behind Bailey,” Williamson said. “But I still have my worries about the defense up the middle. Losing Bunkley hurts quite a bit, but maybe Ty Warren can help out this year. The safety position worries me. But they can sure rush the passer. The question is will be they be able to handle a physical offense.”

After being the bright spot of a surprise team in 2011, the Denver defense must take the next step in a year when, suddenly, much is expected from this team.
The Denver Broncos’ decision to bring in former New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter in for one year for $4 million means a few things:

Andre' Goodman is probably out of the picture. The Broncos were looking for an upgrade at right cornerback. Porter, 25, is considered a decent No. 2 cornerback and should be a good complement to Champ Bailey.

It likely means the Broncos will not continue to pursue Pittsburgh cornerback William Gay. It was probably an either/or situation and Porter is considered the better player.

Even though Porter is signed for just one year and Bailey will turn 34 in June, the Broncos will probably draft a defensive tackle or a cornerback in the first round. Why? It’s more of an immediate need. I could still see cornerback being addressed early in the draft and maybe Denver will look for some more depth in free agency.

Oakland wanted Porter, but he was a bit too pricey. Porter played for new Raiders coach Dennis Allen in New Orleans.

I caught up with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to get this view on the Porter signing. Williamson thinks Porter is the best of three starting cornerbacks who have joined the AFC West in free agency. Oakland has brought in Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer.

Here are Williamson’s thoughts on the Porter signing: “He’s a real good addition. He’s a strong No. 2 cornerback opposite Champ. Porter isn’t overly strong or physical, but he can play man coverage and he is a playmaker on the ball. I am shocked he lasted so long. I would put him ahead of a fully healthy Bartell and certainly over Spencer.”

A Manning and Porter union?

March, 20, 2012
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While there has been talk the Denver Broncos may bring in some former Indianapolis Colts teammates to make Peyton Manning comfortable, they also may bring in the man who delivered Manning his greatest professional blow.

The Broncos are set to visit with New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter on Wednesday, according to an NFL source. He is visiting with the Titans on Tuesday.

Porter is best known for returning an interception for a touchdown against Manning in the Super Bowl in 201o. It sealed an upset win for the Saints over the Colts.

In Denver, Porter would likely replace Andre Goodman at right cornerback and play opposite Champ Bailey. Putting Porter on his side would likely be fine with Manning.

Oakland also had interest in Porter -- Oakland coach Dennis Allen coached Porter in New Orleans -- but those talks have stalled after the Raiders signed Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer.
The following are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

Denver

Chucky from SLC: What do you think about Denver's secondary? Goodman is well past his prime and this might have been Dawkins’ final season in the NFL. Quinton Carter is coming along but what happened to 2nd round draft choice Rahim Moore?

Bill Williamson: Moore was disappointing. He regressed. Carter was good. I think they will add a corner first and then add a safety in some form.

Kansas City

Bill from DC: What is the situation with Dwaine Bowe (regarding) his contract?

BW: He is a free agent. The Chiefs have indicated they would like to keep him, but he may be ready to see what's on the market.

Oakland

Shanard from Utah: Bill, would the raiders go after another speed WR in DeSean Jackson if he is available.

BW: He's dynamic for sure, but I think the Raiders are good at receiver. They just have to continue to develop them. DHB, Moore and Ford is a nice trio if they continue to get better and they can stay healthy. Jackson is going to be pricey. If the Raiders were to spend that type of money, I'd like to see it spent on an impact defensive player.

San Diego

Jake from SD: Bill any word regarding McNeil, Dielman6 and Hardwick? What are the odds on the 3 coming back to SD next year? Also is Gaither a FA? Thanks!

BW: I think it will be a wait-and-see on all three. If had to guess they will all try to play. But I could see the Chargers trying to sign Gaither opposed to risking McNeill's health. But that is just a guess at this point.

Denver Broncos: Moving on

January, 16, 2012
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With the Denver Broncos' season over after a 9-9 season, let’s look at five keys for the Broncos as they move forward:

The quarterback: It is expected to be Tim Tebow’s job next season. He will need to improve in the offseason. The Broncos will want to see his footwork improve and they will want to see him become a more consistent passer. Tebow’s improvement will be a key in the offseason.

Secondary help: Denver could be looking for a lot of help in this area. Right cornerback Andre Goodman had a tough night at New England and he was picked on at times. I could see Denver looking to draft a cornerback early. Also, safety Brian Dawkins may retire and the Broncos have some unproven youth at safety. I could see that position being an area in which Denver adds a veteran.

Running back help: The Broncos ran the ball great in 2011. They were the NFL’s top-ranked running team. But Willis McGahee, 30, got nicked up a lot and he will need some help. Knowshon Moreno is coming off an ACL injury and he may be best suited as a third-down back next season. Watch for Denver to pursue a running back either in free agency or early in the draft.

Defensive line: Every year Denver is expected to add a stout defensive tackle in the draft and they don’t. Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas played well this season. They are both free agents and Denver will want to bring them back, especially Bunkley. Ty Warren will also be back next season after missing all of this season. Still, Denver may add some reinforcements.

Receiver help: Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are a nice starting point, but Denver will need another reliable option, perhaps a veteran possession player. It may be a long shot that free agent Eddie Royal comes back.

Brian Dawkins is inactive

December, 18, 2011
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DENVER – The Denver Broncos will have to face the pass-happy New England Patriots without veteran safety Brian Dawkins. He is inactive with a neck injury that forced him to leave the win over Chicago last week.

Dawkins missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, but he did practice on a limited basis Friday. He was listed as questionable. Cornerback Andre Goodman is active and is expected to play. He listed as questionable.

The Broncos will start rookies Quentin Carter and Rahim Moore at safety.

Meanwhile, the Raiders will be without defensive tackle John Henderson, safety Michael Huff and running back Taiwan Jones on Sunday ageist Detroit. They were all game-time decisions.

AFC West injury update

December, 16, 2011
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A look at key injury situations in the division heading into Week 15:

Denver starting safety Brian Dawkins (neck) and starting cornerback Andre Goodman (concussion) were both limited Friday. Both players are listed as questionable to play against the New England Patriots on Sunday. Barring setbacks, expect both players to try to play. The Broncos will need the two players as they face the pass-proficient Patriots. Receiver Eddie Royal (concussion) is listed as probable. He missed last week’s game.

In Oakland, Raiders’ coach Hue Jackson said running back Darren McFadden (foot) and receiver Jacoby Ford (foot) are out as expected. McFadden has been hurt for seven weeks and Ford has been out for a month. Jackson said defensive tackle John Henderson (knee), safety Michael Huff (ankle) and running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring) are questionable. Cornerback Chris Johnson, who has been dealing with the death of his sister in Texas, is also out.

For Kansas City, safety Jon McGraw is doubtful with an ankle injury. Receiver Jon Baldwin and cornerback Javier Arenas both practiced fully after they sat out Thursday’s practice because they were ill. They are both probable to play.

In San Diego, linebackers Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler were limited in practice for the first time this week and they are listed as questionable to face Baltimore on Sunday.

Broncos' secondary getting healthier

December, 15, 2011
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The Denver Broncos received good injury news Thursday. Starting defensive backs Brian Dawkins (neck) and Andre Goodman (concussion) practiced on a limited basis Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. Both players were hurt Sunday.

Thus, barring a setback, they both might have a chance to play Sunday against pass-happy New England. Also, receiver Eddie Royal -- who missed the Chicago game with a concussion -- practiced fully Thursday.

In other AFC West news:

As expected, Oakland running back Darren McFadden (foot), running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring), receiver Jacoby Ford (foot), defensive tackle John Henderson (knee) and safety Michael Huff (hamstring) all missed their second day of practice this week. Barring a fast recovery, it seems like these players will be out Sunday against Detroit.

Carolina receiver Steve Smith doesn’t think Tim Tebow compares to Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton. Newton has been much more polished than Tebow, but Tebow’s team has been much more successful than Newton’s.

ESPN columnist Rick Reilly asks readers to take their pick, Tom Brady or Tebow.

The Raiders’ have announced Sunday’s game against Detroit is a sellout. It is the seventh time in seven home games this season that there won’t be a local television blackout. The Oakland Tribune reports this is the first time since the Raiders came to Oakland 16 years ago that they sold out more than six home games in a season.

Chargers’ linebackers Donald Butler (foot) and Takeo Spikes (back) and defensive end Jacques Cesaire (ankle) missed their second straight day of practice Thursday.

Time is running out for McFadden

December, 14, 2011
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Raiders’ rookie receiver Denarius Moore was back at practice Wednesday on a limited basis. He missed the past three games with a foot injury. If he doesn’t suffer a setback, he may be able to play Sunday against Detroit. However, running back Darren McFadden (foot), and receivers Jacoby Ford (foot) and running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring) did not practice. Yet, Ford and Jones were running on the side, so they could be on their way back soon.

McFadden has been out for seven-plus weeks with no signs of him returning. Raiders coach Hue Jackson has maintained McFadden will be back this season, but timing is running out. You have to wonder if we have seen the end of McFadden in 2011.

In other AFC West news:
  • In Denver, starting defensive backs Brian Dawkins (neck) and cornerback Andre Goodman (concussion) did not practice Wednesday. Neither player was able to finish the Chicago game. That is not a good sign considering Tom Brady and the Patriots are visiting Denver on Sunday. Also, Denver receiver Eddie Royal was limited in practice after missing the Chicago game with a concussion.
  • Here’s the reaction from Brady when told Wednesday he has a 1-5 record against Denver. It is the only team Brady has a losing record against. “1-5? Man, that’s pretty bad. Hopefully we get to 2-5 this week.”
  • Four players from the AFC West (one player from each team) were named to the 26-member USA Football All-Fundamentals Team. The four AFC West players are: Denver’s Eric Decker (catching with hands), Kansas City’s Tamba Hali (pass rush), Oakland’s Shane Lechler (punting mechanics) and San Diego’s Eric Weddle safety (footwork in coverage). Former Chiefs executive Carl Peterson and former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards are on the five-person board.
  • Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer took a dive on ESPN.com’s quarterback watch.
  • Denver linebacker Von Miller remains atop ESPN.com’s Rookie Watch.
  • Former Kansas City coach Todd Haley will join ESPN’s Audibles on Thursday night as a guest analyst at 7 p.m. ET. He was fired Monday.
  • New Kansas City starting quarterback Kyle Orton indicated he is healthy after injuring his finger two weeks ago. If he doesn’t suffer a setback, Orton will start Sunday against Green Bay.
  • Denver quarterback Tim Tebow is third behind Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in the fan Pro Bowl vote. The fan voting counts for a third of the voting along with player and coach’s votes. The team will be announced Dec. 27. Meanwhile, ESPN2’s First Take -- hosted by longtime Tebow supporter Skip Bayless -- will broadcast live from Jackson’s Sports Bar in Denver from 10-12 a.m. ET Friday. The public is invited to the free event.

NFL honors Matt Prater

December, 13, 2011
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Straight from the not-a-shocker-category, Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater was named the AFC special teams player of the week for his efforts in the Broncos’ 13-10 overtime win over the Chicago Bears.

Prater nailed a 59-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 10-10 and to send it to overtime. He then ended the game with a 51-yard effort. It was the second time in NFL history a kicker kicked field goals of 50-plus yards in the final minute of regulation and in overtime.

In other AFC West news:

According to ESPN’s playoff predictor Insider Denver has a 78.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Oakland Raiders have a 23 percent chance.

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is five catches from becoming the team’s all-time leading receiver.

Another theory why Denver is winning games late.

Do you think the Kansas City Chiefs’ job opening is better than the openings in Miami and Jacksonville? I’d vote Miami, but that’s just me.

Denver signed cornerback Tony Carter off the practice squad and waived safety Kyle McCarthy. Denver starting cornerback Andre Goodman is dealing with a concussion and perhaps Denver was lacking for depth in case Goodman can’t play Sunday against the New England Patriots.

The Chargers announced they need to sell 2,000 tickets by Thursday for Sunday’s final home game of the season against Baltimore to avoid a television blackout . There is a good chance the Chargers will sell enough to avoid the blackout. Sunday’s game against Buffalo was blacked out. About 5,000 tickets remained when the blackout was enforced.

Wrap-up: Broncos 35, Vikings 32

December, 4, 2011
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A look at another thrilling Denver Broncos win, this time 35-32 over the Minnesota Vikings:

What it means: Denver is now tied with Oakland for first place in the AFC West at 7-5. Denver has won five straight games and has won six of quarterback Tim Tebow’s seven starts this season. The Broncos are a major factor in the AFC West playoff race after starting the season 1-4.

Tomorrow’s talker: Tebow is getting better as a passer. Denver -- which scored 28 points in the second half -- is still not comfortable enough to make Tebow a pure pocket passer, but he is making major strides. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 202 yards. He made several key completions and his passes continue to get more aesthetically pleasing. After running a record 22 times last week, he ran only four times for 13 yards

Winning close games: It was Denver’s third straight last-minute victory and the fourth since Tebow took over.

Thomas helping: Tebow is building a rapport with fellow 2010 first-round pick Demaryius Thomas. Thomas had four catches for 144 yards and the two nearly connected on a touchdown late in the game before Denver tied the score with a field goal. Eric Decker had been Tebow’s favorite target. He had 25 yards on two catches.

Defense comes through: The Vikings got their yardage, but Denver’s defense came up with three turnovers. An interception by cornerback Andre' Goodman with less than two minutes to go set up the win. This was a hard-fought game by the Denver defense. It was on the field for 37 minutes, 51 seconds and nearly 22 minutes in the first half. But it buckled down when it needed to.

Haggan has big game: Denver veteran linebacker Mario Haggan had a terrific game as he spelled rookie star Von Miller, who was out with ligament damage to his thumb. Haggan had a team-high 12 tackles and an interception return for a score.

McGahee makes big runs: At the age of 30, Denver running back Willis McGahee continued to shine. He had 111 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, on 20 carries. Denver, the leading rushing team in the NFL, had 150 rushing yards on 32 carries.

What’s next: Denver hosts the Jay Cutler-less Chicago Bears next week as the Broncos hope to continue their unlikely march toward the playoffs.

Rapid Reaction: Broncos 17, Jets 13

November, 17, 2011
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DENVER – A look at a game in which the Tim Tebow legend grew.

What it means: Thanks to an incredible final drive led by Tebow, the Broncos are right in the AFC West mix. Denver has won four of its past five games since Tebow has taken over. It is now 5-5 and it served notice to division leader Oakland, which is 5-4 and needs to win at Minnesota on Sunday to remain alone in first place. The Chargers and Chiefs are both 4-5. Believe or not, folks, Denver is a legitimate threat in this division.

Tomorrow’s talker: Tebow came alive in the fourth quarter after playing terribly. Until Denver’s final drive, it had more points than completions. Tebow then led Denver 95 yards on 12 plays in 4 minutes, 50 seconds. Tebow scored the game-winning touchdown on a beautiful 20-yard scramble with 58 seconds left. Whether he is good or not for most of the game, Tebow is making Denver a winner.

Denver D better: The Broncos’ defense is much improved and deserves a lot of credit for this victory. Head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen are doing nice work. This unit has long been a problem area for the Broncos, but it can keep them in games.

Miller time: Denver rookie linebacker Von Miller looked great, recording 1.5 sacks to push his season total to 9.5. He might challenge Jevon Kearse’s rookie sack record of 14.5 sacks, set in 1998.

Defensive scores: Andre Goodman’s interception return for a touchdown was Denver’s second pick-six this season. It had none during the past four seasons combined.

What’s next: Denver plays Nov. 27 at San Diego, which is 4-5 and has lost four in a row heading into its game Sunday at Chicago.

Camp Confidential: Denver Broncos

August, 17, 2011
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For a franchise that was accused of turning stale a few years ago, the Denver Broncos have become pros at taking fresh approaches.

For the second time in three training camps, Denver has a new head coach. John Fox takes over after the disastrous 23-month Josh McDaniels regime. From 1995 to 2008, the Broncos were the picture of coaching constancy. It was the Mike Shanahan show. Everyone knew it.

But the Broncos have been in flux and have gone from one of the better-run organizations in the NFL to a team that is grasping for an identity. Denver hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2005 season. It hasn’t had a winning record since 2006.

In comes Fox, who is experiencing a rebirth himself after spending the past nine seasons in Carolina. Fox’s biggest task in Denver is to restore normalcy after the rocky McDaniels era and rebuild a winner.

“There has been instability here, good, bad or indifferent, that’s just the way it has been,” said Fox, whose team will be on its sixth defensive coordinator (former New Orleans secondary coach Dennis Allen) in six seasons.

“We have to build our program here. But I think it can be done. There are good pieces here.”

Many Denver players have raved about Fox. They appreciate his professionalism, his structure and his attention to detail. They believe there is a plan in place, and they trust Fox’s experience. The players also seem to appreciate the fact that Fox is simply in Denver to coach. The front office is run by legendary Denver quarterback John Elway and general manager Brian Xanders. Both Shanahan and McDaniels made personnel decisions.

“I get a great feel for Coach Fox,” star cornerback Champ Bailey said. “He’s one of the better coaches I’ve been around ... I like it that he is focused on coaching us on the field. That’s where he wants to be.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRookie Von Miller will need to play well right away if Denver's defense is going to improve this season.
1. Fix the defense. While the Tim Tebow-Kyle Orton competition has garnered much attention, the real key issue in Denver’s camp has been the defense. This unit was ranked No. 32 in the NFL last season and was generally awful in every major statistical category. Fox and his defensive staff have taken a hands-on approach to improve this group, which is a mix of veterans and youngsters.

If the reconstructed defensive front plays well and rookie linebacker Von Miller makes an instant impact, this group has a chance to improve quickly. It seems to be working early. Denver’s defense has been capable in camp and it looked solid against Dallas in the preseason opener Thursday. Injuries to defensive tackles Ty Warren (who signed to a two-year, $8 million deal) and Marcus Thomas create more uncertainty at a key spot for Denver. It needs to get help there by Kevin Vickerson, Brodrick Bunkley, Jeremy Jarmon and Derrick Harvey in the rest of the preseason. Warren could be out for a long period and Thomas will miss the rest of the preseason.

2. Clarity at quarterback: The Broncos’ camp has been about getting the first-team ready to go with Orton. There is no question Orton is the starter now. If the team struggles, Tebow could enter the picture, but players love playing with Orton and the team thinks he currently gives them the best chance to win now.

Of course, the lack of clarity was team-induced. It spent the immediate days after the lockout trying to trade Orton to Miami. After that fell through, Orton took control of the offense quickly and has given Denver no choice but to make him the starter, TebowMania be dammed.

3. Establish a ground game: Although Fox is a defensive-minded coach, he has a strict philosophy on offense. He believes in stuffing the ball down an opponent’s throat and killing the clock. Denver struggled to run the ball under McDaniels, and Fox said adding a veteran tailback was paramount.

The Broncos jumped on Willis McGahee when he was cut by the Ravens. Expect McGahee and third-year player Knowshon Moreno to combine for plenty of carries. They have worked well in camp, and they combined for 40 yards on six carries in the preseason opener at Dallas. This camp has been spent getting these two involved in the offense as much as possible.

ELVIS IS BACK IN THE BUILDING

The Broncos are raving about the play of Elvis Dumervil. After leading the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009 and getting a contract worthy of that performance, Dumervil tore a pectoral muscle in early August last year and missed the entire 2010 season.

There was concern that his rust and a move back to the 4-3 under Fox could hamper the smallish Dumervil. He flourished in McDaniels’ 3-4 system after being a solid player in Shanahan’s 4-3 defense. Dumervil beefed up to more than 260 pounds, and he‘s been impressive under Fox.

The Broncos expect Dumervil and Miller to become one of the better pass-rush tandems in the league.

RELYING ON THE ROOKIES

[+] EnlargeRahim Moore
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Broncos will also be looking to rookie Rahim Moore to shore up Denver's secondary.
One of the most exciting aspects of this camp for Denver has been the play of its rookies. The Broncos thought they drafted well in April, and after three weeks, they are thrilled with what they see.

“I think we had an excellent draft,” Fox said.

Added Dumervil: “This is the best group of rookies I’ve seen here in awhile.”

Leading the way is Miller, who was the No. 2 overall draft pick. The Texas A&M product has been as advertised. Teammates rave about his speed, explosiveness and his ability to make plays. They expect instant success.

Second-round pick Rahim Moore is vying for a starting spot with Kyle McCarthy at safety and has shown he is ready for NFL play. Right tackle Orlando Franklin, middle linebacker Nate Irving, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Quentin Carter are all expected to be major contributors. This is exactly what this 4-12 team needed -- a solid group of youngsters to build around after a couple of shaky years of drafting by McDaniels.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Safety Brian Dawkins may be turning 38 this year, but the Broncos are still getting a lot out of him. He works well with Fox’s staff, and his leadership has been uncanny during camp.
  • Defensive end Robert Ayers has been getting chances to break out in camp, but he has been slow to show progress. He was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
  • Receiver Brandon Lloyd has been slowed by swelling in his knee. Still, the team expects him to contribute. Lloyd had a breakout season in 2010 -- 77 catches for 1,448 yards.
  • The second-round draft class of 2009 has been a bust. Tight end Richard Quinn is hurt and could be the odd man out. Safety Darcel McBath has yet to develop, and cornerback Alphonso Smith (who Denver traded its 20101 first-round pick for) was shipped out to Detroit last year. This was supposed to be the nucleus of future success, and Denver hasn’t seen results.
  • The Broncos’ passing game struggled in red-zone and third-down situations. That has been a point of emphasis during this camp.
  • Veterans Joe Mays and Mario Haggan are competing to hold off Irving at middle linebacker.
  • Franklin has struggled in pass projection. Still, the team is committed to him.
  • Denver is excited about second-year receiver Eric Decker. Expect Decker to get a chance to contribute a lot.
  • The Broncos like what they have in new tight end Daniel Fells. He is solid as a receiver and as a blocker. He should help in both phases of the game.
  • Right cornerback Andre' Goodman has been steady, and the team is confident he can play well in 2011.
  • Second-year center J.D. Walton continues to improve, and he has shown strong leadership for a young player.

More off-field misery in Denver

December, 10, 2010
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The most miserable season in recent memory for the Denver Broncos just took another hit: One of the team's starters has been arrested for sexual assault.

Rookie cornerback Perrish Cox was arrested by suburban Denver police on Thursday night after a lengthy investigation. He remained jailed Friday morning and his immediate status with the Broncos was unknown.

Denver drafted him in the fifth round out of Oklahoma State. Cox, a strong return man as well as a cornerback, was taken by former Denver coach Josh McDaniels despite the fact that Cox had character concerns coming out of college. He was suspended for the Cowboys' bowl game last year for reportedly missing curfew. McDaniels -- who was fired Monday -- always said he put a premium on character, but Cox’s selection was considered low-risk because he was a low-round pick.

Cox has been starting because veteran Andre Goodman has been injured. Cox’s now uncertain future, coupled with the potential departure of Champ Bailey in free agent, points toward Denver looking for cornerback help in the draft.

This arrest is another major issue for a team that has more than its share of problems this season.

Popular receiver Kenny McKinley committed suicide in September. He was on the injured reserve. The team has been in mourning since. While nothing compares to McKinley’s death, several poor decision have further clouded Denver’s season.

There was the recent videotape scandal in London that helped lead to McDaniels’ firing. Linebacker D.J. Williams was stripped of his captaincy after he was arrested for the suspicion of drunk driving. Denver is 3-9 and out of the playoff hunt. Cox’s arrest is another bad situation for a team suffocating in misery.

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