Now that the NFL season is here, I’m putting a twist on my weekly Blogger on Blogger series. Each week, I hope to enlist a blogger who regularly writes about the Ravens’ opponent to help me break down the game. This week, I exchanged emails with Kyle Montgomery, who blogs about the Denver Broncos for Mile High Report.
MV: Most folks here in Baltimore don’t know much about the men who will be asked to replace Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller on Thursday night. Who must fill their shoes and what are reasonable expectations?
KM: Defensive end Robert Ayers and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe are the men tasked with filling Elvis Dumervil's impressive shoes, and there's reason to believe the latter might just have a breakout season. Ayers was a first-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2009, but despite being given several chances to start throughout his career, he has not had the impact that regime had hoped. He is serviceable, but he lacks Dumervil's explosive playmaking. Wolfe, on the other hand, is showing that promise, and he looks faster and stronger than he did in his rookie season last year. He'll play at left defensive end then move inside on nickel packages, giving him plenty of opportunities to produce. The Broncos need him to.
MV: How excited are you to see what Wes Welker brings to an already stacked offense, and do you see any reason why the Broncos would ever want to use something other than three-receiver sets?
KM: Broncos fans are extremely excited to see what impact Wes Welker will have on this Broncos offense this year, and I definitely fall in that group. I put myself in the shoes of opposing defensive coordinators, and I do not envy their task. The presence of Welker underneath opens up so many possibilities for Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker/ you cannot double-team all three of them. So while the Broncos will certainly use other personnel groupings at times, expect to see Welker, Thomas and Decker being the predominant package the Broncos use, and look for NFL defenses to be desperate to keep up.
MV: Ronnie Hillman, not Montee Ball or Knowshon Moreno, has been announced as the starting running back for the Broncos. Why was he was the choice? And is it the right choice?
KM: Ronnie Hillman did everything the Broncos asked him to do before and during offseason workouts, and that's why he is Denver's starting running back to begin the season. He added bulk, worked on his pass blocking, and by all accounts, lived in his playbook. I didn't agree with the decision when it was first made -- when the Broncos released Willis McGahee in June -- and I haven't seen a lot to change my mind outside of practice, but I'm excited to see if Hillman can make the most of this opportunity. If he can't, Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno are right there to pick up the slack.
MV: With cornerback Champ Bailey out Thursday night, are the Broncos in trouble against Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones?
KM: Champ Bailey has been ruled out, so the Broncos will have to lean on their depth at cornerback to make due. Luckily that depth is impressive. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a tall, fast, young corner who excels in man coverage, while Chris Harris Jr., normally lined up in the slot, played very well for Denver last year as the No. 2 corner. You might even say the Broncos added DRC solely to solve the problem Jacoby Jones presented last January -- a fast player, excelling on a 9-route, getting behind the defense. That's where DRC shines. Still, there is no overlooking Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones following the divisional round debacle last year, and without a consistent pass rush, the Broncos could be in trouble.
MV: Regardless of what happens Thursday night, the Broncos are expected to be legitimate contenders in the AFC, and a lot of that has to do with Peyton Manning. Is there reason to believe, despite another year on his odometer, that he will be even better this season?
KM: Yes. There are several reasons to believe Peyton Manning will be even better in 2013. In a lot of ways, 2012 was Peyton Manning's second rookie season. He was in a new city, a new system, and with new teammates, all while recovering from four neck surgeries and being out of football for a year. Now, his arm is stronger. He and his receivers are more in sync. The offense is going full throttle, no huddle. Manning is 37, he is one of the NFL's all-time greatest football composers, and has little left to prove. But with a stronger arm, a faster offense, and a new toy in Wes Welker, 2013 could just be this composer's magnum opus.
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