The National Football League kicks off this week–but are the Denver Broncos ready?
The Broncos have high hopes this season after an embarrassing 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. The postseason downfall sparked an even bigger will to improve during the offseason.
The Broncos preseason recently concluded with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Aug. 28. Denver backups, including quarterback Brock Osweiler, running back Kapri Bibbs and receiver Cody Latimer, all played well, contributing to the 27-3 victory.
The Broncos finalized their 53 man roster on Saturday, releasing players including defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, safety Duke Ihenacho and running back Kapri Bibbs, despite his preseason success.
Major additions to the Broncos lineup this year include cornerback Aqib Talib, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, strong safety T.J. Ward and receiver Emmanuel Sanders, each acquired during the offseason, and Bradley Roby, Denver’s 2014 first round draft pick.
Through free agency, Denver lost receiver Eric Decker to the New York Jets, Knowshon Moreno to the Miami Dolphins and cornerback Champ Bailey to the New Orleans Saints, although he was subsequently released.
Montee Ball is stepping up to replace Knowshon Moreno as the Broncos’ main running back. He is recovering from an appendectomy, surgery to remove your appendix, but is expected to start the Broncos’ opener.
Broncos place kicker Matt Prater will miss the first four games of the season serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Denver looks to Brandon McManus to replace Prater for the opening games.
Slot receiver Wes Welker will also be out the first four games, as he is suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Welker was a big factor in last year’s offense, teammates Emmanuel Sanders, Andre Caldwell, Jacob Tamme, and Cody Latimer are expected to contribute in his absence.
The Broncos also named the team captains for the 2014 season on Monday. Terrance Knighton, Demaryius Thomas and DeMarcus Ware joined Peyton Manning and David Bruton as captains.
The Broncos’ first matchup is on Sunday, Sept. 7 against the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning’s former team. The last time the Broncos and Colts met, in Week Seven of last year, the Broncos suffered their first loss.
Despite new challenges, Denver expects nothing less than a Super Bowl ring at the conclusion of the 2014 football season.