Receiver, weakside LB will be major question marks for Broncos in 2010

DENVER - NOVEMBER 23:  Defensive end Jarvis Moss #94 of the Denver Broncos leaves the line of scrimmage against the Oakland Raiders during week 12 NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing two potential issues that the Broncos face in 2010.

I’ve tried to stick with talking about only one position when discussing teams in this question marks series, but it’s hard not to bring up two key issues that the Broncos will face this season.

Brandon Marshall amassed 101 receptions and 10 touchdowns last season – almost half the number of TDs that Kyle Orton threw (21). The player with the next most receptions on the team last year was Jabar Gaffney, who finished with 54.

Needless to say, now that he’s in Miami the Broncos’ receivers have their work cut out for them trying to duplicate Marshall’s success.

The team did well by selecting former Georgia Tech product Demaryius Thomas in the first round of April’s draft. His skill set is off the charts and in time, he could make Denver forget about Marshall and become the Broncos’ go-to guy.

But he also keeps injuring his surgically repaired left foot and while he should be ready to go by Week 1, will the foot be a problem for him from here on out? How many times do we see a player hampered by an injury all season, even though he’s able to play every Sunday? Receivers have a difficult time making an impact in their rookie years as it is, so it stands to reason that Thomas could struggle this season.

While Orton has looked great so far in his second year running Josh McDaniels’ offense, he doesn’t have a ton of playmakers to throw to at the receiver position. Gaffney and Eddie Royal are fine complementary options, but neither of them is a No. 1 and if Thomas can’t fill that void as a rookie, Denver’s offense may be limited.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos were dealt a crushing blow when outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil suffered a torn pectoral muscle and likely will miss the entire season. As of this writing, Jarvis Moss, Jason Hunter, Baraka Atkins and rookie Kevin Alexander are all getting the chance to start at the weakside linebacker position and it appears that there is no front-runner.

The Broncos would love it if Moss (a former first rounder) stepped up and claimed the spot. He arguably has the most talent of the group, but he has been an under whelming player to this point in his career. He also may be a miscast as a converted outside linebacker (he’s a former defensive end), because he’s not particularly fluid or loose enough in the hips to cover backs and tight ends in passing situations. He could be good in a rotation, but eventually the Broncos would like to find a solid replacement for Dumervil.

No matter who takes over for Dumervil, he’s going to have some enormous shoes to fill. The Broncos are weak in the pass-rush department on a whole, so losing Dumervil (who led the league in sacks last season) is obviously a huge hit.

As with any team when it comes to weaknesses, if certain players step up this season, the Broncos will be fine. And the additions that the team made to the defensive line this offseason could certainly mask the deficiencies at weakside linebacker.

But as it stands now, the Broncos have more questions than answers at those two spots and you wonder if this is an improved team or if they may have taken a step back.

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