ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Free agency, the combine and the owners meetings are in the rearview mirror and the NFL draft is just a few days away. But it’s time to get back to football on the field. Here’s a quick look at the Denver Broncos as they open their offseason workout program Monday.
Biggest challenge facing head coach Gary Kubiak: Certainly, in the wake of Peyton Manning's retirement and Brock Osweiler's departure in free agency, the Broncos need to work things out behind center. And at the moment, they have just two quarterbacks on the roster in Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian. But the biggest challenge facing Kubiak overall is one that every coach of a Super Bowl winner has faced: How to regain the hunger and the accountability the team showed in the title run last season after the ultimate goal has been reached. Kubiak was on Mike Shanahan’s staff when the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls and he says he knows what it takes to reset and begin the chase again.
Player on the rise: There’s a lot to like about what linebacker Von Miller has done in the league already, with four Pro Bowl selections, two first-team All-Pro selections, 60 career sacks and one Super Bowl MVP award. But the Broncos see Miller as a player who can launch himself from a dominant postseason run that saw him with five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl 50 combined. There is business to be done on a long-term deal, but if Miller keeps his word to be “better this year than I was last year," the 27-year-old will be the defensive player of the year conversation.
Player who has the most to prove: Sanchez has said all of the right things since the Broncos acquired him from the Philadelphia Eagles. On potential competition at quarterback: “Bring it on." He wants the starting job and has a tremendous head start on any other players the Broncos might bring in at the position, having thrown with some of the team’s wide receivers and tight ends in California. But he comes to a team that has won five consecutive division titles and made two Super Bowl trips over the past five seasons. That’s a lot of success, and the expectation in and around the team is there are more victories on the way if the team’s starting quarterback can do it his part, no matter who it is.
Surprise player to watch: With Danny Trevathan having moved on in free agency -- he signed with the Chicago Bears -- it’s Todd Davis who will get the first look to start at Trevathan’s inside-linebacker spot. Davis was signed off the St. Louis Rams practice squad during the 2014 season and immediately carved out a niche as a player who performed when needed, both with the defense and on special teams. He will have a chance to earn a coveted starting spot with what was the league’s best defense last season.
Position that should be addressed in draft: Because their salary cap has fit fairly snugly for much of the offseason, the Broncos took a limited approach in free agency. And because their trade talks with the San Francisco 49ers -- for QB Colin Kaepernick -- are in a holding pattern with both sides dug in, quarterback will be a position that gets a long look. And in recent weeks the Broncos have had several college quarterbacks visit, including Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Memphis’ Paxton Lynch and Michigan State’s Connor Cook. In the five drafts since John Elway became the Broncos’ chief football decision-maker, he has selected a quarterback in three. The Broncos will also give a long look at using a premium pick or two on the offensive line as well as the defensive line.