Originally Published: September 2, 2010
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (16): Kyle Orton quietly had a very productive year for the Broncos in 2009. He completed 62.1 percent of his passes and threw for 21 touchdowns.

Expert Picks (Consensus: 4th)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Broncos:

1. This is Kyle Orton's team: Orton has become an undisputed leader in Denver. He is well respected by players on both sides of the ball. He is not the rah-rah type. But he is vocal when needed and he is one of the hardest workers on the team. He earned his teammates' respect for the way he handled the additions of quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow this offseason. Orton responded by having a great offseason and the best training camp of his career. If Denver has a chance this year, it will be because of Orton's presence.

2. The offensive line is a work in progress: The Broncos are transitioning from the zone-blocking scheme of the Mike Shanahan era to the more traditional power-blocking scheme that coach Josh McDaniels used in New England. That means Denver needs bigger, stronger offensive linemen rather than the smallish, more athletic linemen used in Shanahan's system. Three veteran starters, tackles Ryan Clady (who may not be ready for the start of the season because of offseason knee surgery) and Ryan Harris, and guard Chris Kuper, are all big enough to make the transition. The Broncos are going to use rookies Zane Beadles (guard) and J.D. Walton (center) in the starting lineup as well. This group has a chance to be good and help establish the ground game McDaniels wants. But with the youngsters, it may take some time.

3. Jamal Williams will play as much as he possibly can: With star pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, who led the NFL with 17 sacks last season, out until at least December with a torn pectoral muscle, the Broncos are going to have to rely on their interior line to provide a push. That means massive nose tackle Jamal Williams will be expected to be the igniter of this defense. In his prime, Williams was an elite player who was dominant against the run. However, he is 34 and he played only one game last season. So, it will be a lot to ask of Williams to maintain a major role all season. But the Broncos really need him to establish a presence on run defense.

4. Jabar Gaffney is a key: The Broncos are going to miss Brandon Marshall's production. He had 100-plus catches in three of his four seasons in Denver. The Broncos have an intriguing group of young receivers, especially with rookies Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and third-year player Eddie Royal. However, a lot will be expected of Gaffney. He is an underrated player who thrives in McDaniels' system. Expect him to be a big part of the offense.

5. Perrish Cox will play a big role: The Broncos are excited about the fifth-round pick from Oklahoma State. He had an outstanding training camp and Denver thinks he's ready for prime time. Cox will be Denver's nickel cornerback and return man. Cox has completely outplayed second-year cornerback Alphonso Smith, whom the Broncos traded their 2010 first-round pick to select at No. 37 in the 2009 draft.

-- Bill Williamson, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five


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