Last season, the Denver Broncos couldn't have performed much better on offense.
However, with three offensive starters, Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno and guard Zane Beadles, hitting the free-agent market, it was obvious that the offense would change.
And it has changed.
It would appear that these losses could hinder the team's offense. After all, each of these starters played key roles in the team's offensive success. Beadles did his job in protecting Manning and helping the running game succeed, Moreno accumulated 13 total touchdowns and Decker caught 11.
Sure, these players did very well in Denver. However, because of Denver's corresponding moves (or moves that could happen soon), there's no reason to believe that the Broncos will suffer from this.
Emmanuel Sanders was brought in to replace Decker. He caught 67 passes for 740 yards in 2013, and he could do much better with Manning. He has incredible speed and solid hands.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Sanders' drop rate was an above-average 6.94 percent. His drop rate was better than that of Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. His hands aren't phenomenal, but they're solid.
Sanders can stretch the field, and he can contribute on screen passesl. He can take any short pass and take it all the way, which will serve Denver well. Manning always finds ways to get his receivers in position to make plays after the catch, and this will serve Sanders and the team well.
While Sanders doesn't have the red-zone prowess Decker had, he still caught six touchdown passes last year. He caught a greater chunk of Pittsburgh's passing touchdowns than Decker did of Denver's; Pittsburgh's quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, threw just 28 touchdowns.
In other words, Sanders' stats should improve in all categories with Manning at the helm.
It's safe to say Denver's passing game will remain incredible barring a serious injury to Manning. After all, Welker, Thomas and Julius Thomas are still there, and Sanders brings a whole new element to the aerial attack.
The running game won't be as good as the passing game, but it actually could improve despite Moreno's departure. Montee Ball is expected to inherit the starting job at running back, and C.J. Anderson would back him up.
Ball averaged 4.7 yards per carry last season. Even though he fumbled three times, he flashed signs of greatness. Anderson averaged 5.4 YPC last year on seven carries, and he flashed promise in the preseason. As I have previously noted, Anderson can make a vital, unexpected contribution.
The same goes for Ball. The only difference is that he is actually expected to do great things.
With the talent that Ball has, he's likely to build on his 2013 success. He dominated in his last five regular-season games, averaging 6.6 YPC. The former touchdown machine showed lots of promise, and with a whole offseason of work, he should improve enough to stabilize the running game.
So, even though Denver lost three key players, it will likely still improve at the skill positions.
Also, with the return of star left tackle Ryan Clady, the Broncos will be hold off top pass-rushers. Their offensive line, which surrendered a mere 20 sacks in 2013, should improve despite Beadles' departure.
This is because there are guards available in free agency and in the draft. The Broncos can select David Yankey or Xavier Su'a Filo in the first round, who would both give them a surefire replacement for Beadles.
Even if the Broncos don't sign or draft a starter, they can move swing tackle Chris Clark to the right side and kick Orlando Franklin inside to left guard. Denver has tons of time, available free-agent linemen (such as Travelle Wharton) and flexibility on the offensive line.
And luckily, the same goes with other positions.
The Broncos had the best offense in the league in 2013, and they will field a similar lineup in 2014. In fact, with Ball's development and the addition of Sanders, the record-shattering offense might be even better. As long as Manning doesn't show significant signs of regression, the Broncos should still score at a record-breaking pace.
Because of that, the Broncos have a legitimate shot at capturing the Lombardi Trophy.
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