After 13 years with Mike Shanahan at the Broncos' helm, Broncos fans could be excused for feeling a bit uneasy heading into the 2009 season with a rookie head coach who's inaugural months have been anything but auspicious --chasing off star quarterback Jay Cutler and angering pro-bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the point of trade demands. As if a coaching transition weren't enough to give fans butterflies, the first week of training camp was marred by absences and side-stories about who will be with the team when they open the season against Cincinatti on September 13.
We want to know which of these stories worries you the most as a Broncos fan. Which player's absence would have the biggest affect on the team?
Brandon Marshall: The Pro-Bowl wide receiver has made no secret of his desire to leave the Broncos, repeatedly demanding to be traded this off-season after undergoing hip surgery. Marshall is in Broncos camp nonetheless, although he seems lethargic and disinterested in suiting up for the Broncos again.
The Broncos had high hopes for their number one pick to step in and start immediately. However, Moreno is one of 11 first round picks who have yet to sign with their teams, and is missing valuable practice time. If Moreno isn't a go by opening day on September 13, the Broncos will lean heavily on aging veterans Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan.
The Broncos selected Ayers with the second of their two first-round picks to provide an athletic pass-rusher for a pass-defense that ranked 26th in the NFL last year. However, Ayers, like Moreno, is among the slew of rookie contract holdouts this year. Without Ayers on the roster, the Broncos' will count on the same unit that produced a paltry 26 sacks last year.
Moss, a former first-round pick, will be counted on to provide a steady pass rush from his new outside linebacker position. Moss finally reported to camp Monday after a period of soul-searching during which he contemplated quitting football. Fans should hope Moss gets his head in the game soon, as the defense can ill afford the loss of another pass rusher.