For the Denver Broncos and their faithful fans, it’s been a summer to forget.
Yes, the 2012/2014 National Football League season can’t come any sooner for those of us in Bronco Country. While most of us are itching for the start of football season, this time it has more to do with the dismal trend the Denver Broncos are stuck in. Simply put: Can we get this season underway before anything else bad happens to the blue and orange?
Things got off to a wonky offseason start in March, when the Broncos lost linebacker Elvis Dumervil because his agent couldn't figure out how to fax his contract in on time. More on Dumervil later.
In June, after just a month on the job as the Broncos director of pro personnel, Tom Heckert was arrested in Parker under suspicion of driving under the influence. On July 6, Matt Russell, John Elway’s right-hand man as director of player personnel, was arrested in Summit County on suspicion of drunk driving after smashing his car into the rear end of a Breckenridge Police SUV. On July 12, both of these front-office assistants were suspended from the team, Heckert for one month, and Russell indefinitely.
As if all of this embarrassment wasn’t enough, the biggest shock came Monday, with news reports that the star of Denver’s defense, Von Miller, is on multi-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. This news has sent shockwaves through Denver and Broncoland to the entire NFL. Von Miller, who could be one of the best, if not the best, linebackers in the league right now, may be sitting out the first four games of the season.
According to The Denver Post’s Mike Klis, two sources with “knowledge of the situation” said Miller will be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season for violating the NFL drug policy. No news as of Monday about what drugs Miller has tested positive for, but
Klis reported that Miller tested positive for amphetamines and marijuana during his rookie season in 2011. When a player tests positive for a recreational drug like marijuana, that player is put into the league’s regular drug-testing program, and three positive recreational drug tests are cause for a suspension. Testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug is cause for an immediate suspension. Right now, it’s unclear if Miller failed three recreational drug tests, or just one performance-enhancing drug test.
Miller is appealing the suspension. “Seeing reports abt 4 game susp.,”he tweeted on Monday afternoon. “I know I did nothing wrong. I’m sure this’ll be resolved fairly. Disapp. Broncos have 2 open camp like this.”
I would like to believe Miller did nothing wrong, but we all know when a player gets the finger pointed at him for using illegal substances, nine times out of 10 they end up suspended. So if this is for real, with the reality yet to sink in, the Broncos will be without Miller when they open the season against Elvis Dumervil and Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 5 in Baltimore. Denver’s weakened defense will then go to New York to face Eli Manning and the Giants in week two, and the Raiders and the Eagles come to Denver after that.
Broncos Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio has a big problem on his hands. The loss of Dumervil back in March was cause for concern, but Miller’s speed and quickness, along with Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers, helped ease the pain. Elway, head coach John Fox and Del Rio all knew Dumervil was a big loss, but it wasn’t a loss that Miller and company wouldn’t be able to make up for. Now, with Miller out for the first four games, that defense may have to be completely changed for the first four games.
So? We still have Peyton Manning right? Well, if what ESPN’s John “Johnny Goodtimes” Clayton says is true, even Peyton Manning and his offense are going to have to change because of Miller’s suspension.
“It may even change some of the plans to run a quicker-paced offense,” Clayton wrote Monday. “If the Broncos don’t have a pass rush, Manning might be forced to run the ball more to eat up clock and protect Denver’s defense.”
I don’t believe Manning is going to have to change his entire offensive attack because of Miller’s absence, but it could have some sort of an effect. Who knows? What I do know is that the Broncos were one of the favorites to not only win an AFC Championship next year, but to go on to win the Super Bowl, as well. It starts with leaders on both the offense and defense. We know we have Peyton. We don’t know if we have Miller. Yes, Miller may be suspended for only four games. It’s not like he’ll be gone the entire season, but if the Broncos somehow go 0-2 or 0-3, it could have a detrimental effect on how they’re seeded in the playoffs.
And let us not forget that the AFC West division will not be the AFC West division of recent years. I have the feeling that with a new quarterback, a new coach and a new philosophy, the Kansas City Chiefs are going to be a team to be reckoned with this year. There will be competition in the AFC West, and the Broncos can’t let their guard down.
Following that terrible playoff loss to the Ravens, hopes grew even higher for the Broncos to be the best in NFL next season. It seems like yesterday when the Broncos picked up Wes Welker and things in Denver were continually on the up and up.
For a while, everything was peaches and cream in Denver. Now, the Broncos have their back against the wall. Can we get this season started already?