At this point, everyone’s heard of Tim Tebow and the amazing season the second-year quarterback has put together in Denver.
Tebow’s gone 7-3 as a starter this year and has his Broncos positioned to not only make the playoffs but win the AFC West after a dismal 1-4 start in Denver.
Some believe Tebow should be given all the credit, but the truth is it takes 45 men to win a game on Sunday.
Of Tebow’s teammates, five youngsters have enjoyed break-out seasons for the Broncos; let’s take a quick look at them.
Von Miller has been magnificent since Day One in Denver. The No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft has delighted fans with his relentless pass rush and athletic ability that allows him to get to the quarterback seemingly whenever he wants. Miller has racked up 11.5 sacks, which rank him ninth overall in the NFL, and his 64 tackles are good for fifth best on the team. Von Miller’s played so well he could earn NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, although Aldon Smith in San Francisco is having one heck of a year as well (35 Tack, 14 Sacks).
Lance Ball, third year running back, is quietly enjoying his best season as a professional. When Knowshon Moreno went down due to an ACL tear, Ball stepped in as the backup, and the Broncos haven’t missed a beat. Ball’s carried for 378 yards (4.3 YPC) and he simply wouldn’t be denied on his 32-yard touchdown run against New England in Week 15. Ball is fast enough to go the distance, and at 5’9” 215 pounds, he has the size to bowl over would-be tacklers as well.
Eric Decker has been nothing short of spectacular for the Broncos this season. Decker’s 43 receptions, 607 yards and eight touchdowns are all Denver highs and his eight scores rank him ninth in the NFL in receiving TDs. The second-year receiver has been Denver’s deep threat all season, with eight catches over 20 yards and two of 40-plus, including his 56-yard TD to give the Broncos the win in Kansas City. Decker’s been so important to Denver’s success that he’s caught a pass in all but two games this season and he looks to be a key receiving threat well into the future.
Chris Harris has come out of nowhere, as an undrafted rookie, to lead all NFL cornerbacks in tackling this season with 69. Those 69 tackles also rank him third on the team behind starting linebackers Wesley Woodyard (96) and D.J. Williams (86), while he’s defended five passes and intercepted one ball as well. Harris flies around the field, always seemingly finding himself in the right place at the right time, and he could be the young cornerback Denver needs as Champ Bailey ages and will eventually have to retire.
Demaryius Thomas is finally starting to realize his potential and the first round pick the Broncos used on him in 2010 is paying off. Through the first five weeks of the season, Thomas accounted for zero receptions, but since Tebow’s first start in Week Seven, the young receiver has exploded on the scene. The 6’3” 235 pound player streaks down the field with his blazing speed, jukes defenders with quick cuts and utilizes his strength to truck would-be tacklers.
Thomas has caught three or more passes in five games, while receiving touchdowns in three contests. In all, Demaryius Thomas has 29 receptions for 517 yards and four scores, which are all second-best on the Broncos.
So, while Tim Tebow gets all the hype nationally and locally, five other young players have quietly enjoyed break-out seasons for the Broncos in 2011.
It’s a positive sign that the Broncos are drafting well, developing their talent and could be very dangerous as all these men gain more game-time experience and confidence.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your Denver Broncos Examiner, Rich is your CSU Rams Examiner and Kurtzman also writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Mile High Hoops.
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