Every NFL season there is a player who sneaks up on everyone with a breakout performance. Maybe an injury forces them into a starting role or just solid play that cannot be over looked. 2012 sixth round pick Danny Trevathan was one of those players for the Denver Broncos last year. He pushed fan favorite Wesley Woodyard to ill-fitted middle linebacker duties and then off the team altogether. Trevathan’s play was stellar all season.
Malik Jackson, a fifth round pick also in 2012, can be put into the breakout player discussion as well. He had a solid year with six sacks and was a disruptive force filling in for Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers when they struggled with injury/medical issues. His memorable moment was taking over an entire series of play (two sacks and one tackle for a loss in three plays) versus the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There are candidates every year to make a list like this, but in order to be a breakout player there needs to be some “didn’t see that coming” element. It is easy to say Montee Ball will be a breakout player because he had a limited role for most of the year last season. However, can anyone really say it is going to be a surprise that he has a solid year? The Broncos have given him the undisputed role of number one running back in the best offense in the National Football League. That is just too easy to predict. In my opinion it needs to be a bit of a surprise to most fans.
My crystal ball says these players will make a name for themselves in 2014.
DeMarcus Ware got big money to come to Denver and is going to be a beast this season making it appear that Smith will see limited playing time. I don’t see it that way. The Broncos’ coaching staff will show their wisdom by giving the 33-year-old Ware plenty of rest to get his body through the season and ready to wreak havoc in the playoffs. That will leave the door open for Smith.
He will get significant playing time especially in games when the Broncos have a sizeable lead. The opposing teams will be in catch up mode, hence passing a lot, and Smith can flat out get after the quarterback. He has terrific explosion and good hand use. He has learned more pass rush moves from Ware making him a disruptive force this off-season. Going up against tired offensive linemen and when everyone in the stadium knows it is going to be a pass play, he will be a handful. I predict he will have 10 or more sacks in 2014.
Green has as much athletic ability as any tight end on the team, but so far he has had a small role in the offense. This season that is going to change. He will be on the field more and lined up at different positions. Last year’s AFC Championship game gave a hint to his versatility as he lined up in the backfield as a running back.
He will line up as the team’s fullback and will be in all two tight end sets. Reports have stated that his timing with Peyton Manning has gotten better this off-season leading to more trust in his receiving ability (Green was not on the field much during preseason which makes me wonder if the team has been hiding how they are going to use him). There will not be many footballs to go around with all the receiving talent on this Broncos team, but Green will have 35+ catches this year and his versatility will be a big factor. He will become a coveted free agent at tight end.
Carter was not supposed to be on this list. He had a solid rookie season, including two interceptions in the playoffs that year. He pushed starter Rahim Moore to the bench and was poised to be a starter the following year. However, the injury bug had different plans. Carter has suffered through injuries the past two seasons and has fallen off the radar.
He is healthy again and has had a fine training camp and preseason. He will see significant time on the field when the Broncos move TJ Ward into the linebacker spot in nickel packages. He has a knack for finding the football and will get three interceptions this year. He will play his way into a nice contract, likely for another team, in 2015.