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Column: Who will step up as a leader for Denver Broncos?

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June 20, 2015


From the top-down in the Denver Broncos organization, the goal is clear; to win the Super Bowl. Now, before the sun sets on Peyton Manning’s Hall of Fame career and Denver has to search for their next all-important quarterback.

Pat Bowlen established the goal during his tenure of acting owner and John Elway has continued the relentless pursuit toward another championship and another Vince Lombardi Trophy. Elway made the difficult decision in the offseason to fire John Fox following four straight AFC West titles. Why? Fox was a strong “player’s coach” but weak leader.

In Gary Kubiak, Elway and Co. picked a strong-willed and intelligent leader at head coach. Kubiak’s impact on the offseason training program has already been felt as he’s rested veterans and given youngsters more an opportunity to prove their worth in practice. Kubee has grabbed the reins of the Broncos; he’s steering them, pushing them, whipping them into shape.

And as for Manning, he’s not only the one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time due to his accuracy and smarts, which are fed by his competitive fire; Manning’s a magnificent leader, too. If and when the Broncos’ youthful offensive line makes mistakes, don’t be surprised when The Sheriff gets in their faces and yells. He did it in 2012 and he’ll do it again.

But beyond Manning, which players will step up and lead their position groups?

On the offensive line, Ryan Clady’s injury and overall tumultuous turnover has left them not only young but without a leader. Louis Vasquez is the most likely choice, if he’s up to the task. Or, possibly center Gino Gradkowski will step up.

At receiver, the Broncos’ best player is absent, looking for more money instead of building better chemistry with his teammates and coaches. Demaryius Thomas has never been a leader but this selfishness is sending a bad message not only to the other wideouts but the rest of the team as well. Emmanuel Sanders seems like he wants to lead his receiving group, but does he possess the personality needed to get angry at his teammates?

Running back is an extremely important position in Kubiak’s offense, and a quite young group in the Mile High City. Montee Ball is battling back from injury and C.J. Anderson is coming off a sensational second half of 2014, his first real experience in the NFL. Who will set the tone and lead by example for the backs?

On defense, the unit’s overall leader is a question mark, though Danny Trevathan seems to be the best candidate. Trevathan, who will man the inside of the Broncos defense, missed most of 2014 with three knee injuries and had his left kneecap replaced with someone else’s in March. But if he can come back by training camp, which is his goal, he could be the man.

Up front, the team lost veteran and massive man Terrance Knighton; who will fill his void? Could it be DeMarcus Ware, or is he happy being somewhat out of the spotlight and finishing his career strong? Maybe someone like Malik Jackson will step up to lead, but at 25, is he ready?

And in the defensive backfield, veteran safety T.J. Ward isn’t setting a solid example with his strip club incident last summer and missing some of OTAs this time around. Chris Harris Jr., who’s been a model player in terms of attitude, work ethic and play on the field, is the no-brainer choice at leader of the defensive backfield. But he’s also younger than both Ward and former Kansas teammate Aqib Talib; would they take a backseat to Harris?

The Broncos championship window is closing. Quickly. Everyone on the team must be aware of this fact and put their total focus to improving, building chemistry and learning the new playbooks in order to be the best team they can be. In order to live up to their potential as one of the best-built teams in the NFL today.

Luckily for Denver, the leaders can find their niches, discover their roles and set the team up for success now, in the offseason. There’s plenty of time.

Now, who’s it going to be? Who’s going to step up?

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