Champ Bailey (foot) won't play in season opener, Broncos defense may be in bad shape
The Broncos will get another crack at the Ravens - who eventually won the Super Bowl - on Thursday night in the first game of the NFL season, but they will do so with an even weaker secondary than when the two teams last squared off. The Broncos will be missing 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who sprained his foot in a preseason game on August 17.
Offseason signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will now become the No. 1 cornerback in the Broncos' defensive backfield. He possesses a great deal of talent, but has constantly underachieved since entering the league in 2008. He suffered a serious high-ankle sprain at the beginning of training camp, and has gotten limited preseason action (one game) with his new team.
Tony Carter will man the other outside corner position for the Broncos, while Chris Harris will play in the slot.
The Broncos' main struggle against the Ravens last year was keeping speedy receivers in front of them - Torrey Smith got behind the secondary a few times, catching three passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns, while Jacoby Jones had a huge 70-yard touchdown catch as well. They did that with Bailey on the field. It looks like the Ravens' receivers will have another shot to hit some home runs with the help of Flacco's big (albeit inconsistent) arm.
What makes Bailey's absence hurt even more is that the Broncos are already missing their best pass rusher, Von Miller, who is serving a six-game suspension. In addition, last year's second leader in sacks, Elvis Dumervil, will be playing for the other team this time around. That leaves defensive end Derek Wolfe, who got to the quarterback 6.0 times in 2012, as their reigning sack leader.
Fortunately for the Broncos, they have Peyton Manning on their side, so a shootout does not mean that the they are likely to lose (as was often the case when Tim Tebow was the quarterback). However, it looks like Manning will have to put up some points if he wants to get the victory, as his defense will be missing several of their key players from a year ago.