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Denver Broncos preseason primer

2006 season recap

Winds of change
Head coach Mike Shanahan had his eye on the future when he grabbed quarterback Jay Cutler with the No. 11 overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft. That future was Dec. 3, when Cutler took over the reins with five games to go in the season and with the Broncos in playoff position at 7-4. But the team went 2-3 and failed to reach the playoffs. Shanahan might have sacrificed the playoffs, but now Cutler enters '07 with some experience under his belt.

Key camp questions

Is Travis Henry poised to have the best season of his career?
The Broncos can seemingly put the hot-dog vendor at running back and have him produce 1,000 rushing yards. Henry, however, should be an upgrade over that option. In fact, even with second-year back Mike Bell available, Henry could be the best option Denver has had since Terrell Davis. Henry resurrected his career with 1,211 yards for Tennessee last season.

How will Jay Cutler respond in his first full season as the starter?
Assistant head coach/quarterbacks Mike Heimerdinger loves a quarterback with a strong arm. Cutler gives the Broncos that dimension with a stronger arm than his predecessor, Jake Plummer. Fortunately for Cutler, he won't have to do it on his own, with the addition of Henry, receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Daniel Graham. Cutler was impressive as a rookie, recording more touchdowns (9) than interceptions (5), so this could be a big season for him.

Can the rebuilt defensive line come together quickly
The defensive line will benefit from having Champ Bailey and Dre Bly on the corners. Smothering the receivers will give the defensive line some extra time to get to the quarterback. That should help with the development of rookies Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas.

Key position battle

Rod Smith vs. Brandon Marshall
The Broncos are taking their time bringing Smith back to practice after February hip surgery, partly because they are high on Marshall. But at the same time, Smith has been in this position before with up-and-coming receivers trying to take his spot.

Rookie spotlight

DE Jarvis Moss and DT Marcus Thomas
The talented duo helped Florida win a BCS title, but both also had a few off-the-field troubles, too. The Broncos believe they have a defense good enough to win the Super Bowl. The key will be how fast this pair gets up to speed.

On the spot

Mike Shanahan
Shanahan raised a few eyebrows when he selected Jay Cutler and drew some scrutiny when he put him in during the '06 playoff drive. Denver went 2-3 in Cutler's five starts, as the team finished out of the playoffs much to the dismay of the Broncos fans who still have visions of John Elway in their head. And you have to wonder how much patience they will have with Cutler -- and the coach who anointed him

Fantasy focus

Jay Cutler
One of the brightest young quarterbacks in all the NFL, Cutler showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie and now enters his first full season as Denver's top starter. A terrific sleeper candidate, Cutler is well worth a middle-round choice as a borderline No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy quarterback.

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