Over the past four months, we’ve kept a watchful eye on the teams who appear on the Redskins’ 2013 schedule.
We’ve tracked their free agent signings. We’ve examined their drafts. Now, in our final edition of Enemy Intel, we’re taking a look at three storylines that will dominate each team’s preseason preparation.
Up today …
2012 record: 13-3
Key acquisitions: WR Wes Welker, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Shaun Phillips, OL Louis Vasquez, DT Terrance Knighton, S Quentin Jammer
Top draft picks: Sylvester Williams, RB Montee Ball, CB Kayvon Webster, DE Quanterus Smith, WR Tavarres King, OT Vinston Painter
Storyline No. 1: Can the AFC West champs overcome the loss of Elvis Dumervil to the most infamous fax machine mix up in league history? You know the story. Whatever caused the miscommunication, Dumervil, who helped the Broncos lead the league in sacks in 2012, now has a new agent and is a member of the Ravens.
Enter former Chargers pass rusher Shaun Phillips, a player who tormented the Broncos for years. The 32-year-old Phillips, signed in April to a one-year, $1 million contract, recorded 9.5 sacks last season and a total of 24 sacks over the past three seasons. Dumervil, 29, had 11 sacks last season and recorded a total of 37.5 in his last three seasons. (He missed the 2010 season with a pectoral muscle tear.)
Phillips has been working as Von Miller’s backup. But it’s expected that he’ll be moved around the defense and will be used to complement Miller in some pass rushing situations.
On the surface, Phillips appears to be a slight downgrade. But the Broncos, it seems, are hoping Phillips’ pass-rush contributions, plus those of former first rounder Robert Ayers and 2013 draft pick Quanterus Smith will be enough.
Storyline No. 2: Can they put last year’s playoff collapse behind them? More specifically, can Rahim Moore?
With 31 seconds remaining in last year’s divisional round, Moore lined up too shallow on Jacoby Jones, who blew past him and hauled in a 70-yard bomb from Joe Flacco that will go down as one of the most memorable plays in NFL playoff history.
The Ravens, of course, went on to win in double overtime and, eventually, the Super Bowl. Meantime, the Broncos and their starting free safety were left to wonder ‘what if?’
Many of the Broncos’ best players failed to come through in that game, including Peyton Manning and Champ Bailey. But Moore, 23, has been burdened with the majority of the blame.
Moore, in fact, says he still hears about that fateful, mistimed leap from fans when he’s out. But insists he’s moved past the gaffe. His teammates, too, say they’re focused on the upcoming season, not what dissolved in a matter of seconds last January.
We’ll find out soon enough if that’s actually the case.
Storyline No. 3: Can Welker and Manning become the force they’re expected to be?
One of the most significant free agent signings this offseason was the Broncos’ acquisition of Welker. The 32-year-old has topped 1,100 yards receiving five times in eight seasons and averaged 112 catches the last six years.
Now it will be Manning, not Tom Brady, at the controls.
But that’s not all that’s going to be different for Welker. His workload also figures to be a little lighter because he’s now in a lineup that also features Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, both of whom surpassed 1,000 yards last season.
It’s going to be interesting to see how that dynamic works. That said, if everyone stays healthy, the high-scoring Broncos figure to be the toughest game on a lot of teams' schedules, including the Redskins'.