The Denver Broncos defense in 2015 was nothing short of amazing; top-10 of all time, probably top-5, maybe the best to ever do it given the rules of today’s NFL being geared towards higher offensive production. The 2015 squad accomplished all of this, despite a bevy of turnovers by an extremely porous offense. The goal for the offense in 2016 is to be much more complimentary to what the defense is doing, as they were in their postseason run a season ago when the defense seemed to raise it’s play to an entire different level altogether. So this poses the question; can the 2016 Denver Broncos defense be even better?
There is a sense from the players in the locker room that 2015 was only the beginning. T.J. Ward was on record at his charity golf tournament this past week stating just that sentiment. As quoted in Cameron Wolfe’s Denver Post article, he said “There is no ceiling”. “We can be as good as we want to be. We can become the best defense of all time. That’s what we’re working toward.”
While the general public has assumed that this defense will take a slight step back this season, the players in the locker room continue to say that 2015 wasn’t a one-season-wonder, and that they plan on becoming even greater this coming season.
How is that possible after Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan went gallivanting off to Chicago and Jacksonville? The same way the defense improved ten fold a season ago after the departures of Terrance Knighton and Rahim Moore. Most folks forget that the true core of this defense first came together in 2014, when John Elway went on a free agent frenzy after the embarrassing Super Bowl XLVIII loss to the Seahawks. The Broncos brought in veterans Demarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, and Aqib Talib, and paired them with some pieces returning from injury in Chris Harris Jr., Derek Wolfe, and superstar linebacker Von Miller. The Broncos also drafted Bradley Roby to put in the secondary along with Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, and just like that the “No Fly Zone” was born, and the front seven was instantly one of the top front seven’s in all of football.
2014 was a good defense, although some people may not remember it that way. There was free agent turnover that was, in the minds of many was supposed to send the defense backwards. When Terrance Knighton and Rahim Moore were shown the door, most didn’t see Sylvester Williams and unknown free agent replacement Darian Stewart as being viable replacements and there were cries that the defense was going to regress towards the middle of the pack. However, sometimes, just sometimes, the person waiting in the wings is even better than the person that was being replaced.
It is unlikely that there is a player on the Broncos roster currently that is going to be BETTER than what Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan brought to this team a season ago, but you just never know. There are players like Vance Walker, Kenny Anunike, Todd Davis and Corey Nelson that are chomping at the bit to prove that they can give the Broncos everything that they need and more to keep up the Broncos level of excellence on the defensive side of the ball.
There is also the natural progression of the returning players in year two of Wade Phillips system. There were players a year ago that just got better and better throughout the year. By the end of the season last year, Derek Wolfe was playing as good as any 3-4 DE in the NFL, and figures to be even better this season. Brandon Marshall played the entire season a year ago with two screws in his foot, one which snapped in the middle of the year, and still played at a very high level. A healthier Marshall will certainly lead to improved play, and the Broncos though as much as they handed Marshall a shiny new contract. Youngsters like Bradley Roby, Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett figure to be even better than they were a season ago.
The biggest case that can be made for this defense to be better would be the likely improvement of the offense. The defense a season ago was truly historical, and that was despite an offense that threw 24 interceptions in 19 games. Turnovers can put a defense in an extremely precarious position, and the Broncos offense did this constantly to their defense a season ago. The Broncos will not allow this to happen again because they plan to pound the rock far more often. With a highly upgraded offensive line, the offense should not only be more turnover prone, but they should also be able to stay on the field longer as well. Keeping the defense fresh will only help them become even better and more efficient.
Yes, they lost some players, but they have some legitimate players waiting to fill those roles; they are in year two of Wade’s system; they have an offense that should help them instead of hurt them this year; and as they did for their entire postseason run a year ago, they have a lot of doubters, meaning a whole
new chip on their shoulders to fuel the collective fire. This defense is a true brotherhood, with the heart of champions; please don’t discount that factor.
Broncos Country should be ecstatic at the pieces the Broncos are returning, because chances this defense is in for another historical run. Great defenses win World Championships, and make no mistake, the goal for this season is a fourth World Championship for this storied franchise. This team should be more complete, and more equipped than ever to earn a trip to Houston, and a chance to hoist another Lombardi.
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