It would be shorter to list out the Denver Broncos players who are returning to their starting position this Sunday compared to the Super Bowl. These Broncos are drastically different from the team that lost by 35 points to the Seattle Seahawks back in February. Some of it is by design, some of it is by necessity, but here are the 15 starting positions that will be filled by different Broncos this time around.
If you count the kicker.
1. LT Ryan Clady: Lost for the season with a Lisfranc foot sprain, the Broncos get an All Pro left tackle back for their Seattle rematch.
2. LG Orlando Franklin: The Broncos shuffled their o-line after Franklin struggled at right tackle in the Super Bowl. He's been formidable next to Clady so far.
3. RT Chris Clark: Clark was a good backup to Clady most of the year. While his run blocking has been questionable at right tackle, as a pass protector, he is the only player in the NFL with over 20 snaps to not allow a pressure, according to PFF.
This offensive line shuffle allowed the Broncos to keep their five best linemen on the field after Zane Beadles left in free agency.
4. RB Montee Ball: Ball replaces Knowshon Moreno, who had his best year in 2013, but after four years of middling performances, it was too late for the 2009 first round pick to dig himself out of the hole.
5. WR Emmanuel Sanders: Sanders brings a different skillset to the table - namely, blazing speed - than the Broncos enjoyed with Eric Decker.
6. DE Derek Wolfe: A spinal condition kept Wolfe out of the playoffs in 2013. His swift recovery this offseason has been remarkable, although he's not yet a playmaker.
7. DE DeMarcus Ware: This guy is a playmaker. Shaun Phillips didn't have a bad year for the Broncos, but how often does a future Hall of Famer come knocking on Dove Valley's door?
(Answer: every other year, it would seem).
8. SLB Von Miller: Miller is so versatile. He's no longer a pure pass rusher; he excels in coverage and run support too, making his case to be the best linebacker in the NFL.
9. MLB Nate Irving: Irving actually started at strongside for the Broncos in the Super Bowl last year. Middle linebacker is his natural position.
10. WLB Brandon Marshall (questionable): Danny Trevathan is injured and is listed as questionable, but I think it's more likely we'll see Marshall out there. Marshall has done fine in Trevathan's place and has played every snap for the Broncos defense.
11. CB Aqib Talib: Talib is the AFC's top-graded cornerback according to PFF.
12. CB Chris Harris Jr.: Harris is playing superbly and seems to be 100% recovered from the ACL tear he suffered in January. Remarkable.
13. FS Rahim Moore: Moore notched his first
career interception in Week 1, and then he notched another pick for good measure. He looks markedly better in 2014.
14. SS T.J. Ward: One of two Broncos (Marshall) to play every snap for the defense, Ward has blitzed, come into the box in run support, and provided deep coverage in Denver's Cover 3.
15. K Brandon McManus: Matt Prater is still suspended, but the Broncos haven't missed a beat in his absence. Or a field goal.
Here's hoping this Broncos team boasting 62.5% new starters will make a 100% difference on the scoreboard. Go Broncos!