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Horse Tracks: Will T.J. Ward and the Broncos defense be even better in 2016?

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The thought goes Denver's D lost too much and it will drop off. But in the second year under Wade Phillips, it's just as possible that unit improves.

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Good morning, Broncos Country!

A lot has been made about the guys who left. Namely the players on the Denver Broncos' defense after a historic season and defense that will go down as one of the best ever.

The thought goes the guys who signed elsewhere were too valuable, and the Broncos will see a drop. There's just no way the Denver defense mimics what it did a season ago.

So the thought goes.

There is always another side to each hypothetical. So why is it not possible the Broncos have the best defense in the NFL again? Why is it not conceivable that the unit gets even better?

The returning players have plenty of motivation to make that happen. Winning a Super Bowl will do that. But for guys like T.J. Ward, that drive has only gotten stronger.

"We still don't get the credit," Ward told the media after Phase II of offseason conditioning. "I don't know. Just be better than last year. That's what we want to do. Be better than last year. We were learning the defense coming in and it's so much easier coming in that second year when you already have the defensive plays and you know what you're doing.

"It's like right now, it's (repetitive) for us. The rookies need to hear it. We're light years ahead of where we were last year. That's a lot of confidence going into the season."

What people refuse or fail to acknowledge, and Ward touched on it, is this is the second offseason for the guys in Wade Phillips' system. This was a new system a year ago, with new verbiage and coaches. It was akin to learning a new language. It can make your head spin, and you just hope you remember all of it.

As the Broncos defense enters its second year in this system after the success it had in its first season, the players are fluent now. They know this system inside and out, and how it thrives.

So, again, why is it not possible Denver's defense improves from last season?

"I think we can get more interceptions and make bigger plays on interceptions," Ward said. "We want to get our missed tackles down and less mental errors. Play the defenses the way they're supposed to be played at all times. Knock out some of the mental errors; I think those are the three biggest things we can all get better at."

The familiarity goes both ways too. The coaches know each player's strengths and weaknesses. That helps them get the defense in the best situations to have success. It also helps them improve over the course of the offseason.

It's a new year. It's a new season. We lost a couple guys on defense. Maybe they like us to play with a chip on our shoulders. It's more entertaining that way.T.J. Ward

"There is turnover every year," Ward said. "We have the younger guys. We drafted a couple of guys. We got a couple of the free agents. They have to come in and step up. That's the name of the game. If they do that, we'll keep on grinding away. That was our motto last year, just keep grinding. Hopefully we'll have the same success we had last year."

Motivation comes in many forms.

Over the course of the 2015 season, the Broncos defense was doubted and questioned; especially in the playoffs.

Now with a few departures in free agency and despite a Super Bowl win, the doubt and questions are back. It makes you wonder what this unit and team have to do.

That's just the way Ward and his defensive mates like it.

"I don't know, but it really doesn't matter," he said. "We're going to the White House in a few weeks. It's a new year. It's a new season. We lost a couple guys on defense. Maybe they like us to play with a chip on our shoulders. It's more entertaining that way."

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