The Denver Broncos fielded one of the best defenses the league has ever seen last season. Unquestionably, Denver's vaunted defense was the primary reason they were able to secure their third world championship last season.
The unit dominated on the gridiron and wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Their impeccable efforts brought them top slot ranking in numerous categories and their style play brought the Orange Crush back to Denver.
With a new season comes new changes for a defense that lost a handful of key contributors to free agency, but the true leader of the defense Wade Phillips remains with the team and once again has set lofty expectations for his ferocious unit.
"We want them to be the best. That’s what our goals were last year. I said when we started out, in OTAs we wanted to be in the top five," said Phillips. "When we got to the regular season, we set our goals higher. We said that we wanted to be the best in the league. If you attain that, you just try to repeat. That’s what their goals were, to be really good. That’s what they’ll continue to be."
If the Broncos defense wants to be as good as last year, new additions from free agency and the draft will have to step up their game to fill the void of players like Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan who were integral to their success in 2015. Phillips knows how good those two were, especially in the post-season, but is confident in the group of players he has this season and believes their production can be replaced.
"You hope it’s not a big fall out. Both of them are good players, obviously, but we have good players that are actually playing really well," remarked Phillips in reference to Jackson and Trevathan.
"[ILB] Todd Davis looks really good out there and [ILB] Corey Nelson also. Those two guys are good football players also so we’re glad that we have them. D-Line wise, Vance has really looked good. We feel good about where we are."
Phillips went on to mention outside linebacker Shane Ray and Justin Simmons as two young players who look poised to play an important role in the defensive plans this season.
"He came back with a tremendous attitude and he’s worked hard at it," stated Philips in reference to Ray. "He’s got ability and we just have to keep working. He’s getting a lot of reps because Von hadn’t been out there very much and [OLB] DeMarcus [Ware] hasn’t been out there so he’s gotten the opportunity."
The rookie safety from Boston College also drew praise from Phillips, who highlighted his instincts and football intelligence.
"He’s real smart. He’s smart and instinctive, and that’s what you like. He’s around the ball the ball a lot. He’s kind of slight-built. He’s just 200 pounds so we’ll see when he gets live tackling, but I think he’s a good tackler."
With Phillips leading the way for the Broncos defense, you know that they are in good hands and will be a strong unit in 2016. But just how good will they be? Can they be better than last year? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: they have all the confidence in the world as a group to be able to replicate last years' success and are determined at surpassing it.
As always, thank you for reading and here are today's Horse Tracks.
Jordan "Sunshine" Taylor won't be a one-catch wonder
Yes, Jordan "Sunshine" Taylor is the guy who made an Odell Beckham Jr.-like catch at Broncos practice on Friday, but he doesn't plan on being a one-catch wonder
Terrell Davis: Mark Sanchez will be Denver Broncos starting QB
Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch are vying for the job, but Sanchez has continued to get the most work with the starters.
Broncos hope DeMarcus Ware can again bounce back from back injury
DeMarcus Ware has been a leader and an inspiration for Denver Broncos players like Von Miller, and the team won't rush him back from injury.
Jeff Heuerman could have 'some real impact' in Broncos offense
Jeff Heuerman tore his ACL shortly after the Denver Broncos drafted him. He missed the entire 2015 season, but seems primed to impact the offense now.
Something changed in Demaryius Thomas, and it’s not just his size
Something happened to Demaryius Thomas in the months after Super Bowl 50. Something changed in the way he walked, the way he greeted reporters who were eager to pelt him with more questions about his drops and mistakes and pressures that filled his 2015 season.
Five unheralded standouts from the first five days of Broncos training camp
You know all about the quarterbacks and the wide receivers, but who else has jumped out early in camp?
NFL training camp marked by contract squabbles of key players
Does Tyrod Taylor deserve a new deal? Is Joey Bosa's holdout a rational move? Did the Texans get the message from DeAndre Hopkins? Adam Schein examines notable money matters.
Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals agree to 5-year extension
Tyrann Mathieu is staying in the desert. The Honey Badger has developed into one of the most feared and flexible defensive backs in the game and a leading voice in Arizona's locker room.
Cowboys backup QB Kellen Moore breaks right ankle
Backup QB Kellen Moore was carted off the field Tuesday with an apparent broken ankle. The Cowboys' PR department said the injury appears to be a fractured right ankle. The team is awaiting X-Ray results to confirm the diagnosis.
Atlanta Falcons agree to terms with Dwight Freeney
Dwight Freeney is signing with Atlanta, choosing the Falcons over the Bengals. Can the seven-time Pro Bowler fix Dan Quinn's pass rush while helping Vic Beasley reach his potential?
Kelly: Preseason 'huge' for Kaepernick, Gabbert battle
Chip Kelly wants to see his quarterbacks in action before calling this fight. The 49ers coach said Tuesday that "preseason games are going to be huge" for Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert.
Vikings have Prince tribute in their summer playbook
Prince may have found his way into the Vikings' playbook. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was heard barking the phrase "Purple Rain" during a line check at training camp practice last weekend.