Last year around this time, optimism in Broncos Country was at an all-time high. Similar to this year, John Elway had just done his thing in free agency, landing a great crop of players headlined by guys like Wes Welker and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, and the “Super Bowl or bust” attitude was in full effect.
This year, not so much. While the attitude is still prevalent, the optimism has faded a bit. It could still be a hangover from the shellacking taken in the Super Bowl, but it seems the feeling amongst Broncos fans is that even if the team got back to the big game, how could they top the juggernaut that is the Seattle Seahawks?
While there are many angles you could look at to kill that pessimism, I turn my head towards the difference between the team you saw at the end of last season, and the team you’ll see this season.
Lets start by looking at the players who were on last year’s roster, but were unable to participate in the final games due to injury: Von Miller, Chris Harris, Ryan Clady, Derek Wolfe, and Rahim Moore. Right there alone, you’ve got four starters who weren’t a part of the team that lost to the Seahawks. Your best pass rusher, your best offensive lineman, one of your best corners, and two guys who had been solid for you throughout the season.
Getting Harris and Miller back has a double impact on the defense. Miller’s pass rush makes things easier on the secondary who will have back one of their best cover men in Harris.
Then you look at the free agent acquisitions: Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and Emmanuel Sanders. Four more projected starters on this team who were not there last year. While Ware, Talib, and Sanders are replacing Shaun Phillips, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, and Eric Decker, there could be an argument made for all that they are an upgrade from their replacement.
The biggest place to look here is back at that defense losing DRC and adding Talib and Ward is most definitely a win in the secondary, and trading Phillips for Ware has big boom potential. Ware has had more sacks than Phillips in every year of his career but one; last year, when he missed three games due to injury.
On the defense alone you’re talking about adding two edge rushers and three extremely solid guys in your secondary that you didn’t have in New Jersey; that is going to make a huge difference.
Of course, this is still going to be a team that goes as their leader, Peyton Manning, goes. But all in all, this is going to be a completely different team than the one you saw in the Super Bowl last season, a team that actually has a much higher ceiling in my opinion.
The Seahawks had an incredible game in the Super Bowl, while the Broncos played about as bad as they were capable. It happens, but the team that the Broncos will put in the field in 2014-2015 is more than capable of beating the Seahawks, and more than capable of winning a Super Bowl.
Denver will have a chance to send quite the message to the Seahawks and the league, when they travel to Seattle in week three. A chance for them to show how different this new team is, and how different this new year will be.
Follow Ryan on Twitter (@RyanKoenigsberg).
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