It's no secret that the Denver Broncos defense finished as the NFL's top unit in 2015. They finished No. 1 in total defense and sacks (52) but Wade Phillips' impact was felt most keenly throughout the playoffs, culminating in Denver's 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Denver's defense, led by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and the 'No Fly Zone' secondary, smothered Cam Newton and the Panthers vaunted offensive attack. With how impressive Denver's defensive accomplishments were in 2015, it would be reasonable to surmise that there's nowhere for the unit to go but down in 2016.
According to safety T.J. Ward, however, the Broncos still have room for improvement and it starts on the back end of the defense.
“I think we can get more interceptions and make bigger plays on interceptions," Ward said Monday. "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.”
Ward has a point. As good as the Broncos were at pressuring the quarterback, it didn't translate in takeaways. With 14 interceptions, Denver finished middle-of-the-pack, ranking No. 13 in that category.
Even so, the Broncos were preternaturally adept at taking the ball away in crucial moments last year, especially in the clutch. They did score five touchdowns off takeaways in 2015. But they'd like to strive for better consistency across the board. And as for motivation, Ward still doesn't feel like the Broncos are receiving enough credit for their accomplishments.
“We still don’t get the credit," he said. "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.”
Think about how abusive the Denver defense was in 2015 and now imagine them becoming even better—taking the ball away and playing more disciplined—it's a scary thought. At least, it's terrifying to the other 31 offensive coordinators in the NFL.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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