Change we can believe in
The Broncos cruised to the Super Bowl last season with an average defense. They should be a lot better this time. Their best player, Von Miller, is back from a torn ACL. Alongside free-agent pickup DeMarcus Ware, who has looked like his old self in August, the Broncos could have the best pass rushing duo in the league.
The secondary also looks much better. Underrated safety Rahim Moore is healthy again. Aqib Talib is an upgrade from departed free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and the team has enviable cornerback depth with underrated Chris Harris and first-round pick Bradley Roby in the mix. This team will miss Champ Bailey's leadership, not his play from last year. Free-agent addition T.J. Ward adds more toughness to the secondary.
Broncos head honcho John Elway knows the Super Bowl window with Peyton Manning is relatively short. He's going all out for a title without sacrificing the team's future. They should be able to win games this year without always getting into shootouts.
The Broncos were an effective running team last year, even with All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady out for the year. Clady is back, but there is uncertainty at running back after Montee Ball was promoted to starter following Knowshon Moreno's departure in free agency. Ball could miss the entire preseason after an appendectomy, with Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson next in line.
You know the Broncos are stacked on paper when this is their biggest issue. Ball should at least be as solid as former Manning tag team partners like Joseph Addai or Dominic Rhodes. Manning ultimately creates great running games on his own. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, Broncos runners saw only 6.07 defenders in the box-per-snap last year, the second lowest total in the league. Denver was by far the best offense on play action passes. That had nothing to do with Moreno.
Training camp surprise
Danny Trevathan was the unsung hero of last year's Broncos defense, so his fractured left tibia in camp comes as a big disappointment. Trevathan had the range to cover tight ends and the toughness to make big run stops. Few players that are so unheralded nationally made more big plays last season.
"The other" Brandon Marshall will be given the first crack at starting for Trevathan. Linebacker is one of the few positions on the roster where the Broncos aren't deep; Nate Irving is also shaky in the middle.