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Ward: Broncos D 'light years' ahead of last offseason

With the Broncos losing a handful of starters off last year's defense, T.J. Ward has heard all the chatter about Denver taking a step back this season.

The Pro Bowl safety swatted that down this week, telling Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post that he expects better in 2016, with the Broncos setting goals for more interceptions, fewer missed tackles and less mental errors than a season ago.

The loss of defensive lineman Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan won't help, but there's still plenty of talent at every level of Denver's defense. The hope inside team walls, per The Post, is that rookie safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks can also help mask over David Bruton and Omar Bolden leaving in free agency.

Besides, Broncos players feel all the more confident in Denver's Wade Phillips-led scheme, with Ward saying the team is "light years" ahead of where they were at this time last offseason.

Much has been made about Denver losing both quarterbacks from 2015, but Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler threw a league-worst 24 combined interceptions last season, while posting a passer rating (76.2) that fell far short of the NFL average (89.6).

It's dangerous to walk into the season with Mark Sanchez as your starter, but football czar John Elway also addressed the position by picking up the tantalizing Paxton Lynch in the first round of the draft.

"We think he's going to be ready quicker than a lot of people think," Elway said of Lynch, adding: "He's a young guy with tremendous athletic ability. He's got the strong arm, can make all the throws, he's smart, and he's a guy that can fit into this offense real well."

Whoever starts under center is set up for success. The offense still has plenty of weapons, and the defense came out of Super Bowl 50 touted as one of the most disruptive units since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

If Denver is being ignored this offseason, Ward isn't sweating it, saying: "It's a new season. We lost a couple guys on defense. Maybe they like to see us play with a chip on our shoulder. It's more entertaining that way."

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