ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Slogging through the rubble of that Super Bowl landslide, John Elway blew up his defense.
He brought in DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Marvin Austin, trying to toughen up his team – yes, like the one that had just whooped them in the Meadowlands.
He bid farewell to Champ Bailey, so long to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and goodbye to Paris Lenon and Mike Adams.
Article continues below ...
Then, he welcomed the sights of starters Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Derek Wolfe and Rahim Moore returning from injuries that sidelined them for the Super Bowl.
The Denver defense that will take the field on Sunday hardly resembles the patchwork unit the Broncos trotted out eight months ago. Only three starters remain: linebacker Nate Irving and tackles Sylvester Williams and Terrance Knighton. And Irving will be playing the weakside instead of the strongside.
With such wholesale changes, these Broncos (2-0) are looking toward the showdown with the Seahawks (1-1) as more of a barometer than a reprisal.
”Even if we win this game, it still won’t fix what happened last year,” Harris said. ”Losing the Super Bowl, the only way to fix that is winning the Super Bowl.”
Harris hasn’t shown any ill effects of the torn ACL he sustained in the playoffs, and Miller has been a full participant at practice this week after missing the goal line stand on the final series last week because of a strained groin.
Denver’s defensive makeover is still an evolving process, surrendering too many third-down conversions and drawing way too many flags – 13 – for coordinator Jack Del Rio’s liking.
Del Rio said the good thing is ”we’ve played well in big moments, we’ve contributed to two wins. But we feel like there’s a lot of work yet to be done.”
More time will iron out the kinks.
”But at the same time, we expect it to be really good right now,” Del Rio said. ”So it’s not like we’re waiting. We’re working hard and we expect it to be really strong right now. And where it’s not, we correct it and move on. Where it’s good, we praise it and move on.”
The Broncos have nearly surrendered double-digit fourth-quarter leads in both of their wins, but they also have kept teams out of the end zone on four trips inside the 5-yard line.
It’s the classic bend but don’t break.
”I’m not looking for any bend,” Del Rio said. ”But at the end of the day, we want to make plays. It just so happens that we’re giving ourselves a chance and then coming up with plays to stop people from scoring in key moments. So that’s the good part.”
Miller said he’d prefer not to bend, either, but not breaking is what it’s all about.
”As a defense, we look forward to going out there and getting a three-and-out every time we play,” Miller said. ”Every series three-and-out, three-and-out. But the chances of that happening every time you go out is slim. I feel like we’ve taken steps to be a great defense, and the most important thing is that we came away with the `W.”’
The Broncos also got some good news Friday with linebacker Danny Trevathan back at practice on a limited basis. Their leading tackler last year, Trevathan broke his left leg on Aug. 12.
Coach John Fox listed Trevathan as questionable for Sunday, but with a bye next week, it’s likely Trevathan will be held out and make his 2014 debut Oct. 5 against Arizona.
Either way, Trevathan will make the trip.
Defensive lineman Malik Jackson said it was a boost just seeing Trevathan back on the practice field.
Austin said he’ll play Sunday to honor his father, who died Friday, five days after being ejected in a rollover auto accident in North Carolina.
”I got no reason not to play,” Austin said. ”I’ve got to honor my dad. I have his name and your name is all you’ve got.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton