- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

DENVER (AP) - General manager John Elway wanted more of an edge on defense after Denver’s shellacking in the Super Bowl, so he went out and signed free agents DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward.

This trio of thumpers brought a new energy to the Broncos, who also got a big boost with the return of several starters who sat out that nightmare at the Meadowlands, notably Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr.

The fervor wasn’t limited to Denver’s revamped defense, however, as the offense also showed off a new impetuosity.

A reconfigured offensive line features the return of left tackle Ryan Clady and the feisty Orlando Franklin sliding over from right tackle to left guard.

The Broncos’ interior has nearly 1,000 pounds of muscle to open lanes for bruising running back Montee Ball and provide a better pocket of protection for Peyton Manning.

Speaking of the five-time MVP, he’s brawnier in Year 3 in Denver. Forget all that talk about Manning losing it on deep throws, too. He’s as strong at age 38 as he was before those neck problems sidelined him in 2011.

And he proved more irascible than ever by getting into the faces of teammates and opponents alike.

First, he called out his offense after a clumsy performance in the first of three skirmish-filled joint practices with the Houston Texans. Then, he went after safety D.J. Swearinger in the preseason game for a hard hit that left Wes Welker with his third concussion in 10 months.

“I loved it,” nose tackle Marvin Austin said. “It’s a beautiful thing. Peyton’s not really a trash-talking guy.”

So, when Manning has something to say, everybody’s all ears.

The Broncos are hoping this across-the-board pugnacity helps them become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to win the Super Bowl the year after losing it.

They’ll have to navigate some potholes to get there:

BOWLEN’S ABSENCE: Even as dementia began to rob him of some of his fondest memories over the past few years, team owner Pat Bowlen reported to work every day to oversee multimillion-dollar upgrades to the team’s training facilities and roster. Alzheimer’s is preventing the 70-year-old former triathlete from running the team anymore.

Elway and team president Joe Ellis, both teary-eyed when camp began minus the beloved Bowlen, pledged to continue running the team as he did. Elway said the highlight of his career was when Bowlen held high the Lombardi Trophy in 1997 and declared, “This one’s for John!”

“I want nothing more than to return that favor,” Elway said.

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