ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Now, this is the kind of defense Jack Del Rio wishes he could have taken into the Super Bowl.
In the 3½ months since Denver’s 43-8 shellacking at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, the Broncos have added DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby, fulfilling general manager John Elway’s wishes to inject more toughness into his roster.
Plus, Von Miller, Kevin Vickerson, Chris Harris Jr., Rahim Moore and Derek Wolfe are all on the mend after spending that miserable night at the Meadowlands on the sideline with Del Rio.
“The way we looked at it, and the way I always looked at it: When we’re in the moment, we’re going to compete with the guys we have. Next man up. Let’s go, let’s go get it done,” Del Rio said. “We carried that motto all the way through and had a shot to win a world title. And it didn’t happen. And what you do is you go back and you retool and regroup and reload and go after it again.”
As he did his post-mortem on Denver’s season, Elway came to realize that for the Broncos to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to win the Super Bowl a year after losing it, they’d have to toughen up.
His first order of business, however, was to sign Del Rio to a two-year contract to keep him in Denver though 2015.
Del Rio, who went 3-1 as interim coach last season when John Fox underwent heart surgery, was Denver’s seventh defensive coordinator in seven seasons when he joined the Broncos in 2012 after serving as Jacksonville’s head coach from 2003-11.
The Broncos ranked first in the league in several defensive categories his first season. But the injury epidemic contributed to a free-fall last year when the Broncos surrendered a whopping 24.9 points a game - 25.3 if you count the playoffs - which sent Elway on another offseason spending spree to plug holes.
“Look, we’re just moving on, you know?” Del Rio said. “Two years ago we finished in the top of the league and last year, we . we didn’t. We like being at the top. So we’ll work our way back. We’ve got good players, good design. We’re going to work hard. And we expect to be good.”
Del Rio was thrilled last week when Roby, the Ohio State cornerback who was ranked 14th on the Broncos’ draft board, slipped to them at No. 31. He’s another hard-nosed, tough-minded player who can add that edge Elway’s looking for.
After watching him at the Broncos’ rookie minicamp over the weekend, Del Rio said Roby’s “very bright.”
“He’s a good communicator in the meetings and all that and then coming out on the field,” he added. “And he’s gifted physically. You know he’s got a lot of work to do, as most rookies do. But he’s got a lot of great tools.”
The selection of Roby and the additions of linebackers Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson in the later rounds followed another fruitful free agency run by Elway.
Ware, the former Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher, will team with Miller to give the Broncos another 1-2 punch - as long as both are healthy after offseason surgeries: Ware (elbow) and Miller (ACL).
Ware also can serve as a stabilizing force for Miller, who ran into some off-field trouble last season after Elvis Dumervil’s departure in free agency.
“He’s got great leadership,” Del Rio said of Ware. “He’s very explosive. I mean, in our drill work, the guy’s got some juice to be able to harass the quarterback. So that’ll be welcome.”
Ward can move from strong safety on first and second down to middle linebacker on third down as he did in Cleveland.
Talib is a player the Broncos snared from rival New England who gives them another thumper in the secondary.
“We’ve gone against him,” Del Rio said, “and anytime he’s got the respect of your better players, then you know you’ve got a real good football player.”
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