The goal of an NFL defense is to stop the offense. It sounds simple, but it’s anything but. Since the NFL began strictly enforcing the illegal contact penalty in 2004, the offensive side of the field has opened up dramatically. The NFL average for points-per-game has gone up by nearly two full points since 2003.

A difference of less than two points a game may seem minimal, but over the course of 32 teams playing 16 games, that two point difference adds up. With scoring higher than ever, a great emphasis has been placed on a defense that can make stops and get off of the field.

Even with a record-setting offense and quarterback, Denver still needs to get stops on defense, and that means tackles. Last year Brandon Marshall surprised fans everywhere and led the team in tackles. Can he repeat, or will a new scheme open the door for someone else?

This offseason the Broncos hired Wade Phillips to be the defensive coordinator. Phillips told this Denver defense is the best situation he has come into as a coach.

“This is probably the best situation defensively that I’ve come into — or way better than any other situation I’ve come into,” Phillips said. “Normally, they’d had a bad year and they’ve brought me in as defensive coordinator.”

Phillips will make the switch to a 3-4 base defense, which will allow speedy linebackers Marshall and Danny Trevathan to play as the inside linebackers. In a standard 3-4 defensive front, the nose tackle and the two defensive ends are responsible for occupying the offensive line, freeing the linebackers to come up and make stops between the tackles. Marshall led the team with 113 combined tackles last season, and Trevathan led the team the previous season with 129 combined tackles the year before. Phillips, and the Broncos are confident that Marshall and Trevathan are a perfect fit for the two inside linebacker positions.

Trevathan and Marshall both ended last season injured, but the two linebackers are eager to get back on the field and are very confident in their abilities.

Trevathan told ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, “We’re two of the best linebackers in the league, it’s time for people to notice that,’’ Trevathan said of he and Marshall. “We came in with kind of a chip on our shoulders. Us lining up next to each other is just extra motivation. I look into his eyes and he looks into my eyes and we both know that we have the ability to play and be the best out there. It’s time for us to make a name for ourselves.’’

Expect either Marshall or Trevathan to lead the team in tackling next season, and fans should prepare to look for these names on the NFL tackling leader board.

T.J. Ward was second on the team in tackling last season, recording 74 combined tackles from the strong safety position. At strong safety Ward hits hard and tends to play close to the line of scrimmage. Injuries to Trevathan and Marshall pushed Ward to play as a quasi-linebacker to strengthen the run defense. Ward’s versatility will have Phillips lining him up all over the place. If Phillips has Ward pouncing on QB’s, stuffing running backs, and clocking tight ends, then he could easily lead the Broncos in tackles.

Bradley Roby, the rookie corner, finished third on the team in combined tackles last season with 65. Roby showed a knack for bringing down the ball-carrier during his rookie season. Roby might make the switch to safety, where his tackling instincts and ball skills would provide an instant upgrade. If Roby can follow in the mold of Champ Bailey, master of the leg tackle, then he could very well compete to lead the Broncos in tackles.

Von Miller, meanwhile, is simply a superstar. He was fifth on the team last year with 59 combined tackles, and led the team with 14 sacks. If Miller can become the “J.J. Watt” of Wade Phillips’ defense, albeit at a different position, he could have a special season. Imagine: Miller breaks the sack record, becomes the NFL’s best run defender, and smothers running backs and tight ends on passing patterns, leading the team in tackles. Von Miller: 2015 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award winner. Now that has a nice ring to it.

So, who’s going to have the most tackles?