As the defending Super Bowl champions, coming off of a 12-4 season with the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Denver Broncos projections for the 2016 season are coming in awfully low, especially in the eyes of the Broncos players.
Last week, Football Outsiders’s Aaron Schatz predicted that the Broncos will go 7-9 and miss the playoffs entirely. While Las Vegas was more generous to the Broncos, setting their over/under for wins on the season at 9.5, it still is considerably low for the reigning world champions.
Even though the Broncos lost their top two quarterbacks in the offseason, the defense doesn’t think the team is any worse off. On Wednesday, during offseason workouts, nickel cornerback Bradley Roby, the Broncos first-round pick in 2014, explained why he thinks outsiders are so skeptical of the team.
“I think people are just saying that because we lost two quarterbacks — I don’t know the last time that’s happened — but when people see events that haven’t happened before, they automatically doubt,” said Roby.
While the quarterback situation will certainly be different next year, Roby had a simple answer as to why the team’s success won’t change.
“Because defense wins championships,” said Roby.
In fact, Roby went even further with his assessment of the team.
“We’re very confident that we’ll be better this year,” said Roby. “I think we’ll be a lot better this year … there is definitely another level for this defense.”
Roby may not technically be a starter on the stat sheet; however, the entire defense knows he is just as important as anyone.
“Bradley played big and [had] a lot of reps for us. He made a lot of plays,” said Darian Stewart. “He’s definitely considered a starter.”
Roby later agreed, simply saying “yes” when asked if he viewed himself as a starter. However, he and Stewart only care about the defenses continued growth and success.
Instead of feeling disrespected when the Broncos chose safety Justin Simmons in the third round of the NFL draft, Stewart saw how it helped the defense improve.
“I think we needed the depth,” said Stewart. “Having him and Will [Parks] in, they don’t say too much … but they’re going to be helpful for us.”
Along with adding defensive help in the draft, specifically in the secondary, the Broncos still believe the defense has room to grow.
“Fix those mistakes and those communication errors. There were a couple of games where we gave up some big plays … because we didn’t communicate right and we weren’t on the same page adjustment-wise,” said Roby. “Another year with our coaches. We know the defense a little bit better.”
Roby also identified what he needs to improve.
“Recognizing routes in the game and stuff. There are a lot of things,” said Roby. “Nobody is perfect, so you’re always going to find out different way to make sure your betting better.”
The secondary otherwise called the “No Fly Zone” was excellent last year, but Stewart said they can make more big plays.
“Creating and getting more interceptions. That’s the key … as a secondary we definitively want to lead the league in interceptions,” said Stewart.
At the end of the day, though, Stewart pointed out that talk means nothing and only what they end up doing on the field will matter. He added that if the Broncos can improve, it would not only be a long season for opposing teams, but also for people who doubted them, just like last year.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinions. We’re just going to keep working and keep getting better. This is our second year together,” said Stewart. “It’s going to be hell for teams this year.”
As for the predictions for the coming season, both Roby and Stewart welcomed the doubters.
“That fuels me a lot just to hear some of the things…they doubted us last year, and you saw how it motivated us. You do it again this year, we’ll just see how it goes,” said Roby.
As the veteran of the two, Stewart didn’t hold back as much. “Most of these guys making these predictions never played football,” said Stewart. “Go out and prove everyone wrong.”
Although these comments will just add fuel to the Broncos defense, inside the UCHealth Training Center, the Broncos have a different message.
“Defense wins championships,” said Roby. “We’re talking about it everyday. Doing it again.”