There’s no denying how dominant the Denver Broncos defense was in 2015. It led them all the way to a Super Bowl 50 victory. Fans and the media haven’t forgotten. But after two seasons out of the playoffs, Broncos General Manager John Elway says it’s time to start putting the pressure back on the defense.

Sure, a big the reason the Broncos missed the postseason over the past two seasons was due to poor performance on the offensive side of the ball. Elway addressed that concern with his first big move in 2018 free agency, signing quarterback Case Keenum to lead the team on offense.

Elway spoke one-on-one with Les Shapiro of Mile High Sports AM 1340| FM 104.7 on Friday, following Keenum’s introduction, and said his defense can’t sit back and relax just because the team has added a marquee quarterback in free agency.

“I think the press kind of gave the defense a break last year, blaming everything on the offensive side. We have to go back defensively, take the mentality that even though we feel like we have a quarterback, they can’t exhale. We’ve got to continue to get better on defensive side,” Elway said.

“You look at where we were defensively, and we were damn good [in 2015]. I mean, that goes down as one of the top defenses in the history of the NFL, and so obviously we’re not at that level where we were because that was such a great defense and that doesn’t come along very often. So, you know, we’re always trying to get better on defense. Numbers-wise, even though we were pretty good on defense last year we still were 21st in scoring.”

Denver ranked 22nd in total points allowed in 2017, despite ranking third in yards per game.

Some of that comes from turnovers happening deep in their own territory, but it’s clear those excuses won’t pass with Elway in 2018.

He was adamant in saying that he won’t be okay with the defense taking a half-step back, even if the offense takes a big step forward under Keenum.

“No. Because I think we can be better than we were defensively last year. I don’t think we need to take a half-step backward. As I said in the press conference, we, the whole organization with the year that we had last year including me — it starts with me — is the fact that we’ve got to evaluate what we did, the decisions that were made last year and get better. And also understand that that will not get it done and we have to improve on every side.”

Elway specifically mentioned turnovers as a point of improvement he wants to see next year.

The Broncos in 2017 allowed the second-most giveaways on offense (34) and ranked just 26th in takeaways (17). Their net minus-17 trailed only Cleveland. As such, Denver finished 5-11.

“When you look at the year that we had, we’re minus 16 in turnovers; we can’t do that. We’ve got to do better job taking care of the football on the offensive side, but also, we’ve got to get turnovers. We did not get turnovers last year too. There’s a lot of room for improvement by everybody, including me,” Elway said.

That improvement began in free agency, namely with the addition of Keenum. But there is still work to do.

“On the offensive side, we feel like we have [improved]. Defensively, we’ll continue to get there. We’ve got a lot of [draft] picks. We’ll add picks to both sides, as well as special teams.”

Elway hasn’t ruled out more moves in free agency to bolster his defense, although nothing is set in stone.

“You know, the defense is always a focus, because if they don’t score it gives you a chance to win,” Elway said. “So, we’ll continue to focus there. We don’t have any plans on defense. We continue to turn over the all rocks to see what’s the value out there and see if we can help the whole football team.”

More important, though, is getting back to what helped deliver that Super Bowl 50 victory.

“The bottom line is, I know we’re still good on defense,” Elway said. “I just want us to take the mindset to get back with the mentality that we’ve had, and that’s being the top defense in the league.”

As for what he wants to see from the offense, Elway was more to the point.

“Touchdowns,” he said with a chuckle.

Sorry – this audio content is no longer available., including how he expects Keenum and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave to mesh, or listen in the podcast below.

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