Normally, a team talented enough to make it to the Super Bowl the previous season, should presumably be well-stocked and only in need of minor adjustments to their roster. However, the reality of the way the season ended for the Denver Broncos made it clear that they were in dire need of improvement. The talent gap between their super bowl roster and the Seahawks super bowl roster was painfully clear.
To a certain extent, the greatness of Peyton Manning masked what became evident in the drubbing the Broncos suffered in Super Bowl 48; the Broncos were an aging and beat up team heading into the biggest game of the season.
Last year there were only 4 teams with an older average age than the Broncos and Denver was missing many vital and talented pieces heading into the Super Bowl, Von Miller, Ryan Clady and Chris Harris chief among them.
Injuries happen and will happen again, but Elway and Co. made it their mission this offseason to infuse the roster with not only hard-nosed, veteran leaders, but also with talented youth. After final roster cuts, there are 23 players from last year’s Super Bowl roster no longer with the team
Gone are significant contributors on Defense from last year Champ Bailey, Wesley Woodyard, Mike Adams, Robert Ayers, Shaun Philips, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Duke Ihenacho, Kevin Vickerson (until his injury), Paris Lenon and Jeremy Mincey (later in the season).
Gone are key contributors on Offense Eric Decker, Zane Beadles and Knowshon Moreno.
Based on the players who started for the Broncos in the Super Bowl 48 loss, they will have:
A different starting RB in Montee Ball,
A new WR in Emmanuel Sanders,
3 different starting offensive linemen in a healthy Ryan Clady at LT, Orlando Franklin moving from RT to LG and Chris Clark moving from LT to RT,
2 new Defensive Ends in DeMarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe,
2 new LB’s in Brandon Marshall and Von Miller,
And all 4 new defensive back positions in Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., TJ Ward and Rahim Moore.
All told, that is 13 of the 22 positions that will have a different player starting in 2014 as compared to the Super Bowl roster last year.
Furthermore, the key veteran leaders the Broncos brought in: DeMarcus Ware, 32, Aqib Talib, 28 and TJ Ward, 27, would seem to indicate that the average age of the roster would rise from last year’s average of 26.75 years old.
However, with the infusion of 7 new rookies and the exit of many of the aging vets listed above, the Broncos average age actually drops to 25.81 years old, which may not seem like a lot but now makes them the 12th youngest team in the league as opposed to the 5th oldest team last year. At almost a year younger on average, per guy across the board, the Broncos shaved nearly 50 years of combined age from last year’s roster.
A team who is led by a 38-year-old QB and who signed a 32-year-old star DE in free agency will be perceived as an older team, but Elway has actually done an incredible job of adding tough, veteran leaders, while still maintaining a talented youthful foundation.
The Broncos are confident that new additions DeMarcus Ware, TJ Ward and Aqib Talib will provide their defense with a toughness, mental edge and leadership quality it lacked last year. They know that Peyton Manning will have the offense humming again all season.
However, the Broncos will be eager to further lean on and develop a slew of young, high-caliber players in Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Montee Ball, Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Malik Jackson and Sylvester Williams who are all 26 years old or younger. And they will be excited to integrate talented rookies, CB Bradley Roby, 22, and WR Cody Latimer, 21 into the defense and offense, respectively.
The Broncos feel strongly that the significant roster overhaul has improved their team dramatically over last year’s Super Bowl team. Elway and the front office have done a masterful job of reloading and reworking an old and injured roster that got a harsh reality check in their final game.
They are more talented at nearly every position and have depth and youth that they simply did not have last year. Peyton was able to carry the team to the Super Bowl last year, but it will be that quality of depth and youth that will be integral to get them over that last giant hurdle this year. Elway has done everything he needed to do to improve the Broncos, and he has assembled the best, most talented and deepest roster the Broncos have had in Peyton’s tenure. They hope that translates to a super ending to the season this time around.