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Broncos Defense Knows Fate Of Season Rests In Their Hands

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Defensive end Robert Ayers at practice (credit: CBS)

Defensive end Robert Ayers at practice (credit: CBS)

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Peyton Manning is the center of everyone’s attention at Dove Valley. Everyone knew that was going to happen, so the defense hasn’t exactly been in the spotlight during organized team activities and minicamp.

The defensive players know the Broncos fate this season to a large extent rests in their hands.

“Defense wins championships. You’ve heard that saying for years and it’s true,” linebacker Joe Mays said. “In order for us to win games the defense is going to have to come out and be a little bit more consistent than we were last year and be a lot more aggressive.”

“It is all on the defense, you know. We’re going to come out and play football. There are a lot of things that we can improve on and everyone is going to do their part,” defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. “So I’ve got to make sure I do my job and just take it from that standpoint.”

When the Broncos last played a game Tom Brady was throwing over, under, around and through the Broncos defense in the playoffs. Still, the defense was better in 2011. It was 24th in the NFL after being dead last in 2010. It remained vulnerable to big plays. The players know that has to change this season

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“I don’t think our attitude needs to be different. I just think we need to raise our level of play,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “I wouldn’t say that any guy who stepped on the field last year and had not a good attitude about what to do. We just need to bring that attitude and raise the level of play.”

“We’ve got to move forward. You know this is a whole new team; new additions, new coaches; it’s a fresh slate,” defensive end Jason Hunter said.

For the seventh time in seven years the Broncos have a new defensive coordinator. That may be a record. But Jack Del Rio’s aggressive philosophy is definitely popular with the players.

“Minimize points, force a lot of turnovers and get the ball back to our offense as soon as possible,” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “I can’t sit here and say there’s one particular style of defense that we play because we do a variety of things.”

“We’re going to be a lot more aggressive, we’re going to be a lot faster to the ball this year, and overall we’re going to be a lot more dominant,” Mays said. “We all know about the Orange Crush back in the day and we’re trying to set our goals to become that.”

To a large extent the Broncos defense returns with many of the same players. The stars — Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller and Bailey are all back, but there are several key new faces like Porter who figures to play corner opposite Bailey. Top draft pick Derek Wolfe hopefully will find a home on the defensive line along with veteran Ty Warren, who’s finally healthy again and ready to prove he can be the same player he was when he was helping the Patriots win Super Bowls.

“There is no doubt about it, getting out there is easy. I could probably go out there blind and put my hand down at whatever position I would play. The main thing for me is to focus on the conditioning part and know the playbook and all the concepts,” Warren said.

The Broncos believe they have the talent and attitude to be one of the better defenses in the league, but they also know things always seem rosy in the spring and early summer. It’s one thing to talk about it, but when fall comes around they have to do it..

“I think everybody is optimistic. I think you look at all 32 teams around the country right now and everybody has high hopes and thinks they’re going to win the Super Bowl,” Bannan said. “It’s great to have optimism but you’ve got to work to get the results and that’s what we’ve got; we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

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