JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press
When your team scores an average of 37.9 points per game, opponents are going to pass on you ferociously. When opponents pass on you ferociously, you give up a lot of yards and points. This is what happened to the Broncos last season, and no unit looked worse because of it than the defensive backfield.
Now, the Denver defensive backs were far from good in 2013, yet were they as bad as they looked? Absolutely not.
Nonetheless, the unit was a poor mix of old talent and young potential, and the result was an easily penetrable group that was exposed and exploited by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Fittingly so, no unit was more dissected and picked apart this offseason in Denver. Many players from last year's unit became unrestricted free agents. Safety Mike Adams signed with the Indianapolis Colts, and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signed with the New York Giants. Cornerback Champ Bailey, who turned 36 this summer, was not re-signed, and neither was cornerback Quentin Jammer.
To fill these openings, the Broncos pursued defensive back free agents aggressively and eventually signed safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib. In addition to defensive end DeMarcus Ware, these were Denver's biggest offseason signings, and they have the potential to improve the effectiveness of this unit.
Chris Harris Jr. is slated to start alongside Talib at cornerback, and they will be backed up by Kayvon Webster, Tony Carter, Omar Bolden and rookie Bradley Roby, whom Denver drafted with its first pick of this year's draft.
Ward will play the strong safety role, and Rahim Moore will start at free safety. Quinton Carter and David Bruton will back them up, respectively.
Safety Duke Ihenacho, who started every game for the Broncos last season, did not make the team. This is indicative of how drastically this unit has changed and, hopefully, how much it has improved.
Don't expect a Seattle Seahawks-esque "Legion of Doom," but do expect the Broncos defensive backs to be more than just a group of guys who take the field, while Peyton Manning and the offense take a breather.