John Elway's blueprint for a Broncos return to the Super Bowl starts with better balance

What bothered John Elway last year was the Broncos' imbalance, which showed up in a big way at the Super Bowl.

Denver's patchwork defense was an inadequate accompaniment to Peyton Manning's record-breaking offense, and the Broncos' high-flying passing game didn't get quite enough help on the ground.

So, the Broncos general manager spent the offseason beefing up his offensive line and adding an edge to his defense with free agent thumpers DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib along with first-round draft pick Bradley Roby.

"I think that we've got to get to be where we're a complete football team. We can't rely on 18 to win it because he can't win it by himself," Elway said of Manning, who threw for more yards and touchdowns than anyone in NFL history in 2013.

The Broncos had a very productive offseason, but training camp will begin to show if the moves will help them become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to win the Super Bowl a year after losing it.

The enthusiasm that usually accompanies the eve of training camp was tempered when the club announced Wednesday that team owner Pat Bowlen was giving up control of the franchise because of Alzheimer's disease.

"This is obviously a very sad day," Elway said. "But with everybody coming in, going through the physicals, we're excited about getting started."

Elway said he asks himself every summer, "Are we a better football team on paper ... than we were the year before?"

"And I think we are," he added.

He's eager to see how his free agents mesh and how several veterans return from injuries, including Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Rahim Moore and Ryan Clady.

Harris is the only Broncos player who will begin training camp on the PUP list, but he's headed to see surgeon Dr. James Andrews later this week to seek clearance.

Returning for a new year also means "we can put last year behind us," Elway said in reference to the Broncos' 43-8 loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl when the Seahawks routed the highest-scoring team in NFL history.

"As tremendous as last year was, obviously there's always a bitter taste in your mouth when it ends the way it ended," Elway said. "When we get out on the field that officially ends the 2013 season. We can now get going on the 2014 season."

Elway said he's eager to see how Ware, Talib and Ward help forge a new identity so the defense doesn't "rely on that offense to bail us out."

"To win a world championship, you have to be a great football team and you have to be well-rounded," Elway said. "I think we've moved closer to that. Seattle was a tremendous football team. But this is a new year."

As for the offense, the Broncos want a better ground game, although they lack experience at running back. Second-year pro Montee Ball is the starter, but neither he nor any of his backups have ever started a game in the NFL.

"When you're as successful throwing the ball as we were last year, it's hard to argue with that," Elway said. "But, yeah you always want balance."

Facing that already formidable offense during training camp will help Denver's defense forge an identity, Ware said.

"Peyton Manning is always trying to trick us and doing those types of things. I think that is really going to help us," Ware said.

"But at the end of the day, as you know from last year, defense wins championships."

Notes: Miller has been cleared for 7-on-7 and individual drills, but it's doubtful he'll participate fully until mid-August.


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