These aren’t the same Broncos who won it all
AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian will throw his first pass as a pro Thursday night when the Super Bowl champs kick off the 2016 season against the Carolina Panthers.
Despite his inexperience, he’ll have the full playbook at his disposal.
“He can carry a lot of information in a short period of time,” coach Gary Kubiak said Sunday. “Let me explain: he can go in that meeting room for two hours in the morning, walk out here at 11:30 and take it to the field. You can’t teach that. Guys can handle it or they can’t.
“So, he’s handling a lot of information, handling the team, practiced well today. We need to help Trevor all we can but I know Trevor’s ready to do his part.”
Siemian isn’t the only new face in Denver’s starting lineup.
Peyton Manning and five other offensive starters from the Broncos’ 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 are no longer on the roster, a radical makeover for a champion. Neither is Brock Osweiler, who bolted to the Texans in free agency.
The only players returning to their same spots on offense are center Matt Paradis, running back C.J. Anderson and receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Another, Michael Schofield, lost his right tackle job to free agent Donald Stephenson but will start at right guard because of injuries to Ty Sambrailo (elbow) and Darrion Weems (concussion).
Two years after revamping his defense in the rubble of Seattle’s Super Bowl demolition of Denver, GM John Elway rebuilt his offense in the wake of his team’s triumph.
While Elway spent months searching for Manning’s successor this offseason, only to find him already on the roster, the Broncos’ boss jettisoned both tight ends and three O-linemen who started in the Super Bowl.
Vernon Davis and Owen Daniels were replaced by Virgil Green and free agent John Phillips.
Ryan Harris, Lou Vasquez and Evan Mathis are no longer protecting the passer, replaced by Russell Okung, Max Garcia and Stephenson.
Elway also released Ronnie Hillman, the team’s leading rusher last season but a non-factor in the Super Bowl, where Anderson rumbled for 90 yards and Denver’s only offensive touchdown following Von Miller’s second sack-strip of Cam Newton.
Elway said he believes the offense can carry more of its weight this year after relying so heavily on Denver’s destructive defense to bring home the franchise’s third Lombardi Trophy.
“I’m excited about offense,” Elway said. “We’re better in the offensive line, especially as we get healthier. Running back, I think we’re deeper at running back. Our receivers are still good. I think we have a chance to be better offensively with a good balanced attack and have Trevor come in, play well and do the things that he can do.”
Last year, the Broncos put their 39-year-old QB in the pistol or shotgun, which limited their ground game and play-action possibilities. Now, they’re back to the run-heavy approach that Kubiak has employed most of his career, one that features roll-outs, bootlegs, sprint-outs and plenty of hand-offs.
“We’ve got a lot more things that we can do with the running game now,” Elway said. “We’ve got a fullback that can really play in (Andy) Janovich and who does a great job. It gives us a lot of different options.”
Elway suggested this new offense will take some pressure off Miller & Co.
“It gives us a better chance to be better on defense,” Elway said, “because if we can stay on the field and pick up some third downs and keep those guys rested on the defensive side, we’ve got a chance to be better there, too.”
The biggest change is Siemian under center. The former Northwestern QB beat out Mark Sanchez with steadiness and spunk.
“I’m not trying to be Peyton,” Siemian said. “I could probably get in a lot of trouble trying to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
Elway said Siemian has the right mental makeup to succeed Manning: “He handles the huddle very well. The guys like him, they respect him and believe in him.”
Siemian served as the Broncos’ No. 2 QB for the seven weeks Osweiler started while Manning was sidelined in 2015.
“Trevor has a chance to be successful because even though he’s essentially a rookie as far as play time, he’s got the feel and knows what it’s all about,” Elway said. “That experience he had last year is going to help him tremendously this year.”
Notes: Thomas (offense), DeMarcus Ware (defense) and CB Kayvon Webster (special teams) were elected captains. … Third-year RB Juwan Thompson signed with the Broncos practice squad a day after getting cut.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.