ENGLEWOOD — It's not that they were jealous. More like embarrassed.
While Peyton Manning's prodigious offense was scorching scoreboards all of last season, collecting records and accolades by the bundle, Denver's depleted defense was giving up 25 points a game.
Run-stuffer Terrance Knighton, one of just three starters who made it from opening night to the Super Bowl, says the goal in 2014 is to see to it that Manning's high-octane offense is a luxury and not a necessity.
"We just don't want to be that defense that does enough to get by and the offense is putting up 40 points," Knighton said. "We just want to be that defense that goes out there and dominates and be talked about."
Sort of like Seattle's "Legion of Boom."
Their 43-8 loss to the Seahawks is never far from the Broncos' minds.
Even in the weight room, when they start to get frazzled, somebody will holler out, "35!" a bitter reference to the number of points that separated them from the Lombardi Trophy after scoring an NFL-record 606 points during the regular season.
They've worked so diligently during offseason workouts that even when coach John Fox gave them a break one day last month they would have none of it.
"Coach gave us off today ..... But the whole defense in the building" tweeted Knighton.
General manager John Elway revamped his defense in the offseason, adding thumpers in free agency with the signings of pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward and then using his first-round pick in the NFL draft on cornerback Bradley Roby, giving Denver an edge it sorely lacked at the Meadowlands on Feb. 2.
Also back in the fold are several starters who were sidelined for the Super Bowl: linebacker Von Miller (knee), cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (knee), defensive lineman Derek Wolfe (seizure/illness) and safety Rahim Moore (leg) with run-stuffer Kevin Vickerson working his way back from a dislocated hip.
"The way we looked at it, and the way I always looked at it: When we're in the moment, we're going to compete with the guys we have. 'Next man up.' Let's go, let's go get it done," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "We carried that motto all the way through and had a shot to win a world title. And it didn't happen.
"And what you do is you go back and you retool and regroup and reload and go after it again. And that's where we are. So right now we're putting together a new squad, and we've got some new faces and we're busy at work. That's what this time of year is about."
The star-studded lineup on this retooled defense is enough to make any Broncos fan giddy, but the players aren't getting ahead of themselves.
"I think last year we made a mistake of just having the guys we had thinking that was enough and not putting in the effort to be great," Knighton suggested. "That's something we're not talking about this year, the talent we have. We just want to go out there and put in the work."
That said, Knighton can't hide his elation over playing next to Ware, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal in Denver after the Dallas Cowboys released him this spring.
"It's great, because he adds a lot of knowledge," Knighton said. "When you have a guy on your defense who has over 100 and whatever sacks, obviously he has some pointers to help guys."
Knighton knew he'd be giving up his No. 94 the second Ware signed.
"I have so much respect for the game and guys who have done it really good for a long time," said Knighton, who's now sporting No. 98. "So immediately when we signed him, he texted. I texted him and said, 'You know it's yours, but it's going to cost you.'"
Financial terms weren't disclosed.
"Just know it was a little bit more than other guys get just because I felt like I did a really good job in 94," Knighton said. "They are probably going to start making jerseys and stuff, so I told him he'd have to pay for all that and reimburse my mom for the 20 jerseys she bought. It was a pretty penny."