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Even the Broncos' top pass defense gets an offseason makeover

Chris Harris Jr. and the Broncos have been the only secondary to allow less than 200 pass yards per game in each of the past two seasons. Logan Bowles/USA TODAY Sports

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos defense isn't broken -- far from it in fact, as it's one of the best units in the league. But that doesn't mean some repairs aren't underway in the earliest stages of its offseason program.

The Broncos finished in the league's top five in both scoring and total defense in each of the last two seasons and finished as the league's No. 1 pass defense. But with a playoff miss, troubles in the run defense (they finished 28th against the run) and a change in coaching staffs there is a recipe for at least some change.

"We've added more wrinkles, taking it another level," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "We were on level two on a lot of things, now we're on level three on some coverages."

Despite being a few days into their offseason program, Harris said Monday he believes it's clear first-year defensive coordinator Joe Woods likes what Wade Phillips had installed on defense, but Woods wants to add a few things as well.

The Broncos have four players in the secondary who have played in a Pro Bowl at least once over the last two seasons and they have a pass-rusher in Von Miller who is annually in the discussion for the league's Defensive Player of the Year. It's why they held teams to just 185.8 yards passing per game last season, almost 16 yards per game, on average, better than the next best team.

Last year's total was also a big improvement from the 199.6 yards passing per game the Broncos surrendered in 2015 as the league's top defense on the way to a Super Bowl win. They are the only team in the league to finish with fewer than 200 passing yards allowed per game in each of those seasons.

"If we can cut it to 175 that would be amazing," Harris said. "I think it's possible, though. I'm not going to say we can't do that."

The Broncos took a measured dip into the free-agency pool, and among their signings were defensive linemen Domata Peko and Zach Kerr, two stout run defenders who each tip the scales at over 320 pounds. That additional bulk, the Broncos believe, should help them control opposing run games better.

And if they control opposing run games better, it would allow the Broncos to get in more favorable third-and-long situations to rush the passer and challenge quarterbacks in coverage more than they were able to last season. Harris lamented several times last season that "nobody throws at us because they don't always have to.''

"Have you seen those guys? Those guys are huge. Have you seen them?" Miller said. "Peko, he's athletic. ... Just by looking at those guys, you can already tell they're going to be able to feel and correct some of those weaknesses that we had last year. The run defense was one of our weaknesses."

"I think our run defense is going to be so much better, they're going to have to throw the ball now," Harris said. "They're going to have to throw to us, we're going the chance to get more picks … just looking at those guys. We just didn't have enough beef, we weren't big enough. Just adding that size."

Harris said one advantage Woods has in adding some things to the defense so early in the offseason program is the experience level of the players, especially in the secondary. Harris, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart -- last year's starters -- are starting their fourth season together.

Even the team's fifth defensive back, Bradley Roby, is entering his fourth season.

"We're able to handle that," Harris said. " ... To be able to have that chemistry, we can learn very fast together. That's a big plus. ... We already had the staple here, what we were very good at."