Dec 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (25) runs the ball after an interception in the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Bills 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The strength of the Denver Broncos or at least it should be is their secondary, primarily the cornerbacks. John Elway has done a good job of setting up the secondary to compete in today’s pass happy NFL.
The group is led by Chris Harris Jr. who does not get mentioned nationally when the subject of who the best cornerback in the league comes up, but he should. Harris has given up one touchdown in two seasons and can play both on the outside, and in the slot. Harris consistently takes away the best receiver on the opposing team unless his own defensive coordinator handcuffs the defense.
Jack Del Rio, for whatever reason, decided not to put Harris on T.Y. Hilton in the playoff game versus the Indianapolis Colts and it was a fatal decision. Harris is a top three cornerback and should be one of the focal points of Wade Phillips defense.
The Broncos are in great shape on the other side with Aqib Talib, who is arguably a top five corner himself. He struggled versus the Colts and Hilton, but that was more about coaching. Talib matches up better with bigger receivers and putting him on Hilton was never a good idea.
The Broncos have two top corners and an up and coming talent in Bradley Roby. As mentioned earlier, the NFL throws the ball all over the place and good defenses have three cornerbacks who can cover. Roby had a very good rookie season and looks like he could be a great player for the Broncos.
He made the play that sealed the game for the Broncos in the season opener versus the Colts, and made a game changing interception in the blowout win over the Oakland Raiders in Oakland. The Broncos were thrilled when Roby fell to number 31 in the first round last year, and now we know why.
Omar Bolden has not panned out the way the Broncos had hoped as a corner, but he is a very good special team’s player. The kickoff return team for the Broncos was poor for much of the season until they finally put Bolden back there. He had several big returns, including one versus the Cincinnati Bengals that changed the momentum of the game at the time.
Somehow Tony Carter manages to stay around season after season despite being on the bubble going into every training camp. Carter has always had good cover skills but commits too many penalties, and gets beat at inopportune times.
One of the stories of the offseason and training camp might surround the immediate future of Kavon Webster. Webster is a solid cornerback and the Broncos would like to get him on the field more, but he’s behind three very good players.
There has been a couple of reports about the Broncos maybe moving Webster to safety and if you think about it, it makes sense. The Broncos are likely to lose Rahim Moore in free agency and may look to Webster. It would get him on the field, and Phillips has always liked big safeties in his defense.
While Webster’s coverage skills are average for a cornerback, they would be above average for a safety and he’s not afraid to hit either. The question is would he be able to make the transition, some corners can and some can’t. There’s been no word from the Broncos on this potential move, but it bears watching.
The Broncos signed safety TJ Ward to be a difference maker for the defense, but he was never used correctly by Del Rio. Ward is never going to be known as a guy who can cover, but he can be a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage. Fans should expect more blitzing and more big plays from Ward in a Phillips defense.
We touched on Moore and I’ve always liked him more than most, but he’s going to get big offers from some teams and the Broncos have too many other priorities.
From the what if department is the story of Quinton Carter. The Broncos have liked him since the day they drafted him out of Oklahoma and at the end of his rookie season in 2011, Carter was the team’s best safety but injuries have derailed a promising career. He hurt his knee early in the 2012 training camp, and missed the entire season.
Then just when it appeared he was regaining his 2011 form, Carter hurt his knee again towards the end of last season. Combine the injury history with his pending free agency, and it’s difficult to see Carter returning to the Broncos.
David Bruton Jr. remains one of the better special team’s players in the league and that’s why he is on this team. He had a fake punt versus the Kansas City Chiefs that resulted in a first down. Bruton also played more as a safety late in the season and played pretty well.
Assuming the Broncos lose both Moore and Carter to free agency, they will need to address the position. If Webster does not move to safety, then the Broncos will need to find a starter. Look for them to sign a veteran in free agency, my guess is the Broncos can find someone who is every bit as good as Moore and for a lot less money than he’s going to command. The Broncos will also seek to add depth in the draft.
That does it for a positional overview of the Broncos but the offseason news continues, and we’ll be there to cover it all.