Champ Bailey calls the safety position: "...your last line of defense." With the Broncos preferred defensive formations, that has often included the cornerbacks. But, with the hiring, starting and releasing of R. Rogers in four days, the Broncos gave new meaning to the phrase, "Speed at the safety position." In a season-long search for simple competence in the defensive backfield the Broncos seem to have finally stumbled on a decent pair of players: Josh Bell at CB and Vernon Fox at Safety.
First, they found Josh Bell, a young man who was picked up this year as an undrafted free agent by the rival San Diego Chargers. Ironically, with their now-legendary coverage issues, the Chargers let Bell go as they felt they were set at the position. One man’s cast-off is another man’s treasure, and Bell seems to be maturing as a fine choice at CB. But there are two safety positions as well and the Broncos turned to a fellow who can play them both. On Sunday, a second SD cast-off, Vernon Fox, helped them win a football game with a fast decision that led to a touchdown on his fumble recovery.
The 5’10, 203 lb. Vernon Fox, age 29, also came to the Broncos by way of San Diego – he just took a few years longer to do it. The 7th year player was picked up undrafted by the Chargers in 2002. Vernon was a product of Fresno State where he was a two time All-Western Athletic Conference first-team selection. He lasted for 2 years in SD before catching on with Detroit where he did another two year stint, matching some time there with our own Dre Bly. By this time, he was known as a hard hitter, a fine back-up safety and a special teams ace.Washington brought him in during August of 2006 and he also lasted two seasons with them, continuing in the same vein before they released him this summer. The Broncos picked him up in September.
Right now, for the Broncos at safety, a fine back-up is a fine step-up. The combination of Bell at CB and Fox at safety seems currently to be working for the resurgent Broncos. Fox is being given an opportunity to show that he, like Jamie Winborn, is an experienced veteran that hasn’t found the right situation.
Winborn has been a solid advantage as an insurance policy over the oft-injured Boss Bailey, just as the Broncos hoped when they signed him. Bell is yet another fine rookie, but Fox and Winborn are playing to show the coaches that they can be solid veterans, providing leadership as well as play-making. Where Winborn’s influence is fiery and vocal, Fox is cool-headed, a calm presence on a team that tends to be up and down too often. Where Bell is young and has a swagger, Fox is a matter of fact vet. He merely knows his worth and his value to the team, keeps his head and does his job. His teammates praise his professionalism and the example it serves for them. Former starters Calvin Lowry and Marlon McCree will back up him this Sunday.
A recovered fumble, a cool-headed run in for a TD and a credit for three tackles last weekend bought Vernon Fox another opportunity to start on Sunday as will Josh Bell. We might also look for him on special teams where the Broncos have some good enthusiasm and some good tacklers, but where we still substitute emotion for keeping in the lanes, doing one’s job and finding the ball carrier. Fox has now done that effectively for four teams.
From the Bronco's perspective, that’s a slot that needed to be filled. And we owe a big thanks to San Diego for letting these two players go.
Oh, and San Diego? When I was at the beach this morning, the marine layer fog suddenly cleared, and a beautiful sailboat was seen on the horizon. It was the Bolts Super Bowl chances, floating off to Tahiti for the winter, before trying a return gig in the spring. We’ll take the defensive backs, thanks – and the divisional crown, after our next win!