This is an interesting group. It is one that has drawn much criticism in the last two or three seasons -- particularly after the way the playoff game versus the Ravens ended last year. Going into training camp, the Broncos will have seven players vying for a roster spot. Those players encompass a wide range of experience -- from Rookie Ross Rasner to 12-year veteran Quentin Jammer. With the Broncos seemingly in a "win-now" mode, we will see youth give way to experience?
Jammer has played his entire career to this point with the San Diego Chargers. He reportedly signed with Denver in order to win a Super Bowl. In his career he has started 161 out of 172 games, recorded 21 interceptions, defended 138 passes (a defensed pass means that he caused an incompletion through contact with the ball), forced 7 fumbles, recovered 9 fumbles, made 615 tackles and assisted on 103 tackles. He missed just three starts after becoming a starting cornerback for the Chargers in 2003. He is considered to be a durable and physical defensive back. He agreed to make a switch from cornerback to safety when he joined the Broncos.
Moore will be most remembered (at least for now) for the misplayed pass which allowed the Ravens to tie the game in Denver's 2012 playoff loss. As a 2012 starter, Moore recorded 1 sack, 1 interception and 1 recovered fumble. In his two seasons with the Broncos, he has started 22 out of 31 games, made 1 sack, 2 interceptions, defended 9 passes, recovered 2 fumbles, made 88 tackles and assisted on 17 tackles. In 2012, he played the most snaps of any player on defense and ranked 3rd on the team in tackles.
Rasner comes to the Broncos as an undrafted college free agent. As a senior at Arkansas, he led his team with 92 tackles -- 8 of which were for a loss, he also had 3 interceptions, defended 7 passes and forced 2 fumbles. Scouting reports indicate that he does well on special teams and when playing in open space. He was also described as having good hands for tackling. His largest negative in those reports centered on the belief that he struggled when forced to play in man coverage.
Adams was not much of a fan favorite in 2012 despite setting career highs in passes defended (12), tackles (80 -- 2nd on the team), forced fumbles (2) and fumble recoveries (2). Adams also recorded a sack in 2012. In his career, Adams has started 66 out of 130 games, recorded 5 sacks, 12 interceptions -- returning one for a touchdown, defended 49 passes, forced 4 fumbles, recovered 8 fumbles, made 362 tackles, assisted on 101 tackles and forced a safety.
Bruton has become as much of a fan favorite as Adams has not. Known primarily for his strong special teams play, Bruton has started 4 games out of 61 played for the Broncos. He has 1 interception, defended 6 passes, forced 1 fumble, recovered 2 fumbles, made 33 tackles and assisted on 12 tackles. He has made 32 special teams tackles over the last three seasons which ranks 2nd in the franchise during that time. He started both of the 2011 playoff games at free safety and tied for the team lead with 15 defensive stops in those games. His first career interception came when he sealed a Broncos victory over Kansas City by intercepting a Brady Quinn pass.
Most of Carter's work came in his rookie season. His missed most of the 2012 season with a knee injury. He has 10 starts out of 19 games, has made 1 sack, defended 1 pass, made 41 tackles and assisted on 15 tackles. As a rookie, he tied for 3rd place among Broncos defensive backs with 49 tackles -- 41 of which were solo tackles. In 2011, he became just the 9th rookie in NFL history to record an interception in consecutive playoff games.
Ihenacho has been an on-again, off-again player for Denver. He was signed as an undrafted college free agent in 2012. While he has shown enough promise to stick around, he has not shown enough to consistently break into the active roster. Ihenacho was waived following the 2012 training camp, but was quickly signed Denver's practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster for Weeks 4 and 5, but was again waived then signed to the practice squad. He returned to the active roster for Weeks 9 and 10, but once again, was waived then signed to the practice squad. He was signed to a future contract on 1/15/2013.
Rahim Moore vs the fans
Once again, Moore is most looked at as being the guy who blew it in the playoff game against the Ravens. The Broncos, however, appeared to view him differently and have defended his play not only throughout the season but in that game in particular. The coaching staff has been quick to point out that there were additional reasons for that stinging loss, such as Manning's three turnovers -- including the interception that led to Baltimore's game-winning field goal, Champ Bailey being repeatedly beaten and VonDoom combining for just one sack.
Quentin Jammer vs Everyone Else
There seems to be a belief that Jammer was brought into play safety and cornerback in some of Denver's specialty packages. Jammer, on the other hand, sees himself as being in this to win a Super Bowl and wants to pattern himself after Rod Woodson and Charles Woodson who both made successful switches from cornerback to safety. Look for Jammer to be playing with a chip on his shoulder, determined to prove himself, in an effort to unseat either Adams or Moore for a starting spot.
Mike Adams vs David Bruton vs Quinton Carter
Adams has been panned by many fans despite having a career season in 2012. Bruton, a fan-favorite, has maintained his roster spot by being a force on special teams. Bruton has made a strong showing thus far in Denver's offseason training activities and has spent a great deal of time supplanting Adams with the 1st team defense. There is a feeling that 2013 may prove to be Bruton's year. Carter is still working on coming back from a devastating knee injury which sidelined him for the majority of the 2012 season. He will need to make a strong showing during training camp and the preseason to earn a spot in some of Denver's specialty packages.
Ross Rasner vs Duke Ihenacho
It's sad to say that this will most likely be a battle to see who can earn a spot on the practice squad. In Ihenacho's favor is the fact that he has made the active roster twice (albeit for just two games each time). In Rasner's favor is the fact that Ihenacho has not been able to work his way off the practice squad with any kind of consistency.
This is a unit which has been portrayed as being one of the weaker elements of the Denver defense. Pro-football-reference shows that the 2012 pass defense was ranked third in yards but seventeenth in touchdowns and thirteenth in interceptions. The Jammer signing was seen as a move to strengthen this unit.
There are currently seven safeties on the Broncos' roster. Fox, in the past, has kept five on the active roster. This most likely means that two of these seven will not be with Denver come the start of the regular season. With that in mind, here are a few predictions about the way it will play out:
|Bruton unseats Adams for the starting strong safety position.|
|Moore keeps his starting free safety position but is pushed by Jammer to hold on to it.|
|Jammer takes on the 3rd safety position in specialty packages.|
|Carter and Adams are kept for depth.|
|Rasner pushes Ihenacho for the practice squad slot but eventually loses out to Ihenacho's experience.|