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Breaking Down The Roster -- Part 10 -- Cornerback

I saved the cornerback position for deep into this roster review for many reasons.  It would be easy to say it was just luck of the draw, just the way it unfolded, but that wouldn't be completely accurate and my goal when all this started was to give my 100% honest opinion on what's happening, like it or not, agree with it or not.  I knew once I started the Cornerback breakdown a lot of old wounds would be re-opened.  When the Broncos convene for Mini-camp in less than a week, then for full-fledged Training Camp at the end of the month, those same wounds will have to be dealt with.  The death of Darrent Williams was a shock to everyone and I for one am still very angry about it.  

The Broncos looked to be set at CB for the foreseeable future, and not only did the Broncos lose an incredible person in the early morning hours of New Year's Day but they lost a starter on defense and solid punt return man.  From the football side of things this was going to need to be addressed and credit Mike Shanahan, Ted Sundquist and the gang for turning a tragedy off the field into a positive on it, at least as much as to be expected.

  Champ Bailey (6-0, 192) --

Any discussion about the Broncos defensive backs, or any defensive backs on any team for that matter, must start with Champ.  At almost every other position in football there could be a debate as to who is the best.  As good as Peyton Manning is there are still those who would rather take Tom Brady, and so on.  Such is not the case with Bailey, the unanimous choice for best Corner in the League, a player who has made most of us forget the name Clinton Portis in a hurry.  Bailey has been everything the Broncos thought he was and much, much more.  Seemingly getting better each year, Bailey enjoyed his best season in 2006, intercepting 10 passes in 31 passes thrown his way, an amazing number.  Couple that with the fact that half were inside the Broncos Red Zone and it is easy to see why Bailey was my pick for Defensive Player of the Year last season.  His play against the pass would be good enough, but what makes Bailey such an impact player is the completeness of his game.  Unlike some dominant corners in the past, Bailey is just as good in run support and makes plays all over the field.    I could write a book about what Bailey has meant to the Broncos defense, and to the team in general, but I couldn't do it justice.  The best in the business and as indispensible as a player could be on a football team.  

  Dre' Bly(5-10, 180) --

When Darrent Williams was killed it left a big hole on the football field.  Domonique Foxworth was the in-house option to replace Williams, and though D-Fox is a solid all-around player the Broncos were satisfied with his play in Nickel situations and as a fill-in at Safety.  The Broncos also saw the tragedy as an opportunity to strengthen the position and add a veteran influence opposite Bailey.  Enter Bly, an aggressive defender with 8-return TD's to his credit.  The Broncos knew they were going to adjust their coverage schemes under Jim Bates and knew that a player like Bly fit the new scheme which will employ a much-more aggressive approach.  Add the fact that Bly has Super Bowl experience, winning a ring with the Rams after the 1999 season.  Even while playing in Detroit the past 4 years Bly has maintained his production, picking off 19 passes since 2003.  The question will now become hos Bly handles being the target of opposing quarterbacks.  Playing opposite Champ Bailey means Bly won't face a team's #1 option as often, but there is no doubt that Bly will see more action come his way, which is just fine with him.  I am excited to see Bly in action and applaud the Broncos aggressive actions to turn a horrible tragedy into something a bit positive.

  Domonique Foxworth (5-11, 180) --

Foxworth came into the League with Williams and fellow 3rd Round draft pick Karl Paymah in the 2005 draft, and while Paymah has struggled to get on the field Foxworth has proved to be a steady player at multiple positions on the defense.  Foxworth showed his versatility last season playing corner and safety for the Broncos when injuries depleted the defensive backfield.  Though Foxworth isn't blessed with size and speed all he seems to do on the football field is make plays and is a perfect example of how intangibles mean as much to the success of a football player as size, speed or strength.  While not a starter on the depth chart Foxworth has proven he can step right in and be effective and the Broncos are lucky to have a player like Foxworth as their Nickel back.  It gives the Broncos flexibility in their pass rush to know they can really go 3-deep at Corner and Foxworth is proving to be a valuable member of the defense. Solid, if unspectacular, the type of player all teams need.

  Karl Paymah (6-0, 200) --

Actually drafted before Foxworth in the 3rd Round, Paymah has struggled to get on the field with the first-team defense, though his play on special teams, where he ranked 2nd on the team with 11 tackles in 2006, was crucial.  On paper Paymah should be a solid corner, with the size to line up against bigger wide receivers and Tight-Ends.  This is going to be a critical year for Paymah and there will be opportunities for him to finally get onto the football field.  Does he have the stuff to be a contributing member of the defense, or is Paymah nothing more than a special team's contributor?  That is what 2007 will tell us.  I would love for a guy with his size to become an impact player but it takes more than physical attributes to be successful.  I will be keeping a close eye on Paymah in Training Camp this season.

  Jeff Shoate (5-10, 180) --

Injuries derailed Shoate's progress and it remains to be seen if he'll ever really recover from the knee injury that cost him his 2005 season.  Last year, Shoate spent season on the Practice Squad and in 3 seasons with the Broncos has seen action in only 7 games, all of those coming in his rookie season in 2004.  I'm not expecting much from Shoate in 2007 and don't really expect him to make the 53-man roster out of camp.

The Broncos recently signed 3 DB's as free agents out of NFL Europa.  With only 5 Corners on the roster the Broncos need to at least look at some depth at the position.  Here is some info on the 3 newcomers -

  Lamont Reid (5-11, 195) --

Reid is a second-year cornerback who spent the 2006 regular season out of the NFL after Arizona waived him Sept. 3.  Reid, who played collegiately at North Carolina State University, entered the NFL with the Cardinals as a college free agent on May 2, 2005. He played 10 games (1 start) with Arizona as a rookie in 2005, posting 16 tackles (all solo) and six special-teams stops. Reid appeared in 47 career games at North Carolina State, totaling 125 career tackles (88 solo) and two interceptions while returning 38 kickoffs for 984 yards (28.9 avg.) with two scores.

Kevin House (6-0, 185) -- House is a fourth-year cornerback who earned All-NFL Europa honors as a 10-game starter for Cologne in 2007, helping the Centurions lead the league in scoring defense (17.2 ppg.).   House, who spent the 2006 season out of the NFL, was on Seattle's reserve/non-football injury list for the entire 2005 campaign after playing for Cologne in NFL Europa that spring. He saw time in 16 games (0 starts) for San Diego from 2002-03 and competed in the Chargers' training camp in 2004 but was waived by the club on Aug. 31 of that year.  House entered the NFL with New Orleans as a rookie free agent in 2002 after playing four seasons at the University of South Carolina, where he posted 135 career tackles.

Bill Alford (5-9, 183) -- Alford is a first-year player who saw time in 10 games (6 starts) at cornerback for Frankfurt in 2007. He also competed for the Galaxy during its 2006 season, starting all 11 games for the club to help it win World Bowl XIV.   Alford competed in Atlanta's training camp during the 2006 season and was in Baltimore's camp as a rookie in 2005 but spent both regular seasons out of the NFL. He played two years at Vanderbilt University, including a senior season in which he started 10 games, after transferring from Middle Georgia College.

My Depth Chart

  1.  Champ Bailey
  2.  Dre' Bly
  3.  Domonique Foxworth
  4.  Karl Paymeh
  5.  Lamont Reid
Shoate is probably the odd-man out, with injuries really de-railing his career.  The Broncos will probably keep one of the 3 guys signed, with reid being the most-likey due to his prior NFL experience.  Another will likely be signed to the practice squad.

Make no mistake; however, the Broncos are banking on Bailey and Bly to be the stalwarts and Foxworth to be the Nickel back.  An injury to any of those three would create a depth problem but we won't think about that, will we.  No doubt the Broncos are loaded with talent at the top and if all goes according to plan opposing teams are going to have a harder time throwing the ball on the Broncos than in years past.