2013 was the year of the offense for the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning and Co. smashed records left, right, and center, leading Denver to a Super Bowl berth. However, following a run-in with the best secondary in the NFL in Super Bowl 48, the Broncos have revamped their own secondary to be stronger, tougher, and more physically-imposing.
The additions of T.J. Ward, one of the hardest hitters in the league, and Aqib Talib, a much bigger and physical force than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at corner, sent a message loud-and-clear to the rest of the league; the Denver Broncos secondary will be much harder to play against in 2014. Top that off with the first round selection of corner Bradley Roby, and it becomes very clear that John Elway's number one priority in the off-season was to address holes in the secondary.
Denver's secondary was not bad in 2013, but it was not good either. Chris Harris had yet another stellar season, as did Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but the rest of the secondary struggled in coverage for the most part, and injuries got the best of the Broncos down the stretch.
In 2014, rather than being mediocre, the Broncos' secondary reckons to be a leading force behind a talented team.
How many will make the team?
In 2013, the Broncos carried six cornerbacks and five safeties on their roster; 2012 was much of the same story, as they kept five corners and five safeties on the final roster. In 2014, expect the Broncos to carry eleven members in the secondary yet again.
Aqib Talib (#21)
Heading into his eighth NFL season, Aqib Talib will be re-united with his college teammate, Chris Harris Jr. in Denver; the two both played corner for Kansas, winning the 2008 Orange Bowl as the two starting corners for the Jayhawks. There are injury concerns with Talib, but his scrappy, physical game should make Denver a much tougher team to play against. On the Broncos roster, Talib will replace DRC as Denver's number one corner.
Chris Harris Jr. (#25)
Harris will enter training camp on the PUP list, after tearing his ACL in the divisional round of playoffs in 2013, but the fourth-year corner is expected to be available for the season opener as of now. If all goes well, and his knee repairs on time, Harris will likely remain Denver's go-to slot corner, although he could be in for an influx in snaps on the outside in 2014.
Bradley Roby (#29)
The Broncos selected the junior cornerback out of Ohio State with their first round pick in the 2014 draft. Roby will compete with second-year corner Kayvon Webster for snaps as the nickel corner in five-DB sets. If all goes as planned, Roby will be the CB of the future in Denver.
T.J. Ward (#43)
T.J. Ward was signed to a five-year contract on the first day of free agency, immediately upgrading the Broncos' safety position. Ward will start in the strong safety position, giving opposing receivers a reason to keep their head up when running through the middle of the field.
Rahim Moore (#26)
Moore figures to be the starting free safety again in Denver, although he may split time with Quinton Carter, who is expected to finally be healthy enough to show his talents off for the first time since his 2011 rookie campaign. Moore had a strong season in 2013, which unfortunately was cut short by compartment syndrome, a freak leg injury which nearly cost Moore the use of his leg.
David Bruton (#30)
Bruton has been the heart and soul of the Broncos' special teams for five seasons now, and 2014 should be more of the same story.
Duke Ihenacho (#33)
Duke Ihenacho was the darling of the 2013 training camp, where he earned the starting strong safety role as an undrafted free agent. In 2014, Ihenacho will likely provide depth at the strong safety position behind T.J. Ward.
Quinton Carter (#38)
Carter did not see the field throughout the entire 2013 season, and was only managed to play in two games in 2012, following a solid rookie season in 2011. Despite the injury-plagued seasons, the Broncos have opted to keep Carter around, which appears to be a testament to their faith in his skills. The fact that Carter has remained a part of the team suggests that the staff sees something worth keeping. Carter is a high-end bubble player, who will likely find a spot on Denver's final roster.
Tony Carter (#32)
After a 2012 season that saw him emerge as a contributor on the Broncos defense, Carter took a step back in 2013; however, he remains a likely candidate to round out the Broncos' CB depth chart.
Omar Bolden (#31)
Omar Bolden will likely find a spot on the Broncos roster because of his ability to play both corner and safety.
Needs to perform
Everyone else will need a fantastic camp, one where they make an immediate and prolonged impression on the coaches while managing to maximize limited opportunities.