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Denver Broncos No Bull Roster Analysis: Secondary

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Sadaraine takes a peek at the Denver Broncos roster and delves into our superb secondary. Who do we have under contract? What did they look like on the field?

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Wrapping up the Denver defense, we have part three of my roster analysis series. The purpose of this series is to take a peek at who we have on the team now as we prepare for Free Agency and the NFL Draft. Please note that while I'm going to throw out some basic stats for our guys, that's just for easy reference.  The core of my analysis on these guys comes from what I saw on the field.

Disclaimer: The No Bull Review is about what I see on Broncos game day. Players buried on the depth chart or practice squad might not be included.

Cornerbacks:

Omar Bolden

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists
CB 15 / 0 18 3

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
4th of 4 years ~$780k ~$120k

Omar Bolden is one of our more interesting players in that he's having a hard time climbing the ladder at his position, yet he's found a way to be a key part of the team. He really shows up the most on game days in the Special Teams roles he plays. He's made big hits in kickoff coverage and has been a very effective kick returner for us.

At corner, he's never shown me the ability to read defenses as well or make quick-twitch coverage moves needed to stay with his man on one-on-one assignments. From what we've seen over the past two years, we've been training him more at safety and have been working on developing the necessary skills from him to make an impact in the secondary on game day.

  • Seems like a better fit for safety if his read skills have sharpened
  • Played 4.5% of the defensive snaps, but 65.4% of our special teams snaps
  • Big contributor to Special Teams

Tony Carter

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def.
CB 8 / 0 5 0 1

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
RFA ? ?

Tony Carter is a skilled man to man coverage corner who spent a lot of the time as a game day inactive last year. That's a testament to how deep we are at the position more than anything honestly. The dings against him are his aggressive play style. He plays much like Brandon Browner other than the fact that he actually draws flags for it instead of being ignored 66% of the time.

The most interesting thing about Tony going into this off season is his contract situation. How much does Denver value his talent? If you go off of his play last year, maybe not much. But if you see the team do something crazy with him like designate his Restricted Tender Offer to the 2nd round pick level, you know they want him back. I guarantee you this: if Denver tenders him at the lowest rank, he will be getting an offer sheet from another team as he could start easily for several teams that are bereft of secondary talent.

  • He can play man to man anywhere (slot, left, or right) but isn't as good in zone coverages
  • Played 7.7% of the defensive snaps
  • Likely playing elsewhere in 2015 due to the breadth and depth of our youth in the secondary

Chris Harris, Jr.

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def. Int FF Sacks
CB 16 / 16 54 4 18 3 1 1.0

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
1st of 5 years $3M $10M

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the best defensive back in the NFL bar none.

I'd love to leave it at that, because that says it all, but we need us some meat and potatoes to chew on right? Chris is plainly a phenomenal NFL football player. He trains hard. He practices with focus. He puts in the time for film study to gain every possible edge he can on his opponents. He is not the fastest guy on the team. He's not the most athletic. But he consistently does everything he can to be in the best position to succeed in this game.

  • In our new defense, Chris can play anywhere in the defensive backfield (one of his big strengths is versatility)
  • Played ~91% of the defensive snaps
  • Superb read / react skills
  • Has some of the best quickness in the NFL (fluid hips, change of direction, etc)

Bradley Roby

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def. Int FF Sacks
CB 16 / 2 65 2 14 2 2 1.0

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
2nd of 4 years ~$1.6M ~$4.3M

Bradley Roby for all intents and purposes looks like a great NFL cornerback in the making. He most definitely got his trial by fire last year as he was on the field a ton with the coaches not afraid even a little of putting him against #1 or #2 WRs. His play was up and down, but you expect that from a rookie and he most definitely represented himself better than most rookie CBs.

To date in his tenure with the Broncos, Roby lives off of his superb athletic ability. Many of his good plays that stood out were "recovery" plays where he got a little out of position, but made it up before the ball got to his guy and broke up the play. Next year we'll be looking for more consistency from him and for the game to slow down for him (less reacting to getting juked, and more staying in position consistently against his guys).

  • Roby isn't Harris, but he appears to have similar versatility and can play inside or out in our defense
  • ~75% of the defensive snaps (this is fairly surprising for a rookie on a team that includes Harris and Talib)
  • One thing I want to look for this off season is mention of his film room work. Is he putting in the time?

Aqib Talib

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def. Int FF Sacks
CB 15 / 15 58 9 18 4 1 1.0

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
2nd of 6 years $7M $4M

If there is a word I would use to sum up Aqib's 2014 season, it would be "misused". Aqib appears to have been asked to do a lot of off man zone coverage in our defense last year and it was to me a terrible waste of his skill-set.

Talib is one of the NFL's best physical press-man coverage corners. He has the ability to remove guys from the game including receivers that are bigger than he is. The weakness I've seen with him is with smaller, faster WRs that are quick-twitch route runners (example: TY Hilton).

  • Aqib belongs on the outside shutting down one of the opponents WRs. Preferably I'd assign him to the best WR he matches with and man them up in a scheme
  • ~85% of the defensive snaps
  • Has shown inconsistent effort in his career. I didn't see that last year so much as I saw him playing in a role that he doesn't excel in.

Kayvon Webster

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def.
CB 12 / 0 22 1 2

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
3rd of 4 years ~$725K ~$270K

Kayvon didn't see a ton of work this year, but that's to be expected with the depth we have at CB. I do see some very decent skills from him though for a corner: physicality, tackling form, and strong off-man coverage / zone skills. Early in his career I thought he looked very good as a safety prospect and my mind hasn't changed from that. As a matter of fact, that's probably a good way to keep a solid player on a team that is stuffed with CB talent.

  • Would love to see him at free safety, could be our 4th string CB
  • 12% of the defensive snaps
  • Excels in off-man coverage

Safeties

David Bruton, Jr.

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def. FF
SS 14 / 1 22 6 3 2

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
3rd of 3 years ~$1.7M ~$400k

What David Bruton does for our team doesn't really show up in the above stats. He's one of the best Special Teams players in the game. He's made an impact in the ST game for all of his 7 years with our team and this year was no exception. Even with the potential cap savings, don't expect him to be going anywhere this off season.

That being said, this year was the best I've seen of him at the safety position. I've always complained about his play at safety, especially last year. I'd not seen stiffer hips. He looked reinvented at the end of the season when he was seeing more snaps with TJ Ward out. His coverage was solid and he seemed to really be able to excel in the SS role.

  • He's best used as the backup for TJ Ward at SS
  • ~17% of the defensive snaps
  • Is not good in man to man coverage...does much better in zone "read and drive" coverage

Rahim Moore

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def. Int FF
FS 16 / 16 45 6 6 4 1

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
UFA - -

Here's one of the more controversial free agents we have from the Denver Broncos this year. Rahim has been a consistent under-achiever for Denver from what I've seen and this year was no exception. It isn't that he's a bad safety, because he isn't. It is that he's not impactful and appears to be at his ceiling.

Thankfully we saw a lot of Rahim not getting beat deep this year (because yeah, most of Broncos Country only remember a certain play in a playoff game where he did get beat deep). But the No Bull side of me saw a whole lot of completed passes on him and several games where his deep drops were specifically targeted to really big effect.

  • Rahim is best suited to play Free Safety if we resign him
  • "The Dream" played an impressive ~98% of the defensive snaps
  • Had a decent number of INTs, but 2 of them were tipped passes (right place / right time, not ball-hawking INTs)

T.J. Ward

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def. Int Sacks
SS 15 / 15 62 14 8 2 2.0

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
2nd of 4 years ~$7.8M ~$3.8M

T.J. Ward has to be in my books listed as a bit of a disappointment for his 2014 season. He was still very impactful in spurts, but again I question his use by our defensive staff at times. In 2014 he saw a lot of snaps where he was in more of a linebacker role than a true Strong Safety role in our nickel defense.

That being said, he still put together a very solid year and I expect him to look even better next year. He was consistently around the ball and contributed impact plays.

  • No surprise here, T.J. will play starting Strong Safety in our 3-4 defense
  • 93% of the defensive snaps
  • At the end of the season he was being kept back more often to play zone coverage (read and attack) which he excels at

Quinton Carter

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def. Sacks FF
S 11 / 0 17 4 1 1 1.0

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
UFA - -

Quinton finished the year in a familiar place: Injured Reserve. Unfortunately, he seems to have problems with durability and it is a shame. Many of us remember his impact in his rookie year making two interceptions in the playoffs. The potential with Carter has always been there and even this year I thought he looked good when he was getting plays on the field.

  • I pegged him as a FS option in the past, but his role was at SS in limited action this year
  • 20% of the defensive snaps
  • Solid man coverage technique for a safety
  • Doubtful that we'll bring him back due to consistent durability issues

Closing Thoughts / Overview:

We honestly have an embarrassment of riches at Corner just like last year. Chris Harris signing long term with us was a huge win for the team and we have a lot of very talented youth there as well. I don't see us needing to make any moves in FA for corner. Elway is a big fan of having good corners, so there's always the chance if one falls in our lap we may see one in the draft, but I wouldn't feel it was a need.

We are completely set at Strong Safety from my vantage point with big questions at Free Safety. Given my druthers, I look for a FA safety other than Rahim or I'd put the effort into converting Kayvon Webster to FS (I'm a big fan of this idea as out of the box as it may be). From what I've read, the safety position is thin in this year's draft so my hopes for getting a young gun out there to train up similar to Bradley Roby is out the window.