I'm breaking down our team to look at what we have in the cupboard for this offseason. In doing so, I've gathered a bunch of data from www.nflgsis.com and www.profootballfocus.com to give us some stats to look at as we evaluate what our players did in the 2015 regular season. Also, www.overthecap.com contract info will be embedded when available. I'll add to that a synopsis of each player including their contract situation. Hopefully this helps Broncos Country here at MHR be better educated on the state of the team.
As we start to take a look at the defensive backfield, we find ourselves looking at one of the strongest units not just on our team, but in the whole NFL. Welcome to the No Fly Zone, ladies and gents. I can't even begin to remember a more talented unit of cornerbacks in all of my years watching NFL football.
It is a shame in a small way that our pass rush is so extraordinary because I think it causes many fans to lose focus on just how good our corners are. They are so exceptional at man to man coverage and one of the biggest boons to the team in 2015 was getting a coach in Wade Phillips who not only recognized that, but utilized it to its fullest.
|Chris Harris, Jr.
Aqib Talib first and foremost is one of the most talented cover corners playing the game today. He's tall, lean, mean, and plays with superb technique. Also lost in the hubub of complaints about his over-the-line play is that he's a fantastic student of the game. Almost every time he's asked in an interview about how he made a critical interception, his answer is something to the tune of, "We knew it was coming. We put in the time and studied and when I saw the look, I knew what the route was."
Another aspect of Talib's play that doesn't get enough credit is that he can play any technique and execute it at an extremely high level. He can play cover-3 deep zone, off-man, press-man, inside, outside, or upside down. Sometimes he's told to take away one receiver no matter where they line up. Sometimes he's a deep zone keeping a lid on plays. The dude is a hell of a player no matter what Phillips asks him to do and he's absolutely worth every last penny he's getting from his contract.
The first thing that jumps out to me here is that we're in the gravy part of Talib's contract. He's got a very low dead-money hit at this point for the next four years. There's no reason to do anything with Talib other than pay the man and let him continue building on his fantastic career. If he has big issues or an injury, the team is well protected from being handicapped from a business standpoint in the long term.
Chris Harris, Jr.
Chris Harris Jr. is absolutely one of my favorite Broncos today. The kid was undrafted. He works his tail off year after year to be not just a starter, but one of the absolute best corners to play the game.
CHJ's biggest asset in his play is his quickness. He can flip his hips, change direction, and burst laterally amazingly fast. Couple that with his top-notch study habits and you have a guy who can stick with any shifty WR you want to throw at him.
The other great thing about Harris Jr. is that he's so versatile. He's great in the slot, outside, and has even lined up at safety at times. More and more he is taking on the assignment on the opposite side from Talib matched up against the #1 or #2 WR. The only bad match-ups for him are the very tall receivers. He can absolutely stay with them, but their height advantage isn't something he can out jump.
This is a guy that wants to play for THE Denver Broncos. I'm still blown away looking at this contract and knowing that he could have been averaging 1-2M more on the market right now. I love seeing a guy sign with our team for a reasonable rate. It is refreshing to see in today's world of "scratch and claw for every penny you possibly can."
Bradley Roby really took a step forward this year in his play. I thought his rookie year was a mediocre year with glimpses of a ceiling that is way up there. He didn't disappoint this year.
Roby this year is starting to get ahead of the plays. This is a natural progression from his rookie season where a lot of the time he would be using his impressive athletic gifts to catch back up to plays where his coverage technique was just a hair slow.
He played a lot of slot coverage in 2015 and looked good all over the place against multiple types of WRs. In a NFL world where Nickel is pretty much your standard defense, Roby has cemented his place as a significant contributor to the NFL's best defense.
Roby's only on his 3rd year of his rookie contract. He's getting a very reasonable salary as a 1st round draft pick and he's learning from the best corners in the game. His continued growth is going to keep several options in the Broncos' pockets as the years move forward on how to handle their CB slice of the salary cap.
Kayvon Webster's most significant impacts this season were on special teams. He absolutely lit it up as the season wore on and David Bruton, Jr. got injured. His pay there was impactful and explosive.
His coverage work was mostly solid, but unspectacular and at times he gave up some easy throws. This is his contract year and as such, he's really going to have the pressure on to clean up his play when he gets opportunities to be on the field. Behind him are a couple of talented CBs who are younger and want his spot.
If he didn't contribute so well to our Special Teams unit, I'd care less about him making the team. As it is, he really stood out and if there's a way to keep him on the team for 2016 for ST, I think it is likely the Broncos will.
Lorenzo Doss was brought in to be part of an injection of youth to our cornerback corps in 2015. The biggest boon for him is that there has been very little pressure for him to play since the team is so deep here. He did get in 40 snaps in 2015 which at least got his feet wet for NFL play. He's a guy that I could see moving up the depth chart in the preseason if he outplays Webster.
Nothing exciting here on a contract that is in year 2 of 4 for a late round draft pick.
Taurean Nixon spent most of 2015 on the practice squad, but signed to the active roster in January. He's a young player who is talented that fans always like to cheer for in training camp. I think he's got good talent from what I saw last preseason. His road to the field is going to be tough sledding against the competition here at the Broncos, though.
The Denver front office values cornerback talent. As long as Taurean keeps working and improving, he'll either have a spot on the practice squad or roster.
We're absolutely blessed to have this much talent on our defense at one of the most important positions for individual talent on the team. This unit is a HUGE reason that our defense straight up shut down the best offenses in the NFL. QBs who shoot lightning bolts from their eyes and fireballs from their arses couldn't light a match against these corners in the 2015 playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton: Welcome to the No Fly Zone ladies. Your time here is going to feel long, be unproductive, and cause you no end of frustration. The Broncos corners are here all day and are so excited to host you any time, any place.