The Denver Broncos held their final practice of rookie minicamp on Saturday. It is now time for them to join the rest of the team in organized activities in the coming weeks. With Paxton Lynch excused from practice on Saturday to attend his graduation ceremony, this one was all about the defense.
Broncos Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips shared his thoughts on this draft class saying, "We just started those guys. Obviously Adam [Gotsis] isn’t working out yet. He’s rehabbing, but he’s in all of the meetings. He seems very bright. Of course, we liked him and obviously they wouldn’t have picked him if we didn’t like him. We think he’s got good potential. The two safeties (Justin Simmons and Will Parks) are good-looking prospects. Both of them are very athletic and have great ball skills from what we’ve seen so far. We saw them on film and obviously we liked the way they played."
The two safeties figure to have prominent roles in the rotation and on special teams, but they will likely need a year before they start pushing any veterans for starting roles on this defense.
"I think both of them are versatile," Phillips said of Simmons and Parks. "Both of them can play free or strong safety. Both of them are good tacklers. But they’re also good cover guys. That’s kind of what we like as a safety. We don’t go towards the box safety that much where you can only play inside and you put him covering somebody. The way we pick safeties, basically guys that are versatile. Those two guys are versatile, so that’s why they were picked."
The big question for Phillips is how he'll replace Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. He is apparently quite satisfied with Todd Davis and Corey Nelson to replace Trevathan, which could explain why the Broncos did not target the position in the draft.
"We lost two guys—two out of 11, really 12 if you count [Bradley] Roby since he started most of the season," Phillips said. "Then in our dime defense we really lost one guy—one starter in Malik [Jackson]—because [Brandon] Marshall started in dime for us. We play dime 40 percent of the time. In our base defense we lost two and in the other one we lost one. We feel good about the guys we have. We have some prospects to take some of the guys’ places. Danny played really well and had a great year for us, but Todd [Davis] and Corey [Nelson] played last year when Danny was out. The same thing happened when [David] Bruton [Jr.] was out last year. He didn’t even play in the Super Bowl. We feel good about our team. We feel good about our players."
I loved that Phillips explained how the Broncos lost more like one and a half starters, since they played a significant portion of their dime package, which Trevathan was not part of. For Jackson, the Broncos feel comfortable with Vance Walker and Jared Crick handling that role.
"Vance Walker played really well for us last year. He played a lot. I think he’s a really good player," Phillips said. "Of course, we brought Jared Crick in. [A guy] that we had in Houston. He’s a very good player also. We have two veteran guys that can play. We feel good about that."
For 2016, Phillips is looking to push this defense to improve on third down efficiency. After witnessing what this defense did on third down through the playoffs, Phillips is hoping to see them achieve more consistency at that elite level through the regular season.
"Besides coaching, we played well on third down throughout the year and were in the top 10, but in the playoffs they were 16 percent, the three teams we played in the playoffs. If we up our level on third downs—not that you’re going to have 16 percent, but we played tremendously well on third downs in the playoffs—that’s an area we’re going to try to emulate as much as we can going into this year."
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