Everyone in Broncos Country crows about our pass rush and our corners. Sometimes they even crow about our secondary as a whole. I believe that the unsung heroes of last year’s championship defense were our starting safeties Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward.
Wade Phillips is an aggressive coordinator and the more talent you give him, the more devastating he gets in designing a defense that will smother your team on the biggest of stages (AMARITE Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Carolina Panthers?). It is almost unfair to me that he gets to use safeties of the caliber we have here in Denver for his scheming ways.
This year we see the return of our two starters, as well as Shiloh Keo while adding two young draft picks in Justin Simmons and Will Parks. We also signed Brandian Ross who’s on quite the tour of NFL teams (Packers, Raiders, Dolphins, Chargers, and now Broncos) and added an undrafted college free agent in Antonio Glover.
A significant loss in 2016 is David Bruton, Jr. who last year was a phenomenal player in our sub packages who made a lot of critical plays against 3-4 WR sets that most teams utilize in earnest in today’s game.
Darian Stewart, T.J. Ward, and Justin Simmons
Darian Stewart is a lock at free safety. He plays some of the tightest and most aware defensive football of any safety we’ve seen in the Bronco secondary in well over a decade. He doesn’t get fooled, doesn’t let plays get behind him, and attacks the ball from a single high position as well as any safety in the league.
T.J. Ward also is a lock at strong safety. His play allows a ton of flexibility in our sub packages where he oftentimes flexes up and plays more of a linebacker role. His off-man coverage on linebackers and running backs is phenomenal. He also is a disruptive force when blitzing.
Justin Simmons is a high draft pick who is made to play free safety. He’s the kind of ball-hawking play reader that we have in Darian Stewart now and is very likely to get on the field in our sub packages in the role that Bruton, Jr. did last year.
Parks was a 6th round pick and was picked up for his physical style of play. He has strong safety written all over him a la T.J. Ward. He’s the young talent our safety group needs to be infused with and is the kind of smart football player that Phillips can turn into a long-term NFL player.
On The Bubble:
Shiloh Keo, Antonio Glover, Brandian Ross
This group of depth players hasn’t really been heard from much so far in training camp. Most would put Keo as a likely guy to make our roster since he is a solid Special Teams contributor and knows the defense, while I think he’s on the bubble as much as any of our other pick-ups.
The other two here are a journeyman depth player and an undrafted college free agent that needs to show that he has the goods.
We’re likely keeping 4 safeties in all likelihood as we have some very solid depth at corner and a couple guys there that can fill in at safety as needed. I see Glover as a guy you should be able to put on the practice squad. That leaves Keo and Ross as the two guys to really watch in the preseason to see what the bring to the field of play.
The group will have the same weakness it did in 2015 in that an injury to one of our starters will put a chink in the armor of our championship defense. I really like the youth we’ve injected here and think Simmons is going to be a draft pick that Bronco fans remember for a long time.