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Denver Broncos Positional Review: Safeties

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Denver Broncos offseason positional review discussing what the team has based off of 2016 production of players on the team. We'll review stats, eye-test opinion, contract situation, and depth on the Denver Bronco team as we prepare for the start of free agency and the NFL draft.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I'm breaking down our team to look at what we have in the cupboard for this offseason. In doing so, I've gathered data from nflgsis.com to give us some stats to look at as we evaluate what our players did in the 2016 regular season. Also, 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, it’s strengths and weaknesses, and what positions we’ll likely target in free agency and the draft.

In case you missed any of the earlier parts of this series: Special Teams

Next up for our positional reviews are the safeties for our defense. For those of you who have been reading me for awhile, you know this is my favorite position on the team. I’m a big believer that in today’s NFL the safeties on your defense and their level of play is a big indicator for how good your defense is going to be overall. Luckily we seem to have a GM in John Elway who agrees with this idea and our roster is currently packed with proven talent and potential.

Stats

Safety Stats - 2016

Player Tkl Ast Comb Sack Sk Yds TFL QH Int PD FF FR Snap %
Player Tkl Ast Comb Sack Sk Yds TFL QH Int PD FF FR Snap %
Darian Stewart 55 13 68 0 0 2 2 3 6 1 1 94.50%
T.J. Ward 69 18 87 1 8 1 5 1 8 3 2 86.00%
Justin Simmons 20 4 24 1 9 2 1 2 4 0 0 25.70%
Will Parks 12 5 17 0 0 1 0 1 3 0 0 23.50%
www.nflgsis.com

Players

Darian Stewart

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Contract Info

Darian Stewart landed a very nice contract extension in 2016 keeping him in orange and blue potentially through 2020. In my opinion, he is worth every penny. Darian Stewart for whatever reason doesn’t get as much hype as Earl Thomas or Eric Berry, but he’s that level of free safety in this defense.

He crashes down against the run superbly, is fantastic at his center field coverage work, and can execute any scheme you would ever ask out of a free safety in the NFL at a very high level. If he has a weakness, it is something I haven’t noticed.

One of the key skills he brings to the table that is absolutely integral to good safety play is an extremely high level of diagnosing plays followed by quick execution on what technique it calls for in any given situation. In layman's terms: his reaction speed is awesome.

Stewart has the free safety position on lock for the next couple of years easy barring injury of course.

T.J. Ward

NFL: Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Contract Info

T.J. Ward at first glance is another guy you just throw the label “stud” on and keep on moving. He’s superb against the run, gets called on to cover tight ends (and isn’t horrible at it), and is a safety that has some mad blitzing skill.

That being said (and I love this guy), he kinda took a step back in 2016 from what I saw. I don’t know if it was the weakness of our defense against the run up front or what, but he just wasn’t as impactful as he was in 2015.

Hopefully it was just a down year for him and he bounces back. This is a contract year and if he doesn’t ball out, look for Denver to let him walk in order to get a compensatory pick in 2018 as sad as that is to say. The No Bull reality is that we drafted his replacement last year and the young guns we’ll talk about in a minute are going to be trying to take his job this year.

Justin Simmons

NFL: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Contract Info

Justin Simmons got called on often enough in 2016 and as the season wore on saw more and more time on the field. I really liked the potential I saw from him. We used him a lot in dime packages and he flashed playmaking ability with limited snaps.

Needless to say, he’s a guy that is likely going to be growing more into the free safety role, but in our defense he can play either spot. Until there becomes an opening for him or he beats out one of the vets though, he has a steady role on the team as a 3rd safety in our sub packages.

The sky is the limit for Simmons. If he can keep honing his skill and then just playing ball on the field, he has the potential to a big name for us in a few years.

Will Parks

NFL: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Contract Info

Will Parks got to see the field some as well in 2016, just a hair under Simmons in the snap count. He’s more of a strong safety than Simmons. While he did have a couple of very fine moments on the field, he didn’t pop out quite as much to me when reviewing the games. That’s not necessarily bad of course...sometimes it is far better to not notice a guy on the field if you take my meaning.

There’s no reason to question this guy’s ability though. He and Simmons both spent 2016 learning from two of the best safeties this league has to offer and their play is likely trending up.

Position Overview

There’s not really any worries for the Broncos at the safety position. We have a good batch of talent with an infusion of youth that should be poised for some big time competition in 2017. Look for Stewart to lock down the FS position easily though the SS battle may be worth keeping an eye on. Ward didn’t have a sharp season in 2016 and the young guns will be breathing down his neck.

I don’t expect really any draft or free agency action at the safety position barring injury. The team has too many other spots that need attention and we really shored up the depth and future for the team in last year’s draft.