Good morning, and Happy Father’s Day, Broncos Country!
The No Fly Zone is an exclusive group. It doesn’t let just anyone in.
One has to earn their wings. How long that takes depends on the person and their body of work. It’s not about one or two plays but continued, consistent play. Instead of being extraordinary in one aspect and OK in the others, you’re really good at it all.
Entrance into this exclusive club isn’t determined by draft status. After all, one of the ranking members went undrafted. This group is often imitated but never duplicated.
Fans of the Denver Broncos know of Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart, T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby. This secondary is considered one of, if not the, best in the NFL.
Over the course of organized team activities and mini camp, there was a name in the secondary consistently mentioned who made big plays. Highlight reel plays. That’s not unusual for this group but it’s who made them that is a positive sign. If he carries it over to training camp and the preseason, the No Fly Zone may add a new member.
For those who have paid attention to Twitter or Andrew Mason’s must-read write ups, that player is second-year safety Justin Simmons.
Simmons with the leaping end-zone INT -- Lynch looking for a target in the back left corner of the end zone. Spectacular play by @jsimms1119— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) June 14, 2017
“He’s around the ball all the time,” Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said after a recent OTA practice. “He’s a guy that has a high football IQ. He’s long and tall, so when he’s in those windows, he’s made two or three interceptions that nobody else could make out there because of the height and the length. He’s a very smart player that we’re counting on this year.”
One of those plays came in mini camp this week when Simmons made, by all accounts, an unreal play to intercept Paxton Lynch in the left corner of the endzone. As Cecil Lammey said on Twitter, “... a thing of beauty, skied to the heavens, extended, 2 feet down.” If this was just one play, it’s reason to get excited. But as Joesph said, he’s been doing this since field work started a few weeks ago.
“I’m excited about it,” Joesph said about that specific interception. “That’s a big-time play. I’m rooting for both sides. I’m coaching the loser and I’m rooting for the winner.”
When John Elway selected Simmons in the third round from Boston College, there was reason to get excited about the prospects. He has the size, ability, attitude, intelligence and work ethic teams crave at safety. Then there’s the defense he would get to play in and learn from. For a rookie in the NFL, it doesn’t get better than that.
“It was amazing,” Simmons said. “It was truly a blessing. I say that with the upmost respect to them. Myself and Will (Parks) and a few other guys consider ourselves ‘Baby No Fly’ right now. We’re still in the works. We’re still in the tools and the trade to carry that ‘No Fly Zone’ logo around with us.
“Those guys are great. Their personalities on the field don’t even come close to reflecting how they are off the field as far as being great teammates and being super supportive. Those guys are truly the most selfless guys that I have ever met with the standard that they hold of being the best. They just want to win. They don’t care who is on the team to help them win, they just want to win.”
The best indicator yet that Simmons “gets it” is the work he does in the community. As I said on Twitter, he’s a Pat Bowlen Bronco. When the Broncos have you speak to the rookies about being active in the community, that says a lot.
“It’s about more than football,” he was quoted by Patrick Smyth on Twitter has telling the rookie class.
It’s clear Simmons took what he learned his rookie year and is primed to make the second-year jump. He knows better than anyone what he’s done over the course of OTAs and mini camp doesn’t matter anymore. Simmons has to remain consistent and do it in training camp and the preseason.
“They’re a critical part of our defense,” defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. “Last year between Justin and Will, they played some substantial time for us. Everybody knows from the first year to the second year that you expect a big jump. I think those guys did a great job last year in the role we had them play, but we expect them to step in and be able to do even more for us.”
If Simmons carries over his strong play, the No Fly Zone may be on the verge of adding a new member.
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