One of the most intriguing question marks for the Denver Broncos heading into training camp centered around the cornerbacks - how would A.J. Bouyé adjust to his new team and scheme, is Bryce Callahan healthy and ready to be the No. 1 cornerback, who will emerge as the No. 3?
The first two questions have seemingly been answered.
Bouyé and Callahan are the real deal and have been making their presence known during camp.
After being completely absent in 2019 due to a foot injury, Callahan looks to be 100% healthy and motivated to prove his worth.
Bouyé, a free agent pick from Jacksonville, likewise would like to bounce back after a subpar season with the Jags last year.
Both have been looking every bit the top two cornerbacks Broncos Country hoped for after losing Chris Harris Jr. to free agency this spring and unsure what kind of depth could fill in.
Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said Callahan has been looking “very good” in practice, and Bouyé has been taking advantage of Callahan’s vast experience in this defense to get a handle on it.
“Bryce really knows the scheme a lot...I think the first day we were out there practicing, the one thing I noticed was how he’s able to pass off certain routes. As soon as someone sits down, he’s just exploding out of it,” Bouyé recalled, noting an interception and pass breakup in the series. “And you can just see he knows the game. He knows where his help is going to be, where receivers are going to be and what routes he can play. Just watching him and how he plays certain things, that’s one thing I’m paying attention to because when he’s on my side, I’ll know how he plays certain routes, which is going to help me.”
With the top two spots both solidified and in good hands, attention turns to the third cornerback spot and which among De’Vante Bausby, Davontae Harris and Isaac Yiadom will emerge for the role.
“I’m hoping to see that it’s so obvious that you guys can make the pick for us,” head coach Vic Fangio said about what he’s looking for in the third corner. “I think they’re all very close, but I’d really like to see one guy surface above the rest and go grab the position and not win it by default. They all have their plusses and minuses. They’ve got to accentuate their plusses more, eliminate their minuses. Hopefully we’ll find that guy. We’ve got about 19 days to do it.”
Bausby would seem to have the advantage, having been a very strong starter early in the season last year before a season-ending injury. But Harris and Yiadom have been showing improvement as well.
Reiterating the coach’s view that all three are close, Donatell said one guy needs to break away by showing he can be a real contributor, not just good enough to play the position.
“The first thing is you have to show toughness to be part of our defense and be a contributor,” the defensive coordinator said. “You’re going to have to show toughness. You’re going to have to show that you operate with the group and that you can keep the flow with the group. Those are the two things.”
Bouyé noted that Bausby stood out to him when he was studying Broncos’ film this past spring. And from his vantage point, Bausby hasn’t lost a step from last season.
“Just to see him pick it up in camp, he hasn’t left. You can tell he knows the playbook, certain route concepts and he’s very aggressive and he wants to make plays on the ball,” Bouyé said. “You can see what he’s been doing all camp.”
But the new Broncos corner has also seen good things from Yiadom and thinks the competition among the three is helping all of them up their game.
“It’s definitely a lot of competition. Both of those guys have different skill sets, but the both capitalize on their opportunities,” Bouyé said. “One thing about Ike that I noticed is how big he is in person. He has the length. He’s definitely going to be aggressive with you. He’s running with every guy that I’ve seen so far. With Bausby, I just see a lot of stuff where he’s off. He’s reading routes because he wants to have his eyes in the backfield and be able to make plays. They both bring certain things.”
Callahan agreed that the competition has been a strong one.
“It’s always good to have competition. That’s what’s going to bring the best on our team,” he said. “To have three solid dudes fight for that position is always good for our team.”
And while Harris has been out a few days to nurse a slight injury, he’s had some interceptions and big plays to turn a few heads.
Although there are only two-and-a-half weeks before the opening game against the Titans, Donatell said they’re going to watch the competition closely and give each enough time to make his case.
“They’re all in there. ...It is still very open and fluid. We’re giving them all chances to do this,” he said. “We know there’s limited time in this year. Every practice we’re putting them out there. We’re keeping track of everybody. We’ll have a good player ready to start or contribute when the time comes.”