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Broncos roster review: Cornerback Bryce Callahan

Will the former Bear return to his 2018 form?

NFL: Denver Broncos-Training Camp
Could Callahan solidify the Broncos’ secondary?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Among the biggest questions facing the Broncos’ defense in 2020 is how the secondary will come together, and no foot could have a bigger impact on the cornerback group than Bryce Callahan’s. The 2019 free agent signing missed all of last season after a screw bent in his foot, but could give Fangio a Pro Bowl level corner if he can get back to his pre-injury form.

Callahan was among the very best nickel defenders in the league in 2018.

Bryce Callahan’s profile

Height: 5-foot-9
Weight: 183 pounds
Age: 28 years old
Experience: 6

The Good

Although Callahan was not able to play last season, he’s well versed in Fangio’s scheme having played his entire NFL career in it. So long as he’s physically able to go he should have no trouble picking up where he left off. In an offseason where no newcomers will have a chance to log reps of preseason action prior to the regular season, that could be huge.

When he first signed with the Broncos, the hope was for him to play both inside and outside cornerback. Fangio recently confirmed that will again be the plan. If he can settle in as a boundary corner in base personnel and slide inside in nickel and against certain matchups, it would ease pressure on the younger corners.

While Callahan’s agility drills coming out of Rice were underwhelming agility drills, he’s shown very good athleticism and lateral quickness on film. During his time with the Chicago Bears he blossomed into one of the best slot corners in the league with tight coverage and the kind of dog mentality that belies his size.

The Bad

Callahan missed last year because the broken foot he suffered in 2018 never got right. While reports suggest he is now fully healthy, he hasn’t played a meaningful snap since January of 2018.

All the time off at a position so reliant on speed raises a number of questions, chief among them: will this year’s Callahan look anything like the player John Elway signed to a 3-year $21 million contract? The Broncos didn’t take any chances and have already pushed Callahan to take a paycut.

Even prior to last year durability was a huge concern with Callahan. He’s played in just 45 games across five NFL seasons to date, and has never played an entire 16 game schedule. While you can’t blame a player for bad injury luck, it’d be wise for the Broncos to have a contingency plan for when the veteran misses time.

Beyond the injury concerns, I do have questions about how size will play at boundary corner against players like the Chargers’ 6’4” 220 lb Mike Williams. Callahan is a scrappy fighter, but he’ll concede catches to bully ball receivers.

They said it

“Bryce’s health is good. A week or 10 days before we came back, he got sick—not COVID sick. He had a stomach virus and he lost some weight, so we have to get that back on him. His foot right now is fine, no problems. We’re going to work him at both spots, playing corner and inside at nickel along with obviously a bunch of other people at both positions. We’ll see how it unfolds by the time we line up against Tennessee, but he’s going to work both spots.”

Vic Fangio

Bryce Callahan’s roster status with the Broncos

If he’s can return to what I thought the Broncos were getting in 2018, the defense will have a top tier cover man who can lock down the slot. Let’s hope he can do just that.