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A numbers review of the Broncos 2021 cornerbacks

How have they all done in their careers so far?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos return three cornerbacks who played more than 100 defensive snaps in 2020 - Bryce Callahan (655), Michael Ojemudia (852) and Essang Bassey (382). The team has also recently acquired two free agent cornerbacks in Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller who played 1002 and 1060 snaps in 2020 respectively. So let’s look at how these five cornerbacks compared for 2020.

Cornerback PFF grade Passer Rating Allowed INT PD targets catches allowed catch rate Rec Yds Allowed REC TD Allowed solo tackles def snaps snaps/tgt Tgt/PD Yds/Tgt
Bryce Callahan 84.1 47.8 2 5 52 28 54% 205 0 36 655 12.6 10.4 3.9
Michael Ojemudia 48.7 103.2 0 6 88 54 61% 815 3 55 852 9.7 14.7 9.3
Essang Bassey 52.1 98.5 1 2 22 18 82% 188 1 21 382 17.4 11.0 8.5
Ronald Darby 76.0 80.8 0 16 92 50 54% 715 1 51 1002 10.9 5.8 7.8
Kyle Fuller 64.1 89.8 1 8 76 42 55% 527 5 58 1060 13.9 9.5 6.9

If you trust PFF, Ojemudia was the worst of the five in 2020. His pass defended (PD) per target (tgt) was terrible and he was also targeted the most frequently of the group at one target per 9.7 snaps. His allowed catch rate was better than Bassey’s, which was terrible, but worse than the other three.

From a career perspective, 2020 was the best year of Bryce Callahan’s career. His PFF grade was a career high and his allowed catch rate was also the best of his career. His passer rating allowed was the best in the league - 47.8. His 3.6 yards allowed per target is also amazing. It was third best in the league in 2020 behind only Jimmy Smith (3.3) and Cole Holcomb (3.3). You’ll note that value differs slightly from what is in the table. PFR and PFF have slightly different data, but PFR is free and sortable so I am using PFR for league-wide comparisons. FWIW, the only other Bronco in the top 50 was Kareem Jackson at 5.8 - he was 42nd. There is talk that Jackson might be brought back if we can resign him for much less than he was scheduled to make in 2021. Josey Jewell just missed the top 50, he was 57th with 6.2 yards her target. Ojemudia’s 9.3 yards allowed per target was 229th out of 270 ranked players.

Callahan’s 655 defensive snaps was also close to his career best. His five PD’s was one away from his career best. Callahan has never gotten many pass defenses, but part of that is his high value in terms of snaps per target. His value of roughly thirteen during his last three seasons (where he played) is quite good - that means that opposing QBs generally don’t throw to the guy he is covering, if they have other options. Bassey’s number from 2020 is interesting in this respect, opposing QBs did not target his man often, but when they did they were quite successful.

Bryce Callahan

Bryce Callahan PFF grade INT PD targets catches allowed catch rate solo tackles def snaps snaps/target Tgt/PD
2015 64.5 0 3 33 20 61% 20 322 9.8 11.0
2016 62.9 0 5 52 29 56% 31 489 9.4 10.4
2017 77.0 2 6 39 23 59% 20 512 13.1 6.5
2018 81.3 2 6 52 39 75% 39 675 13.0 8.7
2019 hurt
2020 84.1 2 5 52 28 54% 36 655 12.6 10.4

Callahan was aces. It sucks that he missed time again with injury. When healthy, he’s one of the best CBs in the league.

Ronald Darby

Ronald Darby PFF grade INT PD targets catches allowed catch rate solo tackles def snaps snaps/target Tgt/PD
2015 76.6 2 21 105 57 54% 69 914 8.7 5.0
2016 68.3 0 12 75 45 60% 64 821 10.9 6.3
2017 79.9 3 9 47 26 55% 29 379 8.1 5.2
2018 70.6 1 12 71 44 62% 42 542 7.6 5.9
2019 44.8 2 11 62 39 63% 35 506 8.2 5.6
2020 76.0 0 16 92 50 54% 51 1002 10.9 5.8

In many ways, 2020 was a career year for Darby. It was his first time being an “every down” CB - he played more than 1000 defensive snaps for the first time. His allowed catch rate and his snaps per target were also tied for career best rates. What was not great about Darby in 2020 was his receiving yards allowed - 715. That was 19th worst in the league. The worst was Sean Murphy-Bunting at 942 (and he just got fitted for his Super Bowl ring). However, Darby’s yards per target were not that bad because the receiver he was covering was targeted 92 (98 by PFR) times.

Kyle Fuller

Kyle Fuller PFF grade INT PD targets catches allowed catch rate solo tackles def snaps snaps/target Tgt/PD
2014 47.7 4 10 101 64 63% 54 858 8.5 10.1
2015 70.8 2 9 69 39 57% 47 1022 14.8 7.7
2016 hurt
2017 77.0 2 22 119 61 51% 65 1017 8.5 5.4
2018 83.0 7 21 105 63 60% 44 1013 9.6 5.0
2019 62.5 3 12 99 67 68% 71 1070 10.8 8.3
2020 64.1 1 8 76 42 55% 58 1060 13.9 9.5

Fuller had a down year by most measures. His one interception was a career low (interceptions are a terrible measure to compare CB performance) and his PFF grade and passer rating allowed were not great. Fuller allowed a passer rating of 89.8. The league average for all passers was 93.6 in 2020. So Fuller was still better than average. Relative to the 2020 Broncos, only Callahan (47.8), Jackson (85.2) and Alexander Johnson (88.7) allowed a lower passer rating.

It should also be noted that Kyle Fuller’s best years were in Vic Fangio’s defense in Chicago. In 2018 Fuller was first team All-Pro. He made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and 2019. That Fangio Bears D in 2018 had Callahan and Fuller. That team led the league in passer rating allowed at 72.9; that was a smidgeon better than the best year of the No Fly Zone (2016). The Broncos pass defense in 2016 allowed an opposing passer rating of 69.7. The other thing that the 2018 Bears secondary had was an elite safety in Eddie Jackson (who was first team All-Pro that year). I’d argue that Simmons is at that level.

I am really excited about this group of cornerbacks. While we still have a hole at safety, the group of Justin Simmons, Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and Bryce Callahan could be one of the best starting secondary's in the league. Much will depend on who the other safety is, but even someone like Will Parks, who is still a free agent, would make this an elite group (at least on paper).

Poll

If we bring in an average safety, like Will Parks to start alongside Simmons how would you rate this secondary?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    A+ - best in the league
    (37 votes)
  • 49%
    A - one of the best in the league
    (257 votes)
  • 40%
    B - above average but too many many age/injury concerns to be elite
    (208 votes)
  • 2%
    C - average
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    D - below average, not much of an upgrade over 2020
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    F - I’m a Chiefs fan
    (0 votes)
519 votes total Vote Now