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Broncos turn 2020’s deficit at corner into 2021’s biggest strength

How times have changed.

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Almost a year ago to the day, Mile High Report’s Jeffrey Essary appeared on KOA’s Broncos Country Tonight and gave this answer when asked about the Broncos depth at corner:

“I think one of the biggest question marks for me, even in Fangio’s defense (and) even though he does like to play a lot of two-high so you do have some help from the cornerback perspective, is when teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, and we saw it with the Oakland Raiders, like to isolate those guys on 3x1 sets. Essentially, you’re one-on-one at that point. Sometimes you can cheat a little safety help, but it becomes difficult depending on how you’re playing it. And we saw Denver really get burned a lot, particularly Isaac Yiadom. They were just picking on him. I feel like the outside cornerback position in those 3x1 sets ... you’ve got to have a guy who can hang outside at least a little bit in those one-on-one situations.”

Needless to say, Jeffrey was right. When it came time to shut down Kansas City, the (now) Las Vegas Raiders, and pretty much everyone else, the Broncos secondary (along with most of the 2020 squad) struggled.

What was an enigma to Essary, and Broncos Country in general, became an ever revolving door of a who’s who (who’s that guy?!) of unknown corners. Kevin Toliver, Nate Hairston, and Parnell Motley all saw game time during last year’s disastrous season. The lion’s share of game-time going to Michael Ojemudia, Essang Bassey, De’Vante Bausby, A. J. Bouye, Duke Dawson and Bryce Callahan. While Bausby emerged as a scrappy fan favorite, the level of disappointment in this cadre of corners was clearly something that caught Broncos new GM George Paton’s attention.

Needless to say, being pressed into action affords much needed experience and so it’s telling that Hairston and Motley have been asked back to join Callahan and Ojemudia in camp this year. They are joined by veteran acquisitions Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller and rookies Mac McCain III, Kary Vincent, Jr., and Patrick Surtain II.

Darby and Fuller stood to shore up what was an injury riddled corner position, but it’s the drafting of Surtain in the first round that really put this position group over the top in terms of depth. It’s encouraging to hear that Surtain has already turned heads in training camp.

While the 2021 season has yet to play out, the concerns that nagged Jeffrey Essary in 2020 have seemingly been addressed... and then some. When you factor in the benefits of a preseason and relaxed COVID protocols for vaccinated players, conditioning will be better and so it’s not too bold of a prediction to say that fewer corners will be called into action. What was an Achilles heel for the Broncos is now something to be excited about in 2021.

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