The safety position is an area of strength for the Denver Broncos. They have All-Pro/Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons leading the group while veteran Kareem Jackson was re-signed. You also have the exciting second-year safety Caden Sterns who figures to get some playing time this year with the starting defense.
After that is where things get interesting. You have a handful of players fighting for one or two roster spots at most. So, the competition and pecking order here is something to keep an eye on throughout Training Camp.
The Broncos are bringing back the same core unit at safety they had last season. We’ll see Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson starting with Caden Sterns getting some reps as well.
Justin Simmons: I’m going to keep this short and simple. Justin Simmons is one of the best safeties in the entire NFL, one of the best players on the Broncos roster, and someone the Broncos will need to continue to be a team leader for them this upcoming season.
As we all know, the AFC West is filled with explosive offenses, so the Broncos are going to need Simmons to play at a high level, create turnovers, and cover Travis Kelce.
Kareem Jackson: The veteran entering his 13th NFL season re-signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason and looks to pick up where he left off last season. Jackson, a former cornerback and smaller than your usual safety, is still one of the more physical defenders on the roster.
I do wonder about his exact role with the defense. Will he still be the starter, or will the intriguing second-year player Caden Sterns get that job while Jackson gets the third safety role? Expect the Broncos to use three safeties a lot this upcoming season, so all three should get plenty of snaps.
Caden Sterns: I am going to include Sterns in the starting conversation. As I said, the Rams used a lot of three safety looks and with Ejiro Evero now running the show in Denver, I look for that to continue here in Denver. Sterns flashed during his rookie season and has the athleticism that Jackson simply does not have at this stage in his career.
I think we could see Jackson play closer to the box and allow Simmons and Sterns to play deep. We could also see Sterns play the big nickel as well and matchup against some of the elite tight ends in the AFC West.
These three give the Broncos a solid group to mix and match depending on the matchups.
The New Guys
With a new coaching staff comes new players to push the holdovers from the previous regime. We saw that this year when the Broncos drafted Oklahoma safety Delarrin Turner-Yell after drafting two safeties the year prior. They also signed former Rams and Giants safety J.R. Reed during free agency as well. These two will now fight for a roster spot.
Delarrin Turner-Yell: The Denver Broncos selected Oklahoma safety Delarrin Turner-Yell in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He will now fight for a roster spot on the defensive side of the ball.
I expect Turner-Yell to be viewed as a special teams player right now. The Broncos are putting a focus on special teams this year and I think Turner-Yell is viewed as a potential contributor there. Being at best the 4th safety on the depth chart, this will be your role on an NFL team. With that said, I am anxious to see what Turner-Yell can do on defense during camp.
J.R. Reed: Reed spent time with the Los Angeles Rams and Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, so he knows the defense and has a connection with the coach. These connections are always helpful in the NFL and could benefit Reed and help him sneak on to the active roster. He also comes with some 16 games of experience under his belt as well. So, that could also be helpful to have as a potential backup.
Like with the rest of these guys, Reed will need to showcase his talents on special teams if he wants to make the team. This is where his experience in the NFL may come in handy against his competition.
These two are holdovers from the previous coaching staff. Safety P.J. Locke was brought in by Vic Fangio and while George Paton drafted Jamar Johnson, he did it for Vic Fangio’s defense. So we shall see if they can impress the current staff and beat out the new guys brought in.
Jamar Johnson: The Denver Broncos spent a 5th round selection on Johnson last season but he had a very forgettable rookie season. He did not record any stats, was surpassed on the depth chart, and dealt with health issues. It was a tough season for Johnson for watched fellow rookie Caden Sterns contribute on defense.
Johnson will need to have a strong summer if he wants to make this team. They drafted another day three safety and frankly, Reed and Locke are likely ahead of him on the depth chart. So, Johnson will be a player to watch during camp to see if he is ascending up the depth chart or not.
P.J. Locke: Locke is probably the favorite for one of the final roster spots. He has played in 31 games for the Broncos the past two seasons, mostly on special teams. This is important because, as I have said, the final spots are going to players who can contribute on special teams. So, Locke likely has the extra edge there.
He did this all under the former coaching staff, so he’ll need to prove his worth to the Broncos' new coaches, but I am optimistic that he can.
The safety position is a fairly figured out positional group. Simmons, Jackson, and Sterns are your starters and/or players who figure to see significant playing time. After that. it really comes down to special team's play.
Delarrin Turner-Yell seems like a solid bet to make the team because of his draft status while P.J. Locke and J.R. Reed have special teams playing time in their background. Meanwhile, Jamar Johnson really needs to improve his play and stay healthy to make this team.
Overall, this is a solid unit that should see some competition for the final spot or two here at the safety position.