If the Denver Broncos want to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, they’ll have to be led by their defense.

In fact, that was the same scenario five years ago, when Denver enjoyed the best defense in the NFL and the shaky offense was carried by them to a Super Bowl 50 win.

That team was characterized best by the “No Fly Zone,” and this year’s group of defensive backs may be the most talented in Denver since that great group disbanded.

Chris Harris departed Denver this offseason, and his shoes are being filled by veteran AJ Bouye, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And, according to Benjamin Allbright, “Bouye has been everything the Broncos hoped in camp thus far.”

Bouye will be, without a doubt, the Broncos’ No. 1 cornerback. He’ll be asked to line up against opposing No. 1 receivers game-in, game-out and Bouye will have to step up his gameplay from last season. According to Pro Football Focus, he earned a grade of 58.4, which was a huge drop from 2016 (87.5), 2017 (87.2) and 2018 (75.7).

While it’s early in camp, the good news is it sounds like Bouye is bouncing back.

Opposite of him will be Bryce Callahan, who was used to playing in the slot with the Chicago Bears from 2015-2018. He joined the Broncos last offseason, but an injury in training camp put him squarely on the Injured Reserve for the entire year.

Callahan, like Bouye, is enjoying a solid camp so far, picking off Drew Lock in team’s second practice.

Behind those two studs, the Broncos have a solid competition brewing between De’Vante Bausby, Davontae Harris and Isaac Yiadom, and none of them is ahead at this point.

“I haven’t been able to watch the tape yet, but I did see the plays that you were alluding to. I saw some good and some not so,” head coach Vic Fangio said on Wednesday. “Those three guys are tight. I can honestly say none of them have pulled away from the other two yet. It’s a real tight battle. We’re going to need at least two of those guys to surface and be a good part of this team and not just be part of the team by default. That’s going to be critical for us.”

Bausby is an interesting prospect. After bouncing around multiple teams’ practice squads, he found himself in the Alliance of American Football, where he played well enough to earn a tryout and eventually a roster spot with the Broncos. In five games, he racked up 13 tackles with three passes defended, but then was placed on the IR with a neck injury.

Yiadom is the former third-round draft pick who has struggled to find his footing in the NFL. While he showed a few flashes of brilliance here and there in 2019, he was graded even lower than Bouye at 50.9. Yiadom was counted on to start eight games last season due to injuries and he allowed 70.8 percent of passes thrown on him to be completed. The good news is, he’s fighting his tail off in camp and could be No. 3.

Finally, the wildcard is Davontae Harris. Harris was also thrust into a starting role, for six games, due to injuries last year. He allowed 66 percent of passes to be completed on him, which was less than Yiadom, but Harris also gave up three touchdowns where Yiadom didn’t allow a score.

As Fangio explained, while one of the three men will become the team’s No. 3 cornerback, two of them will be relied upon heavily this year. And, if anyone is injured, they will all be needed. The good news for the Broncos is the competition is making them better, and in turn, Denver’s defense will be better off this season.