The “No Fly Zone” has changed.
Gone is T.J. Ward — the enforcer safety — and Aqib Talib — the trash-talking, swagger-possessing stud of a corner.
Chris Harris Jr. is still around the Denver Broncos, though, and Pro Football Focus recently highlighted his skills at slot cornerback. Of course, Harris can’t just play slot, he’s also the unquestioned No. 1 corner on the team now that Talib has relocated with the L.A. Rams.
But, who will be playing opposite of Harris as the No. 2 man?
Bradley Roby, who just finished his fourth season in the NFL, seems primed to become the full-time starter and No. 2 cornerback. But, this year, Denver signed Tramaine Brock in the offseason, and he’s pushing Roby for that position.
“Brock has played really well for us,” head coach Vance Joseph told the media on June 4. “He’s battling right now with Roby for the second corner. Obviously, whoever doesn’t win that job, they’ll be the third. I’ve been impressed with both guys. Both guys have played football at a high level, so it’s good to add guys like that.”
In four years as mainly a backup, Roby has racked up six interceptions and 48 passes defended, with his 17 PDs last year being a career-high. Last season, Roby graded out at 84.0, the 25th-best corner in the league per PFF, and ahead of Harris (83.5). Not only was it Roby’s best year as a professional, he was counted on a great deal, too, averaging 42-plus snaps per game.
Meanwhile, Brock is a nine-year veteran formerly of the Minnesota Vikings last year, before eight years with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2013, 2015 and 2016, Brock was dynamite for the 49ers, recording eight interceptions while defending 38 passes in those three years alone. But, in 2014, an injured toe and hamstring limited him to only seven games of action, and last year with the Vikings, he was merely a depth corner.
Which is exactly what he will likely become with the Broncos in 2018, unless he can return to that form from 2016 and before, as he competes for playing time with Roby.
Regardless who starts, the Broncos and their fans can rest easy knowing their depth at cornerback continues to be strong. While Denver’s pass-rush has been phenomenal the last four years (besides 2017), the combination of a great rush and lock-down corners has helped the Broncos be one of the best defenses in the league year-in, year-out.