As the Denver Broncos defense hopes to expand more to feature positional versatility, how can JL Skinner carve out a path to establishing a role for himself this upcoming season?

Denver Broncos second-year safety JL Skinner making strides during OTAs

Much of the conversation surrounding the Denver Broncos safety position has been around how the team plans to replace the loss of veteran Justin Simmons. With the team investing in P.J. Locke, Caden Sterns, and Brandon Jones, a lot of the vision surrounding JL Skinner was cloudy, but he could find himself in a unique position to help the team in certain personnel packages.

2023 wasn’t the type of year the Broncos or Skinner had hoped for, but the team wasn’t in a position for the rookie to step onto the field for pivotal minutes. The team red-shirted him so that he could learn the playbook and scheme with a chance to do more in 2024.

So how can Skinner make some hay with the Broncos’ safety room being as top-heavy as it is with Sterns, Locke, and Jones? During OTAs, Skinner has been impressive, coming up with several pass breakups and a forced fumble during the three weeks of the team’s voluntary program.

To Broncos head coach Sean Payton, his performance during OTAs doesn’t come as a surprise considering what he saw from him during scout team sessions last season. Despite his size and ability to play in the box, the plan for Payton is to keep him at safety for now.

“Still [at] safety,” Payton said of the vision for Skinner. “This is going to be one of those—we talked about during this training camp, we’re going to see a lot when the pads come on and we’re in these team run-pass periods. Do we feel like he’s better versus the run? Do we feel like he’s better versus the pass? I do think he has good instincts. I’d say the second half of last season, even when he was running scout team, we noticed on offense quite a bit, ‘Man, this guy all of the sudden was jumping routes.’ He was someone that stood out on the tape. I think he’ll want to build on that.”

The second-year player has put in a lot of work behind the scenes, in the film room, and in the team’s position room, learning from players like Simmons, Locke, Kareem Jackson, and Sterns. Now, he’ll have the chance to carry over what he’s learned and showcase it during training camp and the NFL Preseason.

If he can carve out a role for himself on special teams, it will increase his chances of factoring into a rotation potentially as a dime linebacker this upcoming season or increased snaps at safety in the event the Broncos experience injuries there.