The Denver Broncos have various positions across their roster as they approach training camp which features several questions concerning depth. The safety position is not one of those positions as Denver heads into a camp with strong depth across the board.

Who starts next to Justin Simmons in Denver Broncos safety room?

For the last four seasons, the Denver Broncos have witnessed Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson grow into one of the NFL’s top safety duos. How might that change in 2023 as Denver looks to maximize their personnel?

Simmons has emerged as one of the NFL’s top safeties and has consistently put up the type of production worthy of that recognition. In 2022, Simmons led the NFL in totality surrounding takeaways, accounting for ten total takeaways last season despite missing five games. His high-level football IQ and athletic ability have put him in a position as the anchor and captain for the Broncos’ defense.

There are no questions surrounding Simmons at the safety position, but the biggest question approaching the Broncos at training camp will surround who starts next to him. As previously mentioned, Kareem Jackson was the starter opposite of him for the past four seasons, and there is a possibility that’s the case for a fifth straight year. However, Caden Sterns looks like he’s ready to take the leap as a starter.

After making tremendous progress in his recovery from hip surgery, Sterns has bulked up in his upper body while still maintaining his athleticism. One of the biggest hurdles for players coming off of hip surgery surrounds whether they’ll regain their mobility — he looked very mobile during Broncos’ OTAs and minicamp.

Even if Sterns starts next to Simmons this season, Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and defensive backs coach Christian Parker have every tool available to maximize their personnel in the defensive backfield this season. In the grand scheme of things, Sterns and Jackson will play a significant role on defense this upcoming season, regardless of who starts.

However, the position battle for the starting job at safety next to Simmons will be one of the most intriguing ones that Broncos fans should keep their eyes on throughout July and into the preseason slate in August.

How do other Broncos safeties fit into the mix?

Heading into this season, the Denver Broncos overall depth at the safety position is in a great place on paper. While Jackson and Sterns were discussed as the two players competing to start next to Simmons, Denver’s backend depth contains players who can also strongly impact the team.

P.J. Locke is a player that has been so under the radar in terms of how valuable he truly is to the Broncos’ operations. He’s a core four special teams ace, but he’s more than capable of being a productive player at the safety position if he were to start at any point.

Not only can Locke play in the middle of the field, but his positional versatility can also see him thrive in the nickel or dime inside of the slot or as a dime backer playing the middle hook. Locke’s been with the Broncos since 2019 and re-signed on a one-year deal earlier this offseason.

In 2022, Locke led the Broncos in special teams tackles and helped Denver secure an 11-10 victory against the San Francisco 49ers by forcing Jeff Wilson Jr. to fumble, which Kareem Jackson recovered. There is a clear vision in the eyes of Sean Payton and George Paton, who value Locke’s ability to produce on special teams and defense.

Delarrin Turner-Yell prepares for his second season with the Broncos after being drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft. Turner-Yell didn’t see any action last season on the defensive side of the ball but played 62% of the team’s special teams snaps, according to Pro Football Reference.

During the preseason last year, Turner-Yell played solid against the run and in pass coverage and could potentially carve out a bigger role for himself this upcoming season. Heading into training camp, Turner-Yell is expected to further engrain himself on the special teams side of the ball under new coordinator Ben Kotwica.

He’ll get plenty of reps on defense in the preseason as well, but will also have some competition as this year’s sixth-round rookie draft pick JL Skinner also looks to carve out a role for himself on special teams and defense. Defensive back Devon Key also joins Skinner as another safety option on the Broncos’ current roster.

Skinner’s 6’4 size is something to make note of — as he played quite a bit of his college football at Boise State inside the box, but he also demonstrated the ability to play the middle of the field. Skinner was present during Denver Broncos rookie minicamp but didn’t see much time during mandatory minicamp or organized team activities as he dealt with an injury. It’s unclear whether or not Skinner’s injury was related to his previously torn pectoral muscle or if it was another ailment.

Once training camp begins, it will be worth monitoring if Skinner will be fully ready to go. Projection-wise, if he turns in a consistent training camp stretch and carries that over into performing in the preseason — he could play a pivotal role on special teams as a rookie.

Key arrives at Broncos Camp after being signed as an unrestricted rookie free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021. He doesn’t possess any NFL regular season experience yet. Still, he signed to the Broncos practice squad in December of last season and then signed a futures/reserve contract upon the conclusion of the season.

He’ll also be in the mix to compete with Turner-Yell and Skinner for a spot in the team’s secondary rotation, but he could also be a candidate for the practice squad if he doesn’t make the initial 53-man roster.

Denver Broncos safety room overview

Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, Kareem Jackson, P.J. Locke, Delarrin Turner-Yell, JL Skinner, and Devon Key make up the Broncos’ safety room heading into training camp.

Storylines to watch

  • Will Caden Sterns or Kareem Jackson start next to Justin Simmons this season?
  • Can P.J. Locke rise into a prominent role inside the dime package?
  • How do Delarrin Turner-Yell and JL Skinner factor into the Broncos backend rotation or special teams?

What’s next?
Broncos training camp kicks off on July 28 at the Centura Health Training Center.