The Denver Broncos reshaped their defense and reimagined their offense this offseason.
It was as if John Elway was looking to create some Mile High Magic and recreate a squad who can compete for the Super Bowl again.
Defensively, Denver traded for starters in A.J Bouye (CB) and Jurrell Casey (DT), each former Pro Bowlers at their respective positions. They also re-signed crucial lineman Shelby Harris, as well as run-stuffer Mike Purcell; each of them are vastly underrated on the defensive front. And the Broncos also picked up linebacker Todd Davis’ option while franchise tagging superstar safety Justin Simmons.
When the dust settled on the offseason, the main positional group Denver didn’t do much to improve was at cornerback.
Yes, Bouye is supposed to step right in for the departed Chris Harris, but that’s not a given. Bryce Callahan didn’t see the field for a single snap last year and Denver desperately needs him to be ready to go in the slot. And that leaves third-year man Isaac Yiadom to compete with De’Vante Bausby, Davontae Harris and newly drafted Michael Ojemudia to start opposite of Bouye.
From Pro Football Focus on Denver’s DB battle:
“There was a sense the Broncos would do more to address the second cornerback slot this offseason. They have built a pretty solid all-around roster, but this is pretty clearly the biggest weakness on it. I’m guessing Ojemudia is the leader in the clubhouse to win that job given how ineffective Yiadom (53.4 PFF grade) and Harris (53.4 PFF grade) have been in that role in recent seasons. The other primary option — Bausby — hasn’t played more than 150 defensive snaps in a season since entering the NFL in 2015 as an undrafted free agent. Vic Fangio is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, but he will have his work cut out for him at cornerback beyond A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan.”
Simply, cornerback is a vastly important position in the NFL today. The Broncos must have one, if not two, young corners step up this season if they want to be back in the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Up front, Denver’s defense might be the most fearsome in the league. There’s Von Miller and the healed Bradley Chubb coming off the edges; that’s just not fair. Casey and Harris each know how to create pressures from the inside of the line, too, which should present the secondary with opportunities at interceptions.
The last time Denver won in the playoffs, that magical run to a Super Bowl 50 victory, pressure and sacks up front led to quicker passes and many interceptions. The recipe for success has already been written, which young corner(s) will make a massive leap this season?
Yiadom is entering his third season; he needs to shine this year. He’s shown some flashes of brilliance at times, though, they’ve been far and few between. If he can’t get it done, expect the Broncos to try out the others until they find a best fit.
Vic Fangio isn’t afraid to play relative unknowns like Purcell and Alexander Johnson last year, each of whom became defensive staples by the end of the year. Let’s see who that will be at corner in 2020.