Amidst a remarkable three-game winning streak, attention in Denver is fixed again on the Denver Broncos. The burning question on everyone’s mind? How did the team, once the weakest defensive unit in the NFL in the initial five weeks, hold Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen to a combined one passing touchdown and four interceptions? The answer lies in a pivotal personnel shift.

Since cornerback Fabian Moreau was named a starter in Week 7, the Broncos have not lost a game. Moreau’s ascent from not making the initial 53-man roster to becoming a cornerstone at cornerback has set what once seemed impossible into motion. With Denver now one game out of the playoffs, the unlikely hero rightly deserves much credit for their resurgence.

Learning a New Position

Moreau grew up with his parents and two sisters in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He played running back and wide receiver at Western High School. As a senior, he ran 149 times for 889 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 21 passes for 416 yards and seven touchdowns. Moreau was labeled a three-star recruit by Rivals. He decided to commit to UCLA because of the opportunity to leave home and get out of his comfort zone.

In the second week of his inaugural fall camp in 2012, Moreau was approached by then-UCLA running backs coach Steve Broussard with a proposition: switch from running back to cornerback. This unexpected request left Moreau uncertain, given his lack of prior experience in that position. He harbored reservations about competing against teammates specifically recruited for the cornerback role. However, his father persuaded him to embrace the coaching staff’s vision and remain open to this new opportunity.

One year after making the switch, Moreau became the Bruin’s starting cornerback, starting in all 12 games. The following season, he again started in all 13 games, getting his first interception, and was a second-team all-conference selection. Voted team captain in his junior year, Moreau unfortunately only appeared in three games due to a broken foot. However, he finished strong in his senior year, starting in all 12 games. He led the team with ten passes defended, was named honorable mention All Pac-12 by coaches, and finished the season with two interceptions and one forced fumble.

Torn Pecs and Setbacks

Coming out of UCLA, Moreau was projected to be a late first or second-round pick. He participated in the 2017 NFL Combine and UCLA’s Pro Day, where he suffered a pectoral injury during his bench press. Though originally thought to be just a strain, it was later discovered to be a torn pectoral muscle, which required surgery. Due to the injury, Moreau’s draft projection fell into the third round. 

The Washington Redskins drafted Moreau in the third round (81st overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft. He was the 12th cornerback selected. 

He made his pro debut in a season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and went on to play in all 16 games during his rookie year. During his four seasons in Washington, he racked up 119 tackles, six interceptions, and 14 passes defended.

In 2021, he signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Starting in all 16 games, Moreau hit new season-bests with 61 total tackles and 11 passes defended.

The following season, he signed with the Houston Texans but was released before the start of the season. The New York Giants signed him to their practice squad before activating him to the active roster. Despite appearing in fewer games, Moreau again achieved personal bests, finishing with 66 total tackles.

Denver signed Moreau in August following an injury to rookie Riley Moss. They inititally released him before swiftly bringing him back. Despite limited playing time in the first six weeks, he was named the starter in Week 7, replacing Damarri Mathis.  

His contributions were immediate and impactful. Moreau helped limit the Green Bay Packers to just 17 points, a feat unmatched for the unit since Week 1. Moreau’s role solidified in subsequent games, notably against the Kansas City Chiefs, where his five tackles and batted-down pass aided in ending a 16-game losing streak to their rival.

In a standout Monday night game versus the Buffalo Bills, Moreau seized attention with a crucial interception that helped secure a one-point victory for the Broncos.

According to CBS Sports reporter Jared Dubin, prior to the change, Mathis had given up 361 yards and four touchdowns, placing him 122nd out of 124 qualified corners in Pro Football Focus’ coverage ratings. On the flip side, Moreau has allowed only 12 completions on 19 attempts for 110 yards and an interception. His performance ranks him at 22nd out of 113 qualifiers in coverage grade.

Sunday night’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings is an opportunity for Denver to sit at .500 after starting 1-5. It’s another prime-time opportunity for Moreau to showcase his influence on the Broncos midseason defensive turnaround.