Justin Simmons excels as NFL’s best special teamer

Justin Simmons after Broncos - Raiders game. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.
Justin Simmons after Broncos - Raiders game. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.

At the one-quarter mark on the NFL season, Justin Simmons has impressed on both defense as well as special teams.

And it’s on special teams specifically where the safety has truly excelled; his 92.4 grade on special teams is the best in the NFL per Pro Football Focus.

Unless you missed the game, you know Simmons spectacularly jumped over the line of scrimmage and blocked a Justin Tucker field goal in the loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Not only was this feat incredibly athletic, he also did it legally, not touching or using the linemen for leverage as he cleared them.

That certainly, helped boost Simmons’ grade. But it doesn’t tell the whole story, either, as he’s played very well on special teams in every game.

All told, Simmons has 23 total special teams snaps on the season, and his games against Seattle, Oakland and Kansas City were just average, but that field goal block in Week 3 gave him a career-high 93.9 grade for the loss to Baltimore, boosting his overall grade to 92.4 at this point.

When he’s not on special teams, Simmons has become a key cog in the Broncos defensive machine. His tackling has been superb outside of the Week 1 game against Seattle, and he was graded in the 80s the last two weeks in that category. As a strong safety, he’s done a great job of helping with Denver’s No. 3 run defense, racking up 21 tackles on the season, including three run stops.

Through four games, the Broncos have been anything but perfect on special teams. They’ve allowed big punt returns, have struggled through short punts by Marquette King and Denver’s return games have been lackluster.

At this point, though, Simmons is the shining star of that unit. Keep an eye on what he does going forward the rest of the year.

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