Justin Simmons has been an important figure for the Denver Broncos both on and off the field since his arrival in 2017.
Simmons has evolved on the field throughout his seven seasons as a Broncos safety, but his on-field leadership and impact have been instrumental in the development of some of the team’s other defensive players.
The Broncos’ offseason organized team activities continued on Monday and Simmons had a chance to speak with the media following practice at the UCHealth Training Center.
Why Justin Simmons’ leadership is key for the Broncos defense in 2022
As the Broncos embark on a journey to make it back to the playoffs this upcoming season, can the defensive unit can carry over the success they had last season?
New Broncos’ defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is tasked with the challenge of building off of the success they achieved last season. Simmons will be an important element in helping the Broncos bridge the gap as they work with a new defensive play-caller.
Last season, Simmons was a defensive captain and was responsible for the defense checking in or out of calls based on what the opponent was showing pre-snap.
One thing Evero has placed an emphasis on while the team installs their new scheme and terminology is situational awareness. What is the down and distance? What are the splits between the receivers? Where is the strength of the offensive formation?
“Just like players, I think it’s very important for coaches to practice what they’re going to be doing on game day,” Evero said. “I’m with you on that. It’s important for me and that’s what I’m taking these practices as, as examples of getting used to the mic and communicating, and not only getting the calls to the players on the huddle, but also giving them tips, ‘D & D’ reminders and things like that. So I’m trying to hone my skills in as well.”
These are small yet intricate details that will help the Broncos defense become one of the league’s best units this upcoming season and Simmons will have a major role in helping the team achieve this.
Can Simmons help lead the Broncos’ defense to a win against the Chiefs?
For the past two seasons, the Broncos’ defense has held its own against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Both Simmons and Kareem Jackson have orchestrated different disguises on the backend that have helped the Broncos’ defense limit the explosive plays the Chiefs normally thrive on.
With the addition of Russell Wilson at quarterback, the Broncos have their best shot at dethroning the Chiefs if the offense can play better than they have against Kansas City.
Simmons believes that lining up against Wilson and the wide variety of offensive weapons the Broncos have on offense will help the defense prepare for Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Derek Carr.
“It’s great for us, honestly. We’re going to see that with Mahomes twice a year. We’re going to see that with [Chargers QB Justin] Herbert. [Raiders QB Derek] Carr has the ability to extend plays,” Simmons said. “All you need is [a little] separation and with a guy like ‘Russ’ who can extend plays like that. We’ve seen time and time again throughout his tenure. Defensively for us, it’s great reps because you’re always like, ‘Oh, that was a sack,’ but in real life, he can probably make some people miss right there and keep the play going. It’s good work for us, too.”
Similar to how Peyton Manning helped make the Broncos’ defense better from 2012 to 2015, the expectation is that Wilson will do the same which could lead to snapping the Chiefs’ win streak against Denver.
Younger Broncos who benefit from Justin Simmons
While Simmons and Jackson are expected to start on the backend for the Broncos this season, they will also see various young players rotate in during sub packages.
The Broncos safety room consists of P.J. Locke, Jamar Johnson, Caden Sterns, J.R. Reed, and Delarrin Turner-Yell.
While the competition for reps behind Simmons and Jackson will be strong, Simmons has been vocal about leading the young group of safeties and also is their biggest supporter. Locke was on the receiving end of Simmons’ support on Monday.
“[S] P.J. [Locke] is great. We always preach—my thing is, we always preach about ‘next man up,'” said Simmons. “One of the guys goes down, you always want to have the guy behind him to plug in and it feels like you’re not losing a step. P.J. is the epitome of that comment.”
For Locke, he enters an important year in his career as he looks to secure a roster spot with an entirely new coaching staff. “You can see his instincts kind of just take over when he’s out there playing,” Simmons said. “He’s always been a special player and I’m glad. Publicly—because a lot of people here know—he’s going to be a special player for a while.”
Simmons approach represents him giving back to younger players the way that Darian Stewart, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, and Chris Harris Jr. did for him after he was drafted by the Broncos in 2016.
While the addition of Wilson is big for the Broncos as a team, Simmons embodies every characteristic you want in a leader both on and off the field. His impact will be critical for the Broncos success in 2022.