PFF ranks Broncos secondary as NFL’s 18th-best

Kareem Jackson flexes in Week 5. Credit: Jake Roth, USA TODAY Sports.
Kareem Jackson flexes in Week 5. Credit: Jake Roth, USA TODAY Sports.

After ranking every other position group in the league, Pro Football Focus has finally ranked each team’s secondary. It’s arguably been their most controversial ranking yet, or at least as far as the Broncos are concerned.

PFF writer Sam Monson ranked the Broncos as the league’s 18th best secondary, in large part because of the loss of Chris Harris Jr. and the questions as to if A.J. Bouye will be up to the challenge of replacing him.

“If they could guarantee the best of [Bouye], they will have certainly made the right decision to trade for him,” Monson wrote. “The problem is that we just didn’t see the best of Bouye in 2019. The now-veteran corner was elite during his last season in Houston in 2016 and in his first season in Jacksonville as part of that fantastic defense that drove the team, but his play has slipped since then. Last season, he was beaten for a passer rating of 103.8 when targeted, the first time in his career that number has crossed the 100.0 barrier. He has come away with just two interceptions in the past two years after recording six the season before that, and his completion rate allowed jumped from under 50% to over 65% in each of the past two years. Bouye has a lot of talent, but the Broncos need him to rediscover it in a hurry.”

Bouye is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, but the entire Jacksonville defense was a mess last season, so it’s hard to blame it all on him.

There’s also reason to believe he’s due for a bounceback season in Vic Fangio’s cornerback-friendly scheme, which is why Bouye was ranked 71st in Pro Football Network’s Top 100 for the 2020 season.

PFF’s discussion of Denver’s secondary didn’t become controversial though, until they discussed safety Kareem Jackson.

Kareem Jackson is a versatile defensive back who can play pretty much anywhere in the secondary,” Monson wrote. “He spent much of his time in the slot in 2019, but he will likely play at safety in 2020.”

The questionable thing about that statement is that PFF’s own advanced stats charted Jackson playing in the slot for a mere 23 percent of his snaps while spending 75.2 percent of his snaps at safety.

Jackson was quick to respond on Twitter to the rankings and his designation as a slot corner in 2019.

Monson closed the article by writing, “Meanwhile, Justin Simmons will play 2020 on the franchise tag after failing to agree with the team on a long-term deal. Simmons was an elite safety last season; he earned a coverage grade of 91.1, made 28 defensive stops and missed only four tackles.”

For their defense to take that crucial next step in 2020, the Broncos secondary will have to improve from last season, and they’re hoping the additions of Bryce Callahan and A.J. Bouye will do just that.

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