The Denver Broncos defensive backfield will exhibit a new look in 2014. Gone are former stalwarts like Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who have departed and taken their talents elsewhere. The departure of Bailey, a sure-fire first ballot hall-of-famer, marks the end of an era of excellence at the cornerback position.
While the loss of Bailey and Cromartie was, at first, viewed as a downgrade, their replacements are every bit as talented and will make the defensive backfield better. During free agency, the Broncos signed Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. In Talib they signed a shutdown corner, one of the best in the game. Ward is a hard-hitting safety, something the team has been lacking.
To augment the newcomers, the Broncos drafted Bradley Robey, a cornerback from Ohio State, in the first round. He was one of the most talented players to come out of college last year, and is projected to be a future star in this league. Robey will compete for snaps with last year’s second round draft pick, Kayvon Webster.
There are currently 17 defensive backs in training camp, with the team expected to keep about ten. Last season’s much-maligned unit is expected to be one of the defense’s strengths this year. The defensive backfield is instrumental in keeping receivers covered long enough for sack masters Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware to get to the quarterback.
The new look defensive backfield exhibited by the Denver Broncos in 2014 will raise the team’s expectations on the overall performance of the defense. With NFL football having evolved to a passing game, a strong secondary is critical for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
With the additions of Ward and Talib, the secondary will present a new physicality that was missing in last year’s group. Rahim Moore and Chris Harris Jr. join them in what projects to be the starting secondary. Moore and Harris were injured last year and missed significant time.
David Bruton and Duke Ihenacho are both expected to make the 53-man roster. Bruton is especially effective on special teams and should get plenty of playing time in the secondary as well. Ihenacho played very effectively early last season and tapered off towards the end. As a physical safety, he is expected to back up Ward.
Quinton Carter, Tony Carter and Omar Bolden should also make the team. Quinton Carter has only played in a couple of games the last two seasons because of injury. He is expected to make the team because of his solid play in his 2011 rookie season. While taking a step backwards last season, Tony Carter performed well in 2012. He is likely to make the team in a reserve role. With an ability to play both corner and safety, Bolden should remain as a flexible back up to both positions.
The remaining players need to maximize their opportunities and make impressions whenever they are on the field. They include John Boyett, Jordan Sullen, Charles Mitchell, Louis Young and Jerome Murphy. Barring injury, it is unlikely that any of these players will make the team. They could, however, make the practice squad with a good showing.
In 2014 the Denver Broncos defensive backfield will exhibit a new look. At this early stage of training camp all signs point to this being a strong, physical unit. Their major concern is injuries. Several, including the departed Bailey, missed significant playing time last season. If they remain healthy, they could be one of the better units in the NFL.
Commentary by Hans Benes