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Fifteen players to watch at Broncos training camp - 3. Justin Simmons

Posted Jul 24, 2017

"He's a very smart player that we're counting on this year," Head Coach Vance Joseph said of Simmons.

When you've got two recent Pro Bowlers like T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart in your position group, you know a starting role isn't necessarily going to be in the cards.

But that doesn't mean Justin Simmons isn't going to play a significant role on Denver's defense this year.

Last year's third-round pick is poised to continue his extensive work in the Broncos' primary pass-defense sub package, which uses three safeties and allows starter T.J. Ward to move into the box alongside inside linebacker Brandon Marshall. But he will handle this role with a pair of successful starts under his belt, with an interception in each of the two games he started to close the 2016 season after Ward was injured.

Simmons didn't just gain experience; he gained confidence, which he cites as the biggest area of improvement as he heads into his second season.

"I think the only thing that will change is the confidence factor," he said during OTAs. "Just to put [it] plainly, I think going into Year 2, I’m just looking to be more confident. I’m in the defensive system now, going into my second year. I have a bunch of vets that I’m watching daily, go through the reps that I can consistently learn from."

Simmons gives the Broncos a first-team caliber safety off the bench. His range exceeds that of most at his position, and his ability to track the football make a play downfield gives him a chance to be among the league's interception leaders once his opportunities increase.

He repeatedly intercepted passes during OTAs in May and June, and his nose for the football caught the eyes of Head Coach Vance Joseph.

“He’s around the ball all the time," Joseph said during OTAs. "He’s a guy that has a high football I.Q. He’s long and tall, so when he’s in those windows, he’s made two or three interceptions that nobody else could make out there because of the height and the length.

"He’s a very smart player that we're counting on this year.”

Justin Simmons