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Last-Minute Position Shift Buoys Bolden

Posted Aug 30, 2013

Thursday night against the Cardinals, Omar Bolden -- drafted as a cornerback -- made his first career start at safety.

DENVER -- Omar Bolden wasn't expecting his preseason to end with a new beginning at a new position. Such transitions are usually made much earlier -- in organized team activities or even in training camp.

"I'm not going to lie: I was surprised," he said of hearing the news from coaches that he would be moved from cornerback to safety. "But I'm a football player and I want to be part of this team."

At cornerback, he was lost in the shuffle at arguably the most stacked position on defense, a group that grew deeper with the March addition of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the drafting of Kayvon Webster in the third round a month later. And while Webster has impressed in recent weeks, he's still on track to be only the No. 5 cornerback once Champ Bailey returns to full health.

If the Broncos were going to justify keeping six cornerbacks, one of them needs the ability to be flexible enough to swing back to safety, where he started in Thursday's 32-24 preseason loss to Arizona.

"I play corner, nickel, safety, so I’m all over in the secondary," Bolden said. "I’m just trying to show them my value and do it the best that I can.”

His size is smaller than that of most safeties, but wouldn't be the smallest in the safety group; Rahim Moore matches Bolden's 195-pound weight, but carries it on a 6-foot-1 frame, while Bolden is a bit more stacked at 5-foot-10.

But adjusting to a position where most are bigger -- in the 200-210-pound range -- wasn't the hardest part of Bolden's swift transition. It was learning how to view the game from the safety's perspective.

Cornerbacks often have zone responsibilities, and can sometimes be asked to read the opposing offense to gauge the proper opportunity for a surprise blitz or to jump a developing run play. But much of their work requires focusing on one man and sticking to him; in that case, there's not as much to process on a play-by-play basis.

The last time that Bolden experienced such a change in perceiving his on-field work, he was playing a video game.

"At corner, you're locked on man-to-man," he said. "At safety, it's kind of like -- do you remember the Madden that came out in '05 that had the QB vision?"

Of course. It was Madden '06, released in August 2005. On the cover was Donovan McNabb, whose frustrating season helped cement the "Madden Curse." But the game unveiled "QB Vision Control," with a spotlight cone from the passer that was designed to replicate what a quarterback viewed on each play, thus allowing the player to change the direction in which the passer looked.

If you threw outside of the cone, your passes weren't as likely to land on target. The cone changed based on the quarterback; Peyton Manning had a wider one than then-Broncos starter Jake Plummer, and on down the line through the quarterbacks. To succeed, much more dexterity and ability to process multiple aspects of a play was required.

That change drove some casual gamers batty. And that's what it's like going from cornerback to safety, as Bolden sees it. And like Madden before and after QB Vision Control, the new view was not for everyone.

"Basically, it goes from tunnel vision, to where you're seeing everything, (to where) there's a lot of stuff going on in front of you," Bolden said. "It's just a different view for a DB."

It's a heavy amount for Bolden to absorb so close to the season, but he wouldn't be doing it if the Broncos' coaches didn't believe there was some aspects of his skill set that would translate -- starting with the cerebral ones, which have always been part of Bolden's core skill set. That's part of the reason why the shift excites him.

"For sure, and at the end of the day, whether they did it a day before the game or two months before the game, my job is to play football and execute. I'm just going to do my best," he said.

And if Bolden sticks on the 53-man roster, his work is just beginning.

"I'm going to have to put in extra time in the film room to become a better player," he said, "and just study our defense a little bit more, because there's things that I'm not used to doing."

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