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'No-Fly Zone' focused on improving communication after feeling 'growing pains'

Posted Sep 12, 2017

There are issues to correct in the secondary, but they're better to fix after a win than a loss.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It’s always preferable to correct issues after a win than after a loss.

On Monday night, the Broncos’ secondary wasn’t perfect. The unit had its share of struggles in its first regular-season game with Justin Simmons as a starting safety and Will Parks as the first-string dime back.

The team came away with a 24-21 win anyway, and the “No-Fly Zone” can continue to work out its kinks without the burden of a Week 1 loss.

In a way, that’s all according to Head Coach Vance Joseph’s plan.

“I kind of knew there was going to be a couple of mistakes there because the game is played so fast,” Joseph said Tuesday. “What you see on tape in the NFL — vs. the good teams, you won’t see that on Sunday. It’s going to be different. I knew there were going to be some growing pains with Justin and Parks.”

That’s not to say the secondary didn’t have its bright individual moments. Bradley Roby came up with an interception that led to a Broncos touchdown and added a key pass breakup late in the game. Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib were largely their normal dominant selves on the outside. Darian Stewart, Justin Simmons and Will Parks all made key tackles in the run game.

“You could see the physical ability with Justin,” Joseph said. “The first tackle he made in the open field on [Chargers RB Melvin] Gordon is a special tackle. That ball may run for 50 yards. It’s one-on-one with 20 yards each way, and he makes that tackle.”

As a unit, though, there was room to improve, specifically in regards to communication. Early in the fourth quarter, when Philip Rivers found Keenan Allen for a 5-yard touchdown, Harris appeared to expect help in the middle of the end zone.

Later, Travis Benjamin found a gap in the Broncos’ defense on a busted coverage and reeled in a 38-yard touchdown.

Both of those plays nearly caused big issues for the Broncos. And they’re also both fixable, Harris said.

“We can definitely work a lot on communication,” Harris said. “My touchdown, that should never happen. The big touchdown to [Chargers wide receiver Travis] Benjamin should never happen. We’ve just got younger guys back there and they’ll learn as the time goes. Hopefully we’ll be able to fix it next week.”

That process could take a few weeks, as both Harris and Joseph admit. As long as the Broncos keep winning, though, that learning curve doesn’t seem quite so steep.

“That part we know we’ve got with those young guys,” Joseph said. “The mistakes, I knew it was going to happen because it was his first time being a full-time starter in base and in dime. There are going to be growing pains, but I think at the end of this thing — Week 6, 7, 8, moving forward — he’s going to be good for us.”