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Together again, DBs 'locked in' for another big year

Posted Apr 19, 2017

The Broncos' secondary has something rare: the same collection of starters for a third consecutive season.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Chemistry, cohesion, consistency and effort.

The "No-Fly Zone" wouldn't have reached its perch without those attributes -- all of which have only improved with the time that Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward have spent together.

"We just know the ins and outs of each other," Ward said Wednesday. "We know how each other likes to play, what guys don't like to do in certain situations.

"Having the defense and knowing the small intricacies as four veterans, you can't [just] get that, man."

There's no question about the talent of the starting quartet; all are recent Pro Bowlers, and two of them were first-team All-Pros last season. But what will take them to another level this season is two years' worth of accumulated knowledge regarding each other's strengths, weaknesses and roles.

Other secondaries need time to adjust and get their communication down pat. The Broncos' defensive backs need only a pre-snap hand signal or a nod of the head to stay on the same page with each other.

"You don't have to have a guy out there telling this guy what to do on this or that play. Everybody's locked in," Ward said. "They know what they do.

"Even if you get a late communication, guys [realize], 'I'm not in this position that I'm usually at, but I know what this guy does, and I can fulfill it.' That's what we have."

What the Broncos' secondary possesses is rare: a core collection of veterans on their second or third contracts for multiple seasons. Usually when an experienced position group succeeds like that, free agency and the salary cap combine to rip it apart. Stewart prevented that from happening this offseason by re-signing with the Broncos last November.

"Three years together -- you really don't see that a lot, especially having the years we have under our belt," Stewart said. "I think there are going to be a lot of plays made just [because of] us being comfortable with one another and then adding a new group to the coaching staff."

Those new coaches -- Marcus Robertson and Johnnie Lynn -- should enhance the unit's play with Joe Woods moving up to become the defensive coordinator. They bring "a lot of smarts," Stewart noted.

"We just added another level to our room, just helping us make more plays," Stewart said. "Strong minds in the room, and I think we're going to be able to do some great things adding them to the bunch."

Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward