Justin Simmons learned the value of versatility in Boston College, where he lined up at cornerback and safety.
"Outside and slot," he recalled. "It was a lot different than in the league, though. I did a little bit of it all."
That attribute was helpful last week, with the Broncos in need of a contingency plan due to Aqib Talib's suspension. In the loss to the Dolphins, Simmons worked extensively as a third cornerback, usually working in the slot, with Bradley Roby and Chris Harris Jr. handling repetitions on the outside.
The experience was anything but easy. But it also allowed Simmons to generate the Broncos' only touchdown on a 65-yard interception return in the third quarter.
"It was tough, man," Simmons said. "It gives me a newfound respect for Chris and 'Rob' and 'Lib for what they do in the slot, and all they do to help the safeties.
"As a safety, you know all the different positions on the field, but the little fine detailed work within each position, and how important it is to re-route or things of that nature -- you're so close to the ball, it's no longer about you breaking on the ball necessarily, but making sure you're helping other pieces on the field."
Knowledge of other teammates' work was crucial in combatting the bunch formations favored by the Dolphins, which can cause issues for secondaries and make the use of straight-up man-to-man coverage a problematic task.
On the pick-six, Miami stacked its three wide receivers to the left side, with two of them working on the inside. Harris lined up outside, while Roby aligned himself one yard behind the line of scrimmage, leaving Simmons to set up 5 yards deep in coverage.
"We had seen that play earlier in the game," Simmons said. "It was a tight formation, third-and-1, and you know Adam Gase is a pick-route guy, so we had to get on different levels.
"We got picked earlier in the game. Then we had help inside, so I was able to play to my leverage, and then I broke. It was a body-on-body, and there was great pass rush, so it forced [Jay] Cutler to step up in the pocket.
"He tried to throw a little dagger into [DeVante] Parker, and I actually went to just go knock it down, but the way it hit my hand, it must have just popped up in the air."
Just like that, Simmons was on his way to his first NFL touchdown. What's more, he had shown his increasing indispensability to Denver's defense, as he displayed another dimension to his versatile game.
"That was one of the things coming out of college -- [that] you've got to be able to be versatile in this league," he said. "They asked Will [Parks] and myself to learn multiple positions. That's part of our job. Even if I had gone out there and done absolutely terrible and you would have asked me [about it], I would have just said, 'That's was my job; I didn't do it good enough.'
"Ultimately, I didn't [do it well enough] because we didn't find a way to win. You've just got to look at that stuff and come back to work this week and find a way to get a win against New York."
The Broncos didn't do enough to defeat the Dolphins, but between Simmons' pick-six and Harris and Roby also generating turnovers, their secondary did its part to make plays that provided opportunities to change the game.