With training camp set to begin, we've turned our attention toward the season. Ahead of the first open training camp practice, we're examining each of the position groups on the Broncos' roster. In our look at each position, we'll fill you in on what we know about the group and what we hope to find out during training camp. We'll also identify a player to watch when practices begin and the preseason gets underway. We conclude the series with a look at the Broncos' secondary.
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What we know:
The Broncos' secondary may be the team's deepest position group, and it also features some of the team's top talent. Pat Surtain II earned first-team All-Pro honors at cornerback in 2022, and Simmons snagged second-team honors for the third time in his career. Surtain showed a weekly ability to lock down opponents' top receivers, and Simmons tied for the league lead in interceptions despite missing five games.
In addition to Surtain and Simmons, the Broncos feature several returning starters. Second-year player Damarri Mathis and veteran K'Waun Williams played key snaps in 2022, while Kareem Jackson rejoined the team in May after starting all 17 games in 2022.
Denver also boasts impressive depth, as veteran cornerback Tremon Smith joined the team in free agency and cornerback Riley Moss came to Denver via the draft. At safety, Caden Sterns and P.J. Locke both have game experience, while rookie JL Skinner and second-year player Delarrin Turner-Yell will look to earn roles.
With top-end talent and strong depth, Denver's secondary projects to be one of the strengths of the team.
What we need to learn:
What's the Broncos' plan at safety?
Denver brought back Jackson for his fifth season in Denver, and the hard-hitting player doesn't seem to be slowing down.
"I think a lot of it was [being part of a turnaround], and obviously the group of men that we have here," Jackson said in June of signing back in Denver. "This DB group, [Defensive Backs] Coach Christian [Parker] and obviously having a relationship with Coach VJ [Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph], as well. A lot of it was that, and … [I] just wanted to be a part of something special. I think we've got a great group of guys here that we can go do that this year. Obviously [Head] Coach Sean [Payton] being here, as well, and having a ton of conversations with him before I decided to sign back. Just knowing what he's all about, just seeing what he's done throughout his career in the NFL, obviously with New Orleans and the games that they've been able to win and winning a Super Bowl and things like that, I know he has the vision. He's capable of directing and leading a team there. That was a huge part of it."
Jackson has strong chemistry with Justin Simmons, and the duo will look to take another step forward in 2023.
Denver, though, may have a good problem on its hands. Sterns showed game-changing ability last season, as his two interceptions against the Colts showed. When healthy, he's a playmaker — and Denver may have a hard time keeping him off the field.
During training camp, we should get a better sense of how the Broncos intend to use Jackson, Sterns and the rest of the safety group.
Player to watch:
The rookie third-round pick demonstrated a knack for making plays at Iowa, and he could push an early spot in the cornerback rotation as he begins his first season in Denver.
"I don't know how much film we watched, but we picked and tugged and hosed down and looked at every tape," Payton said after the Broncos traded up for Moss. "He was in [for a top-30 visit]. All the numbers, prototype — we loved the makeup. We spent as much time on this player because this was one of these players that we felt like in the very beginning was going to be one of these decisions [to trade up for him]."
In training camp, fans will get to see how Moss fares against the Broncos' talented receiving corps. According to inside linebacker Josey Jewell, Moss got the best of Jerry Jeudy on at least one rep and had "a good couple of days" during the offseason program.
During training camp and the preseason, Moss will look to take the next step toward contributing as a rookie.
Previous articles in the series: