ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the Broncos re-signed safety Justin Simmons to a four-year deal in March, General Manager George Paton told the veteran player that he was the top safety in the league.
Later, when Paton met the media to discuss the extension, he told the press that "no one can play in space and cover as good as Justin at safety in the NFL."
As the Broncos near the end of training camp, Simmons continues to prove Paton correct.
Since late July, Simmons has patrolled the Broncos' defensive backfield and made a series of big plays. He recorded his first pick a week into training camp and added another one just a few days later. Both of those early interceptions came in the red zone and saved points for the Broncos' defense.
This week, Simmons has continued to make an impact. He made an impressive one-handed play during one-on-one drills on Wednesday, and he recorded a pair of interceptions on Wednesday. The first pick came during 11-on-11 work as a result of an apparent miscommunication between Teddy Bridgewater and Jerry Jeudy. Simmons then picked off Brett Rypien in seven-on-seven work a few plays later.
"We'll correct that in the meeting room and correct it once we watch it and we'll go from there," Bridgewater said after practice. "But it's good to see guys just competing, flying around, having fun — and Justin is one of the best safeties in this league, so it's good to see him making plays, as well. He'll be making a lot of plays for us come this fall."
Simmons' success on the back end of the defense should be helped this season by the team's pass rush. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are expected to return to play alongside each other for the first time since Week 4 in 2019.
"It's going to be huge," Simmons said. "It's going to be absolutely huge. Any time you can get a four-man rush like that consistently, and the quarterback feels pressure and he has to make decisions a little bit faster and you're talking about [Head Coach] Vic [Fangio]'s defense where there's a lot of moving pieces, it just puts the back end of the coverage in great positions to make plays. We know how important the rush is and Von, Chubb, Shelby [Harris], Mike [Purcell], Dre'Mont [Jones], DeShawn [Williams] — I mean I could go down the list of guys. All those guys have been playing their tails off in practice in training camp and stuff like that, so I'm just really excited for the season."
Chubb, in particular, has been impressive in recent days. He recorded several pressures on Tuesday and likely would have notched a strip-sack under game conditions. On Wednesday, he was similarly disruptive. He would have tallied at least two sacks against the first-team offensive line in team-period work, and he had several other pressures.
"I think he's in a good spot," Fangio said. "I think we've brought him along the right way in lieu of his injury and inactivity that he had for most of the time prior to camp. I think he's ready to go."
The Broncos' pass-rush — both from the interior of the pocket and from the edge — was disruptive on Wednesday, and Chubb played a big part.
…. A day after he dropped a couple of passes, tight end Noah Fant was highly productive in the Broncos' offense. The third-year player caught five passes on the afternoon, including two targets of at least 20 yards. The first came on a wheel route from Drew Lock, while Bridgewater then found him down the seam. His lone noticeable error of the day came as Fant had a step on a linebacker. Lock delivered an impressive throw to drop the ball in to Fant, but the tight end was unable to hold onto the pass.
…. Bridgewater may have been picked, but he also had the deepest pass of the day. In 11-on-11 work, Bridgewater looked off the safety with his eyes and found Trinity Benson for a 55-yard score. Rookie Caden Sterns nearly got over in time to knock the ball away, but the ball settled into Benson's waiting hands for six.
"We're deep at receiver, as you've seen out there," Fangio said of Benson. "We're going to have some hard cuts to make there, and he's got to keep showing. When you come [from] Trinity's path, you've got to keep showing. You've got to keep showing. If you slack off — and I don't mean slack off effort-wise because I know he won't — but if your play slacks off, you forget about what you saw last week."
Benson recorded two touchdowns and four catches in the Broncos' 33-6 win over the Vikings.
…. Denver's defense was particularly effective in third-down scenarios on Wednesday, as the unit stopped the offense short of the first-down marker on at least six third downs during Wednesday's practice.
…. Early in practice, Lock delivered a nice pass down the sideline to Diontae Spencer, but rookie Kary Vincent Jr. was in perfect position to force the incompletion.
"Up and down," Fangio said of Vincent's play. "He's had some good plays that make you happy and perk up and then he's had some that deflate the bubble a little bit. I've been happy with him overall, but he's got a long way to go."
…. Lock showed off his use of the hard count during one 11-on-11 play, as his cadence forced a defender to jump offsides and gave Denver's offense a first down.
…. Kyle Fuller stayed stride for stride with Courtland Sutton down the right sideline and didn't allow the taller receiver to make the catch during 11-on-11 work.
…. On the opposite side of the field, Ronald Darby made a nice play down the field against Trinity Benson to record a PBU. Darby has been solid during training camp and has not given up many big plays.
"He's had a good camp," Fangio said on Aug. 8. "He's kind of like of like a good referee — a good referee, you don't notice. There's a lot practices out there [where] I don't notice him until I go put on the tape. You like that out of a corner. Not much business going over there."
…. Rookie Jonathon Cooper recorded a strong rush during 11-on-11 against right tackle Bobby Massie.
…. Cornerback Saivion Smith made a nice play to break up a pass down the field intended for Tyrie Cleveland, while cornerback Parnell Motley recorded back-to-back pass breakups working against Austin Fort and then Brendan Mack in seven-on-seven.
…. Linebacker Josey Jewell continued to take steps as he returned from a groin injury. He would have recorded a couple of tackles for loss under game conditions.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Jewell said. "Just going to take it day by day and keep on getting better."