ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On a defense littered with talent, the Broncos' biggest question mark may be at cornerback.
A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan are expected to start at the position, but both players will have something to prove in 2020. Bouye, whom the Broncos acquired for a fourth-round pick in March, posted a Pro Bowl season in 2017 as the Jaguars advanced to the AFC Championship. Last season, though, Bouye struggled at times as he adapted to playing without Jalen Ramsey.
Callahan, meanwhile, entered the 2019 offseason as perhaps the most desirable nickel cornerback on the free-agent market. The Broncos signed him and viewed him as a starter on the outside before he reaggravated a foot injury in training camp and missed the entire season.
The questions don't end there, as the Broncos still need to identify who will play in the team's nickel defense against three-receiver sets. In those situations, it seems most likely that Callahan would slide inside to play as a slot defender. A reserve cornerback, then, would have to pick up the outside responsibilities.
And that's where third-round pick Michael Ojemudia comes in.
A 6-foot-1, 200-pound player, Ojemudia will compete with a host of other Broncos to fill that third cornerback role.
While it won't be easy to separate himself from players like De'Vante Bausby, Davontae Harris and Isaac Yiadom, Ojemudia possesses traits that could help him earn playing time as a rookie.
In addition to his size, Ojemudia has 4.45-second 40-yard dash speed that ranked ninth among cornerbacks at the 2020 NFL Combine.
At Iowa, where he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors as a redshirt senior, Ojemudia used that size and speed to make a noticeable impact. He led the Hawkeyes in passes defensed (nine) and interceptions (three) as a senior, and he also recorded three interceptions as a redshirt junior.
Ojemudia found ways to make those plays without being penalized, as he drew just one pass interference call in 12 games in 2019.
As an experienced player — he started 22 games and appeared in 51 during his four years in Iowa City — Ojemudia could adjust quickly to the Broncos' zone scheme to contribute.
He'll need to improve in coverage, but he's a physical player who should be able to help in run support. Some evaluators even believe Ojemudia has a future at safety, due to his physicality.
In Vic Fangio's system, being a good tackler is non-negotiable — and he liked what he saw from Ojemudia on film.
"Well the first thing I liked when we were watching him was just the way he played," Fangio said. "He played well. He showed good instincts, had a good feel for the game. He runs well. He's got some length, a good tackler. I just liked the way he played the game in all of the areas of his job. We were happy to get him there too."
Fangio said Ojemudia will have the chance to compete for playing time right away, but he could be a contributor on special teams if he's unable to crack the rotation on defense.
No matter where he plays, Ojemudia will maintain the same mindset.
"I plan to [be] just a hard-nose physical guy," Ojemuda said. "A guy who makes plays, a guy who's going to set the tone every time he's out there. I'm definitely going to bring some grittiness to that DB room."