Once, before he was an author and after he was a nine-time Pro Bowl and four-time first-team All-Pro safety, Brian Dawkins was tasked with evaluating players across the league at his former position.
Dawkins, who in 2016 joined the Philadelphia Eagles' front office as its executive director of football operations for player development, had been asked to evaluate some safeties from across the league. One player that caught his eye was a young safety out of Boston College, a rangy player with the skills to play all over the field: Justin Simmons.
"When I was an executive for the Eagles, I was blessed to study safeties at the time and give my advice on guys," Dawkins recently told DenverBroncos.com. "He was one of my top dudes."
Even before Simmons broke out as a second-team All-Pro in 2019, Dawkins could tell that he was destined for big things.
"He had a high grade from me, as far as being a safety, because one of the things that Justin had that he's been able to show [makes him] what I call a 'chess piece,'" Dawkins said. "That means that you can use him in a whole bunch of different ways, not just in the box, not just deep. He can do both of those, he can cover.
"One of the things that blessed me with Justin is he is an outstanding open-field tackler. I saw that right away. That's something that you can't necessarily teach. Some guys either have it [or they don't]. … To a certain degree, you can help guys get better at it, but when a dude has a knack for it, you got yourself something. Now, you see the versatility that he has."
But it wasn't just Simmons' ability on the field that caught Dawkins' eye. He also understood that Simmons was a remarkable person outside of football.
"And then the leadership and he's a community dude as well, right?" Dawkins said. "A great family man. So you guys got yourself a very, very good young man, first of all — man, now — but an awesome safety."
Below the Fold
Rookie guard/center Quinn Meinerz has retired his persona as "The Belly," setting it aside in favor of focusing on his NFL dreams.
"I'm a rookie, first of all, and second of all I'm a professional now," Meinerz said Thursday. "I'm not going out and looking for attention or anything like that, so I want to lay low, earn my stripes and earn my place in the National Football League and a spot here on the Denver Broncos in the future."
Sunday could mark Meinerz's second career start in the wake of a season-ending injury to right guard Graham Glasgow. Meinerz made his first start in Week 4 filling in for left guard Dalton Risner, but even in limited relief action — like in Week 3 vs. the Jets and Week 9 vs. the Cowboys — the young lineman has impressed.
"He debuted in Week 3 and has played 28% of Denver's total offensive snaps," the Denver Post’s Kyle Newman wrote, "with zero pass-rush disruptions allowed, two penalties (holding and false start) and no 'bad' rushes (runs of one or fewer yards, not counting goal line or short first-down conversions)."
Meinerz was involved in one of the Broncos' most impressive plays of the game vs. Dallas, helping to propel rookie RB Javonte Williams forward through a pack of Cowboys defenders.
"Meinerz's run blocking is turning heads as well," Newman wrote. "Specifically, during an explosive 30-yard run by fellow rookie Javonte Williams on Sunday in Dallas, Meinerz underscored the hustle and ingenuity he displayed in college and led the Broncos to draft him at No. 98 overall."