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Mile High Morning: Justin Simmons earns special distinction from ESPN as one of NFL's top safeties

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The Lead

The Broncos announced that Justin Simmons has been selected as the team's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for a second consecutive year, but he isn't just getting recognition for his contributions as a leader in the community.

On Wednesday, ESPN's Matt Bowen released his 2020 Shutdown Index, a yearly breakdown of the NFL's top defensive backs, and Simmons earned best safety run defender honors.

That probably comes as little surprise for Broncos fans, who have watched Simmons rack up 76 tackles, including two tackles for loss, with outstanding quickness, ability to read plays, sniff out the ballcarrier and make sound tackles.

"[He] is a top-level safety versus the run, transitioning downhill with clean angles to fill on secondary support," Bowen wrote. "He finishes on his tackles too. Simmons has a complete game at the position, and because he is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, there's some money coming here."

He also was named the honorable mention pick in the best safety ball hawk category.

"Simmons is one of the top safeties in the game, and I could have put him in multiple spots on this list," Bowen wrote. "The ball skills are legit, as he has now logged eight interceptions over the past two years in Vic Fangio's defensive scheme. Simmons is excellent in split-safety quarters, and he has post ability, as well."

A year ago, Bowen picked Simmons for the best split-field safety.

"[T]his is more about his ability to drive downhill to match/cut crossers in quarters technique, play over the top in two-deep or rob-deep in-breaking routes," Bowen wrote in 2019. "Simmons can roll down into the box or spin to the post, but as a quarters/Cover 2 safety, he's the best I've studied this season."

Below the Fold

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