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Mile High Morning: Justin Simmons earns iron-man honors from NFL Research through first four games


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In a year like 2020 when the only thing you can expect is the unexpected, it's nice that there is still one thing we can rely on: Justin Simmons playing at a high level and consistently being available (knock on wood).

Over the past two seasons, Simmons was just one of two players who did not miss a single defensive snap, and he's continuing that run in 2020.

For that effort, Simmons was selected by the NFL Research for iron-man honors in their list of quarter-season award through the first four games.

"Simmons has played all 281 defensive snaps for the Broncos, making him one of three Denver players (and one of 33 NFL players) to not miss a defensive snap this season," they wrote. "What separates him from the pack? He's not just on the field; he's flying around it! Per Next Gen Stats, Simmons' stop distance (average distance traveled before making a tackle) is 21.44 yards, most in the NFL among all players with 25+ tackles this season."

Simmons, who was Pro Football Focus' top-rated safety in 2019, is continuing to challenge for that position this season, too. Among safeties who have played at least 200 snaps, he's currently ranked fourth.

As he and the Broncos prepare for a trip to New England, Simmons said Thursday that he hopes that their Week 4 win over the Jets, however imperfect, can be a foundation for more success in providing a bit of momentum.

"I kept saying, 'It doesn't matter, we found a way to win,'" Simmons said. "We were minus-three in the turnover battle, which is a huge factor. We talk about it all the time. Takeaways are huge part of winning football games. Setting your offense up with shorter fields and momentum swings. We lost that battle, but we found a way to win the game which is a huge confidence boost for our team. Knowing our offense can put up the points to win a football game like that and knowing defensively that we weren't playing at our best. We didn't get any takeaways and we still found a way to close out the game when it mattered.

"That's a lot of momentum going into the rest of the season, and we have to make sure we're capitalizing on things like that. Like I alluded to this whole time, guys like [Bradley] Chubb, myself, Kareem [Jackson], Mike [Ojemudia] and Shelby [Harris]. We have to keep finding ways to make us better and win more games, especially on the defensive side of the football. We just have to find ways to do it. At the end of the day, no one cares what's happening to you injury wise. You still have to go out there and play, and you still have to win football games."

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Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell also mentioned improving their takeaway numbers is a focal point for his squad, as noted by The Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran. "Really, the only thing that matters is what we do this week to help our team win and a major emphasis is catching the ball (and) we have to attack (the rushers)," Donatell said. "We really want to set up our offense for points. If we help them, good things are going to happen."

Speaking of Ojemudia — and the Broncos' rookie class overall — Nick Kosmider broke down the early results of the group so far. Ojemudia was picked as the "wait and see" rookie for the Broncos. "[A]fter getting burned for two deep touchdowns against the Steelers, a game in which he also dropped an easy interception, Ojemudia has shown improvement," Kosmider wrote. "The question is how substantial his role will be once [A.J.] Bouye returns."

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