Champ Bailey has more or less been out all season for the Broncos through 14 games. He’s ‘played’ in a few games this year, but when you get down to it, he’s simply not been healthy enough to make any sort of (positive) impact whatsoever.
That being said, I find it hilarious and embarrassing how underrated Bailey’s return to the field at full strength is down the stretch for the Denver Broncos.
Prior to the season, the question mark was not whether or not Bailey would be a problem for the Denver secondary, it was whether or not Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could return to Pro Bowl form after some underwhelming time spent with the Dream Team in Philadelphia.
Well, with Bailey’s foot injury the call was clearly answered by DRC, who has been an absolute stud, and the question mark has become the future Hall of Famer Bailey, who like I said has been basically non-existent for this Denver team on the field.
At 11-3, the Broncos haven’t obviously missed Bailey much, save for the second half of the New England game and the Thursday night game against San Diego that didn’t matter at all. It’s hard to imagine underrating the return of a guy who has done as much as Bailey, but people seem to have this skewed perception that Bailey is merely a shell of his former self.
Everyone who doubts what Bailey is about on the field is quick to point out that he struggled in last year’s playoffs against Torrey Smith and the Ravens, which is a fair point but up until that game, he’d only allowed one touchdown catch all year and was once again a huge part of one of Denver’s best defenses we’ve seen in a while.
That playoff loss was a terrible performance by nearly every Denver defender, not just Bailey, and is not indicative of his career trajectory or his entire 2012 season in my opinion.
Now, the fact that Bailey has been hurt all season has compounded with his poor performance in the playoffs last season to give the impression that his return isn’t going to mean much, if anything for the Broncos’ defense.
I think that’s an absolute joke, but people can go on believing what they want. Bailey said it best himself, really:
“My fingers aren’t banged up like they normally are this time of year. My shoulders don’t feel as bad. Those are the only things that have gotten a breather. My legs are still my legs. I’m 35, they feel as good as they’re going to feel right now (laughing).”
As Bailey has gotten older, the wear and tear of an entire regular season is obviously more taxing on his body. However, he doesn’t have that this year. He’s spent the entire year taking mental reps and getting in peak physical condition. As the Broncos approach the playoffs, reinforcements are on the way and it all starts with the return of old number 24.
Bailey back in the lineup, even if he isn’t the 4.2 speed guy he was coming out of Georgia, is still one of the smartest players that plays cornerback in the NFL, and he has to be accounted for or teams will pay.
I don’t think Bailey expects to come in and be the best corner in the NFL right away, but he’s certainly going to be a huge upgrade for a Broncos secondary that desperately needs it, and everyone continues to talk about how much of a non-factor he is/will be, or how bad he is now because of the poor GAME he had against Baltimore.
It makes me sick. Of course I’m a Bailey fan but that doesn’t skew my reality. Of course he’s getting old and will need a position change soon, but wake up for a minute and realize that this guy isn’t a terrible player, he’s simply had a bad game and a season riddled with injury. That’s the most recent version of Bailey that everyone knows, so it’s what everyone has seemingly chosen to believe he will continue to be.
Give me a healthy Champ Bailey, you can have all but about 10 corners in the league, if that. This guy is still a stud when he’s not struggling with an injury to the one part of the body that cornerbacks simply can’t cope with in the NFL and play through.
In addition to the return of Bailey against the Texans, the Broncos fully expect to have back for their first playoff game (hopefully in Denver) defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, safety Rahim Moore, and receiver Wes Welker. Barring any other setbacks prior to that game, it will be the closest to what the Broncos envisioned their top defensive unit to be when the season started, and it couldn’t come at a more critical time–when everything is on the line.