In case you weren’t aware of this fun fact about Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, his first name means “the last one” or “final”. So, Talib’s name is “The Last One Talib.”
In the case of the Denver Broncos’ 2014 season, he also might be the last one on the defensive side of the ball to really arrive. Talib’s first season in Denver has been plagued with inconsistency and some frustration about the way he’s been used, but in recent weeks, we’ve seen him start to come on. I think against the Chargers, Talib played probably his best game yet as a member of the Broncos, and looks like he’s finally back to that guy the Broncos could hardly throw the ball against last season when Talib would shadow Demaryius Thomas around the field.
Perhaps it’s a change in the way he is being used, perhaps something is just clicking, but whatever it is, the Broncos need to build off of it.
With Chris Harris Jr. now locked up long-term, the Broncos have a very talented pair of bookend corners on the books for the next few years, and both guys have a unique ability to make life hell for opposing quarterbacks. We hadn’t seen that all that much from Talib this season, or at least consistently over the course of the season until recent weeks when he has really come on, culminating in this excellent performance against Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
Talib appeared to know Rivers’ next move before the San Diego quarterback had even called the play in the huddle. Talib and Harris were locking down Malcom Floyd and Keenan Allen by disguising coverage, playing aggressively, and making big plays when it mattered most.
Perhaps none was bigger than in the fourth quarter with the Broncos leading 19-10, San Diego with the ball and a chance to cut the lead to just one score. Talib disguised coverage to look like man-to-man and baited Rivers into a throw he’d seen him make on film all week in his studying, and Rivers took the bait. Talib undercut the route and picked the pass off, giving the Broncos the ball with great field position and an opportunity to increase the lead yet again.
Having this version of Talib for the rest of the season is not just a luxury for the Broncos’ defense — which was already starting to play its best football of the season — it’s also a necessity. The Broncos are going to be facing some of the NFL’s toughest teams in the coming weeks, starting with a Monday Night Football matchup against A.J. Green and the Bengals. Then will come what is hopefully a three-game run in the playoffs after a home game against the Oakland Raiders to finish off the season.
If the Broncos get this version of Aqib Talib the rest of the year, it’s going to be near impossible for other teams to throw against them, especially with Chris Harris Jr. wrecking things on the other side of the field. Not to mention, T.J. Ward has really started to come along as well in his role as sort of the ‘rover’ player on the Broncos’ defense, or the guy who is moving all around the formation in the backfield.
It’s encouraging to see this significant improvement from Talib in a short amount of time. Whatever Jack Del Rio has done to correct some inconsistency earlier this year, or if the Broncos’ training staff is responsible — whatever the case — the Broncos need to keep it up. So does Talib.