Is the Broncos Secondary ‘Definitely’ the NFL’s Best?


Between the personnel and Wade Phillips’ coaching philosophy, is Denver now home to the NFL’s best secondary?

A few days ago, veteran cornerback Aqib Talib made headlines when he told reporters that the Denver Broncos’ secondary was the best in the NFL.

He made no bones about it either, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.

"“I don’t feel like we were too far from the top last year,’’ Talib said. “I think we graded out at the end of the year, we graded out pretty good. We want to grade out as the top secondary in the league this year as far as interceptions, yards, all that. With this defense, we definitely have a chance to do that.’’"

Talib has reason to be so confident in his corps of defensive backs.

Since defensive coordinator Wade Phillips arrived in place of the departed Jack Del Rio, players have done nothing but laud his 3-4 scheme. Its aggressive style and simplicity is something that, Talib says, allows the defense “to play fast” without much thinking.

"“It’s been wonderful,’’ Talib said of Phillips’ defense. “His defense is straight to the point. Not a lot of thinking, but a lot of playing. It helps out our whole defense. It allows us to play fast.’’"

With elite playmakers a plenty, the Broncos’ defense looks ready to make a huge leap this upcoming season. On all three levels, there are few noticeable weaknesses.

For the first time since quarterback Peyton Manning signed with Denver, it’s the defense, not their offense, that’ll be the key to making a true Super Bowl run.

And it starts in the secondary. Let’s take a look at the unit that could decide the Broncos’ fate this season.

Taking a look at the cornerbacks

Quite possibly the league’s top cornerback, Chris Harris Jr. returns as the catalyst on the back end of things.

Harris enjoyed an incredible bounce-back season after tearing his ACL in a divisional playoff game versus the San Diego Chargers in January of 2014. A consistently dominant force, he graded out as the best cornerback in the NFL and didn’t allow a single touchdown pass all season long.

A former college teammate of Harris and current counterpart in the secondary, Talib had an up and down debut season in Denver, but improved as the year went along. An aggressive corner in his own right, Talib could have the most to gain from Phillips’ defensive scheme.

Rounding out the top three cornerbacks in rotation is youngster Bradley Roby. As the Broncos’ 2014 first-round draft pick, Roby displayed everything the coaching staff was hoping to see from him, and more, during his rookie season. A willingness to tackle, the ability to timely jump passing routes, and a knack for making big plays all made up the former Ohio State standout’s repertoire.

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If Roby continues to progress, there’s no limit to what he can become in the NFL.

Behind the talented trio sits Kayvon Webster, Tony Carter, and a young group filled with potential.

Webster has battled injuries and inconsistent play throughout his short career. Though he hasn’t lived up to expectations yet, Webster seems primed for a nice breakout campaign similarly to fellow 2013 draftee defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.

One of the longest serving members in the Broncos’ secondary is Carter. The seven-year vet has a tendency to get picked on by opposing quarterbacks, but is capable of making plays from time to time.

Curtis Marsh, and a pair of rookies in Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon, are all wild-cards as to if any of them will be able to overtake Carter on the depth chart.

Taking a look at the safetys

The last line of defense is made up by the duo of Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward.

Stewart was brought in during free agency to replace longtime starting free safety Rahim Moore. The former Baltimore Raven excels in coverage and rarely makes mental mistakes.

Opposite of Stewart is Ward, the defense’s enforcer. He’s a great run stuffer and can rush the passer just as capably, grading out as the second best at doing so from the safety position last season. Ward’s coverage skills are lacking, though he won’t be asked to do too much of that in Phillips’ system.

Headed up by team captain and special teams extraordinaire David Bruton, the depth at safety is solid. Omar Bolden, who doubles as the Broncos’ current kick and punt returner, has improved every year since he was drafted in 2012 and could play a bigger role this season.


The talent and depth of the Broncos’ personnel in the secondary now paired with Phillips’ defensive philosophy could together make for one scary group come September.

With more aggressive play, expect Phillips’ bunch to force more turnovers and further create additional big play opportunities for the rest of the defense. At least, that’s Ward’s expectation, according to Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post.

"“We’re light years ahead of where we were last year,” Ward said Friday, the team’s second day of training camp. “I want (us) to lead the league in interceptions. I want (us) to lead the league in sacks from the secondary and lead the league in turnovers.”"

For now, preseason contests will be the only indicator of just how far the secondary has come this offseason. Denver’s first live action since their playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts in January will take place this Friday on August 14, against the Seattle Seahawks on the road at CenturyLink Field.

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