The Denver Broncos secondary is absolutely at peak performance, putting up numbers better than its 2015 Superbowl 50 run. The No Fly Zone is suffocating.
The Denver Broncos badass cornerback duo — Pro-Bowlers Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib — are like stalkers in the secondary, covering their victim — I mean, ‘wide receiver’– of the moment. ‘How did life end up this way?’ TY Hilton asks himself as he catches 4-11 for 41 yards in Week 2’s match-up.
He would then go on to catch 8-11 against the Chargers and rack up 174 passing yards.
The difference? Chris Harris Jr, trash-talking Aqib Talib, and the rest of the Denver Broncos secondary.
Harris Jr. is quiet, steady, and underestimated; ranked 4th overall by Pro Football Focus in 2014. He has been suffocating in his role. He intercepted Cam Newton in week 1, which provided a crucial turning point in a close Super Bowl rematch.
This week, he was only targeted twice, and allowed four yards to Aj Green. That is phenomenal. Harris Jr. has been acclaimed as the NFL’s #1 SCB (slot-cornerback) by many mainstreams talking heads, and just made PFF’s team for week 3 in a SCB role for his shut-down performance.
Let’s talk about quiet Chris’ not-so-humble partner at the cornerback position: Aqib Talib.
Talib is on a run of three straight pro-bowls in a row now, and performs so well even I can tell out of my one eye (thanks for the eye-poke, Talib!).
While in character, Talib may be Denver’s most polarizing player, but damn, if he’s not just as crucial as Harris Jr.
Week 2 brought us his bust-a-move pick 6 against the Colts which gave us the lead against a team that have been using Manning-mojo and beating us when they really shouldn’t be in the past. Lucky for us, the back-room contract is over now that Manning is retired, and Talib is allowed to catch the easy ball instead of ‘accidentally dropping it.’ I’m joking of course, but it has been baffling how the Colts have had our number in recent years. All is well, if that means we made a deal for Luck in six years!!
I won’t talk about the bomb-diggity starting safety duo of T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart, and ‘El Dominator’ nickel-back Bradley Roby just yet. Let’s allow our corners some well-deserved praise! (Crowd shouting while a Broncos fan in a jester’s hat and face paint ‘whoos’ while waving a Broncos flag). Good, good. Let’s get on with it then.
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Why the ‘No Fly Zone’ is even better than its inaugural season in 2015 is in the numbers.
Throughout 2016, the Broncos average opposing passer rating is 68.15 while in 2015, it was 76.4. The average yards per passing attempt are 5.6 in 2015, while it was 5.1 in 2016, ranking the Broncos first in the league! (Fans roar, old mile high stadium shivers as the fans stomp their feet and shout In-Com-Plete).
Opponents passing yards per game in 2015 are at 210.2, while in 2016, the average is 178.3 . The Broncos rank 4th in this area as well.
I could go on and on about stats, but what’s most curious is how our opponents are adjusting to the expectation of a deflated (Looking at you, Brady) passing game when facing the Broncos.
The Bengals in week three chose a run heavy offense, with good success. In 2015, there were an average of 24.8 rushing snaps per game by Denver’s opponents, opposed to 27.3 in 2016. The Broncos currently average 27th in opponent rushing yards per game with 127.7 per game, up a full 50 perent from last year. So there’s that. Opponents are staying in the game by going to the ground. We miss you, Malik…
The upcoming game in week four promises to be a real interesting one. Tampa Bay passes 67.43 percent of the time, and rushes only a third of the time. Are they going to stick with their game-plan and have Winston air it out against a suffocating secondary, or are they going to take it to the ground?
Currently, the Buccaneers average 3.6 yards per rush, so they are either going to have to come up with some amazing mismatches through the air, or attempt to take advantage of our below-average run-blocking defensive line. With Vegas odds having the Buccaneers at only 3 point underdogs, I anticipate that they have some tools available within their offense which will make this a closer game than would be expected just based on the three game statistics which we are looking at right here.
All of that being said, stay tuned to PredominantlyOrange.com for further analysis after the game to see how the Buccaneers coaching staff adjusted to our elite secondary.