Denver Broncos: Inside Davontae Harris’ starting debut
The Denver Broncos may have a gem on their hands in cornerback Davontae Harris, whose starting debut against the Titans went quite well.
One of the biggest issues for the Denver Broncos during this two-year dry spell from 2017-2018 was player development.
As easy as it is to blame the front office for failed draft picks, it’s equally easy to forget that coaches are responsible — at least in part — for the development of players. That had not been a strong suit under the management of Vance Joseph, and while it’s far too early to judge Vic Fangio and his staff for their ability to develop players, it’s impossible to ignore the way certain guys are stepping up in short order.
De’Vante Bausby looked like a starting quality cornerback in limited action. AJ Johnson is breaking out and looks like a stud at inside linebacker. Duke Dawson came in and played really well as a nickel cornerback for two games before missing the shutout against the Titans with an injury.
With all of the injuries the Broncos have suffered in the defensive backfield this season, it seems borderline impossible that they could still be getting quality snaps this deep down the depth chart, into the realm of players acquired at roster cut time.
One player the Broncos picked up at roster cut time is Davontae Harris, a fifth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018 whose abilities athletically have always been obvious.
Harris got a chance to start for the first time against the Tennessee Titans, and proved himself more than capable of holding that spot down going forward.
Check out the video breakdown I did of Harris for a few plays showing off his abilities.
After replacing Isaac Yiadom at halftime of the Los Angeles Chargers game two weeks ago, Harris earned not only the start against the Titans, but wound up playing 100 percent (71) of the defense’s snaps against the Titans, and he was targeted fairly often.
That makes sense, considering he’s the new blood out there, but the Titans quickly realized that throwing the ball at the younger Harris in Denver’s secondary — and really just throwing the ball in general — was going to be fruitless until they were in desperation mode late in the fourth quarter.
Harris showed off tremendous speed, winning matchups deep downfield and preventing a number of big plays for the Titans with disciplined coverage.
Harris’ fluidity in his hip movement was evident early on in the game as he won with impressive agility and quickness in press coverage, and he showed off his ability to break on the football on what was called pass interference, but upon further review was probably just a great acting job by Titans tight end Delanie Walker.
Perhaps the most impressive play of the game from Harris came on a play that won’t even show up for him on the stat sheet. He was playing zone coverage on the right side of the field with the Titans closing in on field goal range. They called a perfect play to beat zone coverage with the wide receiver clearing out space and Adam Humphries, the slot receiver, running a route to the sideline.
Humphries caught the ball with about five or six yards of green in front of him, at least, and Harris — whose back was initially turned to the play — came up to get a hand on Humphries and slow him down enough that Chris Harris Jr. was able to come over and make the play short of the sticks.
He gave up some plays in this game including a nice 13-yard out route by Corey Davis and obviously the pass interference, but before the Titans were trying to drive downfield in garbage time, Harris gave up very little in coverage.
He played within the defense, stayed on his man, passed off receivers in coverage when he had safety help, and generally played a huge role in the Broncos racking up seven sacks against Titans quarterbacks.
It was an impressive starting debut for Harris, who also played solid against the Chargers in relief of Isaac Yiadom. The Broncos desperately need some help at corner, and they need players like Harris who can play fast and match speed deep downfield, especially this week against the Chiefs.
Hopefully, he takes another step forward in a critical game for the Broncos.