As we continue to grade the Denver Broncos by position, it is time to take a look at the safeties. How did they perform? Let's take a look at four safeties.
In recent years, the departure of guys like T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart were huge blows at the time, and it felt like it may take years to find such good safety play that the Broncos had enjoyed throughout the Super Bowl 50 run.
This was a logical way to feel. Guys like Ward and Stewart are a dime-a-dozen and very hard to replace, although it is worth noting that T.J. Ward is not currently on an NFL roster. At 33 years old, it is unclear if he will find his way back into football, as he has now not played since 2017.
However, all hope was not lost. The young guys left behind in their wake, Justin Simmons and Will Parks, stepped up in their absence and gave solid effort. With the addition of cornerback-turned-safety Kareem Jackson in the past offseason, the safety play was even more elevated in 2019 and overall, the safety position was very solid.
So, how did each perform individually? We will grade four safeties and their contributions to the 2019 Denver Broncos- Justin Simmons, Will Parks, Kareem Jackson and Trey Marshall.
2019 Stats: 65 Solo Tackles, 2 Tackles For Loss, 15 Passes Defended, 4 Interceptions
2019 Grade: A+
Justin Simmons proved in 2019 that he deserves to be with this team for a long, long time. Although statistics, as we know, do not always tell the full story, the amount of passes defended by Simmons has improved by three-fold compared to the first three seasons of his professional career. Simmons also posted a career high in interceptions, putting up four on the season.
Going away from statistics, Justin Simmons played the 2019 season with swagger and confidence, something that had not always been seen from him prior. Simmons was one player that could be counted on to put in 100% effort, no matter the situation or the scoreboard. He was all over the field and had by far his best season as a pro yet. How Simmons was not named to the Pro Bowl, even as an alternate, is still baffling.
Justin Simmons is not just a monster on the field, he is valuable off the field as well. He does a lot in the Denver community and surrounding communities, and was named Denver's Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for 2019, his second time earning the accolade. He has become extremely important to Broncos Country and the entire city of Denver.
Although expected to be Denver's 2020 franchise tag recipient, it is vital that John Elway gets Simmons signed to a long term deal to keep him in Denver. Simmons is an integral part of this defense and this team, and has proven he is just hitting his prime. He is more than worthy of the top grade he is given.
2019 Stats: 25 Solo Tackles, 1 Tackle For Loss, 1 Sack, 2 Passes Defended, 1 Interception
2019 Grade: B
With the addition of Kareem Jackson, Will Parks' role would shift in the 2019 season. Parks would become more of a situational player, and while Parks' name would not come up as frequently as in the past, he still did what was asked of him and put up a solid 2019 campaign, which was important for Parks, as he will be looking for a new contract this offseason.
While Parks is one of the many free agents that are currently in-house that the Broncos would like to bring back, that is not always possible, and it is not always possible, and per James Palmer, the market for Parks is pretty high.
Another valuable asset to Will Parks is that he will always be one of the toughest guys on the field. Parks would suffer a broken hand against the Chiefs earlier in the season, and was back on the field just three weeks later, a feat especially impressive if you take into account that he had to have surgery on the hand, pins and screws and all.
Where there's a WILL, there's a way, right?
While there is still hope that Will Parks can be one of the in-house free agent that the Broncos can retain, there is no doubt the potential is still building that he can be a great safety, and if his 2020 role is with another team, he had a solid swan song in 2019.
2019 Stats: 48 Solo Tackles, 4 Tackles For Loss, 10 Passes Defended, 2 Interceptions
2019 Grade: B+
From the time Kareem Jackson was signed by the Denver Broncos, there was a collective feeling throughout Broncos Country that this signing was going to be a good one before he even touched the field as a Denver Bronco.
And a good signing, it was.
Although still listed as a cornerback on the official Broncos' depth chart, Vic Fangio and defensive coordinator did not waste much time into converting Jackson from a corner to safety, a change that would prove to greatly benefit the Broncos.
From the time Kareem Jackson touched the field, it was obvious that he was a man playing with a chip on his shoulder and playing with something to prove, and prove something, he did, especially against his former team, the Houston Texans, which would prove to be his best game of the 2019 season.
Kareem Jackson was the ultimate dark horse at the safety position, turning into the mean machine that gave many nostalgic vibes of the previously mentioned T.J. Ward, a meanness that Denver has been lacking at the safety position.
While Kareem Jackson's 2019 season would come to an abrupt end after a two game suspension for his 2019 DUI charge was handed down, his 2019 campaign was a great one with a new team.
2019 Stats: 13 Solo Tackles, 1 FF
2019 Grade: N/A
It does not feel fair to give Trey Marshall a grade, as he was utilized so infrequently in the 2019 season, although he did see action during the regular season. Marshall had a solid preseason, where we got to see more of him.
Coming in undrafted, there is a chance that Marshall will be a diamond in the rough that may shine later on, if the Broncos choose to retain him.
For now, Trey Marshall should be marked down as a "wait and see option." If Will Parks does move on to another team in 2020, there is a good chance that Trey Marshall will be the next man up to see increased reps and playing time in 2020.
While he has potential that may be unlocked in 2020, we just have not seen enough of him quite yet to make an assessment.
The safety position, although undergoing a drastic makeover in the past few seasons, was one of the more solid position groups for the Denver Broncos this year. While there may be changes, especially with the uncertainty looming over Will Parks and Justin Simmons, there is high hopes that at least one will be back in 2020, more than likely Simmons.
Simmons and Kareem Jackson were arguably one of the league-best safety tandems in 2019, and there is optimism that will carry into 2020.