Denver Broncos add former Vikings ballhawk after Justin Simmons injury

Denver Broncos, Anthony Harris - Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos, Anthony Harris - Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos revealed some horrible news on Wednesday as star safety Justin Simmons was placed on injured reserve with a quad injury. Simmons apparently suffered the injury on a play against the Seattle Seahawks but didn’t come off the field for a single snap. He played all 55 defensive snaps for the Broncos in the team’s unfortunate season-opening loss, which has now officially added injury to insult.

The loss of Simmons cannot be overstated for Denver. He’s one of the top leaders on the team, a defensive captain, and a player that is constantly keeping other players in the right alignment with his communication on the back end. Between losing Simmons and the possibility of also not having Josey Jewell against the Houston Texans, communication could be a significant issue for a Denver Broncos defense that is also breaking in a new system under first-year coordinator Ejiro Evero.

Jewell was not practicing on Wednesday but did do some work off to the side, so his status against Houston is up in the air at this point in time. He’s got a calf injury he’s dealing with.

Who will step up for the Denver Broncos with Justin Simmons out?

We don’t have to speculate for very long about how the Broncos will replace Simmons for the time being or who they will look at bringing in from the outside, as much as we love doing those types of things around here. The Broncos obviously were already well aware of this situation and they had a brand-new safety out on the practice field on Wednesday wearing no. 41.

That brand-new safety is former Minnesota Vikings franchise player Anthony Harris. Harris was brought onto the Broncos’ practice squad, according to the team’s official Twitter account.

Harris had a coming-out party back in the 2019 season with the Minnesota Vikings when he picked off a whopping six passes as well as another pass in the playoffs for seven total interceptions that season. Shockingly, he wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl or any All-Pro teams but he certainly got a lot of love from Pro Football Focus that year.

The Vikings were impressed enough to give Harris the franchise tag in 2020, but they didn’t re-sign him to a long-term deal. He ended up signing a modest deal with the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2020 season and the Eagles brought him back in 2022 but let him go at final roster cuts, re-signing him to the practice squad.

Obviously, for a team like the Eagles that has been in need of defensive back help, it doesn’t bode overly well for Harris to be floating around after Week 1 of the NFL season. With that being said, he’s decent veteran insurance on the practice squad when the Broncos already have multiple potential budding players at the position in PJ Locke and Caden Sterns, who each got playing time against the Seahawks.

Locke had an outstanding preseason for the Broncos and Sterns was great last year as a rookie. Unfortunately for them, snaps are hard to come by as both Simmons and Jackson play 100 percent of the team’s snaps. Now, that’s all going to change in a big way.

The pressure will be on those two, first and foremost, along with rookie safety Delarrin Turner-Yell who could get some increased opportunities over the next month or so.

There’s no spinning this as good news for the Broncos — Justin Simmons is an impact player. It is, however, a huge opportunity for players like Sterns and Locke to go out and show that they deserve to be in the lineup on a more full-time basis.