Broncos rookie safety JL Skinner ready for a more substantial role on defense

Denver Broncos sixth-round rookie safety JL Skinner is ready for an opportunity to boost his snap count in the secondary.

August 19, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Denver Broncos safety JL Skinner (34) warms up before
August 19, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Denver Broncos safety JL Skinner (34) warms up before / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are set to be without veteran starter Kareem Jackson for the next four games of the season due to suspension meaning fourth-year safety P.J. Locke will resume as the team's starter. However, what does this mean for rookie sixth-round draft pick JL Skinner? Is it time for defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to increase the young defensive back's role in the secondary?

With veteran safety P.J. Locke expected to start Sunday against the Cleveland Browns alongside Justin Simmons, it is unclear whether or not his snap count will be limited given the ankle injury he is currently nursing. It would make sense for Denver to award Skinner with some meaningful playing time this week against a fifth-round rookie quarterback in Dorian Thompson-Robinson who has thrown four interceptions in just two starts this season. Not to mention, it would probably be in the best interest of the Broncos secondary for Locke to not re-injure the ankle that has been giving him issues since the offseason.

Excluding Justin Simmons and P.J. Locke, the Broncos are very thin at the safety position in terms of depth due to Kareem Jackson's suspension. Second-year safety Delarrin Turner-Yell, who has been solid on special teams, has had a very rough season consistently missing tackles and blowing coverage assignments. Meanwhile, JL Skinner has yet to receive a single snap through 10 games in his rookie campaign.

Playing in his first career NFL game in Week 11 vs. the Minnesota Vikings, Skinner received just six special teams snaps. The 6-foot-4 220-pound hard-hitting safety has made a full recovery from the torn pec he suffered in the offseason prior to the NFL combine and is more than ready for his debut in the secondary.

Skinner, 22, did not have the greatest preseason for the Broncos however, according to head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, the young safety has made massive strides as of late in his development.

Payton spoke highly of Skinner's flashes on the scout team during recent practices in preparation for regular season games and believes he'll "have to be ready" soon for any opportunities when his number is called. If anything, it wouldn't hurt to try out Skinner in a hybrid role to help fluctuate the rotation for Denver's linebackers. The Broncos will need to load up the box against a tough Cleveland run game meaning the more bodies, the better.

Skinner's legs will certainly be fresh given his low amount of playing time and his eagerness to make a play. The 22-year-old safety racked up over 200 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, and two forced fumbles during his time with the Boise State Broncos in college. Falling to the sixth round after being projected as a potential third-round draft choice, there is no doubt that Skinner is hungry for a bigger impact in Vance Joseph's defense. Confidence is extremely important for building up and developing young players -- Week 12 against a suspect Browns offense would be a great start.

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