Sometimes, a team’s weakness becomes its biggest strength. It seems this way with the Denver Broncos cornerbacks. On paper, they may be among the best in the NFL entering the 2021 season. With several mediocre seasons behind them, it will boost the entire team if the cornerback group can translate these paper statistics onto the field. As it is, PFF ranks Denver’s secondary as the top unit heading into the season, so they are already halfway there.
Denver Broncos Improve Cornerbacks, May Be the Best in the NFL
You may recall that late in the 2020 season, many of Denver’s top cornerbacks were on injured reserve. The team was pressed to construct a hodgepodge secondary. No one would have guessed this would turn from the team’s weakness to a strength. So strong in fact, that they have potential to be among the best in the league.
This off-season, general manager George Paton was aggressive in fortifying the cornerback position. First, he signed free agent Ronald Darby, then former Chicago Bears Pro Bowler Kyle Fuller. Then he invested quickly in the first round of the NFL Draft, on Patrick Surtain II. As extra insurance, the Broncos drafted Kary Vincent Jr. in the seventh round. He will be very valuable in the slot.
Bryce Callahan should be making a comeback after injury ended his 2020 campaign and halted his first Pro Bowl appearance. As for 2020 third-round pick Michael Ojemudia, he adds strong depth after being thrown into a starting role his rookie year.
How Will Their Talent Be Utilized?
Defensive-minded head coach Vic Fangio likely has a plan on how best to utilize Surtain, Callahan, Fuller and Darby. As Broncos reporter Aric DiLalla reports, Fangio has been verbal about the team’s dime package abilities. With six defensive backs, the rotation on early downs should be of interest. There will be times Denver needs to play five backs in a nickel package or employ a traditional base defense in order to stop the run.
When these four guys are on the field together, it is probable that Callahan will play in the slot where he has always shone. Fangio even spoke about Surtain’s abilities on the inside, but he has been too good on the outside. Moving him to the slot may not be the best decision.
Ball Production Needs To Increase
In 2020, Denver recorded only 10 interceptions in the entire season. That was fifth-worse in the league. Just three of those interceptions were caught by the cornerbacks. Converting pass breakups into takeaways is a must. Ball production needs a massive increase if they are to become a top-tier corps.
Fuller Has a Good Connection With Fangio
In 2018, Fuller had his best season under Fangio. Many analysts believe that is the primary reason he chose to sign with the Broncos this year. Not long ago, Fuller was a takeaway master, posting seven interceptions in 2018 and at least three interceptions in three seasons. Darby is a rising star, Callahan is a top performer in the slot and Surtain may be capable of big plays. If Fuller returns to Pro Bowl caliber play, he could be a genuine No. 1 corner.
Denver needs to step up this season, and the one way they could do this is through their cornerbacks. They are part of an elite secondary, and they have the tools to lift the entire team into a better position in 2021.