The Denver Broncos couldn’t stop teams utilizing spread offenses and challenging their young secondary last season. The team had to make a change for 2012.
Chris Harris showed flashes of greatness, but joined a secondary group with two other rookies, Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore that seemed overmatched at times against veteran quarterbacks who were able to victimize the Broncos' defensive backfield.
Brian Dawkins was lost late in the season, forcing Denver to start Moore and Carter, who were inconsistent at best at safety.
Andre Goodman, the Broncos’ No. 2 cornerback, had lost a step or two last season and was putting together inconsistent play as well.
Executive VP of Football Operations, John Elway and the coaching staff needed to make a change. The staff made waves in free agency on defense, although overshadowed by signing one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. Three valuable free agents were added to the roster earlier this offseason, including Tracy Porter, Mike Adams, and Drayton Florence.
A month after signing Tracy Porter, the Broncos released Andre Goodman as he was redundant with Porter's presence in the defensive backfield and due an expensive contract this season. After cutting ties with Goodman, the Broncos watched Brian Dawkins announce his retirement from football.
Porter comes in immediately to contribute opposite Champ Bailey as an every-down defensive back. He is a bright star in the NFL who turns 26 on August 11. He should shore up the field opposite of Bailey as long as he stays healthy.
Health has been Porter's biggest issue, as the past two seasons he missed a few games after facing knee surgery during the offseason in 2011 and was hospitalized with a neck injury last year. In his five NFL seasons, he has yet to be active for all 16 games.
The trio along with Bailey and the maturing second-year players, Moore, Carter and Harris, should prove to be a formidable force. Signing experienced veterans like Florence, Adams, and Porter gives the young guys a few years to learn and grow into their positions, removing them from the fire at least partially next season.
The nickel defensive package, consisting of five defensive backs to cover offenses in the spread and on obvious passing downs, is already improved with the new additions. Florence figures to be the Broncos’ new nickel back, with Chris Harris backing him up and likely seeing playing time in the Dime, a six defensive back formation.
Mike Adams, the Broncos' latest addition at safety, should also help the team with his sure tackling skills and aggressive play. Adams has quietly shined for a grossly overlooked Cleveland Browns defense that finds itself in one of the hardest divisions in football, facing the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals twice every year.
Adams will bring some veteran leadership to rookies Carter and Moore, who seemed frequently lost last season in coverage. They were the victims of multiple deep passes for big gains and touchdowns, especially late in the season after Brian Dawkins missed some time with a neck injury.
Not only did the Broncos make waves during free agency this offseason, but they may have gotten the steal of the draft when they found Omar Bolden, a cornerback from Arizona State, who was projected to be a late first-round draft pick in 2011, but selected to stay in school only to be sidelined with an injury during spring ball.
Bolden was regarded by The Denver Post as a player with “top-tier man-to-man skills." If he can stay healthy, Bolden could be a superstar in the NFL. He could even replace the venerable Champ Bailey one day, who is under contract until 2014. Bolden will likely be battling with Chris Harris for the sixth cornerback spot.
Champ is the cornerstone of the Broncos' secondary. He has been a consistent force on defense entering his eighth season as a Bronco. He is the longest-tenured player on the Broncos and has as many Pro Bowl appearances as the other first-ballot hall-of-fame player on the Broncos, Peyton Manning (11). Bailey has the most of any cornerback in history.
Bailey may not be as fast as he once was when he entered the league 13 years ago, but he is probably one of the smartest players in the game on defense in terms of football IQ. He continues to shut down faster, younger receivers year in and year out.
The depth overall at cornerback and safety for the Broncos has vastly improved since their numerous struggles last season. The key additions make their secondary the most improved group on defense in 2012.