The Denver Broncos' primary goal this offseason on defense was to revamp the secondary. After one too many games of watching spread offenses consistently exploit holes throughout the defensive backfield, executive vice president of football operations John Elway had enough of it.
“When you look at the opportunities we had, especially at the end of last year, we really struggled against teams that spread us out, that went empty (backfield),” Elway said. “New England. Detroit killed us early in the year. When they spread us out, we struggled. Tracy (Porter) was out there, we explored a lot of different corners. We were fortunate to land him in free agency.”
There were wholesale changes by the Broncos in the secondary. The Broncos brought in Tracy Porter, a young talented cornerback on the rise. They also showed aging cornerback Andre Goodman the door. While Porter has yet to put together a full season and stay healthy, he showed flashes of greatness in his time in New Orleans. He will play opposite of Champ Bailey in 2012.
Porter will be instantly challenged this week in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, likely facing Antonio Brown—a speedy, possession receiver who is arguably the best on the Steelers’ roster right now. Brown will likely be the biggest threat on offense to contain. This matchup should challenge Porter and show fans exactly what the Broncos got in free agency when they signed him this offseason.
Elway saw Porter as an instant upgrade at the cornerback position this offseason.
“He’s an athlete and he’s young,” Elway said. “He’s got big-play ability and he’s a good cover guy. He can play inside or outside, which is important in the back end. He has that flexibility and he has some youth. We were aging back there.”
Porter will faceoff against Brown this weekend on Sunday Night Football, and Champ will likely have a rematch versus Mike Wallace.
In a tweet earlier this week, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette got word from Emmanuel Sanders—another hot receiver for the Steelers—that they plan to start Mike Wallace in Week 1 versus the Broncos, despite him missing all of training camp and the preseason:
Emmanuel Sanders says Mike Wallace will start Sunday in Denver for #Steelers.— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) September 3, 2012
Champ Bailey hopes to tie up Wallace, who will likely be limited to simple routes and a lighter load mentally because he has missed so much time. Last time around, Bailey limited Wallace to just three catches for 26 yards.
Wallace’s specialty, however, has typically been deep routes—pretty much go deep and have the quarterback chuck it up. Even with the speedy Wallace, Bailey is still very fast and can hang with the best of them. He should also have help over top with young safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter backing him up.
According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Wallace is excited about starting the season with a fresh, well-rested Ben Roethlisberger under center.
“I haven't been with Ben (Roethlisberger) in a while,” Wallace said. “His arm is stronger than when we left last year. He was throwing that thing pretty far.”
The third star in the Steelers' trio of top-flight receivers is Emmanuel Sanders, who excels in spreading the field, making clutch receptions and exploiting holes. In press coverage, he will likely draw safety Rahim Moore.
The team has a great mix of new faces throughout the secondary from the past couple seasons. The Broncos believe that these additions will end the woes from a season ago when they were torched by teams that spread the ball out. The Steelers’ young trio will be the perfect test to see if they have made improvement this offseason against the pass.