Denver Broncos: Who Will and Won't Be Back at Defensive Back in 2011
With as poor of an entire defense as the Denver Broncos had last season, this is an area that will come under a lot of heat and focus as the front seven is moved back to the 4-3 and is rebuilt.
Although there is still talent here, there needs to be some additions as well as subtractions made if we want to see any significant improvement in the defensive performance in 2011.
And if we don't see that, we will see more scenes like the one above, where a lot of Denver fans show up dressed as empty seats. Because losing football will not improve attendance.
Denver does not tolerate losers!
Shutting Down from Corner No. 1: Champ Bailey
CB Champ Bailey: 6'2", 192 pounds
A big sigh of relief went off in Denver when Champ was finally signed back into the fold. Even though he may have lost a step or so, he is one of the true leaders on and off the field.
And he will be a great source of experience and confidence as this team begins the huge rebuilding job to bring the swagger back to the D. His ability to see into the heads of the WRs will make up for that lost step and he will have another Pro Bowl season as teams start to throw to him a bit more.
I see three to four INTs in his future that will propel him to that 10th Pro Bowl, which will break the record for CBs.
Welcome back, Champ!
Shutting Down from Corner No. 2: Prince Amukamara
CB Prince Amukamara: 6'1", 205 pounds
With the trade made with the Houston Texans I predicted in an earlier article, we will see the second shutdown CB on this team. Using that 11th pick, we get a CB that could be the better of the two CBs in this draft. Sorry, Patrick Peterson fans—just my opinion.
Amukamara had a great four-year career playing in eight games his freshman year and finished his college career with 95 solo tackles, four sacks and five INTs. He was also an Academic All-American and will be a great student of Champ, carrying on in his tradition for many years to come.
I see him finishing the season with four INTs and he will also have four sacks from the CB position.
Protecting the Middle and Deep at Safety: Renaldo Hill
S Renaldo Hill: 5'11", 205 pounds
With both of our starting safeties last season being on the older side, it will be time for some new blood. But I see Renaldo Hill starting his last season for the Broncos in 2011.
Hill is a big hitter, not to the level of Brian Dawkins but he is also five years younger.
He started all 16 games last season and finished with 54 solo tackles, one forced fumble and two INTs. Because of his durability and his experience, I see him starting at one safety position, at least in the beginning of the season.
Protecting the Middle and Deep at Safety: Rahim Moore
S Rahim Moore: 6'0", 205 pounds.
Denver will use its 42nd pick to select Moore out of UCLA. He will have the benefit of learning the ropes from both Renaldo Hill and Brian Dawkins.
What I see possibly happening is Dawkins and Moore splitting this role, at least until Moore gets on totally solid ground. He can cover, has good footwork and can play either SS or FS as well as in nickel packages.
Protecting the Middle and Deep at Safety: Brian Dawkins
S Brian Dawkins: 6'0", 210 pounds
Dawk is entering his 16th season and is showing his age. He only played in 11 games last season due to nagging injuries and I think this will be his final season in the NFL.
But he will be a great tutor to Moore and the other young players and is one of the great leaders in the locker room.
Dawkins finished last season with 55 solo tackles, two sacks, one INT and a forced fumble.
He will be a key part of Fox's efforts to rebuild this team and will go out in a blaze of glory. Being remembered as one of the biggest hitters to ever play safety, both in Denver and for the Philadelphia Eagles, where they are still missing his presence.
Others To Watch in the Defensive Backfield: Syd'Quan Thompson
CB Syd'Quan Thompson: 5'9", 191 pounds
Thompson came to the Broncos as a seventh-rounder and proved to be a great selection at that pick.
He finished his rookie season with 12 solo tackles, one fumble recovered and two INTs. These are great stats for a player who never started a game but worked his way up to playing both special teams as well as in nickel and dime situations.
I see Syd'Quan gaining more playing time next season.
Others To Watch in the Defensive Backfield: Cassius Vaughn
CB Cassius Vaughn: 5'11", 195 pounds
Out of Mississippi, Vaughn was the only college free agent to make the Broncos' Opening Day roster in the 2010 season.
He showed his abilities on special teams. He had two fumble recoveries and also had a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD to keep Denver close to the San Diego Chargers in its final game.
I see Vaughn playing more next season, in nickel packages and he also may become our kickoff return man as well.
Quite a steal for not being drafted.
Others To Watch in the Defensive Backfield: S David Bruton
S David Bruton: 6'2", 210 pounds
Bruton will begin his third season and has three starts so far in his career—two of those last year when Dawkins was hurt.
He had 21 solo tackles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt.
He has the size and intelligence to be a very good player and I see him challenging for a possible starting role as well as a lot of playing time. He will also continue to mentor under Dawkins and Hill and be an important part of the Broncos going forward.
Oh, and he has some serious hair, not unlike another safety that plays for Pittsburgh.
One You Won't See in the Defensive Backfield: CB Perrish Cox
Cox, who had an up-and-down season last year, won't be seeing any playing time next year...at least for the first six games, and most likely not for the next two to five years.
He is currently facing very serious sexual assault charges and even if found not guilty, he will almost certainly suffer the Goodell "Roethlisberger Rule" and be suspended for conduct reasons.
And I think character issues will cause him to not even be on the Denver roster in 2011.
Goodbye and good riddance.
My Projected Defensive Backfield Depth Chart for 2011
Looking at the current talent on the roster and the potential players in the draft, I see defensive backfield as being critical to returning to the vaunted Orange Crush days.
And here is how I see the DB roster unfolding:
CB: Champ Bailey, 6'2", 237 pounds
CB: Prince Amukamara, 6'1", 205 pounds
S: Renaldo Hill, 5'11", 247 pounds
S: Rahim Moore, 6'0", 205 pounds (May split time with Brian Dawkins for the first few games)
CB: Syd'Quan Thompson, 5'9", 191 pounds
CB: Cassius Vaughn, 5'11", 195 pounds
S: David Bruton, 6'2", 210 pounds (Will challenge for a starting role)
S: Darcel McBath, 6'1", 198 pounds
S: Kyle McCarthy, 6'1", 210 pounds
S: Wesley Woodyard, 6'0", 220 pounds (Will also play at MLB)
This group of players will be a critical piece of the new Denver D. I just hope they can make the huge jump in improved play with new blood and new coaching to make that happen.
If that happens, we will see a lot more gang tackling like Mr. Sproles experienced in this picture.
Just one Bronco fan(atic)'s prediction