Boston College safety Justin Simmons has gone from one of the best defenses in college football one of the best defenses in the NFL and the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Simmons will join the Denver Broncos "No Fly Zone" defense which ranked #1 in yards allowed and #4 in scoring defense last year.
At first glance you wouldn’t think that a rookie has much of a chance to earn a whole lot of playing time with one of the best defenses in the NFL. However, Simmons has a great opportunity to play a significant role on Denver’s defense. Last season, the Broncos played a defensive scheme where they would play three safeties at once when they were in certain Nickel and Dime packages. Strong safety T.J. Ward would actually move up to a linebacker spot in the box, and free safeties David Bruton JR and Darian Stewart would occupy the normal safety positions.
Bruton’s spot opened up when he signed by the Washington Redskins at a free agent this summer and based on comments by the Denver coaching staff, Simmons looks like he will slide into Bruton’s role on defense, special teams and perhaps even more this season.
Head coach Gary Kubiak stated, "Obviously, he's going to fill a lot of roles on our football team. The biggest thing he gives us the ability to do defensively is to have some flexibility with T.J. being a box player, and [Stewart] being in the middle of the field. This kid can come down either way."
The Broncos defensive backs coach Joe Woods told the Denver Post that he is excited to start coaching Simmons.
"He's extremely gifted athletically," Woods said. "The versatility is impressive. He gives us a lot of versatility of what we can do in the backfield." Woods also called Simmons a "sound tackler".
Kubiak and Woods’ quotes were interesting as they hinted at Simmons being able to play with Stewart in deep coverage or even as a fill-in for Ward if he needs a blow or is injured. According to ProFootballFocus.com, last year Stewart played on 1,048 snaps, Ward played on 915 snaps, and Bruton took 497 snaps.
While Simmons should get plenty of playing time this year he also looks to have a bright future ahead with the Broncos in future seasons. Stewart’s contract with the Broncos is up after this season and with Ward turning 30 this year John Elway is going to need some safety help soon. The former BC safety couldn’t have asked for a better situation to walk into.