Are the Chiefs overlooking a good secondary in Denver? Or is Denver ready for the task of playing the Chiefs?
When most people think of an exciting AFC West Matchup, they will probably think of the shootout games of last year, Chiefs-Chargers, Raiders-Chiefs, or Raiders-Chargers. Even this upcoming season, all of those matchups are being heralded as the ones to watch out for. But one divisional opponent was left out and actually might have the pieces in the secondary to keep up with all of the best offenses in the division – the Denver Broncos.
They already had star safety Justin Simmons and a very solid safety in Kareem Jackson, but the biggest problem for the Broncos was the starting cornerbacks. Denver signed AJ Bouye and had Bryce Callahan as the two starting corners and neither of them was healthy enough to even play half of the season.
So the Broncos went out and got All-Pro Corner Kyle Fuller in free agency from the Chicago Bears as the star corner after Bouye was let go. They also spent the 9th overall pick on getting one of the best corner prospects; Patrick Surtain from Alabama. Now the Broncos have set up their secondary to handle the pass offenses in the AFC West.
What does that mean for the Kansas City Chiefs? It means the Broncos are going to be a tough opponent for the first time since 2015.
The Broncos really like to run a 2-4-5 in most situations with the Chiefs, a nickel set. If you’re not familiar with defensive set terminology, it’s when a defense has 2 down defensive linemen, 4 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs, usually, two of those linebackers are edge rushers like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
The Broncos will probably run this set because it is a great matchup set for blitzes and run defense while not limiting the defense in the passing game. Out of this set they like to run a lot of man coverage and some base Cover 2 zone sets depending on the down and distance. They will most likely keep running this system against the Chiefs to stay stout, but defend the great passing attack of the Chiefs, especially with the additions of Surtain and Fuller.
This type of defense is called nickel with five defensive backs, two safeties, and three corners, who can match up with the five weapons without leaving a linebacker or edge rusher in coverage. It would be a great way to matchup against the Chiefs if they got the right people to cover the Chief’s weapons, which it seems like they did.
Surtain may need some time to develop but he was seen as one of the best all-around corners in the country last season and it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise if he just picks up Fangio’s defense quickly. Fuller is familiar enough with Fangio’s defense since he played for him when Fangio was his defensive coordinator in Chicago. Fuller was seen as a great corner in his time in Chicago and he is a great fit in Denver. Both of these new players should add a new dimension to their man-to-man schemes
This doesn’t mean that both Fuller and Surtain can cover Tyreek Hill or Justin Simmons can cover Travis Kelce, it means they will have a defense that can do enough to cause havoc. Even in last year’s Sunday Night game in week 13 the Broncos were able to play very good red zone defense against one of the best offenses in the league. That being said, the Chiefs had a horrible red zone offense last season.
What the new Broncos secondary brings to the table on paper seems great, but will it all work out in the end? Possibly.
The Broncos really made an effort to get the right players into their system to try to slow down the Chiefs’ pass offense, but only time will tell if the Broncos are going to stand up to the test of Patrick Mahomes and Company. It might not be the first matchup Chiefs fans think of when they think of the AFC West, but the Bronco’s secondary should be an interesting hurdle for Kansas City.