When an elite athlete finally gets paid a big second contract, the emphasis tends to shift towards creating a legacy that stretches beyond the vast amounts of dollar bills. Denver Broncos Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons has arrived at that point after missing the playoffs each year he's been in the league.
It's something one of the NFL's best centerfielders is desperate to put right this coming season, as Simmons explained when he checked in with NFL Network’s Good Morning Football on Thursday.
“I feel like we’re really close,” Simmons said. “We’re finally having a year where we’re having coordinators come back and guys are familiar with the schemes and the systems, both on offense and defense and on special teams. I feel like we’re really close.”
Simmons' future with the Broncos is now secured but his performance, and that of his teammates, will probably determine head coach Vic Fangio’s future beyond 2021. If continuity is indeed the key to finally mounting a playoff run, the Broncos will have to start competing better against AFC West rivals.
Last season’s sole divisional victory came in Week 8's wild win over the Los Angeles Chargers which featured a furious and unlikely comeback by quarterback Drew Lock — on whom so much now depends. Compensating for the lack of elite QB play means that Simmons, and the retooled Broncos defense, will likely have to be the best unit in the league if they're going to be in the playoff hunt down the stretch.
Simmons didn't soft-soap the magnitude of the task Denver's defense has ahead of itself either. But with new GM George Paton adding even more talent on that side of the ball, while hedging at the quarterback position by acquiring veteran Teddy Bridgewater via trade, Simmons believes the team is finally equipped to compete in perhaps the NFL’s deepest division.
“In our division, we got teams like the Chiefs, the Raiders, and the Chargers, those are some high-powered offenses,” Simmons told NFL Network. “So we’re going to need a defense that’s ready to go week in and week out because we play the best in our division. In terms of team defensive goals, we want to be number one. We have the talent across the board to be able to get after the quarterback, get some turnovers, that’s an area that we’ve struggled in the past couple of years.”
Changing the playoff-drought narrative may well come down to which QB ends up leading the Broncos' offense. That being said, it’ll also boil down to just how much Simmons can inspire the new-look defense to greater heights this coming season.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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