Broncos CB Isaac Yiadom Might Be 'On A Short Leash' But Harris, Jr.'s Advice Could Save Him
When it comes to earning the ire of the fanbase, two Denver Broncos have distinguished themselves with derision through five weeks.
And Isaac Yiadom.
Bolles' story is one that we need not recapitulate here (though he has bounced back since Week 2). However, in light of the rash of injuries the Broncos have sustained at the cornerback position, Yiadom's arc is one that deserves more scrutiny.
The Broncos selected Yiadom in the third round of the 2018 draft out of Boston College. A former acolyte and college teammate of Justin Simmons', Denver seemed to be a great fit for Yiadom.
After all, Yiadom was a long, physical press-man cornerback and that was exactly the brand of football the Broncos had coined in the secondary. However, with the arrival of Vic Fangio as head coach, the man-predominant philosophy shifted to more of zone-based scheme.
That shift brings with it an entirely different list of requisites and the truth is, it's taken Isaac Yiadom some time to acclimate. However, considering his draft pedigree and the injury to free-agent acquisition Bryce Callahan, time wasn't something the Broncos had.
The team needed to rely on Yiadom to start opposite of Chris Harris, Jr. out of the gate, so that the other prized free-agent get, Kareem Jackson, could play safety as Fangio envisioned. The onus fell on Yiadom's shoulders and although it hasn't been nearly as bad as fan perception would lead one to believe, the second-year corner certainly hasn't been good.
Yiadom has now been benched in three of Denver's five games thus far, losing his starting job to De'Vante Bausby in Week 4. However, with Bausby suffering a cervical sprain (neck) and being placed on season-ending injured reserve, the Broncos will once again have to rely on Yiadom to help keep the defense afloat.
Fortunately for Yiadom, he has Chris Harris, Jr. playing opposite of him — a four-time Pro Bowler whom the young corner can model his game after and go to for advice. Advice is not something in short supply when it comes to Harris. It's just a matter of asking.
“It’s hard just coming in," Harris said of Yiadom on Tuesday. "He’s kind of got a short leash right now, so he’s just got to be able to play with confidence. Don’t change your game too much. You have to learn from those mistakes. It’s hard as a corner when you start getting down. You get too down, it’s hard to get back up. They kind of see what kind of mentality he has and see if he can bounce back out of that hole.”
Thus far, Yiadom hasn't been able to bounce back when the situation on the field has gone sideways. Adding insult to injury is the fact that opposing quarterbacks in the NFL are smart. A guy like Philip Rivers looks for the hole in the boat and when he finds it, he attacks it.
Yiadom was on the losing end of several Rivers targets in Week 5 and twice he was penalized for being a little too 'grabby', garnering two defensive holding fouls on the same drive.
When he began to slide, Fangio replaced Yiadom with Davontae Harris. However, part of being a successful pro is having resilience in the face of adversity and a short memory.
The way Harris sees it, Yiadom's got to work on finding a way to maintain his self-confidence even when things don't go according to plan or he feels like he's getting picked on and exposed.
“Just play them with confidence," Harris said. "As a corner, you have to have high confidence or you’re not going to be very well. You’re not going to have a great career in this league because you’re going to get beat. It’s going to happen. You’re going against Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Pro Bowl receivers every week, so you’re going to get beat. As a corner, you have to always have great confidence, short memory and first of all, it is technique. If you don’t have your fundamentals and technique and short memory and great confidence, it’s hard to be well in this league.”
Technique is something Yiadom is still honing. He's playing in his second defensive system in as many years and nobody, including him, expected Yiadom to be pressed into action at the level he has been this year.
But until he bucks up a little and shows some mettle, opposing QBs are going to continue to go after him. By now, the players across the board are beginning to gel in Fangio's new scheme. Everyone should know their role well, including Yiadom.
From here, it's just a matter of staying disciplined from a technical standpoint and playing with confidence. If Yiadom can do that, he has a chance to really turn the ship around and prove his doubters wrong. He has the talent and football IQ, but does he have the mental fortitude? Only time will tell. In the meantime, look to the vets for direction and fake it 'til you make it.
“I’ve just tried to get them ready, try to get them to play confident," Harris said, "try to tell them to mimic what I’m doing on the other side to try to not give a quarterback an easy throw and try to copy me what I’m doing on the field. How I’m moving around, giving different disguises, and hopefully a quarterback can get confused and not just try to pick on them the whole time.”
The Broncos hope Yiadom can turn it around but the team has hedged its bet just in case by signing eighth-year veteran CB Coty Sensabaugh in the wake of De'Vante Bausby's injury. It'll be interesting to see how Yiadom responds to yet another shot across the bow.