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Do the Broncos Have Enough Depth at Cornerback?

The talent at the top of the depth chart is good, but do the Denver Broncos have enough depth at cornerback?

Patrick Surtain II had an outstanding rookie season for the Denver Broncos. With four interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and 14 pass breakups, Surtain has the potential to be a top cornerback in the league.

After Surtain, do the Broncos have enough bodies at cornerback to keep their defensive backfield competitive? The drop-off in performance after an injury to a corner, even a minor one, can be significant.

As of today, Ronald Darby is the starting corner opposite Surtain. Last season, Darby had six-pass breakups, 47 tackles, and zero interceptions. 

Darby is a solid outside corner with the ability to play in the slot. However, he’s only played an entire season once, 2020, in his seven-year career, missing six games last year… not exactly reliable.

Michael Ojemudia showed flashes his rookie season in 2020 while starting 11 games. He puts himself in an excellent position to make plays on the ball but has struggled to snag even a single interception. 

However, Ojemudia did tally four-forced fumbles in 2020 and only played two games last season after sustaining a hamstring injury, which hindered his development. 

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K’Waun Williams was brought in as a free agent to fill the void left in the slot after Bryce Callahan’s departure. Williams has a highly physical style of play despite being 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds in stature, making him an asset in the run game. 

Over his seven NFL seasons, Williams has compiled four interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, and 301 total tackles. He’s also found success blitzing from the backfield. Like Darby, Williams has struggled to stay on the field, having never played an entire season in his seven-year career.

Fourth-round rookie Damarri Mathis brings versatility to the Broncos’ secondary. Mathis uses the sidelines well when working on the boundary and has quick feet, making him a solid option for the slot. One of his most significant assets is his willingness to tackle, having only missed ten tackles in his college career.

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Mathis' biggest detractor is his propensity to draw flags — garnering 17 in his last two seasons at Pitt. For reference, his 2022 draft classmate Sauce Gardner had just nine penalties in the past two seasons, only two this past year. Mathis' versatility in playing most positions in the secondary will give him plenty of opportunities to see the field in Denver, though.

Essang Bassey will have a hard time getting snaps this season. Due to his size at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, it is hard to see him playing outside as larger receivers will bully him. He’s much more suited for the slot where he will be a backup to Williams, assuming he makes the final roster.

Seventh-round draft pick Faion Hicks played 33 games for the Wisconsin Badgers with 28 starts. He tallied 107 tackles, 16 passes defensed, and one interception in that time. His 4.37 speed makes him an asset that will help him on special teams.

Bottom Line

The Broncos have some solid players at cornerback but could use some help, especially when it comes to the outside. In terms of true outside cornerbacks, Denver only has Surtain, Darby, and Ojemudia.

Denver should consider bringing in another outside corner like Kevin King or veteran Xavier Rhodes, both of whom are still available as free agents. While not starter options, either player would give Denver more depth.

As for slot corner, the Broncos can get by with Williams and Mathis, either of whom can be substituted with safeties Kareem Jackson and Caden Sterns if needed.

Including the practice squad, the Broncos will keep nine or 10 corners on the roster, so don’t be surprised to see some changes and/or additions to the back end of the roster before the season starts.

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