Broncos Join Kareem Jackson in Blasting PFF for Questionable Take
Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus decided to rank all 32 secondaries. Despite boasting two players ranked among PFF's top-7 highest-graded safeties, the Denver Broncos checked in as the site's 18th-best secondary.
Broncos safety Kareem Jackson did not take kindly to PFF's ranking or rationale and took to Twitter to voice his vexation.
It wasn't just PFF's ranking of the Broncos that was inaccurate. It might also have been the rationale employed by Sam Monson.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in that sense, an arbitrary list can be easily explained. What can't be so easily shrugged off are facts lacking veracity. Here's an example.
Kareem Jackson is a versatile defensive back who can play pretty much anywhere in the secondary. He spent much of his time in the slot in 2019, but he will likely play at safety in 2020. The signing of Bryce Callahan, who played under Vic Fangio in Chicago, should take care of the slot corner role and allow Jackson to be a full-time safety. Callahan was one of the league’s best slot corners during his time in Chicago but missed the entire 2019 season with a lingering injury that is now hopefully behind him.
According to PFF's own data, Jackson played 196 of his 842 snaps in the slot. I'm not sure that can objectively qualify as 'much', though the term is loose and difficult to define.
Either way, anyone who watched Broncos football last year knows that Jackson was a safety. Perhaps that explains why PFF ranks him as a safety, not a cornerback. Even the Broncos had to scratch their head on the topic of Monson's secondary rankings.
In tandem with Justin Simmons, the Broncos have a top-3 safety duo in the NFL. Jackson played at a Pro Bowl level last year and if the Broncos had a little more success as a team or if he hadn't missed three starts (one to injury, two to DUI suspension), there's a solid chance he'd have made it to the NFL all-star game.
The back end of the Broncos defense heading into 2020 isn't really in question. The cornerback room, however, presents its fair share of question marks, which is a concern Monson accurately voices.
A.J. Bouye stands as the top corner, with Bryce Callahan as the No. 2 in base defense. On paper, neither corner presents bulletproof confidence, for different reasons.
Bouye hasn't had a strong showing for two years while Callahan missed all of 2019 after missing the final three games of the 2018 campaign. If both stay healthy and available, I like their odds of playing at a high level in Vic Fangio's defense. But that is an 'if' to be concerned about.
Beyond those two, it gets a little dicier. It's a cornerback depth chart replete with unproven commodities.
De'Vante Bausby, Isaac Yiadom, Davontae Harris, Duke Dawson, and rookie third-rounder Michael Ojemudia all combine for 21 career starts. Coach Fangio said earlier this year that he expects two of these young corners to take a leap forward in 2020 (to paraphrase him).
Which two Fangio has in mind is anyone's guess. My bet is that the No. 3 corner spot on the depth chart, which will see starter's snaps, will come down to Bausby, Ojemudia, and maybe Yiadom.
Because of the question marks at cornerback, I can understand if PFF were to dock the Broncos in the secondary rankings. But No. 18? It's hard to see.
The Broncos finished as the No. 11 passing defense in the NFL last year, and that was with Jackson missing three games, Chris Harris, Jr. posting the worst season of his prolific career, and the complete absence of Callahan.
To rank Denver No. 18 as a secondary, based almost solely on the departure of Harris, Jr., is suspect to say the least. I can understand why Jackson would lambast PFF on social media and why the Broncos themselves would jump in.