This year’s training camp is much more important than that of your average season, and as a result, the camp battles carry extra weight. After already analyzing Denver’s top offensive training camp battles, here’s a look at the most significant camp battles on the Broncos defense at training camp in 2020.
Who is the favorite for the third cornerback job?
The competition to see who Denver’s starting cornerback alongside A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan will be is both the most important and tightest training camp battle on the Broncos defense in 2020. Michael Ojemudia had a chance to win the job and had some strong performances in training camp. However, after suffering a calf injury that will force him to miss a week of practice, it has opened more opportunities for the likes of Isaac Yiadom, Davontae Harris and De’Vante Bausby.
Bausby was considered the favorite to win the competition to be the No.3 cornerback before camp started, and since then, he’s only improved his chances. He was one of the defensive stars for the Broncos in the first week of camp, and he came away with several interceptions. So far, the second week of camp has also been going well for him, and if he can keep that going, he should be starting alongside Bouye and Callahan come Week 1.
The start of Yiadom’s career has been rocky, to say the least. Yiadom struggled to get on the field as a rookie and then was benched early in his second season because of poor play after winning the starting job. With that said, he entered training camp with the most momentum after turning it around at the end of the 2019 season and looking like a much better player. Some of that momentum has carried over to camp, but he’s been undoubtedly outshined by Bausby, though Yiadom has kept the race close.
Harris is currently trailing those two, but again, this competition is so close it wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up coming out on top. Harris had plenty of strong moments in 2019, but like the rest of Denver’s cornerbacks, he had plenty of ugly ones too. That trend has continued into camp, where Harris has been steady for the most part but has really struggled at points as well.
Who will replace Justin Strnad on the Broncos defense after 2020 training camp?
Once Todd Davis recovers from his most recent calf injury, he will rejoin Alexander Johnson as the leaders of the inside linebacking unit. Behind them, Justin Strnad was projected to have a fairly sizable role on this Broncos defense in 2020 before his training camp injury ended his season, so who will take those snaps?
Josey Jewell should take over the majority of those snaps, even though he’s a very different type of player from Strnad. Jewell is a liability in coverage, while coverage is the strength of Strnad’s game, but Jewell also has much more game experience than Joe Jones, Justin Hollins, and Josh Watson.
With that said, Jones and Hollins should take some of those now available snaps because they have the potential to replicate Strnad’s ability in coverage better than Jewell. Jones deserves more of an opportunity on defense in general, after thriving on special teams to the point of being named a captain last season. Hollins is also intriguing because of his high-end athleticism, which allows him to play both inside linebacker and edge rusher for Denver. PFN Broncos analysts Cody Roark, Patrick Chiotti, and I discussed this more in-depth recently on an episode of the Locked On Broncos podcast.
Will it be Dre’Mont Jones or Shelby Harris starting opposite of Jurrell Casey?
The Broncos have a problem on their hands, but it is a good one to have. They almost have too much defensive line talent after adding Jurrell Casey in the off-season. Shelby Harris has been a star on the defensive line each of the last two seasons for Denver, and Dre’Mont Jones was one of the most productive pass rushers on the entire team down the stretch last season. Now, with some added muscle he gained this off-season, Jones is looking even better.
With both players being so talented, the difference between who’s starting and who’s the next man up on the defensive line shouldn’t see much separation in terms of their snap counts, as the Broncos should rotate players on that unit a lot. With that said, Harris should still be the starter at the position because he’s currently a much better run defender than Jones.
However, if Jones continues to have a lights-out training camp, he could force Mike Purcell out of his starting spot. Purcell was one of the best run-defending defensive linemen in the league last year, but he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher. If the Broncos ever want to turn up the heat on opposing quarterbacks, they could use a trio of Jones, Harris, and Casey, with Bradley Chubb and Von Miller coming off the edge.