Can Bailey do any better than last year?
DENVER ” Champ Bailey is eager to see what kind of season he can have with Dre’ Bly playing next to him.
But, really, how could he have had a better season than he did last year, when he led the league with 11 takeaways?
Despite his fantastic season that culminated with his seventh straight trip to the Pro Bowl, Bailey lost out to Miami linebacker Jason Taylor for the league’s defensive player of the year award.
“If a corner can have a better season than I did then he definitely deserves to win, but I can’t image, honestly, a corner having a better year than that, I can’t,” Bailey told The Associated Press on Monday.
“If anybody wants to go evaluate my season … I’m not the type to toot my own horn. But I’m a realist, and I know when I play well, I know when anybody else plays well. Not to take anything away from Jason Taylor. Congratulated him at the Pro Bowl on it. But if a corner can’t win it off a year like that, then he won’t never win it.”
Taylor had 13 1/2 sacks, forced 10 fumbles, recovered two and returned two interceptions for scores.
In addition to his 11 takeaways, including 10 interceptions, which tied with Asante Samuel for the NFL lead, Bailey broke up 30 passes and made 98 tackles, 84 of them solo, while directing Denver’s defense.
Coach Mike Shanahan thinks Bailey can do better this season.
“I think you’re always working to improve. To me, if you’re not working to improve, you get caught very easily, especially as you get older,” Shanahan said. “Champ’s a guy that works every day and he’s not content just being a great player. He wants to be the best player. And when he practices it shows.”
Bailey concurred: “You never want to be satisfied with what you did the year before.”
So, what can he do better?
“Getting more picks, more tackles, just making more plays, just making my teammates better,” he said.
Bailey and Bly have been friends for a long time, and Bly came to Denver from Detroit after the tragic death of Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams.
Bly has been to plenty of Pro Bowls himself and the Broncos are eager to challenge offenses to pass the ball on their terrific tandem of cornerbacks this season.
“I love the way he plays. He’s a playmaker,” Bailey said. “So, just to have that type of presence on the other side, it doesn’t matter if people go away from me, they’ve got to see Dre’ Bly. So, it’s going to be a tough task for a lot of quarterbacks this year.”
The Broncos believe the addition of Bly into the defensive backfield alongside Bailey will allow them to befuddle opponents with a bevy of blitzes and be a lot more creative in coverage.
“When you have two corners than can … go out there and compete with anybody and make plays, it gives you a chance to a lot more things on defense: blitz more, whatever you want to do,” Bailey said.
Bailey expects to be tested more with Bly aboard than he was a year ago, when teams shied away from him.
“It really felt like I was not doing much last year. Even though I had 10 picks, I didn’t get a lot of action,” Bailey said. “But I expect a lot more because people won’t be able to pick on him.”
The Broncos have undergone an extreme makeover on defense this offseason.
They released middle linebacker and team captain Al Wilson for health and salary cap reasons and moved outside linebacker D.J. Williams to the middle. They also drafted three defensive linemen with their four draft picks.
“We look good. You hate to lose a guy like Al and what he meant to this team and this organization for the past eight years, but it’s a business and you’ve got to move on, you can’t dwell on it,” Bailey said. “We’ve got a good guy coming into the middle, D.J., I know he can hold his own. So, I’m not too worried about that.”
And what does he make of draft picks Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas of Florida and Tim Crowder of Texas, whom the coaches are counting on to upgrade the pass rush?
“They got a lot of hype coming out of college, but I’ll tell you what, this is the NFL and they’ve got to win those jobs,” Bailey said. “I hope they come in and play to the best of their abilities but you’ve got guys like (John) Engelberger, (Ebenezer) Ekuban and Kenard Lang. They’re not going to give up easily.”
Notes: Shanahan said TE Tony Scheffler, who broke a foot in practice Friday, should be able to return to practice by the first week of training camp. He said Scheffler had a screw inserted into the foot and the normal recovery time is two months.