‘New’ Broncos secondary features four 30-somethings
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos’ new secondary is rather old.
Joining Champ Bailey, 31, in the team’s retooled defensive backfield are free agents Brian Dawkins, 35, Andre’ Goodman, 31, and Renaldo Hill, 30.
The four thirtysomethings are being counted upon to lead the revival of a Denver defense that was nothing short of dismal last year, managing but a smidgen of big plays and takeaways and helping cost coach Mike Shanahan his job after 14 seasons.
While some observers across the league see four graybeards who have undoubtedly lost a step, the Broncos behold a foursome with 42 years’ worth of collective NFL experience, 15 Pro Bowl selections and 104 interceptions.
“On paper we look pretty good,” Goodman said. “We also look old, I’ve heard that. At the end of the day, this is a production business and I think with the veterans you have back there and Champ being the great player he is and Brian being the great player he is, me and Renaldo are going to come in and try to match that.
“And if we can match that, I think as a unit we’re going to be OK.”
Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell loves having four guys with this kind of background in his backfield.
“It’s pretty neat, especially when you’ve coached a long time and then you get a group of guys like that,” Donatell said. “They have a lot of good ideas that you want to use and they’re really easy to work with. These guys, their personalities are so great to put them together. They’re all so cooperative and they’re coming together. I think we’re going to have some pretty nice chemistry.”
The young backups that fill out the upgraded secondary appreciate the starters’ experience, pedigree and willingness to share their experiences.
“It’s a big help, being able to see how these guys not only perform on the field but how they carry themselves off the field and handle themselves outside of football,” said second-year nickel back Jack Williams. “I’m still young. I’ve got a lot to learn. Every day, I try to take something from them.”
Cornerback D.J. Johnson, an undrafted rookie free agent from Jackson State, said the decorated defensive backfield has smoothed his transition to the NFL.
“We have a lot of people here who can help teach you,” Johnson said. “It’s great to be able to be underneath their wing and look at things from their point of view, even though we may not completely understand it right off the bat.”
Dawkins, who joined the Broncos after 13 seasons in Philadelphia, missed a week and a-half of training camp with a broken right hand that required surgery. He returned to the field this week and picked off a pass despite the cumbersome club.
That didn’t surprise Donatell in the least.
“No, because of who he is,” Donatell said. “He could have two clubs or three clubs and he’ll find a way. He’s that type of guy.”
New Broncos coach Josh McDaniels lured Dawkins to Denver as much for his leadership as his ability and he tapped Hill and Goodman in part because they know a thing or two about turnarounds after helping Miami’s resurgence in 2008.
Bailey is showing no lingering effects of the torn groin that sidelined him last year for seven games – and ended his streak of eight straight trips to the Pro Bowl – or the broken elbow that required offseason surgery.
Bailey appreciated the offseason influx of experience that balanced out the additions of several young, promising players, and he sees no problem with a backfield full of grizzled veterans.
“No, that means we’re really smart and really experienced,” he said.
The Broncos aren’t just relying on wisdom in the secondary, though. They also sport some speed.
They traded their No. 1 pick in next year’s draft to move up and select Wake Forest ball hawk Alphonso Smith in the second round, and he had a solid camp, as did rookie safeties David Bruton and Darcel McBath.
Instead of lamenting a lineup that’s hard to crack, Bruton said it’s like having four more coaches on the field.
“I believe it’s very advantageous for us young players to have guys who have excelled for numerous years in this league such as Renaldo, Champ, Goodman and B-Dawk,” Bruton said. “They can provide a whole lot of information and give a lot of tidbits about how to play the game and how to read routes and what to expect from the quarterback.”
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