By ZACK KELBERMAN
(247SPORTS) – It’s not that the Denver Broncos miss Aqib Talib’s talent, because they certainly do. It’s that they miss his mere presence, the depth he represented.
Once upon a time, the Broncos boasted a stellar trio of cornerbacks in Talib, Chris Harris Jr., and Bradley Roby — the No Fly Zone. This gave the defense more flexibility to shift coverage and move Harris between the outside and slot. When the All-Pro is your nickel man, you’re in pretty decent shape.
Those seem like distant memories. Talib’s removal from the secondary has created a major problem as Harris is forced to play outside, alongside Roby, and Denver can’t develop a No. 3 to save their lives.
Tramaine Brock? Injured.
Adam Jones? Injured.
Isaac Yiadom? Deactivated.
Brendan Langley? On the practice squad.
Will the Broncos’ No. 3 please stand up?
“Hopefully, we get some chemistry with my third corner and I’ll find out—’Pacman’ (Adam Jones), are you going to be there? Or is Brock? Somebody that can step up and take over that role,” Harris relayed to reporters on Thursday.
Denver signed Brock in free agency to help offset the loss of Talib, who was traded in an all-too-expected move. Just when he was getting settled, though, the team plucked 35-year-old Jones off the scrap heap, and unofficially bumped him to the third spot. For nearly a month, Harris has been shuffling through a game of musical defenders, unable to establish rapport among the unit.
“You want to have that done before the season, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to get that situation done,” he lamented. “We need somebody to take ownership of that No. 3 spot and make big plays.”
Brock and Jones are expected to be healthy enough to play in Monday’s divisional showdown against the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs. They’ll need as much defensive firepower as possible to slow down the juggernaut known as Patrick Mahomes, as well as his game-breaking weaponry. Success depends on the ability of Denver’s CBs to act aggressively, bumping the Terrible T’s — Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce — off their routes.
“We always want to be an attack football team here. That’s our motto here,” Harris said. “It’s been like that ever since I’ve been here. That’s always what we’ve done: been in attack mode, not sitting back, being aggressive and giving them different looks. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to try to confuse them and give him something that he hasn’t seen. Andy Reid’s played against us a lot of times, so we’ve got to try to change it up and try to trick him a couple times.”
The onus will fall on Harris to guard Hill, “the fastest person I’ve ever seen on the football field.” It’s textbook responsibility of being the No. 1, a role he’s reveled in despite his teammates’ continuity issues.
“I’ve loved it. It’s been fun. I’ve definitely tried to do whatever I can to make sure everybody’s on the same page,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of work today. We’re just getting that chemistry down. Hopefully we can get it done fast. You don’t want to play your best football early, but you don’t want to play bad. We want to continue to get better and as the season goes on, keep growing and growing. Hopefully by playoff time, we’re ready to go.”
Key word: “Hopefully.” For a lot of reasons.