The Denver Broncos released their first depth chart Monday morning and it revealed what many onlookers expected. Both Justin Simmons and Will Parks, rookie safeties selected in this year’s draft, landed second on the depth chart at free safety and strong safety respectively.
The chart is hardly set in stone but their placement and the amount of playing time they are getting with the second team defense from UCHealth Training Center says volumes about the coaching staff’s opinion of the young duo. The veteran players have noticed their evolution.
“I think those rookies made the plays to be where they are [on the depth chart] and they are only going to get better,” safety Darian Stewart said Monday of Simmons and Parks. “Just given where they were in college and what colleges they came from, they seemed like smart guys, smart football players and they have been able to catch on quick.”
Simmons, formerly of Boston College where he played in 50 games (32 starts), was listed on the depth chart as the second free safety behind Stewart. He was drafted 98th overall in the draft and was praised for his versatility by General Manager John Elway and Head Coach Gary Kubiak shortly after they selected him. Since arriving to the team, he has taken the competition head on as former Broncos safeties Omar Bolden and David Bruton Jr. left via free agency. Monday, he appeared on the depth chart as the lone No. 2 free safety ahead of veteran Brandian Ross.
“That's the goal: come out here, compete and get the job done,” Simmons said Saturday of getting on the field in his rookie season. “I said it earlier, it's how you get the job done or you don't. Coming out here, competing, making sure that you put yourself in the right position to show the guys on the team that you can trust me to do my job and get the job done.”
Parks has split time with the second defensive team unit with veteran returning strong safety Shiloh Keo and was listed second along with him behind T.J. Ward on the depth chart Monday. He was selected in the sixth round (219th overall) out of the University of Arizona where he started 31-of-53 games for the Wildcats. He started every game his last two seasons in Arizona and recorded a team-best 76 tackles his senior season. Like Simmons, Stewart and Ward, Elway and Kubiak stated they loved that he could possibly play either safety position with ease.
Monday, Parks was clearly not phased or satisfied with a depth chart and was looking forward to Thursday’s opportunity when the Broncos play their first preseason game in Chicago.
“That doesn’t mean nothing right now,” Parks said of the depth chart. “I’m not really concerned with that right now. I’m just ready to go make some plays in Chicago.”
The Broncos certainly had holes to fill this offseason and safety was near the top of the list. The depth chart’s release Monday and the rookies nearing the top says plenty. They passed the initial tests of rookie minicamp, OTA’s and most of training camp; stepping on an NFL field and performing as they have in camp is the next giant leap. Parks for one, cannot wait.
“Words can’t describe how I feel about going out there Thursday and showcasing what I can do on this stage, this level, the highest level there is out there, the highest level kids dream of getting to,” Parks said emphatically.
The two young safeties have done everything right so far. Moving up the depth chart is one thing; staying there is a whole other ballgame.