It's good to be the Denver Broncos. Not only do they have the two of the best edge rushers in the NFL, putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, they also have two of the league's elite cornerbacks.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1719434-get-si-subscription-with-... The Denver defense is ranked No. 4 currently, and in the top-10 in most of the major statistical categories. They lost some key players to free agency but remain the NFL's most talented, and deepest defense.
Eleven weeks into the 2016 season, Pro Football Focus has revealed their top-25 highest rated cornerbacks. Guess who's number one?
No. 1: Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos, 90.8 Overall Grade
Aqib Talib has long possessed one of the most impressive skill-sets in the league among cornerbacks, flashing the ability to shut down any receiver, but 2016 has been a career year for him, as it’s the first season he has done it consistently week-to-week, with no real lapses to date. Talib has allowed just 9.3 yards per reception, 53.7 percent of the passes thrown his way to be caught, and opposing QBs have a passer rating of just 37.0 when throwing into his coverage. That’s 2.6 points lower than if those quarterbacks just threw the ball out of bounds every snap, thanks to three interceptions and no touchdowns surrendered this year. Aqib Talib has been the league’s best corner this season.
Talib missed the last three games before the bye with a lower back injury. And although Bradley Roby made some plays in Talib's stead, the Broncos took a step back, having to play Lorenzo Doss quite a bit, due to Kayvon Webster's struggles with a hamstring injury.
It's clear how important Talib is to Denver's defensive success. They're simply not the same unit without him. Talib really has been consistent this year. No lapses.
He doesn't get enough credit for how sharp of a football mind he has. Talib is a very instinctual player, but his film study and pre-game preparation are what puts him in position to pick off those passes and be disruptive.
Coming out of the Week 11 bye, it's expected that Talib will return to action this Sunday night vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. With other banged up pieces to the defense also returning, Wade Phillips' unit will again be at full strength in time for Denver's stretch run.
No. 3: Chris Harris, Jr, Denver Broncos, 87.2 Overall Grade
There is little doubt at this stage that Chris Harris Jr. is an excellent corner, even if he doesn’t have the same responsibilities as some other players on this list. Harris will play outside and in the slot, and does go up against legitimate No. 1 receivers when Denver elects not to track them; more often than not, he does just as well against them as anybody else. This season, Harris has allowed under 10 yards per reception, and just 53.8 percent of passes thrown into his coverage to be caught.
Still underrated, Harris continues to grade out among the best cover artists in the NFL. While it's true that Denver deploys Harris in the slot, he has matched up with No. 1 receivers this year.
We saw Harris make some plays against A.J. Green, while also getting exploited in Week 1 by Kelvin Benjamin's immense size. Harris is easily the NFL's best slot corner but his skills outside the hash-marks remain underappreciated.
Thankfully, GM John Elway locked Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr. up long term. Both players have multiple years left on their respective contracts with the Broncos.
Call it an embarrassment of riches — call it whatever you want. But Elway's commitment to excellence on the defensive side of the ball has bought the Broncos the time to find the right players on offense and the opportunity to improve, while still winning games and remaining relevant in the Conference.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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