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Broncos Battle Breakdown: Separation building between young corners

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
August 3, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It was early on in practice, and the young guys were getting a chance with their respective first teams. The outside wide receivers on the play—Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. The corners on the play—Brendan Langley and Issac Yiadom.

As quarterback Case Keenum dropped back, my eyes were on Yiadom, who was playing textbook coverage on Hamilton. Keenum’s eyes, though, were on the other side of the field. As he hit his back foot, the quarterback uncorked a bomb down the left sideline for No. 14, but Langley—having given up a couple of big TDs to Sutton this offseason—had other ideas.

The second-year corner waived the white flag, deciding he’d rather take the pass interference penalty than give up the TD. He grabbed Sutton by the jersey and pulled him to the ground.

There was just one problem—Sutton still caught the ball.

While Langley is just one man on a long list of Broncos corners that Sutton has victimized, the play represented a microcosm of camp for the two young corners.

We keyed in on the two players today to try to get a better understanding of how that third cornerback position is looking with offseason acquisition Tramaine Brock on the shelf.

WHAT WE SAW TODAY

During OTAs, we raved about the development of Brendan Langley who, at the time, appeared to really be making the right strides in his development. Even when he was giving up catches, he was playing sticky coverage.

Since then, it appears the former third-round pick has regressed.

On Friday, Langley was caught out of position multiple times and gave up a number of catches in the process. The same way we talk about Chris Harris Jr. getting the ultimate respect of NFL quarterbacks by not being thrown at, the opposite has been true of Langley during training camp, the quarterbacks are looking his way often.

From my view, it looks to be a bit of a confidence issue. The Sutton play from this morning is a perfect example. First of all, from my view, it was a bit of a dangerous play to be making on your teammate, it’s not like there’s a game on the line here. Second of all, it’s not like Langley was that far away from being able to make a play on the ball. But the fact that he thought his best option was to tackle the would-be receiver, to me, seems like an indictment of his confidence right now.

Too often, Langley’s body language is overtly bad after things don’t go his way, and that’s not a good sign.

Asked about Langley today, Vance Joseph said he’s been “Okay,” before adding on.

“He’s got to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake twice,” the head coach explained. “That’s part of your growth as a young player. Once you make the mistake and we fix it, you have to fix it. It can’t show up the next day over and over again. That’s where he has to get better.”

Joseph talked about Issac Yiadom in the same response, and the differences are noticeable.

“Yiadom has had a really good camp,” he said. “He’s a young guy—he’s still making some mistakes—but he’s long, he’s open-minded and he’s smart.”

There were a similar differences in the response from Chris Harris Jr. about the two corners.

“Langley? Oh, Langley, I don’t know, it’s hard to say,” he told BSN Denver before being asked about Yiadom and lighting up. “Oh, Issac, man? He’s making tons of plays, he’s learning, he’s playing aggresively—he just has to continue to learn and let the game slow down for him, and he’ll be good.”

That should tell you a lot.

While Yiadom has also been on the wrong end of Sutton’s dominance at times, he’s had the opposite type of body language. When Yiadom gets beat, he claps his hands and hustles back to get another chance.

When I asked him about a pass breakup he had in coverage on Sutton one day, he quickly jumped in, “Which one? I’ve had a few,” before adding that he’s really enjoyed the battle and feels like Sutton is making him better.

On Friday, Yiadom’s positioning was on point for most of the practice. While he didn’t have many standout plays, he forced the quarterbacks to look elsewhere many times. On one play, Paxton Lynch was locked in on DaeSean Hamilton for most of his route but had to go a different direction because of Yiadom’s coverage. He ended up finding Tim Patrick, who beat Langley on a crossing route.

He did get called for one pass interference and gave up the edge on a Chad Kelly zone-read keeper that went for a huge gain, but overall, Yiadom has looked solid and has made improvements to his game throughout camp.

HOW IT STANDS NOW

If the season started tomorrow, with Brock out due to injury, there is no doubt in my mind that Yiadom would be the team’s third corner.

Despite still looking like a rookie physically, the third-round pick has been trending up all camp, while Langley has been trending the other way.

Let’s not get it twisted though, if that were the case, the Broncos would be in some trouble. Yiadom is moving in the right direction but still has a ways to go.

That leaves things up to the nine-year veteran in Brock, who is nursing a hamstring injury, to hold it down for the Broncos secondary. While he definitely wasn’t having a shining camp before the injury, it’s clear that the free-agent acquisition is much more in tune with the NFL game, something that Harris pointed out when asked about the third corner race as a whole.

“I don’t know right now. We have to wait until we get to the games, see how the guys play in the games. From practice right now, we still have a lot of learning to do to get those younger guys on the same page until Brock gets back. Once Brock gets back, I’ll feel more comfortable having a veteran guy with me.”

Vance Joseph predicted that Brock would be out for a week with the injury. If it drags on any longer than that, the team may have to bring in some more help at the position.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Safety Justin Simmons on the young corners

“The first thing that the coaches told them and some of the vets told them was like, ‘This is football, this stuff happens in the regular season.’ That’s what Will and I told them. We went, whatever it was, 12, 13 games being the backups, all of the sudden, somebody gets hurt, you get thrown in the fire, and you have to be able to play. The dropoff from first team to second team, there should be no dropoff, and that’s the type of confidence we want them to instill when they come on the field. If Chris [Harris Jr.], [Bradley] Roby, someone goes down, you guys have to be able to come in, and there’s no dropoff, it’s the same heartbeat. That’s what we expect, that’s what they expected out of us when we came in as rookies. They’re doing a great job; these are the reps that you want to make mistakes so that when we get out there in the preseason and the regular season, you have more confidence in yourself and your ability.”

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods on Yiadom

“He’s doing a real good job. He is a guy you love to coach because he does exactly what you tell him to do. He plays with clean eyes. He has a proper technique at everything he does. Just from our time with him in the Senior Bowl we know—we haven’t had a chance to hit full pads—he has that little nasty demeanor. He’s kind of a silent killer. I really look forward to him playing in the preseason.”

Woods on Yiadom being the first one out at practice

“He always comes out and works the ladders, but the bright lights don’t bother him. It’s not too big for him, so that’s why I’m anxious just to get him to the preseason and see how he performs.”

Woods on his message to Langley

“Just to slow his process down. It’s not going to change. Whether they get on the ball and go no-huddle, whether we’re in the red zone or it’s two minutes, the technique you’re playing is the technique. Don’t change it just because of the situation. So, I’m really just trying to have him be patient. He gets frustrated making mistakes. I said, ‘Hey, learn from that mistake and move on to the next play,’ but right now he’s hanging on to it. He’s holding on to it too long. He just has to continue to mature and trust what we’re teaching him to do and play technique.”

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