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Broncos Film Room: Will Adam Jones become Denver's third corner?

Andre Simone Avatar
August 28, 2018

The Denver Broncos’ model is clear; dominate on defense, and manage the clock on offense with a positive turnover ratio. If they can do that with a lead in hand, permitting the defense to unleash the dogs, then they’re likely to win a good amount of games.

It’s a proven model that saw the Broncos raise a Super Bowl trophy not too long ago, so you can’t fault the organization for believing in it.

However, for the first part of that equation to work, the defense needs to maintain the lofty standards they’ve set in recent history, and doing so without Aqib Talib is no small task.

So it should come as no surprise that the third cornerback has been one of, if not the biggest concern this preseason in attempting to keep defense dominant. Because, after all, for a defense to stay truly dominant, you can’t have an Achilles heel that is easily exploitable.

In a move to shore up that weak spot, the Broncos recently added veteran cornerback Adam Jones, who Vance Joseph knows well from his time as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs coach. Under Joseph’s tutelage, Jones was a Pro-Bowler in 2015.

We went back to the tape to see what Jones will bring to the table, while also analyzing the cornerback play from the Broncos other CBs so far in the preseason.


Jones is an old school man-corner who’ll take some risks but has been good in the latter part of his career, striking the right balance between being too aggressive and knowing when to make a play on the ball. 

Pacman plays with a swagger and isn’t afraid to be on an island against the NFL’s best receivers, holding his own against DeAndre Hopkins Week 2 of last year, before he was sidelined for a multitude of reasons.

What stands out most on tape is Jones’ eye discipline, which is seemingly always on point, unlike the Broncos other options in the third CB spot.

When watching the former top-10 pick in 2017, he appeared to still be a very sticky cover man, who is always turning to make a play on the ball and can be deadly when he breaks on a pass. That’s a lethal combination, making him really hard to complete catches against.

Jones is simply a ball hawk with great instincts and natural ability to break on the ball even in his mid-30s. While maybe not one of the elite speedsters in the NFL anymore, Pacman is still fast in a straight line and won’t lose many foot races.

Here’s how Jones’ numbers from just last year, admittedly not his best, stack up against the Broncos corners from 2017.

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Jones is also a competent zone corner out on the boundary, who plays with strong instincts and uses his ability to break on the ball effectively. Just watch this interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Given his speed and ability as a returner, like Talib, he’s a pick-six threat if he gets his hands on the ball.

At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Jones is surprisingly unafraid to mix it up with bigger wide receivers. He’s a physical press corner, who can sometimes play on the border of legality.

He’s a savvy press corner with a surprisingly strong jam that can disrupt a receivers rhythm on their routes.

Jones is also a fairly-sure tackler in coverage, who won’t let guys slip away after they’ve made the catch. He wraps up well and knows that, due to his size, he has to go low, which he does consistently, allowing him to take down much bigger players. 

He’s also an asset in the return game; his 21.8 yards per punt return average, all be it in a very small sample size in 2017, would’ve led the league. 


As mentioned above, Jones can sometimes straddle a fine line as a risk taker in coverage. He’ll be liable for a few holding or pass interference penalties due to the physical nature with which he plays and his all-or-nothing mentality.

Denver’s new No. 20 is likely limited to playing outside corner, as he’s rarely been used to cover in the slot—which, with Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby, who’ve both had extensive experience playing in the slot, might be less of a concern in Denver than most other teams. 

Jones is better covering down the sideline than on crossers where he has to sift through traffic; it’s legitimate to wonder if his recovery speed is still at its best when not in a straight line down the sideline. At this point in his career, Jones might be better suited to play in press against bigger receivers, than against true speedsters who Roby or Harris can cover. 

He won’t lay the wood as a tackler, and can especially be a liability coming up to tackle against the run. He doesn’t miss lots of tackles, he’s just a shoestring tackler, and isn’t by any means the most engaged in defending the run.

Jones isn’t perfect, and there’s a reason he was still available this late in the year, as his off-field issues have been a major problem. Injuries have started to catch up to him as well as he’s getting long in the tooth. 

Who he could supplant

Tramaine Brock hasn’t been tested much in preseason, mostly playing off-coverage in zone to the boundary and displaying strong tackle skills. Due to injuries during camp and limited snaps in the preseason, he remains very much an unknown.

On tape, Brock has looked competent outside, but his ball skills and eye discipline just haven’t been tested much thus far, as well as his ability to break on the ball.

That said, in the snaps he’s played, he’s been effective, forcing very few targets to his side, especially when covering deep.

Mind you, Brock was essentially on the shelf and buried behind the Vikings depth at corner, so we had to go back to his 2016 tape for our film room to find anything useful on him.

Rookie Isaac Yiadom has a size element that the two vets don’t have, but he’s struggled mightily in the preseason, as teams have straight up picked on him with anyone from the first-teamers to the fourth stringers.

Yiadom’s been in position on a lot of plays but hasn’t had great eye discipline which has allowed receivers to come up with contested grabs. 

He’s also been guilty of playing too soft in off-coverage, reacting too slowly to close on the play once the pass is made. His burst downhill to close on throws, as well as his instincts, have been a bit underwhelming.

The thing about the Yiadom is that he’s slowly gotten worse as the preseason’s gone on, a perfect example being the touchdown he allowed on Friday against the Washington Redskins. 

You can see there that Yiadom looked a bit soft jamming his receiver at the line in press coverage and showed lackadaisical recovery speed. 

Brendan Langley has all the talent in the world and has started to become a really valuable special teamer as he’s constantly been one of the best gunners on the team.

In coverage, though, he’s still struggling mightily as he can make poor reads like he did against Washington, where he was burned for a big 40-yard play, the longest of the game. Langley has shown improvement from last year, but he’s still a long way from being a trustworthy option as the Broncos third cornerback. 

In conclusion

The third corner seemed like less of a concern entering camp, as the Broncos enviable depth at safety gave them the option to play a lot more three-safety looks in sub packages. That’s no longer the case as injuries have quickly depleted that depth during the preseason, forcing the Broncos hand to pick up Jones.

Character and off-field volatility are major concerns with Jones, and you know Joseph had to give his endorsement to add him to the team, putting a lot of pressure on the head coach to handle him.

As our Ryan Koenigsberg illustrated, a big part of Jones being brought on is his ability as a returner, which can’t be overlooked, as he’s still one of the more electric punt returners in the game.

Jones is certainly, on tape, the best option at corner behind Harris and Roby, the big question is if he can stay healthy and stay clean off the field, while also maintaining the high standards against the run that Denver’s outside defenders have had through the years. 

This is a win-now move, taking on some risk, but clearly showing the Broncos feel good about their chances to win games and keep the defensive standards high. Only time will tell if “Pacman” is the right addition to do that. 


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