While Chris Harris Jr. protests over his contractual status, the Denver Broncos quietly tweaked their secondary.
Despite signing a $33 million contract (with $23 million guaranteed) as a natural cornerback, Kareem Jackson continued to be used primarily at free safety, opposite Justin Simmons, during the Broncos’ recent minicamp practices and Organized Team Activities.
Denver coach and defensive play-caller Vic Fangio has kept quiet regarding his full-time plans for Jackson. The former Texan, too, was intentionally vague when pressed by reporters Thursday.
“I would assume it’ll be more safety, but I’m not really sure what will happen,” Jackson said. “For me, I’m just trying to prepare to play whatever position I’m asked to play. For the most part it’s been safety, and these last two days we’ve been sprinkled in a little bit of me playing the slot, so at some point I’m sure I’ll get some reps at corner. For me, I’m just trying to prepare for all three spots.”
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Gun to your head, Kareem: safety, slot CB, or outside CB?
“If I had to choose one, safety is fun just because I get a chance to kind of see everything that’s going on and just kind of run and hit people,” he said, via Denver7. “For me, it’s just all about changing my mindset. Just knowing when I’m in the slot, knowing where my help is depending on what call we’re in. At safety, obviously getting guys in the right call and stuff like that. That’s just pretty much what it is for me. I was never told one specific role. I was told I was going to bounce around a little bit like I did last year. I was looking forward to that. That’s one of my strengths, playing multiple positions. I feel like that can help us as a defense on Sundays.”
This process figures to prolong through the preseason, and a literal answer may never surface. Jackson will float around the formation for Fangio and coordinator Ed Donatell, depending on down-and-distance, opponent, game flow and countless other factors.
Sometimes he’ll work along the perimeter, joining Harris, Bryce Callahan and Isaac Yiadom. Sometimes he’ll see snaps in the back end, forming a dynamic pairing with Simmons and Will Parks.
In the meantime, it’s extremely fluid.
“He’s still going to get a lot of work at safety, but he will get some work at corner and nickel throughout the process,” Fangio said last Sunday, prior to the start of OTAs. “It might not be tomorrow, but it will be through the next 12 practices.”
A willing tackler with plus ball skills, Jackson’s long-term position may well be safety, where he finished last season with stellar ratings, according to Pro Football Focus. Although it’s possible the Broncos are waiting for Harris’ situation to resolve itself before committing one way or the other.
“We definitely want Chris to be here,” Jackson said. “He’s a big-time player in this league.”