The Denver Broncos were one of the big winners of the NFL offseason, as general manager George Paton went out and acquired a legitimate starting quarterback — something the franchise has struggled to find since the days of Peyton Manning. Russell Wilson is now a member of the Broncos, and this team is ready to not only compete, but contend.
With the consistency Denver hopes Wilson brings on offense, you should also see the defensive side of the ball really shine in 2022. One of their leaders is safety Justin Simmons, who signed a massive extension last offseason that reset the safeties market. The two-time All-Pro has recorded 10 total interceptions over the last two seasons, and is one of just five NFL players to record at least 350 tackles and 35 passes defensed since 2018.
This week, CBS Sports caught up with Simmons for a Q&A session. The defensive back shared about his new teammates, his new coaches and the new feeling of optimism that has taken over this franchise.
I saw you were out with your new teammate D.J. Jones; are you showing him around his new city?
Simmons: “Yeah! It was a great day. I got to team up with USAA (Official Salute to Service Partner) and took D.J. around to a few of the top sites in Denver — Union Station, Larimer Square. The premise behind it was like, everyone knows moving can be hard, so I just wanted to make sure that with a new teammate and a new friend in D.J., that he could count on me as a resource as he’s getting settled into a new city and a new home and then just a new team, a new environment. And the biggest point there is with USAA, anyone that’s moving like D.J. or like a lot of us, they have helpful moving tips. It was really great. I think the best spot D.J. said he liked was Red Rocks. That place was unbelievable.”
Tell me about your new head coach Nathaniel Hackett, what’s he like?
Simmons: “Coach Hackett is great. He’s high energy, super competitive but just a down to earth player’s coach. A guy that is embracing the opportunity and embracing the team and I mean, I know it’s only been a couple of months, but he’s a really good coach. I really enjoy getting to know him and man, I’m looking forward to the season.”
You also have a new defensive coordinator as well in Ejiro Evero, how do you think this defense is going to look different in 2022?
Simmons: “Yeah it’s going to look a lot different. You know there’s some similarities to the previous defense that we played in the past few years here under Vic (Fangio.) But the overall look of it will be just slightly different. A few tweaks here or there. But I love coach Evero, man. I think we’ve sat down and talked just life, football. I feel like I’ve known him now for years. He’s just a great dude and I’m really looking forward to having a season with him this year.”
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I’m sure you get asked about your new quarterback a lot. What has Russell Wilson brought to this team early on?
Simmons: “I think just that competitive edge, competitive excellence, that’s kind of what I call it. He’s so — I don’t think I’ve been around a guy that’s so meticulous in his detail preparation, and it’s crazy because everyone talks about ‘You have to have that switch,’ but I’ve actually seen it. He comes in and he’s talking to the guys in the locker room, in the cafeteria and then we get onto the field and he’s locked in. The attention to detail is unbelievable, unlike anything that I’ve seen. So I’m excited. I know this is a new start, kind of a fresh start for him. Really a fresh start for us as an organization and I can’t wait.”
What was your first reaction when you heard the news about the trade?
Simmons: “Oh I celebrated. I was in a business meeting in South Florida, and I could feel my phone was just going off in my pocket and I was like, ‘Man I really wanna look, but I don’t want to be rude.’ So I got out of the meeting and I had like 50 missed calls, 100 Twitter notifications, a thousand text messages. So I saw one of the calls was my wife, called my wife back and she shared the news, and we were just on the phone celebrating, screaming and excitement. We knew how special that was, so I was really pumped.”
Is there a new vibe in Denver? It seems like there’s a new energy with you guys this preseason.
Simmons: “Oh yeah, no doubt. No doubt. I think the last few years — the margin for error is just so small and we haven’t had necessarily a bad team or bad teams. It’s just there’s those games that are decided by one possession or, you know, three points, and we just could never find a way to get over that hump. I think now, adding a few key pieces, obviously with Russ on offense and then a few other guys on the defensive side of the ball we’ve added. But also I think the staff too, with coaches and their experience in big-time games and what it looks like to go to the Super Bowl and win it all. I think all of that is like a good mixture of what’s to come — or what we expect of ourselves. That’s really the energy, and we know there’s high expectations, but you know, no one’s expectations are higher than ours.”
The AFC West got a complete facelift this offseason, what makes you guys confident you can come out on top in 2022?
Simmons: “Yeah, just like I said we’ve always been like one puzzle piece away, you know? And I’m not saying just Russ fits that exact puzzle piece, but I think with all the additions that we’ve had this offseason with coach Hackett, with the defense, obviously with Russ. I think all of that in one puzzle piece kind of fits to complete our team and our puzzle. I think that that’s going to be the difference maker for us. We’re going to be a competitive team, we’re going to play hard and that’s going to be nothing new and I’m just looking forward to going out there and competing, man. Because if we can find a way to win the West, you’ll put yourself in prime position to play in the big game at the end of the year.”