Broncos will be fine without T.J. Ward
This has been a good preseason for the Broncos’ defense, with first-round draft pick Shane Ray looking like he can be an impactful edge rusher and 2014 undrafted free agent Shaquil Barrett also displaying pass-rushing ability off the edge.
The first cloud appeared yesterday in the form of a one-game suspension for strong safety T.J. Ward. His M.O. in Cleveland was as an excellent run-support safety who sometimes struggled in coverage — and generally the further he gets away from the line of scrimmage. That trait continued with the Broncos and was exactly mirrored by his grades last year (overall +1.9 but -7.2 in coverage). He was named to the Pro Bowl, but that’s more of a sad indictment of the way that honor is now awarded than it is a reflection of Ward’s performance.
If the preseason is anything to go by, it’s likely his position will be filled by David Bruton in Denver’s Week 1 game against the Ravens. He’s a special teams stalwart, but in the 235 snaps he was asked to fill in last year, he acquitted himself remarkably well, netting a +3.7 grade including +4.5 in coverage. He’s not the force Ward is “in the box,” but may be a better bet when playing with both safeties deep.