Not a whole lot has gone right for the Denver Broncos over the course of the last month. They have lost four-straight games, their offense has been downright atrocious, and even their immensely talented defense has taken its fair share of lumps. According to All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris Jr., Denver’s defensive struggles could be the direct result of a questionable personnel decision the team’s front office made in early September.
In an appearance on the Stokley and Zach show on Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan in Denver on Tuesday afternoon, Harris made it clear that he believes the Broncos defense hasn’t been the same since the team cut veteran safety T.J. Ward prior to their Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“I think it has,” Harris said when asked if losing Ward has affected the Broncos locker room chemistry. “You can see it in the play, really, We’re still in the top-10, but I think having T.J. back there, he was an enforcer. He would strike fear [into opponents]. When you have two guys that can hit you and strike that fear into you, I think that’s something we are missing.”
As Harris mentioned, the Broncos rank No. 2 in the NFL in total defense, No. 4 in passing defense, and No. 5 in rushing defense. At the same time, the Broncos rank just 25th in the NFL in points allowed per game in 2017.
General manager John Elway made the unpopular business decision to move on from Ward, who missed almost all of Denver’s training camp with a hamstring injury, and his scheduled $4.5 million salary when trimming the Broncos’ roster down to 53 players.
The emergence of second-year safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks is what ultimately led Elway to feel comfortable in parting ways with Ward. What Elway failed to account for was the fact that Ward, who played collegiately at Oregon, was one of the most respected and vocal leaders in the Broncos’ locker room.
Ward, who quickly landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after becoming a free agent, had developed into more of a situational safety in the last year. He wouldn’t have been an every down player for the Broncos, but with the way the 2017 season has gone for Denver, it’s clear that they could have used his leadership ability in the locker room and his nastiness on the back end of their defense.
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