In filling in for Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns makes one thing clear: ‘I’m ready’
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Caden Sterns had two starts at safety last year. Since the Broncos drafted him, he’s been their dime ‘back — i.e. their sixth defensive back, which requires moving around, typically underneath between the box and the outside cornerbacks.
The work isn’t the exact same as what he is expected to handle filling in for Justin Simmons over the coming weeks. But it is enough to leave him prepared for taking on the largest role in his career to date.
“He’s’s one of the best players in the league,” Sterns said Wednesday. “So, my job is to go in there and make sure there’s no fall-off, be making plays and obviously communication and just making sure everybody’s in line right, stuff like that.
“So, I’m looking forward to it. I think I’m pretty ready for it.”
Communication is crucial to the job. Not only is Simmons one of the NFL’s best safeties in terms of range, but he’s also responsible for getting the entire back of the defense aligned.
It requires being a high-I.Q. player. The fact that Sterns’ football intelligence has impressed teammates should help his cause.
“Caden has played a ton of ball at a high level in this league in such a short time, but he’s a smart player,” safety Kareem Jackson said. “We’ve used him in a bunch of different roles.”
Perhaps most important among those roles now is the two games he played for Jackson last year — home games against the Chargers and Chiefs.
“He has a ton of experience,” Jackson said. “I expect him to step in and play great.”
A significant reason for Jackson’s confidence is Sterns’ playmaking knack.
Sterns was one of just seven defensive backs with at least 2 interceptions, 2 sacks and 5 passes defensed.
The other six all played at least 500 snaps — a group that included names such as Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer, Tampa Bay’s Antoine Winfield Jr., Arizona’s Budda Baker and Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers. Conversely, Sterns played 311 snaps.
The biggest difference between dime back and safety in what Sterns sees. Instead of being aligned near the line of scrimmage, he’s more likely to play deep.
“A lot more vision. Things that Justin does,” Sterns said. “When you’re closer to the ball, things happen faster, so you’ve got to react. At safety, you’ve got a little bit more time to react.
But the adjustment shouldn’t be difficult.
“I played safety the entire time in college. It’s nothing new for me,” Sterns said. “So, I plan to hold my own, like I did last year.”
And in effect, this could be an audition for something bigger. Kareem Jackson is on a one-year deal; in his 13th season, he’s effectively a year-to-year player. Solid work in place of Simmons could build confidence that Sterns is ready for a full-time starting role sooner rather than later.
“[I’m] ready as I was last year,” he said. “It’s the same thing this year. It’s an opportunity to make plays.”