Some things are better late than never. This is especially true for Bryce Callahan, the Denver Broncos’ 28-year-old cornerback who inked a three-year, $21 million contract in the spring 2019.
Callahan was brought to Denver by the only defensive play-caller he’s ever known in the NFL — head coach Vic Fangio. Last season, Callahan endured multiple procedures to correct a lingering foot injury that kept him from playing even a single snap for the Broncos.
Frustrated and highly motivated, Callahan utilized this past offseason to attack rehabilitation so he could return to the field. On Friday, in the first meaningful practice of Broncos training camp, he reminded teammates why he was brought to Denver in the first place.
The highlight of note saw Callahan undercut Pro Bowl wide receiver Courtland Sutton to intercept a pass from QB Drew Lock. Callahan immediately rolled off his back and sprinted downfield, while his teammates hollered his praise.
“Callahan had a good day today in his first action back,” said Fangio after practice. “Again, I haven’t watched the whole day of practice, but he did make some plays out there today. It’s good to see him out there moving around.”
The Broncos have long awaited the return of Callahan to assist their secondary. In the wake of Chris Harris, Jr.’s departure in free agency, and the drafting of cornerback Michael Ojemudia, Fangio is counting on his veteran cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Callahan. Callahan is projected to play the nickel corner position when the Broncos are in sub-packages.
In Friday’s practice, Callahan showed off his light and agile feet in various drills. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell tested him in a significant amount of deep coverage, while he settled into his natural slot zone. I can’t help but wonder how Callahan is going to use his intellect to take full advantage of a playbook that he loves and has thrived in.
In 2018 with the Bears, he appeared in 13 games with 10 starts, totaling 45 tackles (39 solo), six tackles for loss, five QB hits, two sacks, two interceptions, and six passes defended. It earned him the ninth-best ranking among NFL cornerbacks via Pro Football Focus.
“His 0.72 yards per coverage snap was the fifth-lowest at the position in the NFL, and he only allowed a passer rating of 80.5 in his coverage.”
But for Callahan, there have never been concerns about his game or style of play but rather, his health and availability which have haunted him. In five NFL seasons, he’s never played a full 16-game slate. Callahan has only played in 45 career games, none of which have been for the Broncos.
GM John Elway is counting on Callahan to bounce back in what has become the most expensive defense in the NFL. So, for a player that hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2018, it’s a welcome surprise to see him ball out in the first practice.
Obviously, the guy has been snake-bitten with injury, but he appears healthy and is working hard in practice.
“His foot feels fine,” Fangio confirmed. “He’s confident and ready to go.”
While it’s certainly encouraging to see Callahan on the field and snagging interceptions, he still has a lot of work to do. One practice doesn’t make or break a player. But for Callahan, he’s determined to show Broncos Country why he was brought to Denver.