Onward we march back to the defense to a significant camp battle for a starting position in the defensive backfield.
Player: Robert Golden
In 2015 Robert Golden continued the role he’s had since 2012 as a significant contributor to the special teams unit. What was different about 2015 for Golden is that he saw significant time playing safety. He played well in his three starts after Will Allen went down with an injury, and continued to get snaps subbing for Lawrence Timmons on obvious passing downs. Fast forward to now, as training camp slowly approaches. Will Allen is gone, replaced by second round pick Sean Davis, and the battle to start along side Mike Mitchell appears to be between Golden and Davis with the long shot rebirth of Shamarko Thomas as a possible caveat. Clearly, this is among the more interesting camp battles, but if one had to guess Golden is the leader in the clubhouse.
A play during week 14 last year really encapsulates both Golden’s strengths and weaknesses. The Broncos are in the shotgun and Golden has a tough matchup with Emmanuel Sanders in the slot. Golden loses Sanders for a split second after he runs a great drag route throwing a nifty shoulder fake freezing Golden for just long enough to get separation. Golden then uses his acceleration to recover beautifully, and would have only given up a short completion enough to force a punt had Manning not air mailed the pass.
While it seems harsh to criticize Golden for losing Sanders for such a brief time such is the nature of playing DB in the NFL. It’s among the more difficult positions to play in professional sports, and the truly elite ones have some kind of strange clairvoyance (the scouts label this instincts) that allow them to essentially guess or intuitively know what route is coming. While it’s unlikely that Golden will develop this to an elite level at this point in his career it is, nonetheless, possible for him to continue the solid play he displayed during his time filling in for Allen and Timmons in 2015.
Elite special teams player
Speed and athleticism to recover on missed plays
Versatile, contributes on special teams and played CB and S in college
Sometimes overaggressive biting on fakes
Takes bad angles
Chances of Making the team: 100%