http://www.denverbroncos.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/Day-after-takeaways-from-Broncos-Raiders/7cb14867-07a7-4b08-8436-e531680be70d1. We first had a glimpse of using
T.J. Ward in the box and Quinton Carter as a deeper safety during OTAs and again in training camp, so it was no surprise to see the alignment return at intermittent points during the first half of the regular season.
But Nate Irving's knee injury brought it back to the forefront, as the Broncos used the two safeties together on 43 of 62 plays Sunday with Irving sidelined, which cost the Broncos a presence in the base and nickel packages.
In terms of personnel, the Ward-Carter pairing -- with Rahim Moore still at free safety -- is a dime package, but in the way they used Ward, it's a nickel, with him at linebacker. Sometimes he played several yards back; at others, he showed blitz at the line of scrimmage. Executive Vice President and General Manager John Elway first floated the idea of Ward seeing linebacker snaps last March, and it saw occasional use during the first half of the season.
Expect more of this.
"That's probably going to be one of our main defenses," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "Teams are going to have a problem with me and T.J. inside and having 'Q' back there at safety."
Carter's return from a hamstring injury made it possible. He missed the Patriots game and struggled in the previous game against San Diego when Chargers tight end Antonio Gates beat him for a 31-yard gain.
Oakland didn't have a tight end to match Gates, which helped. But the extended work helped, as well. It allowed Carter to find a groove that he had not enjoyed since returning from the knee problems that cost him two years. He played more defensive snaps Sunday than he did in the entire month of October.
Having Carter back gave Head Coach John Fox and Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio the freedom to use the three-safety grouping, and Carter responded with arguably his best game of the season.