Two weeks ago, the value of preparation bore fruit for the Broncos — and for then-backup safety Curome Cox.
During that win at Pittsburgh, injuries besieged the Broncos’ safety corps, taking out Nick Ferguson and Sam Brandon first and then eventually removing John Lynch from the field for the game’s final moments. With Hamza Abdullah inactive that day, only Curome Cox was there to provide depth.
All Cox did was recover a fumble in Denver’s end zone and intercept a Ben Roethlisberger pass to close out the Steelers’ final drive, giving Denver the breathing room it needed to escape with a 31-20 win.
With that effort, Cox’s practice-time work finally paid game-time dividends on defense after he spent most of the previous 12 months contributing primarily on special teams.
“Coach (Bob) Slowik and (Head) Coach (Mike) Shanahan always tell us, ‘Mental reps at all times,’” Cox said. “There’s certain situations where the guys don’t even get reps in practice, but because you prepare yourself and study just as well as the starters, you’re ready to go in and not get beat.
Now, of course, the former University of Maryland cornerback’s role is about to take on larger dimensions. With Ferguson lost for the season following Tuesday knee surgery and Brandon already gone for the year thanks to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Cox would appear to be next in line among the Broncos’ safeties after filling in for Ferguson last Sunday, with second-year player Abdullah behind him.
Where Cox took more mental repetitions with the first team before, now they will be actual ones.
“Usually, we prepare for those situations anyway, but it’s just more physical reps during the week and more of a situation now where you’re going to be in an opportunity to make plays,” Cox said Tuesday.
And he has an opportunity now — not one he wanted, since it required injuries to fellow safeties Ferguson and Brandon — but one he doesn’t want to squander nonetheless.
“I’m going to make the most of it,” Cox said. “Being around a group of guys like Nick, John (Lynch) and Champ (Bailey), … you’ve got to get better, especially with the coaching staff we have, so always, I feel like I’m steadily improving.”
His defensive boss expects that improvement to yield results.
“He started for us (against Philadelphia last year,” defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. “This guy’s played for us. It isn’t like we’re putting a raw rookie in there. He’s played for us and we have complete faith.”