Last year was a lost season for cornerback Alphonso Smith. He couldn’t beat Jack Williams in training camp (although an ankle injury didn’t help), the team signed 35-year-old Ty Law off the street to replace him as the nickel cornerback, then undrafted rookie Tony Carter went right from the practice squad to ahead of Smith late in the season.
When the Broncos signed Nate Jones this offseason it looked like another sign of pessimism by the coaching staff, but Smith has been the nickel cornerback in all of the offseason practices. The Broncos invested a lot in Smith – they traded a 2010 first-round pick, which ended up being 14th overall, to draft him 37th in 2009 – and Smith has shown signs of being a better player in his second year.
“He has grown a lot,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “I think he had some bumps along the way, but we all do as young players. But he has grown a lot. I think he understands what we expect from him. He has stepped it up quite a bit.”
Smith’s struggles didn’t help his confidence. An offseason to step away and refocus may have helped. Bailey said one of the main things a young cornerback has to learn is to maintain confidence throughout some struggles.
“When things go bad, don’t get down on yourself, because you’ve got to keep playing,” Bailey said. “We don’t have anybody to come take him out. We depend on somebody, you’ve got to play, and you can’t get too down on yourself. I think he did a little bit last year.”