Ed Andrieski/Associated Press
The Broncos added a talented cornerback in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft when they selected Bradley Roby out of Ohio State. Today’s NFL is all about stopping offenses geared towards passing the ball early and often. Defenses need to have quality starters—and quality depth—at the cornerback position.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio recently commented on this new mindset.
“I don’t consider the nickel the base, just because of the semantics of it. Base is base. Sub is sub. It is the norm. It is the most frequently played defensive unit. I think last year, 66 percent of our snaps were in the sub package. You’re playing more and more 3-wide receiver sets, or even 2-tight end sets where the second tight end is really almost like a wide receiver.” Del Rio concluded, “So you’re playing a lot of sub downs so we’ve adjusted accordingly.”
The long-time coach also believes depth is critical at the cornerback position in today’s NFL.
“I’d say the fourth corner becomes a little more important because you can never have enough. And the reason people say that is because if somebody gets nicked, is tired, whatever, or something happens with the helmet, you have another guy that can go in. That’s a good position to be in. You don’t want to be forced not to be able to get to that third corner.” Del Rio continued, “So three is a necessity, I think, nowadays. I think having a fourth guy that is very capable is also very important.”
Roby has the speed to keep up with wide receivers on downfield routes. He has the size and arm length to be disruptive when the pass comes in. Roby has an aggressive mindset, and he does not back down from a challenge.
His speed is also evident when breaking on routes that unfold in front of him. Roby can quickly transition from backpedal to sprint to get to the play. Scouts call this “click and close” ability, and Roby’s is among the best in this draft class.
With his natural skill set, Roby has the upside to be a shutdown corner in the league someday.
However, this year he is a rookie and that should immediately put a target on his back. Roby is likely to start on the outside opposite All-Pro Aqib Talib. Quarterbacks may be shy when throwing at Talib, so Roby may automatically see more targets.
These targets he could turn into interceptions with his nose for the ball. Over the final two years of his college career, Roby had 30 pass breakups and five interceptions. He could use those same instincts to bait opposing quarterbacks into bad throws in 2014.
Chris Harris Jr. is coming back from the partially-torn ACL injury he suffered in the playoff victory over the San Diego Chargers. His status for the start of training camp is up in the air right now, and he is currently doing work on the side with trainers during minicamp.
This injury is giving Roby a larger opportunity to show what he can do. Going up against Demaryius Thomas in practice, Roby has held his own so far in camp. It is still early, but this is a fantastic sign for the young corner.
Roby knows that playing against Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in practice will only make him better.
“That’s great for me. When I first got drafted, that’s something I thought about, ‘I’m going to be going against D.T., [QB] Peyton Manning and Emmanuel Sanders every day. [WR] Wes Welker every day. Just preparing with them guys, I know that there’s nobody out there I’m going to see that’s too much better than them, if any.” Roby continued, “I’m delighted about that, I love to compete. So I just want to do that every day.”
He is picking Talib’s brain in an effort to be the best pro he can be this season.
“I learned a lot [talking to Talib]. For corners, it’s about the small things and he’s just been teaching me all the small things. He’s out taking me under his wing and helping me. He remembers when he was a rookie and he said Ronde Barber was kind of his mentor and I look to him as that for me, so he’s a great guy to learn from. He’s a very smart player and a very great player, so I’m excited about that as well.”
Roby has the speed and talent to start from day one. Opposing quarterbacks may try to pick on him during his rookie season, but Roby has the skill set to make them pay. He should get more targets thrown his way than Talib and Harris. That could lead to him leading the team in interceptions in 2014.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.