Ed Andrieski/Associated Press
Denver added several pieces to the defensive side of the ball this offseason. They acquired star cornerback Aqib Talib in free agency, and then they added cornerback Bradley Roby in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. These two moves are clear signs they wanted upgrades at the cornerback position.
Talib will start on the outside opposite Chris Harris Jr. in 2014. Behind Talib and Harris, the Broncos have to find the best slot corner. They spent about 65 percent of their defensive snaps in the nickel package, so the third cornerback is going to have a large role in 2014.
Roby has to compete with second-year pro Kayvon Webster for that job.
Webster was a third-round pick by the Broncos in the 2013 NFL draft. Coming out of South Florida, Webster was known as a big-hitter who could be an enforcer near the line of scrimmage. He’s a physical corner who likes to push around opponents at the snap.
He has good straight-line speed, but there were questions about Webster’s ability to transition smoothly in coverage. Webster began his rookie season as a reserve player for the Broncos, and he flashed some ability. As the season went on, Webster earned a larger role as injuries to the secondary (Champ Bailey, Chris Harris Jr.) plagued the team.
Webster was regularly targeted by opposing quarterbacks when he was on the field during the playoffs. These targets certainly tested his mettle, but they didn’t seem to shake his confidence. Webster struggled, but he gained valuable experience. That experience gives him an advantage over the rookie.
Roby is not as physical as Webster is, but he’s faster and has better click-and-close ability when a play breaks down in front of him. At Ohio State, Roby stood out because of his straight-line speed, nose for the ball and ability to bait opposing quarterbacks into bad throws.
At minicamp, Webster continues to struggle. Peyton Manning will find him quickly, and he has tested Webster often. Roby is getting tested plenty as well, but he’s made a few plays that Webster has not.
This is going to be a close race, and it could last through most of training camp. Roby should win the third cornerback job with the idea that he could slide to the outside and Harris could slide inside in certain defensive packages. Webster still gives the team a talented, physical young corner with experience and upside.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.