Bradley Roby is often times the forgotten man. It’s easy to see why given the talent of the guys who surround him. There’s Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart ... and that’s just the guys from the Denver Broncos secondary.
Then you have to take into account Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe and Brandon Marshall (even if people still think he’s the receiver for the New York Jets).
Only after those members of the best defense in the NFL are peeled away do you to see another critical layer in Roby. That speaks to how much talent is on this Denver defense, and especially that secondary. If he played anywhere else in the league, he would be a top two cornerback. There’s a reason it’s called the No Fly Zone.
Roby may not get as much attention as the guys listed above, but he’s just as vital to the success of the defense and team. That’s a testament to the work he’s put in on the field and off.
“I think I’m a way better player than I was my rookie year,” he said after practice on Saturday. “I am way better technique-wise, understand the game better and am more confident. I look forward to this year to see how I develop and to show the work that I’ve been putting in.”
When Roby speaks, you can tell that he wants to be in the discussion as one of the best in the NFL at what he does. Until that happens, he won’t be satisfied. Part of that comes back to the talent level around him. If Roby wants to remain on the field, his play has to remain consistent and elite.
He has to do his best to keep pace with Harris and Talib.
“I just want to worry about the team right now,” Roby said when asked if he has personal goals for the season. “I really just want the team to gel well. We have a lot of doubters about how the defense will look, so I just want to do my part to pick it up and set a standard for how we should play.”
Better yet for Roby and the entire defense is that this is their second year in the system and with these coaches. The confidence is certainly there thanks to the success reaped in its first year. And there’s room to get even better in 2016.
“It’s huge,” Roby said. “I’m way more comfortable this year on just the wordage and the verbiage on the plays. I know all the plays this year. It’s not really learning now. It’s more about keeping it crisp and teaching the young guys. Guys like Justin Simmons and Will (Parks) who are rookies this year and don’t know the defense. That’s what you need to do at this time of the year anyways.”
If Roby continues to make plays as he did on Saturday when he picked off Mark Sanchez and returned it for a touchdown, this defense will be better this season.
“What I really like is - I call it the guts of the football team,” Gary Kubiak said early in camp. “You have Shane Ray, Bennie (Fowler), Todd (Davis) and Bradley Roby. All these guys that this team needs to take another step. We’ve got some young kids doing some good things and you all see it. Those second- and third-year gut players on our team are really becoming good players and it’s exciting for us as a group to watch.”
Had great talk w @X_RAYted56 about his diet and weight gain. Went from 236 to 244 Lbs. He's stronger, faster. Ready to take step forward— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 2, 2016
Ray is in an almost identical situation as Roby. Surrounded by talent at his position, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. But that won’t keep Ray from having a big impact, just like Roby.
“I feel like I've had a good camp,” Ray said. “I've shown that I can play in all aspects of the game. I'm more comfortable and I think my coaches see that. For me, it's just getting better every day - keep working.”
Ray is in a unique spot in that his second year in the NFL is also his second year in this defense and he’s driven to have a big year.
“Having the majority of our guys coming back, the chemistry that was built over time before I came here is still there, obviously,” Ray said. “It's nice that we have young guys like myself, Roby, Shaq (Barrett), all the other guys that you see on the field (are) stepping up and making big plays. I think that definitely attributes to what our defense could be and our potential.”
Roby and Ray may not get the same level of attention as some of their teammates. In some cases, they are the forgotten men.
That will soon change.