ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Lest you forget there are five members of the "No-Fly Zone," cornerback Bradley Roby provided a stark reminder on Sunday in Miami.
In place of the suspended Aqib Talib, the fourth-year player officially recorded three pass breakups — the Broncos awarded him five — and no touchdowns allowed.
He also added a forced fumble and fumble recovery, which perhaps impressed Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods more than any of the other plays.
"That fumble recovery, he forced," Woods said. "That's what we've been doing in practice, so it was good to see him take it from the practice field to the game. He did some impressive things. We still want him to be more consistent — there were a couple plays here and there. But overall I thought he did a good job filling in for Talib."
Thirteen months ago, Roby's performance looked quite different. In a "Sunday Night Football" showdown against the Raiders, he struggled at times against the physical Amari Cooper.
Cooper finished with six catches on eight targets for 56 yards, and four of those receptions came in work against Roby. The 6-foot-1 receiver also drew a defensive holding call and 23-yard pass interference flag against the Broncos' third corner. All that came after Roby allowed a 21-yard pass to Seth Roberts early in the game.
Roby led the team in tackles that night and recorded a sack, but he was unable to record a pass break up.
That performance begs the question: What changed? Was that night in Oakland in aberration, or has Roby taken a massive step forward over the last 12 months? Miami's trio of receivers — Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker — is no joke, and Roby handled the task with few problems.
Here's how Woods would explain it: Roby has found a new level of consistency in regards to his technique.
"His coaches have done a good job with him just really focusing on technique," Woods said. "Roby will get in trouble sometimes if his technique's not right. As long as his technique's right, athletically he can cover anybody in this league. So really, [it's about] just being disciplined with what he's doing.
"Whether it's a press-[coverage] technique, an [off]-technique, how we're playing thirds, things of that nature. At times, he'll get out of whack a little bit and not be in the best possible position. We're just really focusing on him putting himself in the best position and playing clean technique."
And perhaps there's a bit of a change in mentality, as well.
Though Roby has always been heavily involved in the defense, Woods suspects that the opportunity to prove himself as a starter created a bit more motivation.
"He's not a big talker, but you can see it in his eyes," Woods said. "He made a couple plays just kind of saying, 'Hey, I can do this.' And that's what we need from him. In his eyes, I don't know how he sees it, but in the NFL you play with three corners a lot more than you [play] in base personnel.
"To us, he's a starter. But in his mind, to be able to start in base and sub [packages] was good for him and good for his confidence."
In the Miami sun, Oakland couldn't have seemed further away.