ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** The Broncos' 31-17 win over the Jets required a big play by the defense to seal it, but several individuals played stand-out games in New Jersey. We'll start with first-round pick Bradley Roby, whose game-by-game improvement is extremely encouraging.
ROBY STUFFS STAT SHEET
Rookie cornerbacks historically have one of the sharper learning curves when adjusting to the NFL level. Even those that make big plays are liable to give a few up now and then. But Roby's progression since the Broncos took him 31st overall in May's draft has been remarkably steady, with very few negative moments along the way.
"What usually separates guys is how they prepare, the exactness in this league that you have to play at in pass defense, especially the corner position," John Fox said Monday. "I think he's really stood out there."
"He's very willing, he's a sponge to learn and he's a smart guy, football(-wise). He understands concepts and he's not afraid to work."
"It's a process," Roby said after the game. "You don't walk out there on day one and just kill stuff unless you're LeBron James or something you know, so that's definitely not going to happen at cornerback."
"So much stuff that happens, you have to react so many times, you're never going to be perfect. I just keep going, keep getting better, just make more plays than you give up."
He accomplished that goal and then some on Sunday against the Jets with a performance made more impressive by his job filling in as the team's left cornerback when Aqib Talib missed some snaps due to dehydration.
Targeted four times in coverage against the Jets, Roby allowed just one completion for seven yards according to Pro Football Focus, and also recorded two passes defensed. On top of those plays, Roby got to Geno Smith twice on blitzes — on the first, he hit Smith in the pocket and Malik Jackson cleaned up with a tackle for no gain; on the second, Roby finished the sack himself after flying through the Jets' offensive line.
"I'm mad I missed that first sack," Roby said. "Before the play, I told Aqib (Talib), 'Yo, sack, sack, sack, watch.' He said, 'All right, I'm going to check you out.' And I missed, so I'm glad they called another blitz for me so I could make up for it."
Roby's opportunities to rush the quarterback coincided with his return to the slot, where he spent the first two weeks of the season before Chris Harris Jr. manned the slot against the Seahawks and Cardinals. Despite not playing inside at Ohio State, Roby has embraced the position, a spot that is often considered more difficult because the defender loses the benefit of the sideline.
"I've always wanted to work the slot and in college I wanted to work it but we didn't have the personnel to do that," he said. "So I'm getting the opportunity now. I'm going to try to take advantage of it. I can play both spots easy and it's going to help me in the long run."
If the rookie continues to play inside, perhaps he can pick up a few more sacks.
"Yeah, I want as many as I can get," Roby said, adding with a smile, "I want more sacks than Von."
Even if Roby starts blitzing on most of his snaps, he's going to have a tough time catching a now-streaking Von Miller.
Despite missing nine snaps after losing a contact on a big hit against the Jets and being required to pass a concussion test, Miller finished the game with two sacks, four QB hits and a batted pass. He terrorized Smith in the game's final sequence with a sack and batted pass before Talib's game-ending pick-six.
"Whenever we can pin our ears back, we're playing to our game, we're playing to what we do best," Miller said, adding that he's "feeling great."
The 2012 runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year now has consecutive two-sack games and four straight games with at least a full sack, putting him at six total, one back of the league lead. Perhaps more important than the sacks, Miller is providing consistent pressure throughout games, racking up nine QB hits in his last two weeks. He also is third on the team in tackles with 25.
No. 58 is perhaps even scooping a few sacks from 7-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware, who acknowledged last week that the two have been keeping score of their races to the quarterback in games as well as in practice. Considering Ware has been harrassing QBs plenty on his own this year -- recording at least a half sack and two QB hits in three of the five games — Miller's production is pointing skyward.
TOUCHDOWN TRAIN NOT STOPPING
Perhaps it's just becoming so routine that we're paying it less attention, but Julius Thomas' third multi-touchdown game in five tries arrived yesterday, putting him at the top of a pretty impressive list. Thomas now has the most touchdowns through five games (9) of any tight end in NFL history, two more than Antonio Gates and Mike Ditka and three more than Thomas and Jimmy Graham had to start the 2013 season.
"Julius, as we've said throughout the season, is a tough matchup problem for teams," Peyton Manning said. "Do you put a corner on him, a safety, or a linebacker? What do you do? They had some double teams toward him which tells you what they thought of Julius. Adam did a good job mixing it up and moving Julius around, able to get him two big touchdowns plays that really helped us win the game."
Thomas isn't always picking up big chunks of yardage, but seems to be unstoppable near the end zone, even more so than he was in 2013, when he caught 12 touchdowns in 14 games.
When asked what's changed since then, Fox answered, "I think the biggest thing is probably confidence. He hadn't played a whole lot of football before we drafted him."
"Once he got on the field he had a pretty big impact right away. I think with that he's gained a lot of confidence. He's playing good football."
For the fourth-year tight end, who knows how long the streak can go? "You never know when they're going to come," he said after the game. "They've been coming in bunches for me this year and I hope they continue."