ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Kayvon Webster grew up admiring Champ Bailey -- "my favorite corner," Webster gushed Friday. Eventually, the Broncos' third-round pick might be part of the plan to succeed the future Hall of Famer.
For now, Webster is part of what will be one of the most intriguing competitions of training camp -- the scrum to become the Broncos' fourth cornerback. Bailey, Chris Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie appear to be the clear-cut leaders, which would make them the trio that sees a majority of snaps, since it's likely the Broncos will use at least five defensive backs more often than their base package.
But at least a handful of snaps each game will be in the dime, and the emphasis on nickel-package work dictated by opposing offenses, means that the fourth cornerback will play a majority of a game's snaps at some point next year. That's what happened to Tony Carter, who eventually became the third cornerback and had some spectacular big plays, but was also beaten deep later in the season.
Carter, who signed his exclusive-rights tender this month, will have a chance to claim the No. 4 cornerback role. But so will Webster and 2012 fourth-round selection Omar Bolden, who played 57.8 percent of the snaps in Week 16 against Cleveland after Carter was deactivated and Tracy Porter (now with Oakland), suffered a first-series concussion after returning to the lineup for the first time in two months.
Bolden, who missed his final college season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, is two full years removed from the injury and should be at full strength to push for more playing time. Whether Webster can also be in that mix, or will be the fifth or sixth cornerback and limited to a developmental role as a rookie, will depend on how he adapts.
With some players, you focus on the numbers. With others, it's the film. Much of that depends on the performance of the team at large. For second-round pick Montee Ball, the film was ample, and working with a pro-style blocking scheme like Wisconsin uses allows for a keener glimpse at how he reads the development of a play.
That's not the case for Webster, who was often forced into adverse situations because the Bulls couldn't generate pressure without blitzing, and often struggled to give him any deep safety help, particularly last year.
The pressure exerted by the Bulls' front seven was so scattershot that Webster was one of their more effective pass rushers and run defenders at times; he had four tackles for loss and two sacks.
"He'll stick his nose in there in run support," Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said.
As Elway has also said before, "We don't draft All-Pros. We've got to make All-Pros." It's players like Webster of whom he was speaking. Webster's coverage skills need polish, and the Broncos will try to coach him up. But a 4.41-second 40-yard dash time, open-field quickness and instincts are the kind of raw materials that can be molded into NFL quality. With patience, Webster can work his way into a large role; in the short term, he'll provide depth.