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One player holds the keys to the future existence of the ‘No Fly Zone’

Zac Stevens Avatar
July 13, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — During the last decade — which encompassed the Peyton Manning era, Super Bowl 50 and beyond — one nickname within the Denver Broncos’ organization stood out above the rest: The “No Fly Zone.”

Even with a deadly pass rush, a historic passing attack, and one of the best defenses of recent memory, only Denver’s secondary was good enough to earn a name known by so many — although significant personalities within the defensive backfield certainly didn’t hurt their cause for national recognition.

Now, with the departure of Aqib Talib, along with T.J. Ward a year ago, many have questioned if the “No Fly Zone” still exists — most notably Talib himself. The answer to those questions won’t come until the fall when the men in Orange & Blue take the field.

But there’s one player above the rest that will have more of an impact in answering that question.

Bradley Roby will be the man to either keep the “No Fly Zone” a household name, or have it fade.

The most obvious reason for this significant burden falling on Roby’s shoulders is he’s the man the Broncos are counting on to seamlessly take the place of five-time consecutive Pro Bowler Talib.

For three seasons, or from the beginning of the “No Fly Zone,” Chris Harris Jr. and Talib were a near guarantee to lock down their opposing receivers, allowing defensive coordinators Wade Phillips and Joe Woods to never worry about that part of the defense and use their resources in other places.

In large part due to this, Denver’s defense finished in the top four in passing defense in the NFL all three seasons, coming out on top in two of those years.

If Roby fills Talib’s shoes seamlessly, there’s no reason to believe the defense can’t be on the same path it’s been in recent years. However, if he struggles in his promotion from No. 3 cornerback to No. 2, then the passing floodgates could open.

But the pressure on Roby doesn’t simply just stop there as the team’s No. 2 cornerback.

As has been made very clear throughout the entire offseason, Harris Jr., the team’s No. 1 cornerback, will continue to play in the slot whenever needed, which will likely be a significant amount of time.

That will then force Roby to be Woods’ No. 1 cornerback on the outside, potentially matching up against the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Josh Gordon this year.

Sure, it’s possible Harris Jr., Justin Simmons and a combination of Darian Stewart, Su’a Cravens and Will Parks all take significant steps back and the future of the “No Fly Zone” is no longer in Roby’s hands, but the odds for that happening would not likely be very favorable.

Another hole people could point to in the secondary, created by Talib’s departure, could be the No. 3 cornerback spot, or Roby’s previous position.

However, if the former first-round pick effectively fills in the No. 2 cornerback spot, then Woods will have multiple resources to be able to patch up the third cornerback position. If Roby isn’t able to hold down the No. 2 spot, there just simply won’t be enough resources to devote to patch up two cornerback positions.

On the flip side of all of this, Roby has an opportunity to take Denver’s defense to another level by creating turnovers, something the defense wasn’t able to do last year.

It’s only fitting that Roby’s significant increase in responsibility is met with a monumental pay raise. The fifth-year option he’ll be playing under will pay him $8.526 million in 2018 compared to the $3.226 million he made over his first four years in the league combined.

The Broncos will quickly find out if he’s worth the money.

With all the pressure on him, Bradley Roby will either get to prove his former teammate Aqib Talib wrong, while in the process of proving Chris Harris Jr. right, or Talib will be proven right that the “No Fly Zone” departed with him.

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