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Stewart, Roby hell-bent on improving

Sam Cowhick Avatar
May 18, 2016


The Denver Broncos defense was historically and visually awe-inspiring last season. It is no mystery to Broncos’ fans that the Super Bowl 50 trophy residing in the team’s headquarters is there almost entirely due to the defense’s efforts. Two players on that fantastic unit quietly held pivotal roles on that team, yet get little attention.

Cornerback Bradley Roby and safety Darian Stewart, both generally muted contributors, separately made enormous, game-saving plays at points in the 2015-16 season (see week 1, week 2 and the divisional playoff round) and now, as Super Bowl champions, still see clear room for improvement.

“You always want to build on success,” Roby said Wednesday. “You don’t want to forget it but you want to keep building.”

Both Stewart and Roby are sandwiched in position groups that contain Pro-Bowl players Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and T.J. Ward but both had Pro-Bowl type seasons in 2015. Stewart ranked fourth on the team with 59 total regular season tackles and the two tied for the second most passes defensed (10 a piece) during the team’s first 16 games. Stewart missed just one game and started 16 of the team’s 19 contests, playing in 74 percent of defensive snaps in the regular season. Roby played in 56.9 percent of defensive snaps, didn’t miss a game and started two.

With the defense mostly intact after losing starters Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, both players, now veterans of the Broncos defense, are up for the challenge of trying to top such an incredible defensive season.

“I think we are ready for the challenge,” Stewart said Monday. “From day one we came in with the mindset of repeating.”

Roby added to that sentiment moments later and detailed why.

“When people see events that haven’t happened before they automatically doubt,” he said of the Broncos losing two quarterbacks. “But we know that defense is a big reason why we got to [Super Bowl 50] and we won the game. We are very confident that we will be better probably this year just because we will try harder, it is another year with our coaches and will run the defense a little better.”

The feat of playing better individually is absolutely possible and a necessity for any player in the NFL and Roby, in just his third season, knows he still has a lot to learn.

“I have a lot of things I can correct from my first two years. I can learn the game more,” he said. “There are some parts of my game I don’t even pay attention to that I know guys that are on the top level definitely pay attention to.”

Roby immediately earned a spot on the field in his 2014 rookie season, playing in all 16 regular season games (two starts) and tallied the second most passes defensed (13) and tackles (64) among rookie cornerbacks. In his second season, he was relied on even more and his physicality on the field was noticeable. Among two other great cornerbacks, there was little, if any drop off in his play, yet he received little recognition which has fostered mixed feelings for him.

“It matters a little bit to me but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter because people see what I do on the field,” he explained. “Of course, it matters to me as a competitor, as somebody who wants to be the top guy.”

As the youngest cornerback on the roster, Roby may have that opportunity in seasons down the road. Stewart, the clear starting free safety entering this season also recognizes he needs to tweak his game in order to top his 2015 season.

“Just taking the bad things I did last year and improving them,” Steward explained. “Just being a technician with my technique and stuff. I think that is key.”

Roby is under his rookie contract until 2018 but Stewart must play well again if he wants to stay with the Broncos. He will be an undrafted free agent in 2017 and with his trademark quiet confidence, he commented on how to receive another contract with Denver.

“Just be myself and keep doing what I have been doing. Play my game and I’ll be alright.”

The Broncos would be wise to sign both players soon to extended deals in order to keep the nucleus together but on Wednesday, both players admirably were all about their on-field performance than any off-field issues. Roby, in particular, has shown immediate maturity for a young player and knows that at any age, the clock is ticking on his football career.

“You only get one opportunity to be in the league,” he told. “I’m only going to be in the league for however many years so why not try and win as many as possible, especially when I am on the team I am on now. I’m just doing whatever I can to keep getting better and winning. That is all I’m going to do. I hate losing.”

If 2016 is anything like 2015, both players will be seen regularly getting in extra work in order to improve their individual game to the goal of contributing to the team’s overall success. And although both players display a vast amount of humility on a regular basis, Stewart Wednesday put the league on notice that there is no complacency or lack of confidence on the NFL’s best 2015 defense.

“It is our second year together so it is going to be hell for teams this year.”

Both Roby and Stewart are on a path to Pro Bowl nods in 2016 and if they gain that individual recognition that may spell doom for Denver’s opponents once again.


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