- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - On back-to-back August afternoons, Denver Broncos rookie cornerback Bradley Roby was torched by Peyton Manning’s long touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas.

The first time, Roby trudged off the field knowing his technique, leverage and his reaction time could have been better.

“He never had to go against an offense like this or a quarterback like that,” Thomas said.

Or a receiver as talented as Thomas.

The next day, same play, same result.

This time, Roby plodded back to the sideline in frustration.

He knew he’d done all he possibly could have and yet he’d still come up short.

“I don’t know if there’s a lesson there but just keep doing everything you can and even when you do, there might be an occasion when a Hall of Fame quarterback and an outstanding Pro Bowl receiver hook up anyway,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said afterward.

“That coverage was as good as it could be and it was just a perfect throw. Every now and then that happens in this league and I think you learn that as a younger player.”

The following week, Roby was a different player entirely.

“I guess he got tired of getting beat,” Thomas said. “Because two days in a row I had caught two deep balls on him and the next week he came out playing way better. You could just see the difference. You could see him not guessing about stuff. He had that swagger.”

That’s what had convinced GM John Elway to draft him in the first round in April.

With Chris Harris Jr. still working his way back from ACL surgery and Kayvon Webster sidelined by a sprained ankle, Roby capitalized on his increased snaps that sped up his learning curve.

“There is no question when you’re being challenged every day in practice like you are with our receiving corps that’s going to help you be better on Sunday,” Del Rio said. “Certainly with Chris being out or limited through a lot of camp, he got a ton of reps.”

In three joint practices and an exhibition game against the Houston Texans, Roby was tested by another big receiver in Andre Johnson.

“Going against a guy like Andre, and holding my own, doing decent on him, gives me more confidence,” Roby said. “Every day I’m trying to get better. It’s a process. You can’t come in and expect to be Darrelle Revis Day 1. It’s a slow climb to the top. I’m willing to put the work in.”

It paid off in the opener when Roby knocked down three passes and sealed Denver’s 31-24 win over Indianapolis by batting down Andrew Luck’s fourth-down throw to Reggie Wayne in the closing minutes.

Del Rio said Denver’s coaches never hesitated to put Roby on Wayne.

“We felt good about the matchup as long as he’s playing smart, playing with his leverage and using good technique,” Del Rio said. “He’s got the talent to cover some of the top guys.”

Cornerback Aqib Talib thought Roby’s debut was outstanding.

“If I could go back and change my first game as a rookie, I’d make mine just like Bradley Roby’s,” said Talib, a two-time All-Pro. “He had a great game.”

In his first NFL game, Talib was burned for an 84-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Devery Henderson in 2008 when his Buccaneers lost to the Saints 24-20.

Roby gave up his share of receptions, but he never got down on himself.

“I’ve definitely seen some growth,” Harris said, “because a couple of weeks ago if somebody caught a ball on him, he was just done. Now, I mean, they caught the ball on him. So, for him to not be down and continue to fight throughout the whole game, that’s huge for a rookie.”

Notes: S David Bruton practiced Thursday for the first time since separating his left shoulder in the opener. … OC Adam Gase declined to say if WR Wes Welker could play against Kansas City on Sunday if the league and players union iron out a new drug policy by this weekend. A new agreement could lead to Welker’s four-game drug suspension getting rescinded. “It’s a hypothetical. I’m not going to worry about it,” Gase said. “If something happens, I’ll deal with it when that time comes.” … LB Von Miller was voted the Broncos’ player rep for the NFLPA.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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