Del Rio: Webster 'has very bright future'


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There's perception and there's reality. Sometimes they go together, but sometimes they do not.

The perception, for many who rant about such things as a vocation, is that Denver Broncos cornerback Kayvon Webster's rookie season in 2013 was an abysmal affair with the apex of the struggles being the nationally televised loss to the San Diego Chargers last December.

In that game Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hammered away at Webster as veteran quarterbacks will do against rookies.

"And they just made more plays than I did that night," Webster said.

The reality is Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has big plans for Webster, both right now and down the road.

"He's a talent, he's a tough kid, he can run, he's bright," Del Rio. "Yeah, he was thrust into duty last year and in a moment, or two, that was televised or highly publicized, maybe he got beat. But tell me a corner who hasn't ever been beat. That happens. He was unfazed by it and went about his work. This guy is an ascending player who has a very bright future."

With Chris Harris Jr. still coming back from ACL surgery -- he just returned to practice this week -- Webster has worked plenty with the starters, both outside and in the slot. When the Broncos are at full strength in their re-vamped defense, they project to start Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib at cornerback in the base defense. They've practiced as if Bradley Roby would then come in an outside spot to move Harris Jr. into the slot.

That puts Webster in the dime with the prospect of using him in the nickel from time to time as well. And that, more than anything Del Rio said, shows the strength of the Broncos secondary in this training camp.

"The hard work I put in is paying off," Webster said. "I'm not a rookie any more, I'm just relaxed out there, taking advantage of the coaches putting me in."

In the end the math says Webster played 428 snaps on defense in the 2013 regular season, or 42 percent of the teams' plays. Some folks made up their mind about Webster with a handful of those plays against the Chargers, including a 10-yard catch by Keenan Allen when Webster had his hands between Allen's hands -- "in the pocket" as defensive coaches say -- but was not able to keep Allen from making the play.

Del Rio is quick to say "most guys would have already been out of that game, Kayvon just kept playing no matter what happened, including his hand." Webster suffered a fractured right thumb with just less than 13 minutes remaining in that game and stayed in the lineup.

"My thumb was probably OK about two weeks after I took the cast off (the week after the Super Bowl)," Webster said. "I still rehab the thumb to make sure."

Webster has turned some heads already this summer given he has intercepted Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning twice in training camp's early going, including one he returned for a touchdown.

The third-round pick from the 2013 draft, as he tries to make his way up the depth chart, said he has also remained in contact with former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who is now with the New Orleans Saints. Webster consistently made it a point to sit next to Bailey in the defensive backs' meeting room, even as Bailey worked through an injury-marred season last year.

"That's my mentor right there," Webster said. "We've got a relationship, I just went to his wedding about three weeks ago … but I use something he said or showed me every day. He always told me be ready to start, because he said I would be able to do that. So no matter what I want to be ready to start."