ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos snatched up cornerback Kayvon Webster with the 90th pick in this past April’s draft, some of their brethren in the personnel game around the league thought, sure, it was a good pick, but perhaps a bit of a reach in the third round.
Yet, three games into Webster’s rookie season, his play may have already authored a rather tidy response.
“That guy, I've been saying he’s going to be a player. I just think Kayvon’s going to have a long career in this league," Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “He’s going to be one of those guys who is a dominant corner in the future, take my word on that."
With all of the injuries the Broncos have had in the secondary already this season -- Champ Bailey has yet to play because of a left foot injury he suffered in mid-August and cornerback Tony Carter suffered an ankle injury in Monday night's win -- Webster's already quick progression up the depth chart has been expedited even a little more. And by the time Monday night’s game was over, Webster had been in on 25 snaps on defense to go with 18 on special teams. He has shown himself to be both confident in coverage as well as physical when asked to square up and tackle.
Or, in short, he’s been exactly who the Broncos thought he was.
“Kayvon has got a lot of swagger," said Broncos safety Rahim Moore. “He’s so confident; he’s not a rookie to me. I’ve seen that when he first came into training camp, he’s an unbelievable player."
What the Broncos saw in Webster as he closed out his career at South Florida was a cover corner who also led his team in tackles as a senior with 82. And while scouts often lament how much game video they have to wade through to see any cornerbacks in press coverage in college football, where most coordinators prefer to back off in coverage, Webster liked to play it close.
“I think maybe it helped me, that people saw I could match up,’’ Webster said. “I want to be able to do whatever they ask me to do.’’
For his part, Bailey has seen plenty rookies come and go through the years in his decorated career and he has consistently said it takes two things for a rookie cornerback to advance very far past the rookie part. That it takes the confidence in yourself to bounce back from the inevitable tough plays -- "You're matched against some of the best athletes in the world, they're going to score a touchdown sometimes no matter what you do." -- and it takes the willingness to learn and listen.
“It’s all about remembering they brought you here for a reason, so you have talent,’’ Bailey said. “But talent is just the start. You have to keep fighting on every play, give up a touchdown, get back and play the next play like you didn’t. And know what you’re supposed to do, every time. Get in the book, study, because if they don’t trust you, they won’t play you, guys aren't going to want to play next to you because you decided to do something besides prepare yourself, and then somebody else gets your locker after you’re gone."
Webster said his more veteran teammates in the defensive backs’ meeting room are constantly dropping “pop quizzes’’ on him, asking him his assignments in specific situations, simply to see if he is indeed following along.
He also believes those ambush quizzes are at least part of the reason, when the Broncos had a need to fill on the field, Webster has heard his name called.
“They get you ready, they keep you prepared," Webster said. “They ask you questions in front of the whole team, you have to answer them. I want to be able to answer them the best I can, I don’t want them looking at me thinking I didn’t stay on top of it. But I just listen all the time. And then if you have a question, ask it, ask Champ, ask Chris [Harris], we’re a pretty tight group, you can go to them without any problem. So, yeah, listen, study, ask questions and get answers, that’s how I’m doing it right now."