Bills rookie corner back Ronald Darby was under attack against the Carolina Panthers in the preseason opener. Against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night it was Darby on the attack.
Darby, who played exclusively in the first half of the Bills 11-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, picked off Browns quarterback Josh McCown twice and added two tackles. The Florida State product played left corner back with the first team across from Stephon Gilmore.
"It's a blessing," Darby said. "I've just got to keep carrying myself and keep competing"
Darby's first interception came in the first quarter. Linebacker Nigel Bradham tipped McCown's pass intended for tight end Gary Barnidge straight up for Darby to snag.
"Once my receiver broke back down at the sticks, I broke and I flipped my head around," Darby said. "When I saw the release I started to run a little bit to get near the ball and once I saw it tipped up I was just in perfect position."
His second pick came on a long pass down the right side intended for wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. McCown overthrew his man and Darby was in position to make the grab.
"I just read his beat, stayed over top," Darby said.
Darby's play caught the attention of veteran teammate Corey Graham.
"Darby did a really good job of bouncing back from last week," he said. "Last week was a tough one for him. Seeing how he responded, came out here and made some plays. It is good to see and the sky is the limit for him."
Against Carolina, Darby was thrown at throughout the entire game as Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman left him one-on-one with no help for almost the whole game. He was matched up against 6-5, 245-pound WR Kelvin Benjamin and 6-4, 225-pound Devin Funchess, a daunting task for a 5-11, 193-pound 21-year-old.
"We fed him to the wolves," head coach Rex Ryan said after the loss to Carolina. "If anything we put coverage away from him. So we put him out there by himself and let him learn."
This time around, Darby was not to be thrown at. McCown only went after him a few times and when he did, bad things happened. Both of Darby's picks came on third-and-long plays against veteran receivers. Overall, McCown was seven-for-10 passing for 57 yards and was sacked three times.
Ryan was impressed with the rookie's play, saying that he was glad that his players were learning from their mistakes in the preseason.
"He just keeps elevating his play and that's what we expect," Ryan said. "I don't care who we had on the corner last week with the lack of support we gave them it was going to be rough."
As a whole, the Bills secondary looked sharp. The group allowed just 143 yards with 4.5 yards per attempt.
"I thought our guys did a good job," Ryan said. "When you have a good defense or an elite defense you challenge them mentally to do things ... We take advantage of what we're seeing and what we're getting, protections and so forth and we've got to be ready to go with it, but I thought they did a nice job and responded well to it.""
Darby still has room to grow in the Bills defense. Still, he has shown throughout training camp that he has the skill set to make it in the NFL, and despite a rocky start against the Panthers, he certainly impressed against the Browns on Thursday night.
"This is the next level, it's nothing like college," Darby said. "Each week is a new beginning."
Check out the best photos from the Preseason Week 2 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns at Firstenergy Stadium.