Ronald Darby may be a second-round pick, but in a secondary steeped in veteran talent, the rookie was hoping to see some prime opportunities here and there. On day one of training camp Darby got that and a whole lot more. With Leodis McKelvin on the Active/Non-Football Injury list and no timetable for a return, Darby appears to have a golden opportunity to make a name for himself at left cornerback early in camp.
On Friday the defensive staff inserted the rookie into the starting lineup at McKelvin's vacant position and Darby did not disappoint. He was one of the standouts in the team's first practice of the summer.
"It's a blessing," Darby said. "I know they're relying on me. My whole team is relying on me. So I just want to come out there and go and make plays and compete."
Defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson worked with Darby on Friday morning before full team drills. They worked on Darby's footwork and quickness off the line. The work paid off as Darby intercepted quarterback Matt Cassel on an attempted fade route pass for Robert Woods.
"[I] just stayed squared off the line, made sure I got a hand on him … and went back for the ball and went up on it," he said. "I made a good play."
Ryan believes Darby has a great set of coaching tutors in the secondary with assistants Tim McDonald and Donnie Henderson.
"You've got Donnie Henderson really heading up coaching those corners," he said. "When you look at that experience we have on that back end as a coaching staff, not just with the guys we have playing, I think [Darby's] going to benefit from that."
Darby is currently part of a secondary that has veteran players who have already proven themselves in the league. Fellow corners Stephon Gilmore and Corey Graham, now playing safety, have been showing him the ropes early on.
"It's great working with people like Corey Graham, Gilmore, everyone's really just helping me," Darby said. "They're all there for me and they help me out a lot."
With his play on Friday, Darby caught Ryan's eye. The head coach expects him to make the most of this early shot at extra playing time.
"We're confident we're going to get this young man up to speed," he said. "I think he's going to be a guy who develops quickly."
Looking forward, Darby is hoping to compete every day at practice and make plays to earn significant playing time in a strong secondary.
"[I want to] go out there and just compete, really," he said. "Just get as many interceptions and make as many plays as I can."
Like many other players, Darby is just excited to be playing football again. It's been over a month since minicamp took place and Darby is optimistic about his play coming back.
"It went very well," Darby said. "Just getting back on the field feels great."