Shadowing wide receivers, mirroring their movements and breaking crisply on the football, Bradley Roby is a capable, experienced cornerback.
For the Texans, Roby is their top cover guy assigned to match up with opponents' most dangerous receivers.
Although Roby is suspended for the first game of the season, the final week of his six-game suspension levied last season by the NFL for violating its performance-enhancing drug policy after testing positive for a banned substance, the Texans are counting heavily on him for an overhauled defense that struggled mightily in pass coverage a year ago.
Roby, 29, was signed to a three-year, $36 million contract last year that includes $19 million guaranteed. He loses another $590,074 in pay by missing the first game of the season after forfeiting $1.511 million last season as the discipline from the league cost him five game checks and a weekly $31,250 per-game active roster bonus
At 5-foot-11, 194 pounds, Roby has size, 4.39 speed and technique working in his favor. He has 10 career interceptions, 311 tackles, eight forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, four sacks and 75 passes defensed. That includes one interception and seven passes defensed in 10 starts last season before the suspension, allowing 29 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns on 45 targets and an opposing passer rating of 89.8.
New Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith is counting on Roby to give the Texans a shutdown presence outside in an AFC South division that keeps getting more challenging with the Tennessee Titans trading for Julio Jones to form a tough tandem with A.J. Brown.
“Number one, I think he has that skillset to be able to do that," Smith said. "Excellent speed, quickness, change of direction, all of that. He’s a willing tackler. We need him to be our one cornerback as much as anything. You just look at our division. The division seems like daily it’s getting stronger at the wide receiver position.
"There will be some big challenges that we’ll have. I know most people assume we’re going to play – I hear it always, ‘Well, you guys don’t need corners, you play Cover 2 every snap.’ Well, we play a little bit more than Cover 2 every snap. We’ll need to be able to match up on the outside and we feel like we’ll have not just Bradley that can do it, but others also.”
Roby is the Texans' best cornerback. He'll be joined by Terrance Mitchell, Desmond King and Vernon Hargreaves.
"It’s a new scheme and a learning curve for everyone involved," Texans cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso said. "As we talk about the experience of Bradley Roby, a guy that has played a lot of football in his career, experience is something you can’t teach, obviously.
"Then, Terrance Mitchell and Vernon Hargreaves are guys that have played over 1,000 snaps last season. Excited about the experience at the top and then we have a bunch of young players that are athletic and have played some football in their careers as well.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128