Buffalo Bills: Ronald Darby continues to look and learn

Buffalo Bills cornerback Ronald Darby bounces back from baptism of fire against the Carolina Panthers

It’s fair to say Ronald Darby endured a baptism of fire during his professional debut for the Buffalo Bills. The Carolina Panthers repeatedly tested the rookie cornerback, at one point throwing four straight time at him to start the second half.

Two long passes highlighted Darby’s struggles; a 38 yard catch by veteran Ted Ginn and a 34-yard effort by rookie Devin Funchess. In fairness though, both plays required pinpoint throws and excellent grabs.

In any event, everyone always knew the Panthers were going to target the 21-year old. That’s what happens when you’re new to the NFL.

Of course, the key is for Darby to use this “initiation” as an opportunity to develop his game and gain valuable experience, before the real action begins next month. If the second game against the Cleveland Browns is anything to go by, he appears to be learning.

The Oxonhill, Maryland native finished the night with two interceptions. This proved extremely beneficial to a Bills offense that only managed 11 points during the contest.

As has been pointed put by various scouts and media analysts, Darby’s biggest weakness is a lack of awareness and location of the ball. While he could get away with this in college, due to his excellent speed, that just won’t cut it in the NFL.

Aug 14, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills cornerback Ronald Darby (28) during a preseason NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

You better believe the 2015 second round draft pick worked on this during last week with the coaching staff. And for one game at least, he reaped the benefits.

Darby discussed this transformation with the media, including Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News: “I just came into this game positive like it’s a new start, it’s a new beginning,”

It also helped that the 2014 BCS National Champion had a better understanding of just how much faster the game is at the pro level: “Just getting used to the game speed, it’s a lot different coming from college being a rookie.”

Bills head coach Rex Ryan also expressed his appreciation for Darby’s efforts: “He just keeps elevating his performance, and that’s what we expect.

“I don’t care about who we had on the corner last week or the lack of support we gave (in coverage). I’d rather have him learn from it in the preseason and be ready to go out in the regular season.”

The next stage of the 2012 Freshman All-American’s development will come against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which will be an excellent test for him. Teams typically play their prospective week one starters for a longer period of time during the third preseason game.

What makes this even more important, is that Darby is likely to begin the regular season as one of the Bills starting cornerbacks, due to the injury of Leodis McKelvin. (The latest reports have McKelvin starting the season on the reserve/PUP list, meaning he could miss the first six games.)

As such, the 2011 World Youth Championships bronze medal winner will need to step up significantly, especially with Ryan’s blitz-happy schemes demanding a lot of man-to-man coverage. Fortunately, he sounds mentally prepared for the challenge.

Darby said: “It’s a blessing, Each week is a new beginning, so I just have to keep preparing myself week to week.”