DENVER — His NFL resume; is all of two games long, but Denver Broncos rookie cornerback Perrish Cox has learned a few things.
For one, he realizes he's a rookie.
And, he knows there's a good chance he'll be lined up Sunday across from Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. And Manning always does the math.
"I know, I know," Cox said. "I've heard he'll pick on me. I'll just take all the coaching I can. ... But I love the challenge, and it's going to be a big challenge."
With injuries all over the roster, including at cornerback, there's a good chance the Broncos will be forced to put young players in the kinds of situations they may not have faced before.
Playing at Oklahoma State put a player such as Cox in the teeth of top-caliber Big 12 competition. But that's undergrad work to what he'll face if he goes against Manning, who has a Ph.D. in shattering young players' confidence.
Broncos fans remember Manning repeatedly throwing at then-rookie Roc Alexander in the Colts' 49-24 victory in an AFC wild-card game to close out Denver's 2004 season. Alexander looked visibly shaken after Reggie Wayne caught 10 passes for 221 yards, most of those with Alexander in tow.
"You try to tell young guys, a guy like Peyton is going to do good things," said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. "Good teams are going to do good things. You know that. Sometimes during a game is not the time to worry about what happened — you can fix it later — in the game you've got to keep playing. You have to have a 10-second memory on some things."
Winning the confidence game is imperative for some of the Broncos' youngest players Sunday. The Broncos are expected to have a rookie in Zane Beadles trying to block Colts defensive end Robert Mathis in place of the injured Ryan Harris.
And they likely will have a rookie, Cox, lining up in either Bailey's or AndrÉ Goodman's spot because of injuries. They could have another rookie at cornerback in Cassius Vaughn if neither Goodman (right thigh) nor Bailey (right heel) can play.
"Certain plays are going to be made in a game, that's just how it is. You want to stop them all, but some will get made," Vaughn said. "Going in, the more prepared you are, the better you're going to feel. And you better have a very, very short memory. If you're thinking about the last play, you're going to give up another one and another one, and then you're going to be worried about a lot of plays."
Vaughn isn't short on confidence, or he wouldn't have risen from undrafted rookie free agent to make the 53-man roster.
With Vaughn's emergence as well as Cox's strong play in camp, the Broncos traded former second-round pick Alphonso Smith to Detroit just before the season opened.
"You have to love the challenge," Cox said of Sunday's matchup. "I'll probably get more action in the game because of Manning and what he does — he knows who's who out there. I have to be ready for everything. You know it's coming."
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