Can Rookie Gold be found in the Playoffs?

The Denver Bronco's coaches have called upon their top two rookie cornerbacks to do something that would have most coaches around the league thinking about an early retirement before considering. That is, start two rookies in the dog-eat-dog world of the NFL playoffs.

In a league where first year corners usually get roasted like marshmallows at a Boy Scout jamboree, Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth have proven to the league, their teammates, and their coaches that they had what it took to succeed during the regular season. Now it's "show time" in the bone crushing monster known as the NFL Playoffs, and against the Bronco's first opponent, the unforgiving machine known as the New England Patriots.

The first playoff test of the young corners isn't an easy one. Tom Brady is 10-0 in playoff games, and the Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls. However, it was Foxworth and Williams who combined for 12 tackles and forced a fumble in their first meeting this year.

As physical skills go, Williams and Foxworth have shown that they've had it all year. They combined for 124 tackles, four interceptions, one sack, and a forced fumble. Now they need to show they can handle the fact that one mistake, one wrong read, or one misstep might send them home for the rest of the year. Home to watch Desperate Housewives from their Gucci designer sofas.

When Shannahan was asked how he thought his rookies would react to the pressures of the playoffs he said, "You really never know with rookies. They're very sharp kids (with) great speed and a feel for their position, and they gained a lot of valuable experience in the pre-season and that carried over to the (regular) season."

Don't think for one moment that what Shannahan says about his young phenoms is just a coach's usual rhetoric. Williams and Foxworth are the first rookie corners to start for the Broncos since Grady Cavness and Billy Thompson started in 1969.

Unfortunately, Williams will see limited action against New England due to a groin injury he suffered against Baltimore on the opening kickoff. Williams says he's around "60 percent" in recovering from his injury.

That won't stop Williams from playing though "If I'm out there at 60 percent, I can go out there and play, because I don't play tentative." Good, because tentative against the Patriots can equal 6 points in a hurry. Foxworth knows Williams and he have been given tools necessary to win all year from his coaches and teammates, "They've been preparing us all year," said Foxworth.

These young men show no signs of fear of what lies ahead. It could be like Mike Shannahan says, "Rookies don't understand how hard it is to get here." implying that in this case ignorance might be bliss.

Both men know that this is the biggest game of their lives. Of course they have no real idea of what the playoffs are all about. This is their first taste. They don't know the speed at which the players play at in the playoffs, or how hard hitting it is, but there's one thing the both of them have shown all year, and that's the ability to adapt and overcome.

So to answer whether or not they‘ll be able to handle the pressure of the playoffs, just listen to the words of Darrent Williams "We can beat these guys." A cornerback's cockiness to the end.

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