If you told me to grade myself at the end of my rookie year on an A-D scale, I'd give a D-minus.
I hold myself to very high standards, which is what made it difficult when my position coach, Mike Caldwell, gave me an offseason checklist. It was hard not because I couldn't do it, but because I already knew what was on it — study, master my footwork, improve my coverage skills. Simply put, I knew I had to step up in my second year.
Once Dave [Harris] left, I took it as a signal that I needed to speed up my learning curve regardless of who takes over the Mike. I was brought here to make splash plays. I know I'm a young guy at 23 years old, but you have to act older than your age in this league and I feel like my maturity is one of the reasons I'm here.
I felt good going into training camp as I knew what to expect. Playbook — check. Calls — check. This year it was time to just go out and compete. Deep breath. 3…2…1…
I didn't exhale until we lost in Oakland. I kept inhaling and I didn't relax. We just allowed 370 rushing yards in two games and that was going to be the end of that story. It was a huge reality check. I was trying to control everything instead of focusing on my assignments and that's not how this game goes. You can only control your job. Now it's nice and smooth on the field. I inhale and exhale.
When I settled in, that's when the fun began. I was comfortable, hungry. I diagnosed plays quicker, I was bringing down the ball carrier behind the line and covering a lot better. Demario [Davis] and I played off each other, making sure we had each other's backs. He set us up, I honed in on offensive checks and alerted the guys what's coming. My personal favorite is when you call their play out and you're right. When everybody on offense looks at you after you call the play, that's how you know you hit the nail on the head. It's so much fun. That's why we were able to play fast. We started doing that in Week 3.
Even though I'm better than my rookie season, don't get me wrong, there's still a lot of splash plays I can make to help change the outcome of the game. We're right there. Look at all the close games we played in. That's the best part.
Moving forward, my main focus is turning our hard work into wins. I want to better myself, but I always want to do so in a position where our team is expected to win games instead of everybody counting us out. That's the next step and that's a huge hill to climb, but it's possible.
Let me tell you this, Jets Nation — greatness is forming inside these walls. Everybody is confident and no one is worried. We're all sticking together and going out to get better every single day. That's the beauty of this. We know we're a young team, we know we're a hungry team. If you quit, you're never going to know how good you could be, so that's why we're going to keep pushing each other. I'm really looking forward to the growth. We know if we keep chipping away, we're eventually going to get to the pot of gold.