There's a common perception that the majority of NFL players make their greatest gains from their first to their second year in the league. The benefit of a full NFL offseason combined with the knowledge gained after taking their lumps as rookies and fighting through their first 16-game schedule usually has them poised to raise their game a few notches. After getting time on the field as rookies, Buffalo's defensive staff is hopeful that perception becomes reality for Torell Troup and Alex Carrington.
Bills defensive line coach Giff Smith believes that both Troup and Carrington have bring futures and stand a very good chance of being fixtures in Buffalo's defensive front for years to come. Troup was largely a rotational player as a rookie appearing in 15 games including a pair of starts. The grind of his first NFL season however, took a toll on his body.
"He had an issue with his back and hamstrings during his rookie season," said Smith.
Troup set out this offseason to eliminate those nagging physical problems with a rigorous workout regimen. By his own account he is a chiseled 325 pounds adding 11 pounds of muscle to his frame from last season.
"I think Torell has done a great job of improving his core strength," said Smith. "I only got to speak to him a couple of times prior to the lockout, but he's worked hard and I think he's going to make huge strides this coming season. I think he's got the ability to be an excellent player."
For Carrington the playing time did not come right away his rookie season. The defensive end was inactive for seven of the first nine games of the 2010 campaign as there were experienced veterans ahead of him on the depth chart.
Despite playing in a 3-4 scheme for the first time in his football career, Smith was generally pleased with what Carrington showed on game tape as he posted eight tackles in nine appearances including his first career sack (Ben Roethlisberger), two quarterback hits and a batted pass.
"Alex Carrington came on at the end of the year," Smith said. "We were able to keep him active and get him some snaps. He just needs to play more and more and he's shown that he has the ability to be a huge factor for us."
So as excited as the defensive staff is about the addition of top pick Marcell Dareus, Smith believes the development of Troup and Carrington should also go a long way in fortifying Buffalo's defensive front this fall.
"I'm real excited about what we have now," he said. "From when I came in with the depth chart to where it is now there's been a pretty good changeover with what we added in the draft the past two offseasons. I just think it's going to enable us to keep people fresh and improve competition. People are going to have to perform to stay in those spots. There are going to be fights for snaps and that does nothing but help us."