It is often difficult to project whether or not a rookie will play much his first season in the NFL. There is such a leap a player must take physically and mentally to go from playing on Saturdays one year, to Sundays the following year. Defensive end Alex Carrington has started to earn considerable playing time for the Bills in recent weeks and is making plays.
Head coach Chan Gailey gives the rookie credit for persevering through his early injuries and improving throughout the year.
""You know, he really showed us what we think he's capable of in camp even though he missed some camp time," said Gailey. "And then when he's gotten his opportunities he's continued to improve and he's worked very hard.
"I think Alex has a very bright future ahead of him but he's got a lot to learn and I think he'd be the first to tell you that. He's still learning a great deal about this game and the way it's played."
Carrington is happy to be on the field making plays and wants to help the team win.
"It is good to get playing time but I am just trying to help to team," said Carrington. "One thing they said when I first got here was if your number is called, you have to step up and help the team out and that is what I am trying to do."
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple of weeks ago, Carrington saw his hard work pay off when he got his first NFL sack.
"The sack felt real good," said Carrington. "It's hard to get sacks. That is for any defensive lineman. That's why you see us go crazy after we get a sack. It felt real good to get my first sack in the league. The move I used, I worked on it in practice and it worked in the game."
"The thing he does best right now is rush the passer," said Gailey. "He's got to learn how to take on blocks, disengage and get to the football against guys that are huge in this league and he faces them every week so you've got to learn how to do that."
"Experience will help me," said Carrington. "Just knowing what is coming and looking at formations and being better prepared."
The rookie also played the defensive tackle position during certain passing situations due to injuries and discussed how different it is than his usual position.
"The closer you are to the ball the faster stuff happens," said Carrington. "You have to react quicker to stuff you have to really bear down when you are in the inside. You get a lot of double (teams) and chips and stuff like that. In the end position, you have a little more room to move, but I am comfortable playing either position."
There is obviously a lot to absorb for any rookie in the NFL and when I asked Carrington where he has shown the most improvement he talked about the importance of studying film and learning from what you see.
"I think I have become a better overall defensive lineman because I am learning how to watch film and study my opponent," he said. "Watching film helps you be prepared for game time situations. I have help from a lot of the guys. They teach me a lot of stuff; let me know the little nuances that can give me an edge over the opponent."
One of the main things rookies talk about when first entering the league is how difficult it is to adjust to the speed of the game and the players. While he feels he has improved in this area, he is also confident his speed will improve with time.
"Yeah you can say that (speed has improved)."Carrington said. "I feel like I can take it up another notch, I am still adjusting to the game but it is coming to me, absolutely."