It's been two NFL years of sporadic playing time on the defensive side of the ball for Chris Ellis. The former third-round draft pick discovered that getting regular snaps was easier said than done. With 10 career games and eight career tackles, Ellis clearly wants to be a bigger contributor.
Improving one's game in the offseason is always on the agenda for any young NFL player, but mastering a new position in a new defensive scheme is also on the docket for Ellis and several other defensive players. The defensive end turned outside linebacker however, is taking the transition as a positive.
"It's pretty much brand new," said Ellis of the position change. "But change isn't always bad."
With just two NFL seasons under his belt Ellis was eligible to participate in this past weekend's rookie minicamp and felt his game benefited a great deal.
"It was an opportunity to get more reps and see more of the formations and learn a new position that we've got coming this year," he said. "It's definitely a way to get a jump and a head start on the season because we're going to need as many reps as we can get."
At 6'4" and 261 pounds, Ellis is one of the bigger former defensive ends making the transition to outside linebacker. Buffalo's strength and conditioning staff has not asked him to dramatically change his body composition believing he can accomplish his responsibilities at his current weight.
"We're not like a D-B, we're not covering all the time," said Ellis of the outside linebacker group. "We're still going to be rushing the passer and still asked to do a lot of those things up close to the line. The biggest thing is being able to move what you're carrying. Being one of the bigger guys I'm still going to need to be able to run and make the same checks."
As Ellis immersed himself in the system over the weekend, both in the meeting rooms and on the practice field, he began the steady process of acclimating himself to his new surroundings out in space and further from the line of scrimmage.
"Half of it you're worried about getting the right call, matching up on the right guy and getting the right matchup for the defense," he said. "The other half is getting the steps right so you don't take away from your reaction time."
Helping Ellis with his position change is the same position coach he had last season in Bob Sanders, who is now in charge of outside linebackers. Having a rapport with his position coach provides some measure of comfort as Ellis is confident Sanders will put him in situations where he can succeed.
"He knows what I can do, what my strong points are and he can coach towards those," said Ellis. "So it definitely takes a little bit of the edge off with the learning curve. And we can get down to business right away and just focus on learning instead of feeling each other out."
Training camp is still a long way off and at age 25 there's still a lot of football in front of him. Ellis just wants to make sure he proves to Buffalo's new staff that he's a fit at outside linebacker and can make an impact for a team looking to take the next step.
"I'm just taking in everything I can at outside linebacker," said Ellis. "I feel the better I am with it and the more comfortable I am playing it, the more I'll be able to go out there and display my abilities. The basic thing is getting it down to where it's second nature and then it's about going out there and making it happen."