Following the 2011 NFL Draft, Buffalo Bills secondary coach George Catavolos believed that seventh round draft choice Justin Rogers could be the steal of the team's draft class. This is very high praise for a player who was drafted in the same class as Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams, and Kelvin Sheppard. He showed signs of this ability late last season and is hoping to build on it heading into his second year in Buffalo.
Rogers is looking to benefit from having his first full offseason after missing the bulk of last year's due to the lockout. He is already seeing the difference that a year can make in his game and he is taking full advantage of his first OTAs.
"It isn't even close how much further along I am this year," said Rogers. "Even last year when I was playing a little bit I was out there thinking a lot. I knew what I was doing, but the game was so fast. Now with the OTAs everything is slowing down. I know my assignments and everything is smooth."
Last season was everything but a smooth transition to the NFL for a lot of rookies across the league. The lockout shortened season made it difficult for them to feel comfortable with their responsibilities and even harder to comprehend the teams system in such a short period of time.
"Last year with the lockout we just came into camp and had to learn everything on the fly," Rogers said. "This year we are able to get in here and learn everything and then apply it to the field. The extra meeting time gives me the chance to grasp the playbook and understand my role more easily."
It took Rogers about half of his rookie season before he felt comfortable and confident out on the field. During the first half of the year Rogers appeared periodically during games, but became a more consistent contributor toward the back end of his rookie season.
"Towards the midway point of the season you kind of get a feel for everything and it starts to slow down," said Rogers. "The first half of the season everything is new to you, but once you hit that midway point and have a couple of games under your belt you start to feel more comfortable."
Not only has Rogers become more confident in his abilities, but the Bills coaching staff has as well. Before a knee ailment slowed him down, he had been lining up with the first team nickel unit in the slot and playing an outside corner position with the second unit during OTAs. Rogers wants to continue to get better at playing the slot corner position, but he feels right at home when he lines up there.
"I'm really comfortable. Last year it was something new to me because I played it a little bit in college, but not as heavily as I did last year," Rogers said. "There is an art to it that I am still learning, but I am getting used to it."
Heading into the offseason he was not only looking to perfect his craft on the field, but also off of it. He wanted to take better care of his body and he hoped to hit the weights a little harder than usual. It is apparent that this minor change to his workout program paid off, as he appears to have added some lean muscle to his overall frame.
"The coaches told me that they wanted me to work on getting bigger and stronger, so in the offseason I really focused on hitting the weights," said Rogers. "I met with a strength and conditioning coach to really focus on that more than anything else.
"It is definitely going to help me in my play on and off the field. That extra weight and muscle will help prevent injuries and allow me to play a full 16 game schedule or even more if we make the playoffs."