Coaches often look forward to year two of an NFL player's career. Coming off the peaks and valleys a rookie season often brings is the knowledge of how to play, how to prepare and how to get through a 16-game regular season schedule. And coaches are hopeful that year two for a player that showed promise as a rookie will be even more fruitful. Reggie Corner's second NFL season is still a ways off, but the cornerback has sharpened his game considerably now with a year of experience under his belt.
In the 'helmet and shorts' football that exists in May and June oftentimes it's the skill position players that tend to shine most. Through two weeks of OTAs for the Bills one could argue that Reggie Corner has made almost as many plays defensively as Terrell Owens has on the offensive side of the ball.
Over the course of seven practices Corner has two forced fumbles, two interceptions and a pass defensed.
"He's been making plays every day," said fellow cornerback Terrence McGee. "He does something and coach points it out every day. You kind of look forward to see how he's going to do during the season and hopefully he can make the same plays."
On one particular day the defensive staff put together a little Reggie Corner highlight film from practice as part of their film study work. His play on many snaps has been textbook so if any of it rubs off on a rookie all the better.
"He's a player, when you watch a game, you can see players that look like they want to get there and make the play and he's one of those players," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He wants to make the play and he's going to try to make every play. He's a year advanced in our scheme, so he's more comfortable in that regard, too. We have a lot of confidence in him."
Corner and his fellow cornerbacks thrive on the friendly competition that exists between them when it comes to tallying up big plays that have the potential to change games.
"Every play counts in that DB room," Corner said. "We're all competitors and we're all competing against each other. At the same time it's to get better, it's for each other, it's to motivate each other to get better, so we definitely keep track of certain things."
Come training camp Corner will be in the middle of one of the hotter position competitions, nickel cornerback. Ashton Youboty, who won the job last fall, and veteran free agent signee Drayton Florence will be Corner's main competition for the role.
Corner however, keeps his approach to the game simple. His only concern is to find a way to sharpen his play each time he steps between the lines.
"I come out here every day to compete against everybody, we're all a team, but at the same time I come out here and do what I have to do to get better," he said. "It's not to compete against the other guys, but for myself. It's doing the little things I need to do to improve as far as my drops and things like that. It's very beneficial, just competing and getting better."
And where Corner feels he's improved the most since his rookie season is reading the game… quickly.
"It's just the mentality of the game," he said. "I'm not thinking as much and I can react more. I know the call without having to constantly look at my linebackers or safeties for support calls. Just the knowledge of the game is better for me this season."
As a result Corner feels he can play off more of his skill level and show what he can do as an athlete. As a rookie he felt his play was too mechanical. Still the former fourth-round pick was showing genuine progress even as a first-year player in 2008.
Appearing in 12 games and earning two starts, as Corner's time on the field increased so did his penchant for making plays. His high point came in the road win at Denver in Week 16. He had a fumble recovery that led to a go-ahead field goal, and led the team with four pass breakups including one in his own end zone on the last play of the game to preserve the victory.
"He doesn't have any fear," said Jauron. "I don't think he doubts himself. I don't think he's a bragger by any stretch of the imagination. He just competes on every down. It's a huge advantage. He focuses on what he's supposed to do and he tries to do it hard and fast."
And entering year two in Buffalo's defense Corner believes faster will mean better.
"You learn the system more, get more experience and you feel a lot better on the field and you're not thinking as much," he said. "So definitely it's going to be a better year for me I feel."