Among the topics that the Colts soon-to-be 2nd-year cornerback covered is how he felt he fared as a rookie last season.
After some initial growing pains, Ya-Sin, the Colts 34th overall pick of last year’s NFL Draft, believes he made major strides during his rookie year and showed continued growth and development—especially late in the season:
“I feel like towards the end of last season, I was playing good ball,” Ya-Sin said on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “I grew throughout the entire season. I had my ups and my downs, but I felt like by the end of the year, I was playing good ball. I was getting better every game. I was playing faster. I was becoming more confident on the field. I was making more and more plays every game, and I feel like I just need to carry that momentum into next year.”
With the additional experience under his belt (Ya-Sin played the most defensive snaps of any Colts defensive player and the 3rd most snaps among all of the NFL’s rookie cornerbacks last year), Ya-Sin has become much more polished in his overall film study:
“I feel like I’m looking back at the film now, studying defenses now, and I’m seeing it from a broader perspective,” Ya-Sin noted. “I’m looking at it now like, ‘Oh, that’s easy.’ Looking at a route combination that was more complex to me before last year, but now I’m looking at it now like ‘Oh, oh, that’s easy.’ . . . That’s Star 6, Star 7, whatever.”
He’s also become quicker in deciphering opposing wide receivers’ routes on the field and understanding opposing offenses’ overall attack plans:
“Those route combinations are becoming slower to me because I’m reading it out faster,” Ya-Sin said. “I’m understanding my footwork at the snap faster. Understanding my route progressions. I’m understanding down and distance. I’m understanding what offenses want to do to us and understanding receivers better. Stems and releases, where they’re trying to get to, what they’re trying to do. What offenses are trying to do to me. It’s like the game has slowed down for me a lot because I’ve studied more and more this offseason, as I hone my game.”
Despite the Colts offseason program being so far conducted solely virtually (out of necessity), Ya-Sin believes he’s already better prepared for next season than he was as a rookie at this time last year—still learning the NFL ropes as a young cornerback:
“This time last year, you’re training and you’re bonding, because you don’t know what to train for,” Ya-Sin admitted. “All you do is train. Now you know, this is what I did last year. This is what I wasn’t great at last year or let me improve this, let me improve that. This is what I did good last year, let me improve that. Now it’s training more specific to what I know I’ll be doing for this year. I know it’s going to happen. I know I’m going to get this route. I know I’m going to get that route. I know this combination. I know I need to be able to drive this route. Drive that route. I know I need to stay on top of this route. My training is more specific now. I’m just looking to carry over momentum from last year to this year and be 100x better.”
Potentially helping Ya-Sin even more next season could be the addition of former All-Pro and 8-year veteran corner Xavier Rhodes—who could serve as a veteran voice in the Colts cornerback room during 2020:
“Well, Xavier Rhodes,” answered Ya-Sin on what he knew already about Rhodes.
“Coach Jonathan Gannon, he coached him at Minnesota, so when I was drafted to Indianapolis, a lot of times, we talked about techniques and stuff. Coach J.G. would always talk ‘Xavier does that, Xavier watches film,’ and he’s been an All-Pro. He’s been a Pro Bowler. He’s played well in the league for a long time, so I’ve always respected his game. I’ve already watched a lot of his film with Coach J.G. I’m very familiar with him as a player, and I hope he brings that leadership to our (cornerback) room.”
“He’s done it for a long, long time and has been successful at a high level for a long time. I just want to come in and be able to learn from him. Learn the ins and outs of the game. Learn how he studies receivers, how he studies offenses, how our job pertains to the whole defense. I just want to learn from him as much as possible. I feel like he’s done it for a long time. He’s been a really good cornerback in this league for a long time. I just want to learn from him as much as possible.”
Having been ‘forged into the fire’ last season as a rookie, Ya-Sin already has meaningful experience under his belt—which should accelerate his future development. Yes, he took some lumps, but also showed a lot of promise—especially down the stretch of last season.
As a result of his promising play, Ya-Sin was named to PFF’s All-Rookie Team this past year.
Ya-Sin’s hoping to use that added experience, his improved film study habits and training, and quicker on-field reaction/diagnoses’ times of receivers’ routes—with the added help of an established veteran like Rhodes, to have a really strong second season.
Quite frankly, the Colts cornerback is simply looking to carry his momentum over towards 2020.