INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin today spoke to local reporters via conference call. What were the top takeaways about his confidence level heading into Year 2, how he wants to use physicality to his advantage, excitement about adding free agent Xavier Rhodes and more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some highlights:
» After an up-and-down start to his rookie season in 2018, Ya-Sin said he learned how to trust himself, leading to more confidence the second half: Ya-Sin was selected by the Colts early in the second round of last year's NFL Draft, which came with all sorts of expectations once he hit the field.
Ya-Sin started out of the gates Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers, and over the next few weeks he had solid moments, and then some of those rookie moments he'd like to get back.
In the Colts' Week 8 victory against the Denver Broncos, for example, Ya-Sin was flagged for five penalties in coverage, one of which was declined, in a particularly tough day lined up against Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton.
Ya-Sin rebounded admirably, however. By season's end, he had started 13-of-15 games and produced 61 tackles (two for loss), one fumble recovered, one interception and five pass breakups, and was named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie Team.
Ya-Sin did admit to having some "hard days" as a rookie — "everybody knows the Denver game," he said today — but that he had to learn just how to trust himself and his abilities to really start to put things together on a consistent basis on the field.
"Trust myself, just my coaching, trust my teammates," Ya-Sin. "Coaches are going to put us in the best position to just go out and make plays, have confidence throughout the game, ups and downs. Guys catch balls — you know, guys are going to make plays, this is the NFL. It's the best of the best. So you just have to keep your head and continue to play."
» Ya-Sin hopes to use his physicality to his advantage even more in 2020: Ya-Sin was one of the better-tackling corners in the entire NFL his rookie year, earning the seventh-best PFF tackling grade at his position (82.2) and the second-most total stops of any rookie corner.
Ya-Sin's ability to bring receivers — and even tight ends and running backs — to the ground was one of his more notable traits when the team selected him in last year's draft, and he owes a lot of that ability to his background in wrestling.
Ya-Sin today recalled a conversation with Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus in training camp last year, when he was told just how important tackling would be at his position heading into his rookie year.
"He says we'll be a good tackling defense when our corners tackle, and he preaches that day in and day out," Ya-Sin said of Eberflus. "You know, there's no houseguests — everybody has to tackle on our defense. So he made me understand that early. I remember in training camp he was letting me know, 'Listen, if you want to play in my defense, you're gonna have to tackle. And I understood it and I took it on."
Now with a full year under his belt, Ya-Sin hopes to take that approach to a whole other level in 2020.
"I want to be an even better tackling corner this year," he said. "As far as my background, I mean, wrestling is a physical sports. I've always been known as a physical guy, from high school to college, and now into the NFL. So I want to continue to get better at that because I know it'll help our defense."
» Ya-Sin knew all about Xavier Rhodes' shutdown abilities already, but now he's excited to be his teammate: Colts cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon would show Ya-Sin game film of his time with the Minnesota Vikings when he coached Rhodes, who would become a three-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro selection in 2017.
The thing is, Rhodes and Ya-Sin have a lot in common, particularly the physical way they like to play off the outside. Ya-Sin looked on as Rhodes shut down some of the best wide receivers in the NFL in recent years.
Ya-Sin will now get an up-close-and-personal Rhodes experience, however, after the team signed the veteran corner to a free agent deal on March 27.
As of now, it seems as if Rhodes and Ya-Sin could be the top two outside corners for the Colts when they are in their nickel package, with Kenny Moore II anchored inside.
"Coach J.G. talked a lot about him last year. You know, we watched some film of him together, actually, and I've known of Xavier for a long time. I mean, I've watched him be a Pro Bowl, be an All-Pro corner," Ya-Sin said of Rhodes. "I've watched him shut down Antonio Brown and Julio Jones and top receivers in our league for a long time. So when he ended up in Indianapolis, I couldn't be anything but happy, to be able to compete with a guy like that and be able to learn from a guy, a veteran, like that. So I was very excited to get to play with him."
See some of the best images of Indianapolis Colts defensive back Rock Ya-Sin.