During his one season of football at Miami (Ohio), Quinten Rollins knew he had a lot of catching up to do.
He didn't know how to play the game like the veterans. He didn't even know the game like the veterans.
So the former star point guard went to school in the film room.
"You obviously want to be prepared," Rollins said a couple of days after his strong preseason debut at New England. "You don’t want to go into any situation unprepared because that won’t allow you to play the way that you know that you can. I was behind the guys who knew football. They knew football like I knew basketball, so I had to catch up somehow and close the gap between me and them somehow, and that’s how I did it was by watching film. At first, I kind of didn’t know how to watch film but the more I started watching it, their playbook is so small when they get in situations. Just little things like that. Instead of looking at the big scheme of things or what my guy was doing in the whole picture, I’m trying to get clues to what’s going on (in a specific situation), whether it be splits, down-and-distance, they like this route, they like this receiver."
Rollins was a quick study, with seven interceptions, MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors and a remarkable rise into the second round of this year's draft. His position coach, John Hauser, predicted Rollins would become a great NFL player because of his great study habits.
It's obviously too soon to tell if Rollins will be great, but he is off to a great start. Pro Bowl receiver Randall Cobb and promising rookie receiver Ty Montgomery used the same word when asked about Rollins: instincts.
"He has really good instincts and he has really good technique," Cobb said. "I think he could be a good player for us and I look forward to seeing his progression. He’s young, he’s got a lot of work still left to do but you can see the ability. That’s what you want from a guy coming in. You don’t know how big of an impact he’s going to make immediately but he has the ability to play for us. I think he’s a good player."
Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt agreed with Cobb's assessment.
"It’s more than just instincts. The kid has done a good job of learning the package. He’s done a good job of learning technique. His technique has gotten so much better. But he does have instincts, he has feel. He has great body control. Probably the best body control that we have in the room. He has a ways to go, don’t get me wrong, but those aspects of it, those are the things that he does."
The instincts have come naturally throughout Rollins' athletic career, as evidenced by ranking second in Miami (Ohio) history in steals and fourth in assists. Film study certainly plays a role there, too, but some of it is that unexplainable sixth sense.
"I just have a nose for the ball," Rollins said. "It’s always been that way growing up, whether I was playing baseball, basketball, football — whatever the case may be. I’ve always had a knack for the ball. I’ve always felt like that if I can see something and read it, then I can go and get it."
Against New England, Rollins got his hands on two downfield throws. Rollins wasn't satisfied with merely breaking up those passes. Neither was Whitt. Since 2009, the Packers' cornerbacks have a league-high 72 interceptions. Chicago (62) is the only other team with even 60. That's the standard. Rollins' big-play ability in college was a major reason why the Packers grabbed him, even after taking Damarious Randall in the first round. In a tight battle to be the fourth corner and earn playing time in the Packers' dime package, interceptions vs. passes defensed could be the difference.
"Rollins made good plays. He didn’t make great plays because he didn’t come down with that," Whitt said. "He hasn’t caught many balls that have touched his hands this camp. I’m not pleased with that. We have to catch the ball. If he doesn’t catch it, somebody will."
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.