It took almost a year, but defensive lineman Darrion Scott finally sounds confident in his game and himself.
When Scott came into the league as the Vikings' third-round draft choice out of Ohio State last year, he and the coaches were on the same page – in the respect that neither side really knew exactly where Scott would settle in with the team.
Turns out, he might not have a full-time set position, but he is certainly expected to play a large role in the defensive line rotation this year. That's a bit of a change from this time last year, when Scott showed he had raw ability but coaches weren't sure of his decisions, and, quite frankly, neither was the rookie at the time.
He wasn't sure if he would be a defensive tackle or a defensive end, he wasn't sure how to read offensive blocking schemes and he wasn't sure what his playing weight should be.
"Things have definitely slowed down for me, and I have to compliment my coaches who I'm working with. A lot with where I'm at right now has to do with the coaches and wanting to get better. … I did some off-season film study with the coaches and looked at things," Scott said. "They kind of slowed down for me once you sit down and take a look back at the season and what you were doing. You come out here and see it's a lot easier."
Head coach Mike Tice agreed that Scott looked good in spring camps: "Darrion Scott looked very good inside in the nickel pass rush, which is what we needed to have – an inside guy to complement Kevin (Williams), and certainly (Scott) looks like he can be that guy for us."
Scott's rookie year was dotted with frustration mixed with success. And the questions arose early in his mind.
"I kind of thought during the combines and all that (predraft) stuff that I was going to play defensive tackle because that's what I played my last year in college and I was up to 290 pounds," Scott sad. "I figured I would play that until I got here and had to lose some weight. That was another thing, losing some weight. When I came in, I was probably looking too heavy."
At least for a defensive end, which is where he ended up starting in both playoff games.
"Toward the end of the season is where I started to come on, the coaches will tell you," he said. "During midseason, I had a wrist injury and it kind of slowed me down. I was kind of getting things, but I was still trying to get used to things, offenses and how it was being blocked by the opposing offensive linemen. I sat down a couple of games with the wrist injury and it kind of got frustrating. I really did get frustrated. As much as I wanted to be out there, I knew I wasn't 100 percent. I really couldn't go out there and show the coaches what I could do. My wrist started healing and the coaches encouraged me. I started in the playoffs, and that's when I got the gist that I really can do this and be as good as I want to be."
After initial concern about a shoulder injury suffered at Ohio State, Scott sprained ligaments and tendons in his wrist last year. "I really couldn't let it heal because, being a defensive lineman your hitting and swiping and whatnot. I really couldn't give a chance to heal. I just had to wear a cast," he said.
But the switch in mindset and positions were Scott's biggest challenges as a rookie.
His final year at Ohio State, he played mostly defensive tackle. That was after two seasons of playing mostly defensive end. While it caused initial confusion for him in the pros, that versatility will help acclimate him to a swingman role on the defensive line – most likely an end on running downs and a tackle on passing downs in a much larger role in 2005.
"I like pass-rushing inside better on passing down," he said. "I can have a two-way go almost any time, where I can go inside or outside. Being outside on the ends, you can go inside on the tackle, but on an inside move you can get washed down and the quarterback runs out, which happens often with some guys. That's not what you want to do. That can make you lose your playing time or job, so I feel more comfortable being down there right on the guy and being able to go head-up on him and being able to do different moves, able to go inside or outside instead of having to be outside and going upfield on most of the plays."
He said the 2005 off-season camps were the time for him to get used to playing next to certain guys, anticipating that he will be playing next to right ends Lance Johnstone and Erasmus James.
While the utility role on the defensive line might be more taxing on a young mind, Scott believes he now has the confidence to excel.
"Confidence really helps because I doubted myself. I always felt like I was a good athlete in college coming up. My position coach in college always told me, ‘You don't know how good you can be.' I never really listened to him, I just went out and played football," he said. "Same stuff here. Coach (Jim) Panagos is telling me, ‘You could be a really good athlete, a really good player.' (Head coach Mike) Tice, he told me, ‘I see some really good things in you.' As soon as camp started, I felt I left off right where the season ended. I felt like I was still improving and I have the confidence. That's really helping me a lot."
If Scott ever doubted that he could ascend from lacking in confidence in the middle of the 2004 season to becoming a sure difference-maker one year later, he doesn't need to search very far for proof. When playing defensive tackle, he needs to glance only one spot away, at Pro Bowler Kevin Williams, for proof that a second-year pro can receive national plaudits.
"I definitely look at that, and that's what I plan on doing," said the more confident Scott. "In the rookie season, some guys they come in and they're doing great right away. Some guys need that rookie year to get the feel of things, mentally to get things down and they see how fast the game is. My rookie year, it was just a learning lesson. I just needed to get in and digest and see how this whole thing works. The next year I can come back and see things slow down for me with schemes and reading line games and everything."
And Scott knows that playing next a Pro Bowler should give him more opportunities to succeed in his own right.
"Probably every team we play when it comes to passing situations, they're going to be looking at double-teaming (Kevin), which would leave me one-on-one a lot of times," Scott said. "That's where I need to be better and get as good as I need to be. Actually, I need to be great, come on and have a really good year and help the team. Kevin Williams is almost impossible to block, and he's still going to have a good year even though he's going to see a lot of double-teams also."
"As bad as I want to go to the Pro Bowl, I can't promise the Pro Bowl, but that's definitely a goal for me. Coming in the second year, I'm sure it's hard to do with all the rest of the good athletes out there. I look at it like, if Kevin Williams can do it, why can't I do it?"
Now that's confidence.
Confidence Big Component To Scott's Game
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