HOUSTON -- Ross Blacklock was never going to live up to some expectations in 2020. It's hard to when your team trades away their All-Pro offensive weapon and you're the consolation prize.
Blacklock was taken with the 40th selection by the Texans in the 2020 NFL Draft. Initially, the pick belonged the Arizona Cardinals, but they packaged that with David Johnson to trade for DeAndre Hopkins.
In his rookie season, Blacklock struggled for reps. He was inconsistent on the edge and never found his footing when working inside. That, Texans fans hope, is no longer the case as August approaches.
“The system I’m in now is more of a reactive system,” Blacklock said Friday after training camp practice. “I get to use my instincts. I love it. I feel more comfortable in this system. I can fly around making plays.”
Last season, Blacklock played a more hybrid role in the team's 3-4 system, working as five-tech who would shift inside. New coordinator Lovie Smith has now changed his duties by implementing a 4-3 defense.
It's paying off with Blacklock as he enters his second season. Reps are easier. Body control seems better. Speed is noticeable.
Is this the player Houston fans expected to see?
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“He's playing fast," Texans coach David Culley said. "He's a little bit more comfortable right now than he was last year although it's a new system. He's flying around. He's flying around, and you see that.”
Last season, Blacklock tried to soak in as much information as possible. When a guy is a top-40 pick, fans expect immediate results.
“I learned to trust the process,” Blacklock said. “I’m very hard on myself as a player. I’m just chasing greatness like everybody else.”
The new system also has impacted Blacklock's weight. The TCU alum hovered around 300 pounds as a rookie. This offseason, he shed about 10 pounds and currently weighs 290.
That, plus a full offseason to truly learn the NFL ropes could help with the development of Blacklock in Houston's defense. Still, he's taking it day by day in the blistering heat at Houston Methodist Training Center.
"I've got to take baby steps day-by-day and just know I'll get better as time goes and just trust the process and just believe in God,” Blacklock said. "I get what I need to get out of this here.”
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