Imagine being cornerback Ross Cockrell in 2015. Entering training camp with the Buffalo Bills, you are battling for a roster spot on the team's final 53-man unit. You make it through the first round of cuts, but find yourself released by the end of training camp.
So, now what? Well, it doesn't take long for the Pittsburgh Steelers to pick up the phone and claim you off waivers, and now you suddenly find yourself in the defensive backfield of a Super Bowl contender trying to fill in for injured rookie Senquez Golson.
Thrust into a situation only days before the season opener, you have to scramble to get acclimated. Getting to know the coaches, the intricacies of the defense and how your playing partners like to operate. Needless to say, Cockrell likely was in a whirlwind last year as he tried to get comfortable in a new setting.
Despite all of the aforementioned factors, Cockrell had himself one heck of a season in the black and gold. He played in 15 games, registered 44 combined tackles, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, had 11 pass defenses and tallied two interceptions.
Remember, all from a guy who walked into the facility probably not knowing who Keith Butler even was.
Yeah, I'd call that impressive.
So, now we find ourselves in 2016, and while Steelers Nation talks about Senquez Golson, Artie Burns and Sean Davis, Cockrell continues to work, but this time he can start with a level of comfort he never had last year.
"It's my first training camp here, so I'm taking it all in," Cockrell told Ralph Paul of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The fans are pretty intense, so I'm loving it. I actually get a chance to know my teammates without the grind of the season."
Read that last sentence again. Actually get a chance to know his teammates without the grind of the season.
In other words, he was able to utilize the offseason, as well as the current preseason, to get fully prepared for the upcoming season. Some may sleep on Cockrell, but looking at the success he had in 2015, with very little time to truly get acclimated in Butler's system, 2016 could be a banner year for the third year cornerback out of Duke.
With the Steelers posting one of the worst pass defense in the league last year, 30th overall, an improved Cockrell combined with William Gay should make for a dynamic duo on the outside.