DTs must process all the different formations, alignments, stances and audibles that are inches away from their helmets within split seconds. That is incredibly difficult for a rookie, especially one who was already in a system that didn't maximize his strengths and a situation where he was forced to learn multiple different roles.
"It was a lot of positions, some guys got hurt, I had to step in and play. But it was a lot of thinking that I had to do, sometimes I would overthink. I would be in one position and think about another, and I would just overthink my thought process as I'm in my stance."
Ross is not trying to understate the importance of thinking, but rather pinpoint the necessary balance between thinking and reacting. All it takes is getting caught overthinking for one split second, putting yourself out of position by half a step and boom, you're getting pancaked by a 330 pound offensive lineman.
However, when the game slows down and you get enough reps at one position to become comfortable, reacting to the opposition becomes muscle memory and your body moves accordingly and efficiently. That gear seems to have clicked for Ross.
"Now it's just go out and play, get off the ball. I probably have one of the best get-offs on the d-line and I know a lot of guys trust my get off and we can make a lot of plays together and I gotta trust my instincts and go out and have fun and play."
Ross' self awareness for a 23-year-old is refreshing to see. Not only about playing faster in the heat of the moment, but also about altering his own self-improvement philosophy. One year can make all the difference on perspective.
"I think I put too much thinking into it last year. I was trying to perfect everything at one time, and knowing that I can't really do that, it just made it harder for myself. I don't know all the answers and I'm still trying to learn them, it's getting there."
You can tell the desire to be great is there, however, for many young players who may struggle with the transition to the NFL, that yearning desire for success can come with many frustrating question marks. There were a mountain of issues that led to a less impactful rookie season than Ross had hoped.
Understanding that you can't climb the entire mountain in one breath is pivotal. Instead of trying to perfect every aspect of his game all in one week, Ross has learned that improvement is gradual.
More noticeable results arise when you allocate 100% of your improvement efforts into one specific area (refining your body to play faster) than to equally split up your total effort into 10 different directions with only 10% effort being distributed into each avenue.
"I learned I just got to trust the process, it's a marathon not a sprint. I'm very hard on myself as a player, just like everybody should be, but I'm just chasing greatness like everybody else. I just know I got to take baby steps every day and just know I'll get better as time goes."