SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The past three days of practice have been big for rookie defensive end Marquis Haynes.
The fourth-round pick from Ole Miss finally got his chance to answer the question that's loomed over him: How will he respond when the pads come on?
In short, he's responded well.
"Outstanding," defensive coordinator Eric Washington said. "On the line of scrimmage he's played big. That's the best way to describe it."
As has been widely documented, Haynes is not your prototypical 4-3 defensive end at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds. Critics question his ability to hold up in the trenches, and understandably so.
Washington is among those who had some concerns. But Haynes has eased them through three padded practice sessions at training camp.
"Am I surprised? Yes. He's been the exception," Washington said. "Normally you go with the rule. But there are always exceptions. So far he's proven to be the exception."
The soft-spoken Haynes has been a sponge since Day One. He spent a good chunk of time talking about pass-rush technique with Julius Peppers before Monday's practice – not a bad idea for a young defensive end.
"The vets have been teaching me. It's such a good thing to be able to learn from a Hall of Famer," Haynes said. "People are underestimating me right now, and I just want to prove them wrong. Guys like Pep and Mario (Addison) can help me do that."
Haynes has also been helping himself by learning from mistakes and applying the teaching points.
Take the one-on-one pass rush drill Monday. After Haynes' first rep, Washington pulled him aside and offered a concise critique.
"Here's what happens in one-on-one pass rush every year: For us, our mindset is about affecting the quarterback. There is a person that is trying to stop us from doing that, and you become fixated on that person. You lose sight of the goal," Washington explained.
"For Marquis, when you have the kind of speed and quickness he has and you're running down the middle of the (offensive tackle), it's tough to win. I just wanted to remind him of the goal. Use your speed and make sure you maintain edges. It was a bullet-point tip for how we teach pass rush, and it paid off."
Haynes' next rep was far more effective, as he quickly turned the corner on offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles to get to the spot.
"I adjusted the rush angle, used my speed, and then I saw the difference," Haynes said. "I've been progressing a lot each day. The coaches have been on me hard, and they want nothing but the best.
"They are going to put the best ones out there, and I'm just trying to contribute."