PITTSFORD — There is the Da’Rick Rogers who showed up at training camp Monday.
He’s the one who hauled in a beautiful deep ball from quarterback Jeff Tuel that went for 49 yards during a two-minute drill, easily jetting by a cornerback and setting up the Buffalo Bills’ offense for a touchdown.
Then there is the Da’Rick Rogers who has at other times been present at St. John Fisher College.
He’s the one who sulks when things don’t go his way, or whose name is yelled by frustrated coaches wondering why he’s not in the right spot.
Figuring out which one of those is the real Da’Rick Rogers will be just one of the many important decisions the organization must face with final cuts looming in 11 days.
“You’ve seen flashes of him being able to win, so it’s just a matter of consistency,” coach Doug Marrone said Monday. “I always work with the players on the mind-set: Going out every day, trying to win and handling adversity. If you don’t get off to a good start, how are you going to get yourself back?”
In regards to Rogers, the answer has not always been to Marrone’s liking. As a result, his playing time has suffered. After taking 23 snaps in the preseason opener against Indianapolis, Rogers saw only 10 snaps in the second game against Minnesota, the fewest of any receiver on the roster.
“You see a lot of potential up there where he can go ahead and make plays and beat people,” Marrone said. “Sometimes you see him whether he’s getting down a little bit or feeling sorry for himself, whatever it may be, then you don’t see that consistency in him. It’s a little bit up and down. We just have to get it to where he’s constantly going up, and he should be a fine player.”
Rogers has just one catch this preseason, which went for a 6-yard touchdown against the Colts. Against the Vikings, he was behind other receivers Brad Smith, DeMarco Sampson and Brandon Kaufman on the depth chart.
“It’s simple. If you didn’t get the playing time you want, you know something’s got to change, so either you come in and do the same thing you did last week, or you come in and you do better than you did last week,” Rogers said. “See if you can get a different outcome. That’s all I’m going to do this week.”
Even though the Bills are young at receiver behind Smith and No. 1 Stevie Johnson, Rogers doesn’t have to look far for role models in his own room.
“What you see with some of the younger players, and I think where the separation has come from, let’s say Robert Woods, for example — Robert has been out there every day consistently doing well and winning routes,” Marrone said.
Rogers came to Buffalo with more hype than any undrafted free agent in recent memory. His frame (6-foot-3, 208 pounds) and production in the Southeastern Conference with Tennessee in 2011 (67 catches, 1,040 yards, nine touchdowns) led many to believe Rogers had potential to be the steal of draft weekend — despite the character concerns he came with. Rogers was booted from Tennessee for multiple failed drug tests, and played last season at Tennessee Tech.
But it’s worth pointing out every team in the league failed to view Rogers as a draftable prospect.
He’s kept his nose clean off the field, but so far he’s fighting for his spot on the 53-man roster.
“Oh man, I have no clue,” Rogers said, when asked where he thought he stood on the roster bubble. “I just come out every day and work. Work on being consistent. We’ll see what happens. They have a lot of tough decisions to make.”
As he showed Monday, Rogers can be electric. He can be a physical mismatch at times, but it’s the mental side of the game the Bills want to see develop.
“You know, it doesn’t happen over night. You really have to work at it day in and day out, and usually after that it just becomes instinct,” Rogers said. “It’s when what you do becomes a habit. It takes repetitions.”
There are subtle ways Rogers has shown room for growth. The way he walks back to the huddle — when other players fighting for a spot are jogging — is just one.
Rogers says all the right things, now it’s just a matter of showing it.
“If you continue to work in practice and continue to grind, the rewards will come,” Rogers said.
The Bills certainly hope so.