(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Alex Highsmith has big shoes to fill this season in replacing Bud Dupree, who signed with the Titans in free agency, but Mike Tomlin believes it's reasonable to expect Highsmith to take that next step in Year 2.
"It starts first with two really good players," Tomlin said after Tuesday's minicamp practice. "The best thing that Alex can do is continue to sharpen his skills and get better and grow and develop as a player. You know we've got great expectations for a second-year guy in terms of proceeding in his career and taking a step not only in understanding the preparedness but production and consistency. He's been a highly professional, mature young man, and so I think it's reasonable to expect those things to happen. But make no mistake, before you start talking about dynamic duos and tandems and so forth, it requires two big-time, varsity players. And so he's working to grow and improve his game."
Watt told the media this morning that he's focusing on working on his chemistry and communication with Highsmith during minicamp.
"I am really looking forward to working with him and continuing to work," Watt said. "The last five or six games we had together last year gave us a real good look at how we gel together and things we can improve on collectively. That starts with camp here and getting the communication with him and the whole front five. I am excited to get to work with these guys again."
Along with building on his pass rush moves, Watt also said that consistency is the most important aspect for Highsmith heading into his second year.
"I think the big thing is pass rush," Watt said of Highsmith. "He has a great repertoire of moves already coming off his rookie year. He can spin, he can do his ghost move, he is developing more power in his game. I think that is a real high positive. I also think he handles the run well. It's just a matter of being more consistent for the both of us. I think that is the biggest challenge of being an NFL player, trying to be consistent week in and week out. I have said it time and time again. Anybody can have a great game. It's about putting together great weeks and a great season. That starts with being here at minicamp."