It's one thing to raise the level of your game, but that can raise the expectations people have for you.
That's why the Carolina Panthers were encouraged by what safety Sherrod Martin was able to do as a rookie, and why they need him to do even more this year.
Martin inherited the starting strong safety job when Chris Harris was traded to Chicago, a move the Panthers felt good enough about based on a few performances. Now, they need him to be steadier, since he's going to be counted on for much more.
"I think he's handling it pretty well," safeties coach Mike Gillhamer said of Martin's transition. "We've got really high expectations for him, and maybe my expectations are too high right now. I think he's got to pick it up a little now in practice. He's making some mental mistakes, and some things we hadn't seen.
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"Sometimes when you're the relief pitcher and you come in, things work very well. Then when you're the guy who has to start, it's a whole different deal. It hasn't been as fast a process as I'd have liked, but I have confidence in him that he can get it done."
The hopes for Martin have been all over the map during the short time since he was drafted.
He played mostly free safety in college, and with his size (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) and speed, there were hopes Carolina could turn him into a cornerback. But early in camp, it became evident that seventh-round pick Captain Munnerlyn was more advanced, so he was shifted back inside.
When Charles Godfrey broke a hand at midseason, Martin turned in a string of performances that encouraged the Panthers considerably. In his first NFL start, he picked off two passes at Arizona, followed by another two weeks later against Atlanta.
Granted, a few of them were the result of positioning as much as physical prowess. But Martin said the early results gave him a boost he needed as a rookie.
"That's the feeling you want," Martin said. "It's all about timing, and being in the right place at the right time. We talk about opportunities, and when you get them, it's not likely you're going to get many of them. So when you do, you've got to take advantage.
"You get one, it's like, 'OK, I can do this.' You get the next one, and it's like 'Now we're rolling, now we're in the zone.' Then you have your swag back when you come in, it's like 'Time to make plays, this is what I do.'"
Of course, the starting assignment didn't last, as Martin returned to the bench when Godfrey healed. But as much as the interceptions, the Panthers were encouraged by the range he displayed, the ability to cover deep halves of the field.
Harris, for all his leadership and ability to make plays, was slowing in pass coverage. And knowing they needed to cover longer with an uncertain pass rush, the decision to move Harris to make way for Martin seemed justified.
"The first thing that came to my mind was, it's time to step up, do the best I can as a player, and try to contribute to the team in a good way," Martin said. "Whatever I did last year, that happened last year. This is a whole new year. Each year you have to prove yourself all over again.
"Right now, those things are behind me and it's a new year. I'm coming to build off of last year, but what I did then is over now."
Gillhamer said the biggest thing Martin has to do in camp is become more assertive, and more certain in his calls. Safeties in the Panthers defense have to make a lot of checks for other plays, so Martin has to make sure he's seeing what he thinks he's seeing, so he can help other players be in the right place.
"The safety he has to know the defense," Gillhamer said.
"Corners are like fighter pilots, and safeties are like air traffic control. Stuff's flying at him from every side."
Gillhamer was careful to say he's confident Martin will get to the place he needs him, but also that he needs to see some improvement quickly. After having so much thrown his way as a rookie - from position to position and in and out of the lineup - some confusion is expected.
But it's because he excelled that they expect him to improve.
"Yes he did," Gillhamer replied when asked if Martin created the pressure on himself. "That's why he is where he is, because he did come in and flash, and did a really good job.
"Our expectations are up here, and as a coach I've got to be a little bit patient knowing that hey, he's a rookie as far as being a starter, and being a solid safety now and picking it up and going from there."