Are there any overarching philosophies you've brought with you that you
are trying to instill this spring?
"It's pretty basic. All defensive teams do a couple things that are
really good. Whatever they do by scheme, they line up really well.
They line up well; they adjust well to motion before the snap. They
understand all the four schemes and the calls we have to make every play, before
they snap the ball. That's what good defenses understand. The next
thing they understand is how fast they have to play during that five or six
seconds of the down - to finish that down. Down for down, take them one at
a time and fly to the football as fast as they can play. And then if you're not tough on defense, I don't know how you play well on defense. So
we're constantly talking about toughness and being physical, from the front guys
to the linebacking corps to the secondary. Physically tough. Those
are our goals and the basic parameters of what we are trying to get
accomplished. And it's not an oversimplification. It's what we
really try to do. Obviously the package has a lot of diversity and
multiplicity in it. From regular to nickel to short yardage to goalline -
there's a lot going on there. Pressure calls, both with zone to man.
That being said, there is a lot of technical knowledge for them to acquire, but
none of that technical knowledge works unless they lineup good and play smart,
run to the football on every snap all the way and finish every play, and be as
tough as they can be."
You talked about toughness. In the scrimmage there were some hard
tackles. Other times there were broken tackles. Is the toughness a
mixed bag so far?
"I think what you see is the veteran players, who have played on defense here
- they are the ones making the physical tackles. They understand how fast
you have to play and how tough you have to be on the tackle. Those young
guys are still learning. But that's why we're out here in spring practice.
It's a process, and it's going to be ongoing."
Speaking of a learning curve, we see a 3-4 defense this spring, and there
was a 3-4 scheme run last year. Is there just superficial carryover in the
scheme, or are there some things already here that you are building on?
"3-4 is the basic starting structure, but the first thing I've understood
about all the moves I have made is that in a new atmosphere, you try to figure
out what they did well. Then build on that and add to it. I'm not
going to come in here and call it the same thing. It may be the same exact
defensive play they had last year, but it's called something different.
Language changes. We kept a lot of the good things, and we want to.
They played well in a lot of areas. Then they had some issues. We're
treating those issues, trying to build and fix them."
What are the top issues you are addressing with your defensive players
"First thing we have to understand is that we've got to stop the run, first.
No successful defenses that I know of, at any level of play, get it done without
stopping the run first. You have to stop the run. Everything we do
will be built toward that. Then from there, we obviously want to be a good
pass defensive team, as well, by mixing and being multiple. Not just
playing one way. Not all zone or all man - we'll try to mix it.
Again, the overriding philosophy of learning what to do, playing smart, playing
fast, playing physically tough, running to the football - every play in
practice, building habits."
I notice the outside linebackers reading the tight end to determine the
strength of the offense, but I'm not seeing the defensive ends move around.
Is there a true left and right side now, rather than a strong and weak side?
"Right. We just play right and left."
Do you do that because you feel Casey Carroll and Julian Jenkins are
equivalent, or is it a philosophy that you don't want your guys moving around
"I would prefer to do that with everybody on the team - right and left
corners, right and left outside linebackers, right and left ends. In the
3-4, that's the way I like to do it. But in certain cases, you don't come
in here and be stubborn. You realize who can do what, and then you allow a
certain amount of flipping and moving with certain people, based on their
talent. That's what we're doing."
Are there are any performers or guys who are playing tough that deserve
early praise in your eyes on this defense?
"I think our defensive line is doing a nice job. We've got three
starting senior defensive linemen, as you know, in Julian Jenkins, Babatunde Oshinowo and Casey Carroll. Those guys are veteran guys, and they act like
they're veterans. They're practicing like they're veterans, and they're
leading these young guys, which is good to see."
I've seen some rotation and shuffle in the safeties. Right now you
have Trevor Hooper (free) and Brandon Harrison (strong) taking the lead.
Has that settled out at all, or is that still wide open?
"I think everything is wide open. We're still just trying to figure out
who can do what, in this scheme. Again, there is multiplicity there -
regular, nickel, dime. There are a lot of assignments that we're trying to
check out and see where guys can get plugged in. If you look at it, you
have more than 11 regular starters. In the regular defense alone, you
would like at least as half as many again, or 22 would be great. The same
thing for the nickel. If you can find a guy who can play just on the
nickel or just on the short-yardage team, he's a starter to me because he's a
role player. We're still looking, so that's why I say everything is still
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