OC Nathaniel Hackett

Monday, July 27, 2014

Q: How’s everything going?

A: Good! It’s going good. The best part about training camp is you get to practice and you get to continue to get better. We had a good day yesterday in the red zone. Probably one of the best days since I’ve been here so that was really exciting. The goal line was a great period with a lot of good contact and a lot of good competing. That’s just what we’re going to continue to harp on. Compete, compete, compete.

Q: How do you view your run game in terms of the first couple practices?

A: I think it’s been good. I think we’ve tried to add a lot of different things to change some things up but still kind of continue the foundation of what we started last year, push forward with that and make it so the guys are comfortable with it and know what we want to have accomplished. The corrections can be made easily. They really like the run game. We have some nice code words about it that they’ve made up because they love to run the ball so much. Those running backs are good and we have a lot of them. So, it’s definitely been a nice job by all of those guys.

Q: Mike Williams seems like he is a force in the red zone. Is that correct?

A: He had a history before even getting here of being very good in the red zone. Somebody told me he has like 28 touchdowns in a three-year span, or something like that, and that’s a crazy stat. He shows it down there. That’s where he wants to come in and compete. He has a good catch radius and he showed it there yesterday. That’s something we have to take advantage of more and more.

Q: Talk about how you see EJ (Manuel) in progressions.

A: He has gotten so much more comfortable. Everyday he’s getting better and better. The red zone is the hardest place to get any completion and that’s known across the league. That is the hardest place. The field gets shorter and the safeties are playing tighter. Yesterday, it was fun to really see him pull the trigger. I was going crazy a couple times because once again there are things that he’s doing that he didn’t do last year. It’s the understanding of the play, it’s understanding what we want him to do and then it’s him taking it over. I think he threw a good amount of touchdowns yesterday.

Q: The third and long period didn’t look too good on Friday night. Can you talk about that?

A: Third down is hard. It’s one of those things where you get third and eight and you’re going against the defensive line that we get to face everyday. I couldn’t ask for anything better. In my opinion, if it’s not the best, it’s one of the best in the league. So it’s great practice for us. It’s hard anytime you put yourself in a third down situation, especially since I think we do 20 third downs in a row. The playoff average is 40% so right now we’re asking for a 40% conversion rate and that’s what we want. So that’s not going to be a great period, no matter what. No matter how any of us look at it. It’s not going to be pretty. I think those are great learning things for everybody. If it’s not going great and you’re not converting, how do you bounce back? How do you work together as a team? After that period, they did some good things and even coming back the next day and really coming together- that’s the positive of it. Those are the things that as a team we have to grow on and as a young team we have to grow even more. 

Q: There are times that it seems like EJ’s progressions aren’t perfect like someone like Aaron Rodgers. What do you think about that? A: Aaron Rodgers has been playing for a lot of years. It’s practice. The more that we can practice, the more that we’re going to see that from EJ. Yesterday, he did a great job at that and it was fun to watch. I think that’s just the process of growing. He’s 10 games old and he’s just going on his first year in the NFL versus a lot of NFL defenses.. He’s facing a very good defense with all of those DBs and the D line. I think it’s great. We can’t ask for any better competition for him and he just has to keep working on getting better and better.

Q: Do you feel like the group of plays where he is really comfortable with what he sees and where to go is growing compared last year? A: Yes, definitely a lot more. It’s a lot more fun to put more things in and he looks at them and understands them and he goes out and reacts. That’s always fun anytime you’re a coach and you want to get something done and he starts doing it. Like I said, it’s not as much as the processing from the beginning. It’s more, “Okay, I know what I’m doing. Now let’s look and see where the defense is going.” That’s what he’s doing a lot more of and he’s doing a lot better.

Q: Obviously everybody wants precision in step progressions, but how fine can you cut it knowing how DBs are physical and can mess up the steps at time? A: That’s the beauty of it. We give them guidelines. We want to give them foundation of something they can believe in- understanding the depth you have to get to, how many steps it will take to get there and so forth. But then everything has to adjust. When you have Mr. (Stephon) Gilmore, Mr.. (Leodis) McKelvin, (Corey) Graham and (Ron) Brooks and all those guys up there, they want to try to distract you. They want to try to get you off your spot. Just like a defensive line wants to get the quarterback off his spot. That’s all they do. They line up at one spot and they try to push him back. So that’s the beauty of a game. As much as I can sit up there and I can draw a perfect play, it rarely happens that way. So a lot of it is getting them in there to feel that comfort and then being able to react and play after that. Whether it’s EJ having to hold just a little bit to give a guy a little bit more time or whether he has to move a couple times and step up and throw a ball down the field. He’s had a couple good ones of those. but that’s about the practice. It’s not always going to be perfect and we have to coach the perfection and we have to coach when it’s not perfect. So we have to do that all the time. We just want to give them guidelines.

Q: Do you think the players have to adjust on the fly?

A: No doubt. That’s the whole thing of quarterback coaching. Once they’re out there, I’m not the one out there. I’m not the one that gets to go out and play. So, once again, we want to give them the foundation to understand the play, what we’re trying to accomplish and give them a tool to get there, and then they have to play football.

Q: C.J. Spiller’s average yards per catch has gone down over 5 yards since 2012. What do you attribute that to and how do you fix it?

A: We just have to give him the ball more. When you look at any situation when you have a player like C.J. you want to get him out there a whole bunch. You want to throw him the ball, you want to hand him the ball off and that’s one thing that we have to do. He’s a great player and we have to feature him just like we have to feature a lot of guys. It’s about getting more plays, getting more opportunities to get him out there, keeping the quarterback in there consistent and making sure we have a guy in there that knows what we want to do and keep him in there. We want to be able to distribute the ball across the field.

Q: What do you think about Sammy (Watkins)’s catch over Ron Brooks on the sideline and the catch radius?

A: Yes, I recall that. It was pretty cool. We’ve got a couple guys that you can put the ball up. Mike Williams had one. Robert (Woods) had a one hander. And I believe all of those were on the same play. So whenever you have a quarterback that can go back there and there’s about three or four different guys that are out there that you can throw the ball up, and you know they’re going to go up and there’s a good chance they’re going to come down with it. You feel great back there. Now you’re able to pull the trigger even more because of the confidence in those guys and what they can do.

Q: How are your expectations different this year for the first preseason outing compared to last year at this time?

A: I think that going into any preseason game you want to be able to see the guys that can compete when it’s real live football, see the guys that really want to get after it, understand the system and that you can depend on. I think the biggest thing throughout the whole preseason from an evaluation standpoint with all of the guys is do they know their job, how do they communicate with the other guys and how do they make plays afterwards? That’s what you look for across all of the preseason and it’s a great opportunity for us to see all of the players and what they can do.

Q: Every time Sammy touches the ball you hear the crowd cheer. Do you get excited about some of the things he does?

A: It’s funny. It reminds me of back when I used to coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I remember we used to do “pat and go,” which was a little drill, and everybody is catching the ball. Then when Mike Alstott would get up and they would throw them, it was on air, and he’d touch the ball and the whole crowd would cheer and scream and stuff like that. That’s fun. There’s a lot of excitement for Sammy. The good thing about Sammy is that he’s very humble and he’s brought a great level of competition to the group and to everybody. He gets us all excited. What he’s done is he has amped up the competition across the whole board. Even for the quarterbacks to get him the ball on time. His work ethic is going through the whole team. I think the guys really appreciate him because he is humble. It’s just fun to have him on the team. It’s just that simple. The crowd is the crowd and they get excited about all kinds of stuff and that’s what we’re here for- to make everybody excited.

DC Jim Schwartz

Monday, July 28, 2014

Q: I know you’ve met a ton of rookies over the years, but just in terms of football I.Q. for Preston Brown, how advanced is he for a rookie?

A: Well, we’ll see on Sunday. He’s been impressive so far, but practice is different than games. There’s a different nature to being out there when there’s real action going on out there and he’s under the clock and a different offense and those things. That’s really the hallmark of a player, is what he does on game day. But he’s given us every indication that he’s ready for it.

Q: Relatively speaking, hes pretty quick on the transition?

A: It’s tough to play linebacker in the NFL. You not only have run fits, you have blitzes, you have pass coverage, you have nickel, you can be spread thin pretty quickly. But so far there has really been nothing he hasn’t been able to handle, which is a great sign.

Q: 4.9 in the 40 at the combine, does that suggest he’s not fast enough to play off the edge in the NFL?

A: You want to see guys play on the football field, there’s been a lot of guys that didn’t time well that play fast, there’s been a lot of guys that have timed great that played slow. There’s a lot more that goes into going on the field and your play speed than a 40 yard dash. He’s shown good speed, shown very good athletic ability and there’s really been nothing in your defense that he hasn’t been able to handle.

Q: What did you think of your defensive line in the third down drills the other night?

A: You don’t want to read too much into it, we’re going to be able to rush the passer. These guys can rush with four, we can bring blitzes, they’re hard to handle. There are three Pro Bowlers up there and the fourth guy had double digit sacks last season. That gives us a lot of optimism with where we can be with our pass rush. It’s hard to really judge as of now, we’re just in practice here, we’re not hitting the quarterback, so it’s hard to finish pass rush moves. You don’t want to hit him, you don’t want to knock his hand on the follow through, but then again, offensive linemen are doing the same thing, and quarterbacks aren’t exactly trying to make you miss, so let’s not read too much into it right now.

Q: Manny [Lawson] hasn’t really had a chance, he’s been a lot of places, but he hasn’t really fit into a 4-3 defensive end role, how do you think he’s adjusting to that?

A: He’s got great length and he’s tough. Manny can do a lot of different things, we stand him up sometimes, other times we put him down in a stance. He’s been really good against the run, he’s not exactly a heavy guy but he’s got really good use of his hands, he’s shown that he can really play the run in there. He played that position in college, he played opposite Mario [Williams], so we’ve seen him do it before, we’ve seen him do it at times in the NFL. But his role will be more than just doing that.

Q: Stefan Charles is often pegged by the untrained eye as a run stopper, but we know you like to get your guys up-field. Do you think he has the capabilities to do what you ask?

A: I think it’s just a matter of attitude and technique. It’ll be a little bit of a transition for him right now, but again, how people are really doing is not going to depend on what they’re doing in practice, we have five preseason games to see a young player like Stefan. He’s very strong, he’s hard to block and that can contribute to a pass rush also. You don’t have to be nifty and quick to be a good pass rusher. You can be a guy that collapses the pocket, we’ve seen guys do that before, and everybody has a different skill set. The whole idea of coaching is to try to put their skill sets to use.

Q: With the changing mentality of no two-a-days, salary cap, protecting players and what not, how do you prepare to have a physical run defense without guys getting hurt?

A: That’s been going on really since before the salary cap era. After high school football, there’s probably not even many colleges that go full go on more than a limited basis. You have to emphasize positioning, you have to emphasize technique in finishing when it comes to tackling, run fits and gap control and things like that. You can work on some of those things in individual periods. We do some circuits when it comes to technique behind tackling, but there’s really no substitute for game day. Not just defensive players, but you don’t want to put your own offensive players at risk, and also people around the pile and things like that. As coaches, whether in college or the NFL, you’re used to dealing with that. We’ll be ready to stop the run when it comes time.

Q: How about the challenge of playing against teams that run a lot of shotgun side zone runs in addition to preparing for the power running attack of some of the playoff caliber NFC teams?

A: Well, if we play those teams that would mean we’re in the playoffs so I hope we play them. But that’s everybody, that goes back to teams defending the run and shoot if they didn’t defend the run and shoot offense all year. There’s a balance in training camp, we’re the same way.

Q: Do you push coach saying “Hey, let’s get a few more looks”

A: No, the offense is on their own installation schedule, we can work some of those things in during walk-throughs and individual periods defensively. There’s a lot of base 3-4 teams that our offense needs to work against, and they don’t see very much of that in practice. We have some odd alignments, some 3-4 type stuff, but on a regular basis we don’t play very much of that. I think that’s one of the main reasons it’s good to go against Pittsburgh and those extended practices before the preseason game. Our offense will get a good look at a 3-4, we’ll get a look at a different offense. We have five preseason games, we’ll see a lot of different things, we’ll see read option this year, we’ll see outside zone. Everything we’ll see from an offense at some extent we have to get ready for before the season.

Q: What are you hoping to accomplish defensively in the first preseason game?

A: I want to see good communication, we want to see good tackling. We want to see players win, not necessarily scheme, we’re not going to scheme a whole lot in preseason games, we want to see guys rush 1-on-1, see if they can win, we want to see guys cover 1-on-1, see if they can win. We don’t want to out scheme a team in preseason because this is a talent evaluation part of what we’re doing. We’re getting our defense ready during the week and during practices, when we get to the game it’s as much about seeing who we can rely on to be on the field and that’s all about their communication, their ability to tackle, their ability to cover, their ability to rush.

Q: I know you’ve said you can’t really see everything you’ve wanted to in terms of a contact standpoint. This has been the first week you’ve had your entire defensively line back, you know, coming from where you’ve come from, what a defensive line like this can do. What does that open up for you on the defensive side scheme wise?

A: Any time you can blitz on your own terms, you’re at an advantage defensively. By that I mean you don’t have to blitz to get a pass rush. If you can bring four and get a pass rush, you can do so many more things with your coverage, and then when you want to blitz you can blitz. It’s not like, “We’ve gotta get pressure on the quarterback so we have to blitz.”That’s one of the advantages of having a strong front four. You’ve got a guy like Mario, we’ve talked about Hughes on the other side, we’ve talked about Marcell, we haven’t really talked about Kyle Williams. Generally offenses are going to protect with five, six guys. We’ve got four, there’s a couple guys that are going to be one-on-one and we’ve got guys that can win those match ups.

Q: Jerry Hughes had some success last year, what have you seen from him thus far?

A: We’re still using him in a bit of a hybrid role, not the same as he was used last year but there are some similarities. He’s a threat on the edge, I think anyone who has watched our practices has seen his ability to get some stuff done on the end, but he’s actually been a better run defender on the end than advertised. He can build some power with speed, he’s not the biggest guy in the world but he’s got good technique, he’s really strong in his lower body. We know he can rush the passer, but he’s come along as a run defender also..

Q: How would you describe Nigel Bradham’s camp so far?

A: It hasn’t just been his camp, he’s been outstanding since we came back in the off season program even before we got to work on OTAs and things like that. He’s shown a very serious, professional attitude, he’s been into it. Even before a guy like Kiko Alonso get’s hurt, now there’s even more of an opportunity for a guy like Bradham. He’s been very, very good mentally as far as picking the scheme up, he’s good in coverage, and he’s improving as a run defender also. It’s been exciting to watch him because, like I said it hasn’t just been the plays in camp, it’s been back in OTAs and he’s been very consistent, and consistency is what we’re looking for.

Q: Do you think last year’s run defense would play well for some stretches but would seem to have some over aggressive over run at times? How do you fix that?

A: Last year is last year, we’ve got a different scheme and guys are being asked to do a little different things. We need to be consistent though, one long run can screw up your run defense because it puts them in scoring range. Our ability to stop the run goes a long way in creating our ability to stop the pass. Our ability to stop the run goes a long way in creating our ability to get sacks. You move teams behind the chains, you make them one dimensional. Our ability to stop the run affects our red zone defense because the best teams in the red zone can run the football. Our ability to stop the run makes us better on third down because it creates third down and long situations. That’s our life blood defensively, we put a lot of work into it and we look forward to seeing the results of that as we move forward through the preseason.

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