Offseason Training Activities are a fun time for fans because it’s one the first signs that football is back, but for coaches, it is in the season where their teaching skills are put to the test. “Right now you are teaching the system, you are implementing it, you are moving guys and different pieces and seeing how they communicate,” said Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll in regards to the offensive line.
OTAs are mostly the teaching of the scheme, techniques, and assignments. After all, what players are taught in drills, they will be using on the field in games.
So with teaching in mind, let’s try to pull some context from the videos recorded at practice today.
Thanks to Scott Swenson’s video, you see Head Coach McDermott critiquing rookie defensive end Daryl Johnson. This drill is working on hand placement and “pop” on contact. Coach McDermott and defensive line coach Bill Teerlinck want Johnson to “have his toes in the ground” and his “toes coiled.” As you can see here, he doesn’t have his feet dug in. His butt is a little too high and forward, and his back is arched — all little things that could take away from creating the kinetic energy to affect opposing offensive linemen.
These minor coaching points are the crux for helping Johnson maximize the amount of energy created and then his ability to transfer it from his toes/feet, to his hips, then up through his core and out through his hands with his eyes up. These are all things that the pass rusher from North Carolina A&T obviously needs to work on and improve.
— Scott Swenson (@ScottSwenson4) May 28, 2019
On the offensive side of the ball, Josh Reed captured some cool footage of QB Josh Allen and the quarterbacks throwing against air. Now, on the surface, it just looks like pitch and catch. But to me, the tight split and route combination by Robert Foster and John Brown are signs the Bills are working on a play concept that was not only a big play for them in 2018, but was also a trendy play across the league.
The deep over was a route that Foster mastered in 2018 and one that Allen loves. In the video, you will see Foster run the deep over and Brown run an out route. Typically, if the defense is playing Cover 3 or Cover pattern match (zone coverage), the deep third corner will jump the out route or hitch by the #1 receiver if it meets a certain depth. In this clip, that route is at 12 yards, so I could very well see a corner hanging lower than he should be if Allen is looking in that direction, which he appears to do during his play-fake (the question is, is it a play-action pass or RPO?).
Bills QB1 & QB2. Allen to Foster deep, Barkley to Zay deep. pic.twitter.com/VjcXjdFsU6
— Josh Reed (@4JoshReed) May 28, 2019
If this sounds familiar, it’s the route concept Daboll dialed up on this touchdown versus the Jaguars.
Foster’s speed makes covering him in man or zone coverage on this route very difficult. So if a defense wants to play a single-high man coverage call like Cover 1, the defensive back is going to have a tough time staying in-phase down the field, but also across the field.
This deep over route can be a killer. pic.twitter.com/VheMMAPFC7
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) October 19, 2018
Here is another example of a very similar call from the Lions game. Foster’s route from practice today seems more direct, with very little stem work, which could make the read of the coverage and/or the safety that much easier.
The next step to this is to give Foster and the receivers who will run this route even more options. This could come in the form of a DOT route, seen here from the Patriots’ playbook. On this route, the receiver has the option to sit versus zone coverage, which would be nice if that deep third cornerback doesn’t bite on Brown’s 12-yard out or hitch route.
Either way, it is cool to see Daboll and the staff incorporating things that were successful in 2018.
I thought some of Allen's better throws were those deep crossers, here are his stats:
Comp % 66.7% (4th)
3 TDs (3rd)
Wk 1-11 2/3 23 yds, 0 TDs, 1 INT, Y/A 7.7
Wks 12-17 8/12, 206 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INT, Y/A 17.2
(Foster TD vs Jags was a post per SIS) pic.twitter.com/Pf2pKe7xYZ
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) May 20, 2019
He is taking a route concept that worked and tweaking it by running it with new personnel and with a play fake or RPO wrinkle. Just picture this predetermined RPO play where Kelvin Benjamin ran the out route and adding a deep over route by a slot wide receiver rather than a square in versus this man coverage. This will stress single-high man coverage.
If you go listen to the broadcast version, you will hear Allen change this play.
It appears to be a levels RPO concept with a backside tag to Benjamin. Something Daboll and his assistants got from Kiffin.
Allen sounds like he calls out star, and throws the speed out to KB. pic.twitter.com/eP6h7JSvyp
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 16, 2018
Offseason training activities and their footage really tell a story, but what the coaches are teaching sometimes needs to be translated. I hope that we are able to offer a little more insight into that, thereby making you a little more informed beyond the canned narratives this time of year.
Transcripts from the Press Conferences
OC Brian Daboll
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Q: There’s been a lot of discussion about Josh [Allen]’s growth, obviously between year one and year two, what have you seen from him in the short time that you’ve been back? Where he ended last year and where he has started?
A: A lot. I think from year one to year two, for any player, is huge. Usually you make a big jump because there are so many unknowns when you come in here. You can talk to some of these young rookies that are going through rookie meetings and they don’t know their way around to a Tim Horton’s, shortcuts to the stadium, all the little things that you take for granted, it’s all new to those guys. On top of that, you’re playing a pretty difficult position, both physically and mentally, and you have so many things going through your head. I was just talking about this to Tyree [Jackson] after practice the other day, “You have to lead and you have to do this.” Heck, some of these guys can’t get the play call out just yet. Josh is understanding of what we try to do here. His input, too, it’s a give and take. I have a lot of respect for him and I really appreciate coaching him. He has grown mentally, physically, off the field, on the field as a leader. Again, it’s a short time, we have only had three OTA’s. Back to phase one, he’s been really helpful for all of the new guys, whether it’s the rookies, whether it’s the guys we signed, trying to build relationships with them and grow off the field as well as on the field.
Q: What is the approach like for year two, versus a rookie and year one of Josh Allen? Now that you have had a whole year with him, what are some specific things you will address with him?
A: You’ve got to think, too, last year Josh was taking reps with the three’s a bunch, then he was taking reps with some of the two’s and some of the one’s. To build camaraderie and consistency, particularly in the passing game, you’d like to throw to the guys you’re going to throw to as many times as you can. So, I think having him out there is very helpful because he’s going with the one’s, for the most part. We don’t have a depth chart, but the guys he is working with, some of the new guys like Smoke [John Brown], and Zay [Jones], and those guys. I think that’s very beneficial for him because he’s taken reps with a lot of the guys that he’ll be working with throughout the summer.
Q: How much does a quarterback in his second year need to take more command, add to that the presence of leadership and adopt that to build upon, after swimming through his first season, how much does a quarterback need to do that and how much do you need to see that from him?
A: That’s the nature of playing that position. It’s going out there and being able to compete at a high level and also being a good leader. Again, whether that’s off the field or on the field. Josh is going to lead how Josh leads. I don’t think he can take any cookie-cutter example of leadership and say, “This is the way you have to lead.” I think Josh is a good leader. I think the guys, you can ask those guys but I think they respect both his work ethic and his ability and his command in the huddle. We just have to keep growing that and building it with him. He’s done a good job.
Q: From what we see, we see this “Aw shucks, I just want to win,” kind of guy, which is the way he’s been. Have you seen him change and, maybe, hone his message in some ways?
A: That’s a good thing to have, is just a win method. You want that from your quarterback. His preparation habits, even how he is around the building with all facets of the building. From the training staff, to the cafeteria workers, to the people in the weight room, to the equipment guys. It’s not just the players. He is, quote unquote, the face of the franchise. There’s a lot that goes with that, particularly when you’re a young guy who was picked as high as he was. I think that his mindset, though, is to get better everyday and he’s got good leadership, good ability, he’s a good guy to work with. I’m happy we have him.
Q: Are there specific ways, and if you can explain what they are, to address the questions of Josh’s accuracy? Aside from people catching the ball, what can you address to try to improve that?
A: I think that the more reps we get the better off it is for him. That’s just not out there in a 7-on-7 or a team skelly, or a perimeter period. That’s routes on air that we have been doing since phase one and phase two, making him move off the spot and reset, ball location on underneath throws where we have a better opportunity to catch and run. It’s not just catching the ball from the skill guys, it’s making sure that the skill guy is in the right spot doing the right thing when they’re supposed to do it, too. A yard off here or there can be a big difference in the throw. We have been working on it, Josh has been working on it very diligently along with Matt [Barkley] and Tyree. We’ll keep at it.
Q: [Tyler] Kroft’s injury kind of changed the dynamic of the tight end position, what have you seen early on here in OTA’s?
A: Whatever happens, it’s kind of good for, it’s not good to not have anybody out there, you’d like to have everybody that you signed to be out there, you’d like all the young guys to be out there, all the old guys to be out there. But that’s your job as a coach, to go ahead and adjust and whether it’s a different personnel grouping or using a different guy in a different spot. I think Rob [Boras] does a good job with all those guys, obviously we have a couple of young guys who we selected in the draft and then we brought on Lee [Smith]. It’s a good group to work with. Again, it’s a tough break for Kroft, but we’ll just keep on grinding away.
Q: When Josh left here in January, what did you send him away with, in terms of, “Look, do these things in the offseason,” and then he goes and works with Jordan Palmer. The second part of this is did you contact Palmer to help set a plan for Josh?
A: We spoke at the end of whatever month that was, in terms of some of the things that we wanted to try to get accomplished. I have a lot of respect for Jordan and what Josh does. Josh goes out there and unfortunately the rules are the rules out there. They’re out there working on, look, you can only do so many different drills with so many different people. Jordan does a good job with him, he knows what’s expected of him, in terms of his footwork and the throws we’d like him to make. Then, another good example of Josh is that he brings a bunch of guys out there to throw routes with, that were on our team. He’s had a good offseason in phase one and phase two. These first couple of days we’ve put him in a lot of different situations. The first three days of OTA’s we’ve done red zone already, we’ve done two-minute, we’ve done third down, we’ve done first down, we’ve done start of the game. There’s been a series in there where I’ve said, “You got it bud, take it, call it, go no huddle and you call it on your own.” We’ve put him in a bunch of situations, both physically and mentally. And that’s what we need to continue to do.
Q: You have a lot of new guys, from free agency especially, to work in and get on the same page and maybe to rebuild the O-line. What has that challenge been like for you?
A: It’s been fun. We’ve added some coaches, some players, and this is the time of year to build those relationships, not just in the building but outside the building because you have to have a trust factor when you’re in this job. I think the guys that we’ve added, both player wise and coaches wise have done a good job. We’ve got good interaction. We have a long way to go but each year is a different year. This year is a little different than last year, which was a brand new deal. Now we’ve got a bunch of new guys added. We just have to make sure that we’re all on the same page, we’re all rowing the boat the same way.
Q: It’s a larger number of undefined roles upfront maybe to last year and most years probably. How do you and Coach Johnson try to navigate through that to get to the endpoint while also keeping it a fair competition for all the guys that are battling?
A: Sure, good question. This time of year, particularly for that position, it’s really physical but it’s not as much physical as it is mental and making sure we are doing what we need to do. This is more of a teaching deal for those guys. They are all getting rotated around just like we did last year and once the pads come on and they are able to see them extend their arms and move people out the line of scrimmage and keep the depth and the width in the pocket. Right now you are teaching the system, you are implementing it, you are moving guys and different pieces and seeing how they communicate with one another and then once the pads come on I think that’s a better time to really evaluate that spot.
Q: Knowing how committed the coaches are to the calendar so to speak, when you get to camp do you and Coach Johnson already have your minds eye when you want to try and get those roles solidified?
A: Sure, well I think the earlier the better but you don’t want to push it to where you don’t have the exact answer that you think is best for the football team. It will all play out but obviously the sooner the better so you got a cohesiveness working together with those guys because that’s an important aspect to it.
Q: What is Josh [Allen] and Mitch Morris doing to at least try to build chemistry now knowing that they can’t practice right now?
A: Well there’s a lot of communication that goes on in the meeting rooms and I’d say Mitch is out there with the script watching practice, they are talking back and forth. Again it’s tough when you aren’t out there actually physically doing it and getting the reps but as much communication as we can encourage between those two guys, that’s important.
Q: Along several lines you don’t have Cole Beasley working right now either. In Your offensive scheme, this guy has been a true producer in that slot, he’s just one of those guys. In your scheme, how important is it now to account a guy like him?
A: He’s a good player and I think Brandon, Joe and their staff did a really good job of what you’ve seen in the draft. Again you’d love for them to be out there and to be able to throw with Josh but you know the slot is a tough spot to play inside and I think Isaiah [McKenzie] and Ray-Ray [McCloud] have done a good job here but it’s a tough spot to play. There’s a lot of moving pieces that are going inside with backers and drop down guys, it’s like playing inside an interior quarter line versus playing outside where you basically got a defensive end or you got a corner. You need really good instincts. At least the guys that I’ve been around that had been successful in slot have really good instincts and good short space quickness and he falls into that category.
Q: I don’t know how much personal coaching experience you can draw from on this issue, but rebuilding a line which you can see is pretty extensive just based on what we’ve seen. What do you draw from to and have you dealt with anything quite like that? There are those that say it can take a half a year of the season to get the line in sync. How do you wrap your head around all of that?
A: I think you give them as many reps as you can. Those guys meet a ton and Coach Johnson and Heff [Terry Heffernan] and Wendy [Ryan Wendell] have done a good job with them. You have to be a physical player and move people out of the line of scrimmage but you have to be a player that communicates well particularly from inside out so everybody’s on the same page. You get in as many reps as you ca n, you go through it in training camp and you get going again with that and to the question earlier, the sooner you can get that ironed out the better off it is for all five of those guys. But you know how training camp goes, it’s such a competitive deal and you give guys reps and they are competing with one another so it will be fine.
Q: Going back to what you said about Josh and how quickly you put stuff on his plate like the red zone in two minutes, would you say it’s normal this time of year to have done that already? I know last year having a rookie quarterback and I even noticed you were wearing headsets last week during OTA’s. Are you ahead of where you would normally be because the roster can handle it more?
A: I don’t know if ahead is the right word. I think Coach McDermott had a philosophy going into his first couple days of how he wanted to handle things and whether you put some stuff on the players and put some pressure on the coaches I think that’s a good thing. Again, to be a good football team you have to be good at situations and red zone third down in two minute we may not be able to necessarily start there in all those cases but the first three days we got a bunch done. I don’t know how all the other teams are doing it I just think that it’s good for the players. You install a lot so there’s a lot going through their head and be able to respond quickly and there’s periods where we don’t have scripts or do anything like that. We just go out there and call whether I’m giving it to Josh or Josh had a huddle period and he did it, I think that’s good for the players and the coaches.
Q: We’ve got almost twelve – fifteen minutes where we have been talking about the running game. How much do you need that, was it acceptable of what happened last year and how much do you need that to better to take the load off everybody in some cases?
A: I think to run the ball, sure. We have to be a better running football team no question about it. Whether it’s schemes or plays or philosophies or whatever it may be, we’re working through that right now and it’s a little tougher during these times to really practice it. That will happen in training camp a bunch but we’ve done a lot of work in the off season both as coaches and then when the guys get back, the players. So we’ll be working to grind that out.
Q: Does every team do that to get maybe a little bit more in the passing game this time of year just because you don’t have pads and you’re not knocking people back?
A: My experience is yes. You try to be smart the way you practice and doing everything within the rules. But the grinding and the double teams and the movement within the line of scrimmage, they’ll be enough time for that in training camp. Do we do some of it, absolutely. Do we do it as much as you would like to do it, no because of the parameters and the rules and how those things go.
Q: How would you describe the impact of the injuries on building team chemistry and the relationships?
A: The guys that we’ve brought in off the field I think it’s been really good. We’ve made some good additions in terms of personalities. Tough and smart, guys that are committed, guys that care and you can see that in the building but you can see that outside the building with the different things that those guys do. In terms of on the field, the more you can rep together the more chemistry you’re going to have. There are going to be plenty of times in the year when we are going to have to use a different personnel group or do something else so it’s not good for anybody to get hurt during this time but you go ahead, you work with what you got and put the guys out there because it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen whether it’s in training camp, pre-season, second game, whatever it may be. It’s good to go through those situations.
Q: Just to clarify when you were talking about the stuff you were throwing at Josh, is it your goal to get him to a point by regular season to give him a little bit more rope in game situations or are you testing him now to see if he can do that?
A: We are in the three, four of OTA’s so we are doing a lot of different things. Situationally, red zone, low red zone, today we are working some fringe. We are doing a lot of different things right now just to throw on his plate and see what we need to keep getting better at and see what he has got a firm grasp of.
Q: What have you seen from Tyree Jackson so far in your time here?
A: Much like a young quarterback is coming in. Very diligent worker, works his tail off, he’s done a good job with the young guys, all the guys that he’s around and the rookie group. Has a lot to learn, knows he’s got a lot a learn, but a guy who is willing to go out there and improve every day. He’s been good in the room.
DC Leslie Frazier
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Opening statement: I hope everybody had a good Memorial Day weekend. We got back to work today and guys were really into it, a lot of energy at practice. Sean put us in some different situations that, hopefully, will bode well for use when the season rolls around. The guys have been working extremely hard, we’ve had great attendance. It’s really been a good four OTAs, a good offseason up to this point. Hopefully we can just build on that in the remaining days that we have. So far so good with our guys.
Q: It looks like one of the best competitions in the whole camp is at cornerback. On your side of it, have you liked what you’ve seen out of the guys who are competing at that spot?
A: Yeah, you’re right. The corner position, we’ve got some good competition. We’ll see how it unfolds as time goes on but right now it’s really good to watch. To see those guys compete every single snap and battling for a spot. Who’s going to be the starter? Levi [Wallace] is the incumbent, he’s done a really good job for us, played well for us down the stretch last season. We’ll see how it shakes out.
Q: Specifically on Kevin Johnson, obviously he missed almost all of last year, but that’s a first round talent from four years ago. What do you like about that signing and what he might be able to bring to you guys?
A: Well, you’re right. He’s a former first round pick who had a good career in Houston, the injuries are kind of what sidetracked him. You saw the ability coming out of college. He did a really good job in his rookie year, off to a really good start. The injuries have kind of creeped up. We’re hoping that he can stay healthy, we know he has the talent to really help us. We’ll see as time goes on.
Q: What do you make of Trent Murphy and for a guy who, maybe, was a little self delusional last year, thinking he could be at 100-percent while rehabbing for all that stuff? What do you make of him a year later?
A: I’ve told him a few different times as we’ve gone through some drills here in OTA’s how different he looks. Of course, last year at this time he was, like you said, coming off the injury and the surgery and really kind of feeling his way. The confidence, the movement, everything looks so much better. We’re hoping that continues as we get farther along, but he’s a different player. You would expect that, coming off of the type of injury that he had. As his confidence grows and the fact that he is more comparable to what we’re doing on defense as well, all that helps. He looks really good, he’s come a long way from a year ago at this time.
Q: Was there an expectation last year that this was going to be a two-year thing? You couldn’t really expect Trent Murphy to be the Trent Murphy of two years earlier last year. Did you factor that in when you were assessing what he looked like last year?
A: Absolutely, we knew coming off the type of injury that he had that it takes time, not only from a physical standpoint but a mental also, where you gain the confidence to be able to do the things that you did before. We’re seeing the fruits of that because he works extremely hard and he’s done a good job in his preparation for this offseason. As I mentioned, he’s just a different looking player today than he was a year ago at this time. We did factor in the fact that he’s coming off a major surgery, it was going to take a little time. Fortunately for us, he was able to give us some snaps during the season. That will help us going into 2019.
Q: What’re your early impressions of Ed Oliver and what he can mean for this defense?
A: Ed’s done a really good job up to this point. I don’t think it’s been overwhelming for him, with the meetings along with what we’re doing on the practice field. You see his quickness, you see his burst. As he continues to get a better grasp on what we’re asking him to do on defense, I think you’ll see more of his athleticism as well. Up to this point, we’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen and we’ll just keep watching his maturation over the next few months.
Q: Did you have a pretty big smile on your face on draft night, when you looked at number nine and he was there?
A: Absolutely, because we went through so many different scenarios with Brandon and his staff and the scouts, some showed that he would be there, some showed that he wouldn’t be there. You were like, man, and you’re sweating right up to the point that he’s still there at nine. It was a lot of high-fives in the defensive meeting room when he was there at nine. It was great for us.
Q: You touched on it a little bit, but what kind of learning curve is there for Ed in trying to get up to speed with some of the veterans? How much does it help having Star [Lotulelei] line up next to him, a guy who has been around and seen it all.
A: The learning curve part for Ed is not only picking up our system and grasping that but coming to the National Football League as well. For instance, one of the things that you have to be able to deal with is this locker room is just so different from what he came from at the University of Houston. The competition is different, so there’s a learning curve when it comes to that. There are some guys who can match up a little bit better than some of the people that he played against in college so you have to be able to get through that. Then you throw in what we’re doing from a defensive standpoint that’s a different scheme than the scheme that he came from. Being able to grasp that and being able to go out there and play fast. You need a guy like Star or even a guy like Harrison [Phillips] who has gone through it just a year ago to talk to you and help you get through some of those days where you start to wonder if you’re ever going to get it. So, you need that and we’re fortunate to have some veteran guys in that meeting room to help him along the way.
Q: I know it’s early, what differences have you seen in Tremaine [Edmunds] on the field now as opposed to his first steps here just a year ago.
A: Probably the biggest thing is the confidence. It’s extremely high now and you see it in the way he communicates, he has a much better grasp of what we want to get done on defense and what his role is within that. His ability now to communicate with no hesitation, to know exactly what we’re looking for as a coaching staff, you see the evidence in the way he’s practicing and the way he’s communicating with his teammates, which gives those guys confidence in our middle linebacker. He’s grown over the offseason and from some of the things that happened as a rookie as well. The confidence is probably the one thing that’s sticking out more and more.
Q: Going back to Ed Oliver, what do you think about the combination of his size and speed as a 3-technique playing at 280 pounds?
A: That’s a good question and one that we’ve talked about a lot in the process. Bill Teerlinck, our defensive line coach and I had a lot of conversations about transcending from college football at 280 pounds to the NFL at 280 pounds as a 3-technique in our scheme. For us, we don’t necessarily feel like we have to have a 300 pounder or a real heavy guy at that position. We need a guy with great quickness, great get-off, that has strength and athleticism, and Ed has those qualities. He had a lot of what we were looking for at that position and he’s so explosive. He has some rare physical traits that we didn’t want to ignore. We feel like his strengths are matched for what we’re looking for at our defensive tackle, especially the 3-technique, and that’s what kind of sold us. The more we watched the tape, the more we were around him, we saw the things that we were looking for and the qualities that we needed to really help us at that position.
Q: Does it help when you look at Kyle Williams having played that position? I think Kyle was a little bit bigger, not to compare the way they play, but they do have similar traits.
A: They do, they’re built somewhat similar. You’re right that you don’t want to get ahead of yourself as far as the comparison, but when you look at them you can see some of the comparisons. For Ed, when we were going through the process, his quickness, his athleticism, his power, his burst, those things just jump off of the table at you. There have been some other guys at his size who have succeeded in our league. You don’t want to ignore that and you want to take advantage of it if you can. He fits what we do and we’re looking forward to people hopefully giving him some one-on-ones and him having some success against some of the guards in our league.
Q: Kyle was the biggest voice on that defense for so long, in his absence early on in this offseason program, who has assumed that role?
A: Without question, Lorenzo Alexander. He is probably the voice of our defense for our team. He was kind of in that role, to a degree, when Kyle was here as well. Now, it’s really thrust upon him to lead us and he’s done a great job at it, he did a great job when Kyle was here as well. He’s accepted that role and I think the players look to him and expect him to be the voice for our defense and he doesn’t shy away from it.
Q: Kyle used to call a lot of your pass rushes, is that going to be a shared responsibility moving forward?
A: That is something that we have talked about a lot and that’s one of the things we’ll miss from Kyle, how he took control of our defensive line in certain situations and was really a coach on the field. We put it to our players, we wanted to ask them who was going to be that guy to step up and have the courage to put the time in. You have to put the time in studying tape to be able to communicate what we want to do up front. Then the guy has to have confidence and the only way you have confidence is if you know what you’re talking about. We’ll see how that goes over time, we have an idea of who we want to do it and we’ve already begun that process. We’ll see how it shakes out in the next weeks and months to come.
Q: Who do you think will work in the slot to compete with Taron Johnson?
A: We’d like to be able to get some depth at that position. Last year, Rafael Bush did a good job for us in that role. We’re going to let Siran Neal get a shot at that position as well, we have Denzel Rice taking some stabs at it and we may even give Kevin [Johnson] a shot at it. We also have E.J. Gaines who played it for us at times a couple years ago and he’ll get some stabs at it. We’ve got a group of guys who will be battling at that backup slot position.
Q: How much has Tremaine grown in that leadership role?
A: Like I said earlier, I think he has grown tremendously. It goes back to the year he has under his belt and the confidence he’s gained as a player. He’s grown quite a bit and he’ll grown even more. We’re still early in the process for him. There’s a lot more growth to be done but he’s come a long way from a year ago.
STC Heath Farwell
Tuesday, May 28th, 2019
Q: I’m curious about what this time of year is like for you. You are a long way from knowing the final group of guys that you are going to have and getting stuff set up with guys that you aren’t sure who’s going to be here at the end of it all. How do you go about all that?
A: I think the beauty of it is that we can do a lot of drill work that kind of gets everybody involved, get a bunch of reps. And the more guys we can get out there to see what they can do and how they can help us come to regular season, that’s what we are doing. We are getting a bunch of guys reps and everybody’s getting involved so we’re taking a look at everybody. Everybody out there, we are evaluating so it’s good.
Q: Some of the guys that are drafted, I mean if you are going to make a team, if you’re a fourth round pick or something, in a lot of cases you better be ready to play special teams. Do you keep a special eye on some of those guys?
A: Yeah absolutely. Any of the rookies, they have big shoes to fill. All of these guys have been playing for a long time, recovered kicks at this level for a long time so they definitely got a lot of work to do. In the later rounds and the undrafted free agents, a big part of it is going to be on special teams so that’s going to be a big part. That’s the evaluation, how they play offensively, defensively and of course how can they contribute on special teams on that side of the field too.
Q: How much is it for you now that you are in this special teams coordinator role finding your way as being that main guy in that position?
A: Like I said, you just want to be able to evaluate them all and every little bit counts. It’s about how they do on offense and defense and then special teams. It’s a big part of the game and it’s a big emphasis here. Coach McDermott and Brandon Beane, that’s a huge emphasis for them so I’m just trying to help prepare them the best I can and [Matthew] Smiley, my assistant who is doing a really nice job just giving them those tools we can and prepare them. But they are all working hard, that’s the cool thing. Everyone is working their butts off and we are getting better everyday but we have a long ways to go. It’s still early and we are only a couple weeks in but it’s fun to be out here. We are excited to be out here and run around and be out on the grass. We are enjoying it.
Q: What about you and your styles specifically, and kind of figuring out how you want to relay your message and run things on that side?
A: I’m hoping the message is clear to them, what I’m into and what kind of program we are going to be around here but I think we just have to keep grinding. That’s the thing, we just have to keep working at it. That’s all we got to do, just keep working at it.
Q: Are there one or two philosophies right now that this time of year you really try to drill home to guys, especially the younger guys, you want them to then continue to carry on?
A: Playing fast and playing smart and playing with juice is kind of the motto we have got around here. It’s playing fast, we want that screaming off the tape. They’ve got to play with great effort, strength and then playing smart. We have got to be smart, we got to know the rules, those are the things. And playing with energy, that’s what the best teams are about. Playing with juice and I’m hoping that’s the message that they are getting and that’s what me and Smiley are trying to portray.
Q: What are your thoughts on a punting competition where that stands?
A: They’ve both done a good job with their rehabs. They’ve worked their butts off all off season to get back and both get full strength and they both are doing a really good job. I am happy with where their progress is but we are long ways to go from making a decision. Like I said, they are just competing and they are getting better everyday.
Q: When it comes down to September and you need to figure out your special and who needs to be on it and you sit down with the head coach, does he give you a group of names and says these are special teams players or do you ask for certain players? How does that all break down to form the units that you have?
A: I think it’s a collective group. It’s how they do offensively and defensively but can they contribute on special teams. When you have those guys that are on the bottom half of the roster, if you could help us out in one other phase or a couple of phases on special teams it has a lot of value. If you’re a backup linebacker it’s all the phases, so I think that’s part of the evaluation process between Coach, Brandon Beane and the coordinators. How can it help us win games, that’s what it’s about and how can we pick the best guys to help us do that.
Q: Some starters you are going to want, aren’t you?
A: Absolutely, I’d love to have them all. I’d love to have all the starters out there but that’s part of it. How much are we going to keep those guys out there? They are going to be playing a lot of reps on offense and defense so we got to have backups that play four phases and help out special teams wise, and they got to be ready to fill in at their position on offense or defense. That’s what it is, it’s how they could help this team win. That’s the most important thing and whatever that value is, is going to be what’s going to make the team.
Q: I’m curious how you think your experience as a player going to the pro bowl how that helps your current role, whether it’s getting guys to buy in or commanding respect right off the bat and however that sort of factored in?
A: I definitely think that’s my coaching style. What I lack an experience in coaching I kind of make it up with playing time. I’ve played up against a lot of these guys or a couple guys I should say and just being in those locker rooms a handful of years ago, I feel like I’ve had a good relationship with them and am still building it. I’m hoping they respect me, I’m hoping I’m getting that respect from them as I’m coaching them because I respect every single one of them and I know what they go through. Understanding what they go through everyday, I would say, nobody knows it better than I do.
Q: What’s it been like coaching a guy like Lorenzo [Alexander]?
A: It’s great. He’s one of those guys I love to have on every phase because he can still do it on a high level, it’s just a matter of how much I can use him. But I respect Lorenzo, playing against him some handful of times. I’ve said before I couldn’t block him when I was playing against him and I respect him as a player and I respect him still and hopefully I am earning his respect coaching him.
Q: How has he helped you transition into this role?
A: All those veterans, I rely on them heavily. Being a new coordinator this is all new to me so getting a good understanding of what the feel is, is that clear enough to them, it that clear enough to the young guys because I know those guys, the older guys, get it but what are the young guys getting? It’s the whole group, I’m speaking to everybody not just Lorenzo. Lorenzo knows it as good as anybody. But he’s a good voice to call to let me know if I need to clear something up a little bit more or this so he has been a great sound board for me and a lot of these veterans, I rely on all of these guys who have done this and who have been in special team rooms whether it’s here or with other teams. They are very valuable and I am definitely taking full advantage of those guys.
Q: What kind of mindset do they bring to playing special teams that makes them viable, especially to the younger guys?
A: I think looking at our starters and their background, that’s where I try to explain to them that Lorenzo started off as a special teams guy and he’s found a niche playing defense and has found a great role for him, but it wouldn’t have been if he didn’t play for special teams all those years at a high level. So we have several cases like that where guys contributing whether it’s Micah Hyde, some of these other guys or Jordan Poyer who would be on every phase if we let him. That’s a great example to these young guys. You see veterans who want to sit in the meetings, want to be there, want to be on them. It just shows the importance of special teams and a good team. That’s what I try to tell these guys. The good teams that I’ve been on and been a part of have good leaders who are willing to play special teams and care and really mentor the younger guys and know the importance of them because a lot of these rookies and young players have never played special teams in college, so it’s all new to them. We are starting from scratch but they have good role models for what it could look like.
Q: What are the challenges of coaching special teams to the point where you guys are running around in shorts?
A: It is hard but we make the most of it. Every team is doing the same thing, we do more bags or we do one on one drills. That’s why I break it down to drills as much as we do to try and break it down into little pieces and try to get the most out of them. I try to show them the drill and then show them the meaning of how to use that drill in the game. All of those drills, there’s a reason we are doing them and it’s putting those pieces together. So when we put on that game tape, that’s where you use that move that I just tried to teach you, that tool. I think just putting it all together especially for the young guys who don’t have a big understanding of the full game of special teams yet. So you do these drills, you kind of put it together in the meeting room and explain how that’s valuable and how you can use that tool.