(Where were Charles and Kabeer?)
Charles missed this morning's practice for a personal matter. He was at the meetings and he'll be back here by 1. And Kabeer, just being smart with his injury.
(Do you have plans to use the radio helmet for the defense in this camp like you did in the OTAs, and how is the progress with that?)
We've actually used it throughout the OTAs, like you've already stated. We'll continue to use it through camp, really to get the players used to it, having the voice in their ear, and also the time frame that you're able to talk to the defensive player. We have a 40-second clock out there that operates and is used on every play. We've been using it throughout and we'll continue to use it through training camp, and it's really gone very smooth.
(You've used it for talking to QBs, what is the toughest adjustment to get used to?)
It's really the player in my view. Back in '94, when it came into the league, I just remember certain quarterbacks did not want a lot of information. They wanted the play and that was it. And that was probably because of their experience of coming off of having the play signaled to them for so long. They had to learn the formations and they just wanted the play and get going. Actually the first person that I ever worked with was in '99 when I was up here with Brett, you could talk to him all the way up until the 15-second mark when they cut it off, and I found that the younger quarterbacks like it that way too. It's really tailored to the quarterback and who's playing, and really your style of offense. I've known just in my history with this certain offense, the West Coast, we've really cut the terminology down, and it gives you the ability obviously to do more and communicate more outside of just the play call and the formation.
(Who talks to the QB now, and whom does Bob talk to on defense?)
I talk to the quarterback now, and Bob right now is talking to the middle linebacker and the safeties.
(Do all the middle linebackers and safeties have the helmet for practice purposes?)
We're rolling those through. We're working on certain individuals, and we'll continue to do that. It will be declared with the green dot on their helmet, that tells you who has the system.
(I was just wondering if everybody got to work with it ...)
No, you don't have that many. They're pretty expensive.
(What are your expectations for Nick Collins? Does he need to take a big step forward this year?)
If you look at Nick's play, Nick has been consistent. His productivity is something that really everybody wants to improve on. You want to see him be more productive. We do ask Nick to do a lot. He can play both safety positions, and he also has the ability to play corner too. When I look at Nick, I look at him in line with pretty much our whole defense. This is now going into his fourth year in the scheme, and for a lot of our players it's two-plus years, and I look for the overall productivity of the defense to improve, the ability to be more aggressive, things like that.
(How much competition is there? Does Rouse have a chance to challenge him?)
I think there's competition throughout our whole football team, and that's one position you could point out where it's evident. I don't think you could not be happy with the progress Aaron Rouse has made throughout the spring, and really, the productivity that he played with in his limited opportunities in season. Very pleased with Aaron, just like a lot of our younger players. The biggest room for improvement is from Year 1 to Year 2, and our players have taken advantage of it. You look at the way we practiced today, we were at a plus-10 tempo, which means we were 10 minutes ahead of schedule, and that's what you're looking for, the pace. We're practicing in the structure and the players have really prepared themselves throughout March, April, May to put us in this position to get to this point. With that being said, we just need to keep continuing to clean things up. It is a teaching phase we're completing here, and hopefully that will carry over to training camp so we can start fast and get to that rhythm and timing that you're looking for.
(Have you started formulating your depth chart yet?)
Frankly, depth charts are for the media. Jeff was asking me about the depth chart for the media guide this morning, and I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. I haven't even thought about the depth chart. The depth chart is in place every day, and it's really not who's playing left guard or strong safety, it's the ability to play as many positions as possible. The more you can do, the more valuable you are to your team. Seriously, the only time I ever really talk about depth charts is when I have to give it to him to give it to you guys. It's really a pain in the rear to be honest with you, because guys are cross-training all the time.
(When you talk about being more aggressive on defense, is that the philosophy you've wanted all along, or is it a reaction to the personnel you have now?)
It really is our philosophy. You just look at the way we play defense from Day 1 that we've been here, just the way we line up our defensive players. We're an inside leverage, attack the offense, ability to choke an offense when we're playing at a high level. You're seeing players that are now very comfortable in the base concepts of that defense, and the pressure packages have expanded more in how we're using different personnels as opposed to how many different types of pressures we're coming with. The most important thing is to put pressure on the quarterback. Whether it comes with four-man, five-man, six-man rushes or pressures, it's irrelevant. The bottom line is to get it done. If you go outside, we're a bump-and-run team. We challenge the receivers as soon as they get off the bus, and that's the mindset I wanted since the day I was hired.
(Some coaches say they're going to blitz more and then get burned and back off. What's your level of commitment?)
You are who you are. I don't want to sound like some philosopher. We're going to play the defense, the offense, the special teams that we believe in. Unfortunately it's not going to go the right way sometimes. We're working to get it to go the right way all the time. If you pressure and you get burnt, you still have to continue to pressure if you need to. The bottom line is pressure doesn't just come through blitzes. We've done a very good job in segments of our season of getting after the quarterback with just a four-man rush. If we can continue to do that, great. If we need five, we'll blitz five. The point is to get that quarterback on his heel, throwing off his back foot, and disrupting the timing of the passing game.
(With Ryan Grant out, what kind of opportunity is this for Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn and how have they looked so far?)
The whole group, it's just reps. Young players need reps, and these are quality reps. It's a teaching phase that we're going through with the offseason. Our team periods are spirited and competitive, so those are the reps that you really need as a young guy at any position. So it's a great opportunity for Brandon. Brandon went through this in training camp, and you can see how he's progressed, and it's really a great opportunity for all the running backs.
(With Morency and Herron, do you see them as the third-down role or are they getting more looks?)
They're getting looks in all situations. That's been their strength as far as the way they've been rotated into game plans and how we've used them in games. But Noah Herron has rushed for 100 yards for us and so has Mo, so I don't just look at them as situation players.
(What kind of schedule is Justin Harrell on?)
Justin has really picked up his rehab type schedule, and the feedback has been very positive from both Pepper and Rock as far as what he's been able to do, and the level that he's been able to push through the drills and so forth. I anticipate at some point he'll be ready for training camp.
(You just talked about the importance of reps, how far behind is Harrell then?)
It's important, it's important for everybody, just like you've stated, just like I've already stated. Young players need reps. It's important for him A, number one, to get healthy. You can't do anything if you're not healthy. Injuries are part of our business unfortunately, that's where he's at, and we'll do everything we can to get him caught up as soon as he's ready.
(Is there anything you've worked on with Aaron as far as his delivery? He looks to be throwing the ball stronger ...)
Aaron has a very strong arm, and really always has. I was part of his evaluation coming out of college. We've dropped his ball carriage. He had it very high when he came out of college. It's a little more fluent, and I think it helps him transition more into the movement part of it. But he's very fundamentally strong. He has long levers, big hands, has a very high point of release. He has excellent flexibility in his elbow, as far as the tracking that he throws the ball on, is clearly one of the better guys I've had the opportunity to work with in my career. Very fundamentally sound in throwing the football, and I think that's illustrated by how accurate he throws the ball.
(On the intangible side, how is he putting his mark on this team?)
Being himself. Clearly just being himself. He's been here three years going on four. He's not a stranger in the locker room. I think he's been a great teammate, and he doesn't need to change. He's really prepared himself for this opportunity, and that's what Aaron needs to stay focused on. He clearly understands the pressures that are put upon him, of being the starting quarterback, of the legacy of Brett that was in front of him. Those are things he cannot concern himself with. He just needs to stay focused on playing quarterback and being himself, and I think he's done a great job with that so far.
(Did you tell him to get a haircut?)
I think his mom got that done. You can thank her for that.
(What's the prognosis on Coston?)
We're just holding him out. It's just a sore lower back. If this was a game week, I think Juice could have gone today.
(Back to the running backs, when Grant is signed he's your top guy, but do you want to have a clear No. 2 this year after what you went through with the RB-by-committee last year?)
The failure of running back by committee, and that was clearly my fault, it was just the dynamics of the group, because of the experience level of every player. We were really asking the running back group to try to train for a specific situation or personnel group, but also you have to be prepared if someone gets hurt. So we had in my view, the first half of the season, leading up to Denver, too much going on, in fairness to the running backs. Now with that, the experience level has definitely improved. Just the fact of what Brandon Jackson went through in training camp, what he's going through now, same with DeShawn Wynn. He had an opportunity to be a starting halfback in the NFL for a period of time, and Noah Herron is back, he has experience, and Mo has recovered from his injuries. The dynamics of that group from an experience standpoint is totally different. I don't really view it as we need a 1, 2, 3 and 4. It's just getting those guys as prepared as possible for every situation. That's the way Edgar trains them, he does a great job with that, and we'll keep the three or four best guys. It's really the best way to go. We want to keep the best football players, not only just for the running back position, but also special teams factors into that.
(You saw glimpses of Jackson and Wynn last year, is consistency the issue with those guys, and does that come with maturity?)
It really probably comes with opportunity. They've never really had the opportunity to go carry it week in and week out, just like we've already talked about. The negative of running back by committee is you never really have the opportunity to get in a rhythm. You spend more time sometimes going in and out of the game, too. It works out a lot better when you're the bell cow and you can run it until you need to put your hand up and come out and go in and run it again. That's where the backs who have the most productivity in my experience are able to do that, operate in that type of format. I'm very happy with that group. They're young, number one, they're getting better. They're taking advantage of what we've asked them to do here. I think their best days are ahead of them. I think they're all going to factor on special teams, too. You look at the body type of linebackers, tight ends, and running back group, that's a tough body type to deal with in certain special team units.
(Has Wynn grown up some?)
Has he gotten taller or anything?
(Not height-wise, but about what it takes to be a professional?)
I think he's definitely grown up, just like a number of our guys. Being a rookie is a hurdle in every player's life that they have to get through, and he's had some learning experiences just like a lot of our players. I'm very happy with what DeShawn has done in his time here.
(Are you happy with the roster as it stands, or do you see the need for additions between now and camp?)
Our roster, this is the best it's looked since I've been here as far as the names and the talent and the type of people on the board. So I'm very happy with that, the depth of it. I think when the time comes to get to 53, there's going to be some tough cuts that we have to make. As far as updating the roster, that's an everyday focus. Ted, they look at every transaction. It's an ongoing process. You're always trying to improve your roster. But I'm very pleased with the prospects and the players we have here. We have a lot to work with.
(How has Tramon Williams played with the extra reps so far?)
I think Tramon is having an outstanding spring two years in a row. We were very excited about him at this time last year, and he took it to the playing field and really had an impactful season for a young guy. He's someone you can point to as a young player who was on the street at one time, came in here and worked hard, and he just kept improving and made an impact in our season last year, and he's doing the same thing now. He's taking advantage of his opportunities, both in the secondary, as far as the positions there, and he'll be ready to go as a returner. He's stronger, more comfortable. I think he's having another excellent spring.
(How do you feel about Matt Flynn?)
I've been waiting for you to ask about him. I think he's really improved. I think Matt Flynn has taken a big step here the last week and a half, two weeks. I thought Brian picked it up quicker than Matt, initially. I think Matt has really done a very good job here, like I've said, the last two weeks, and he's starting to play with some rhythm. He's made some nice throws, another big-time throw today that he made. Very happy with the progress of both young quarterbacks, and particularly Matt. I think Matt's really made a step. With that, we have a ton of work left. But they're making progress.