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News

"Everything’s a learning experience"

Posted Aug 19, 2014

Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver spoke to the media after Tuesday's practice and discussed this week's match-up with the Green Bay Packers.

Q: Why do you think first-team quarterbacks have had success against you this preseason, with three touchdowns on three possessions? How much significance do you attach to that?

Coach Tarver: “Everything’s a learning experience. It’s preseason football, so all we want to do is use our base rules and play. The biggest thing at Minnesota was our third downs. We’ve had third downs on that first drive; third-and-six, third-and-seven. Those are the ones you’ve got to get off the field, period. Those are the critical downs and what we need to do is get better at situational football. Then the next game, it starts on our own end and we’ve got to defend a blade of grass, so to speak, which means we’re going to defend our end zone at all costs, so we just need to make sure we play top-down. That’s it, situational football. We’re here to get better in those situations.”

Q: Carlos Rogers was saying it’s more little mistakes that lead to bigger plays, like not jamming somebody right or not tackling exactly according to form. Do you agree?

Coach Tarver: “Correct. I’ll give you an example: Third-and-10 at the end of the first half, right at the two-minute warning last game. We call a coverage that we’re pretty good at and we didn’t’ re-route the wide receiver and have a good break angle and they’re able to start a two-minute drive. When that’s third-and-10, they punt to us, it’s 13-10, we’ve got to take advantage of that. That’s an example of a play that we emphasized to the defense where, ‘Hey guys, look, when we just do our technique, make them throw the ball in the flat and then we’ll go get hats on the football and make the play.’ So that’s where we need to improve, but that’s why it’s good that it’s happening now.”

Q: Speaking of Carlos Rogers, he had a pretty decent game last Friday. In what ways have you been pleased with what he’s shown?

Coach Tarver: “Well, both [Rogers and Tarell Brown] are two veteran corners that we brought in. They’re professional. They ask questions. They take care of business. They’re great with the young guys. They want to know how to adjust everything and they study. They know everything that’s happened to them and what will happen to them. So what’s great about those guys is they can fix their mistakes. That’s why we brought them in. If you don’t fix your mistakes in this league, they will find it.”

Q: There are an impressive amount of flags that have been thrown with the new contact rules. Do you expect to see that continue? Do you think it might back off when the season starts and how much are you coaching to that?

Coach Tarver: “The biggest thing we drill to make sure that we get our contact before five yards. That’s the biggest thing for linebackers, DBs, anybody that’s in a coverage positions. They’re going to call it how they see it no matter what, but we have to make sure we have clean contacts within five yards when we’re in a position to re-route. So that’s what we’re emphasizing – coaches – as to what they’re going to do in the regular season. I don’t know and I’m not going to speculate on that. We’ll let that play out. We’re all working to make this game better. But we’re going to coach within the rules.”

Q: What’s your evaluation of Khalil Mack in his first two games?

Coach Tarver: “Khalil got better from Week 1 to Week 2. A lot was made that he didn’t hit the stat line, but he had solid edges, he worked with the guys well and we continued to give him more reps. I really like Khalil in that when he makes a mistake, he learns from it. He doesn’t like being wrong. He’s had very few major mental errors as we’ve gone through, which is going to create more opportunities for him to make plays. He works with the veterans well. So I’d say Khalil is right on pace with where we need him to be. He was better in the little things in coverage last week, definitely. There just wasn’t as much to his side of the field.”

Q: With Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ receiving corps, is this a pretty good measuring stick for your secondary?

Coach Tarver: “Yeah, he’s amazing how fast he can get the ball out. Yeah, you’ve got to play top-down on this guy. He can move and he can throw it the length of the field when he moves. There’s no better in the world than him at that. This is good. Use our rules and take care of ourselves, but make sure we communicate, because they function on the line of scrimmage like some of teams in our division, so it’s a good practice game for that.

Q: Does it hurt DJ Hayden not being able to practice essentially the entire offseason after missing a lot of time last year? How far back is he?

Coach Tarver: “Yeah, I feel for DJ in that the only way to get better at playing football is to play football and he just needs practice reps. So hopefully his body allows him to do that and we’ll practice him as much as he can and see how far he can go. With DJ, DJ’s going to be a fine football player. There is a time element and as soon as the doctors and everybody say he’s ready, then we’re excited to get him practice reps. He was explosive in the spring and you could see it starting to happen before his latest one happened. So we expect him to get back to that and we’ll practice him as long as it takes. We’ll get as many reps as we can with the young man.”

Q: Having not seen him in so long, when he does come back, can you drop him in as one of the starters or top three cornerbacks?

Coach Tarver: “He’s going to have to earn his way back and of course D.A. [Head Coach Dennis Allen] and [General Manager] Reggie [McKenzie] are going to pick the starters. He’s going to need the time. All young players need the time. You need reps to get good at anything. It’s like any profession. You don’t walk out when you’re a chemist or a computer programmer. You’ve got to spend your time. You’ve got to grind. With this one, it’s hard because you can’t do it on the field. You can do as much as you want, film study in the classroom, but those real reps, those real game reps, there’s nothing like that. So he’ll be worked in as fast as his health pace allows him to. But it’ll be a work in progress. I don’t know where he’ll start in the depth chart, but we’ll figure it out and we’ll rep him in, see who’s winning the competition.”

Q: It seems that ideally you would like Carlos Rogers to be the slot corner, but how has he fared on the outside? Is he capable of doing kind of what Tracy Porter did last year outside and then inside in the nickel?

Coach Tarver: “Yeah, I wouldn't relate what we're going to do, anything, to last year, but he's been solid at both positions. TJ Carrie's been playing both positions and been pretty solid as well, so we're excited about him as a young player. With our health, hopefully we have a few more corners back this year. Neiko [Thorpe] and Usama [Young] and ‘B-Ross’ [Brandian Ross] should be back, so another corner and two safeties. That gives us a little more depth in that back and creates more competition. This is the first game that those players can play in the preseason, so that'll be good, because all three of them. Usama didn't get much camp, but ‘B-Ross’ and Neiko were having a good camp. So hopefully, they can put their best on film for these next two weeks."

Q: What has your impression been of Shelby Harris, considering he missed an entire year of football last year?

Coach Tarver: "I like Shelby and when he sets his mind and goes. He's very smart, so sometimes he thinks too much, but he played pretty well when he was lined inside last week. We line him inside and outside and he can handle it mentally, but he just needs to go fast. But I do like where Shelby's progressing. As long as he works one play at a time, he's got a chance."

Q: Charles Woodson has talked about how having [assistant defensive backs coach] Marcus Robertson is going to help him see the game differently. What have you observed about that relationship and how Charles is playing free safety this year?

Coach Tarver:  "I like that a lot. I like that [defensive backs coach] Joe Woods and Marcus are back end guys, have done a nice job working with the corners and safeties separate and together. It's good for any safety to have that kind of relationship with a coach who's done it. I really appreciate, we really appreciate having those coaches in the program. What I've seen from Charles is he's just better at finding his breaks before he moves, meaning the safety angle, there's more time and space involved in finding those angles as the ball's thrown is the key and he's gotten better and better at that. Hopefully, he can continue to put more on display in these preseason games because he's put a lot on display in practice, talking about Charles. If he can stay in his technique in games and trust it, he's going to be able to get the ball from that position for us and that's what we need him to do."