Coach Tarver: “He’s gotten better in everything that he does. His timing is better, his pocket presence has improved through the preseason. He does a nice job of when things break down making plays with his legs. They do a nice job of giving him different looks but the same progressions. So they’ll change the formations, but for a young quarterback, they give him the same progressions. Meaning the guys are in the same places, but they change the look to the defense. They do a nice job with that.”
Q: You were with
Coach Tarver: “Well what’s great about ‘T’ [Tarell Brown] is his personality hasn’t changed. He’s competitive. He wants to be great. He always talks a lot on the football field. When he was young he was talking about different things than he’s talking about now. He does a great job communicating with our younger players. He had some good discussions with some of our linebackers today about what they’re trying to do to him. So, he’s really become a professional. He wants to be the best in the world and that’s what we all want to be, we want to be the best in the world. That’s why I’m glad he’s here.”
Coach Tarver: “Some of the pieces they added on offense are good football players. Obviously we’ve seen the wide receiver in our division and we saw their running backs, all three of them, last year. They’re good. They do a nice job. They’re complementary pieces in their offense and their coaching staff does a good job. They know how to get their playmakers the ball and they’ve done that for a long time. This staff, it’s a good staff. They put their players in position to make plays and that’s the job of the coaches, you get as many one-on-ones as you can and then you let the guys play. So, they have some pieces and we’ve added a few more ourselves, so it’ll be a good matchup.”
Q: Are you confident that
Coach Tarver: “I hope so. Coach Allen can address that situation a little more because he and ‘Reg’ [General Manager Reggie McKenzie] talk about injuries, but you guys know how I feel about Nick. He’s outstanding. He’s been great working with the guys this week and we’ll let that play out however it does. Our other guys are training and that’s what happens. You never know, next man up. You hear that thrown out a lot, that phrase, but you never know who’s going down in a football game, so, you teach them all, you put them in and you learn how to work together.”
Coach Tarver: “You’ll see all our linebackers play. I mean, you’ll see all of them play because we’re going to use them all anyway. We feel pretty good about the guys that have been around for a couple of years, so we’re going to use them all in certain situations.”
Q: What has stood out to you about
Coach Tarver: “He’s very smart. He feels football, he knows what’s happening to him and he’s a good communicator, so he can really work with these guys and communicate with the coaches. He sees things, he’s communicating with us certain things he wants to do in pass rush, certain things he wants to do within our system, so we’re already working. That’s what you really want to get to at this level, is players and coaches working together to put the players in the positions that work off each other and make plays. You’ve seen some pieces of that. We didn’t show the whole thing in the preseason, but you’ve seen a few things of the guys working together and that’s what it’s about. J.T. [Justin Tuck] has been great about working with the young guys and working together. Of course, he can win one-on-one in pass rush and he’s got those long arms so he can set edges in the run game. So as long as we continue to earn the right to get third down, and that’s going to be critical against this week’s matchup, we’ve got to earn our right to get a third down because they’re a good running football team and they’re getting better at throwing completion plays. We’ve got to earn that to get the third down. So, in first and second down, for J.T. and for everybody, set edges, swarm the ball carrier and then when you earn the right to third down and you get that one-on-one, you’ve got to win.”
Q: Can you see the guys gravitating towards him? I noticed
Coach Tarver: “You’ve been in the locker room more than I have, I don’t know that. (laughing) But, yeah, I see it. It’s a great resource to ask questions to. I mean, I want to know what he thinks on certain things, and the guys definitely do that. Not just him, Antonio [Smith] is excellent. We have some good pros that have made a lot of plays at this level.”
Coach Tarver: “Yeah, we’re excited. I’m definitely excited to see all of these guys, but Khalil, when he goes fast and really starts the down fast, you’ve seen some really good things from him in the preseason. The biggest thing for him is going fast. What’s great about him is he doesn’t like to be wrong, like you guys have heard me say, so that allows us to do some things with him. But again, it’s how the guys work together and then it’s when you get your one-on-ones, do you win? So, yes, we’re excited.”
Q: When he’s not starting the downs fast, is that because he’s thinking too much? What’s the reason?
Coach Tarver: “Rookie. Sometimes you don’t get off on the ball quite as fast as you do, or you’re not quite sure. But really, the closer you are to the line of scrimmage, the more you fix things with your hands, your feet, your knockback. You’ve got to knock them around first on the correct angle and then figure it out. So, he’s gotten better and better at that. Sometimes everybody doesn’t start a down. That’s what the coaches are for, to say, ‘Hey Vic, you’ve got to start faster man.’”
Q: Have you noticed at all on Eastern time zone games that you start out sluggish and have you thought that was ever a factor?
Coach Tarver: “Twenty-fourteen season. It’s all new. We have a whole bunch of players that have played and won, especially in that stadium, so I’m expecting this group, some of the guys we brought in, we brought in for that reason, to help our players that haven’t been in that situation before through it. I hope they’re asking those questions of [Justin] Tuck like you asked me, right now, ‘Hey is this any different?’ No, it’s a football game. You can pull from the movie ‘Hoosiers,’ we can measure the field, it’s the right distance. It’s 2014 and the struggles that have happened, whatever the streak is, it’s not the same. Our job is to go 1-0 wherever they have us play, and that’s how we’re approaching it. Now you have to do some things when you go across country like hydrate and sleep, because those things are important. So, I hope our young men are doing that. I know some of our veterans are, they know how to handle it. So with our veteran presence, we’re going to line up each week and our job is to go 1-0, that’s it.”
Q: You said right after you drafted Khalil Mack you were drawing things up on the whiteboard. How has he responded over this last month to what you’ve thrown at him to get to this point now?
Coach Tarver: “He’s done well. First, I’m always drawing and thinking of weird things, so that’s number one. But, yes, you’re looking for players that are position flexible that can win one-on-ones. Sometimes they come in smaller bodies and they’re really good blitzers and sometimes they’re really good cover guys, or a certain player can really cover a tight end, well then you’re going to use them to do that more. So, yes, we drew some things and yes, the young man is progressing and again, it’s how they work together though. It’s how the guys work together that makes all the difference. He’s doing fine in his progression.”
Q: With the pass rushers you have added, would you ideally be less of a blitzing team this year?
Coach Tarver: “We are going to activate players. We’re going to activate everybody at some point and time. We’re going to drop everybody at some point and time, but sometimes the perception of pressure can help those guys get the one-on-one matchups. So, we’re going to be multiple, but we sure feel and fully expect the players that we brought in to win more one-on-ones, and therefore, we may not have to activate as many players. But, we’re still going to do some.”
Q: Is this your best defense in your three years here?
Coach Tarver: “What time do you think the game will be over Sunday? No, I think that this group here has learned how to work together through really five preseason games, of course practicing against the Cowboys, and I think this group is willing to work together and to play great defense you’ve got to do two things; you’ve got to get 11 guys on the same page working together, it’s not what the coaches know, it’s what they know at that moment in time and how quick they communicate, and then you’ve got to fly around and tackle the guy with the ball. I fully expect this group to be able to do that. Again, not looking back, 2014. I expect this group to be able to put some stuff together, and they’ve shown flashes of it, when they work together we can be pretty good.”