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Coach Del Rio: "We feel good about fortifying the front"


Q: What was the appeal of the two guys you drafted today?

Del Rio:"Well, start with 'J-Dub,' with [Jihad] Ward. I think we think he has a great upside. We think he's a big, athletic defensive lineman that can play multiple positions. He can play a five technique, defensive-ended five technique. Move inside and play a three technique. The reason I speak to the upside, he's relatively young at the position. He was more of an athlete-type guy that is fairly young at that position, at the defensive line position. So he has a chance to really grow as he learns technique. On film, he's a guy that stays on his feet, chases the ball, plays hard and does a great job finishing, getting off blocks and making plays in the run game in particular right now. We'll need to develop him as a pass rusher. He's more of an interior defensive lineman, will play some defensive tackle and possibly some closed end. [He's a] good, big, active guy. Shilique [Calhoun] is more of a, kind of an in between defensive end or a SAM linebacker. He's an end-of-the-line kind of guy. He'll have versatility in that he can play the SAM linebacker for us or the LEO position, which is a defensive end. He's a very productive young man, really understands how to rush the quarterback. He's been an All-American and he's been a very productive guy at a good college program. We feel good about fortifying the front. That's what we were able to do today, add strength and depth and competition to the front."


Q: How much was defense emphasized coming into the draft or were the guys you picked the best that were available?**

Del Rio:"Yeah, it wasn't like we orchestrated to come out with that being the case. We have a lot of areas where we feel like we can strengthen, add competition to the roster, add depth and it just has worked out in that way."

Q: Did concern about Mario Edwards Jr.'s situation play a part with today's pick?

Del Rio:"No."

Q: Is the mindset of you can never have enough pass rushers play into the picks?

Del Rio:"Yeah. You've looked at our depth chart, right? I mean, we still have a lot of work to do on our football team. There's a lot of opportunity to better ourselves and we're going to continue to work at it any way we can. I think for us, the hype surrounding where we are and where we see ourselves as a football team may be in two different places, but we see a lot of work in front of us and opportunity to make it much more competitive at many spots on the roster. That's really in all three phases."

Q: What does Ward's back story say about him?

Del Rio:"I think when you get a chance to talk with him, you'll find that he's probably closest to Amari [Cooper]. He's going to choose his words carefully, very serious young man. He's come through quite a bit to make it where he is now, having an opportunity to join the Oakland Raiders. It's a special story. Clearly, those kinds of stories are a lot better than some of the others that you hear. It's all part of it. We're not just looking for good stories, we're looking for good football players. When you have a good player who has talent, who has upside, who has athleticism and has shown the desire and the traits that you're looking for, you know that he's going to come in and be a good teammate and work his butt off. That's a positive for sure."


Q: You look for stories, too?**

Del Rio:"Good stories, not bad." (laughing)

Q: You talked about the transition Ward made position-wise and how he is still relatively new there. Is this a situation where you are going to have to pick and choose where to play him or is he a guy you think can come in right away and make a big impact?

Del Rio: "He should. He will have a chance to. He'll have to earn that through his effort on the field but we are going to give him an opportunity to come in and join this football team, be himself, and find his place on the team.  As we do with all of our guys, we ask them to be great teammates first, to come in here, work with respect, come to work every day ready to give everything you have and to compete and earn your way. We will let him do that, as we will all of the young men that we're drafting this weekend. We select these guys, they're prospects with the opportunity. We will sign some after the draft and have some undrafted [players] come in and really give them the same opportunity in terms of… We'll do it on the field. We'll figure it out on the field."

Q: Are you surprised what Ward has been able to do so far considering that he is still relatively new to the position?

Del Rio: "There is a lot of upside and growth potential there because of some of the technique stuff that he will learn. He is not a raw player. He played against Big Ten linemen and he has moved along the line. He has played all the way out as a nine technique all the way down to into a three technique. He has been exposed to a lot of football. And, defensive line is not as complex as playing quarterback. We think we can help him grow as a player and we like what we are starting with."

Q: Ward mentioned he didn't have a productive season last year. Did he stand out at the Senior Bowl? Is that what caught your eye?

Del Rio:"Just throughout the season… He's not a big stats guy, if that's what you're talking about. We thought he played very well in some of the games that he played throughout the season. The whole body work is what we look at. It's not any one exposure. He's going to be a good football player."

Q: How is Jihad medically or physically? Can he get on the field right away?

Del Rio:"All of our guys, we expect to play this year. All of our guys have checked out fairly well with the doctors, so we feel good about having them all ready for action in 2016."

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