Q: How do you feel about the progress of the defense after two games now? You've got to see them in action against an opponent a couple of times.
Coach Tarver: Applying our rules we've done pretty well. Learning how to work together we've been doing pretty well. I like in the last game we got in stressful situations earlier because you want to see how we respond. Some of them we responded very well. Some of them we gave up touchdowns and we need to hold those to field goals, so we got to work on that in that area. But it's good to be put in those situations and have to keep going back out. Because ultimately it doesn't matter where they get the ball. We don't control where we get on the field on defense. We control whether we get off the field or not.
Q: The third preseason game is the one most coaches point to and the one you sort of game plan for and treat most like a regular season game. How advantageous is it to have an offense like Detroit which is one of the best in the league to o have to sort of measure yourself against and a team that really worked over a lot of guys last year?
Coach Tarver: Yes. It's a good order for us. You got Dallas that can throw it, and wants to run [the ball] downhill at you. You have Arizona who shifts a little bit and still runs downhill at you, and of course as a good wide receiver. And then you have Detroit that runs it more than most people think they do, but it is a little bit more spread out and they try to get match-ups for their good players. Of course we know the guy with the nickname who is on the cover of ESPN The Magazine this week. But they have other players, and that quarterback he gets it out. It's kind of a nice progression for us. Facing those three, two styles, and a little slightly different style, with slightly different personnel groups. So we can learn how to use our rules for all our different defenses.
Q: Can you sense sort of a real confidence and swagger from some of these guys? They've been so outspoken about how much they love this scheme, particularly the safeties and the guys in the backfield about playing downhill and coming forward. Can you sense or see their enthusiasm in everything they are putting forward?
Coach Tarver: What's been good is they are going with our teaching process which is this, we put it in the categories and then they can see how even though the defense might be slightly different it's still the same thing. And that's what gives players confidence because they can do the same thing. Like the safeties, it might be a slightly different call or little different to the offense, but in their world it's the same. And then they see themselves getting better and making more plays. It builds, that's where you build confidence. The other thing that's happening is the guys are learning how to work together, and that's the key. It's 11 men working together to stop the offense, and we are just the facilitators of that. That's what brings confidence. They are on that track and hopefully we get some more situations to test our resolve this week and see how we do as a group, regardless of who the 11 on the field are.
Q: When you hear a veteran like Richard Seymour and some of the other veterans, Tommy Kelly, Michael Huff agree that this can be a top-five defense. What's your reaction to that?
Coach Tarver: Continue the process. It's all about process, it really is. It's about teaching progression and processing. Putting everything together in categories so we can progress where we want to go. It's great that they can see that because now they are putting those things together, going, 'oh this looks like this. I see myself in this making plays.' But now we've got to do it and we have to do it with 11 guys together.
Q: What's top-five to you? I know must guys think yardage can be very deceiving. Other than points scored of course, is it third down defense, what is the things you look at?
Coach Tarver: I'm glad you asked that. Number one thing with this and with defense is you got to control what you're able to control. So last week we had the ball on our zone, who cares? It's not about where they start, it's what they finished with on the drive. Number one of course is points allowed, like you said, but points allowed are a team stat, and that's missed at times. Points allowed is attributed right to the defense, but it's a team stat. This is a team game, and that's what's so great about it. How do you rank a top-five defense? There's a lot of ways, but the biggest one is getting the heck off the field and getting the ball to Carson [Palmer] and the guys. That's the biggest one, that's what we want to do. The other stats with that, that's a result of controlling how we get off the field. Third down percentage, red zone touchdown percentage, those are a couple that are good markers. The yards at times, I mean there are some games where they catch a couple of balls; tackle them and go on to the next play. Okay, they catch a ball. Rushing yards is a big one because if they can run and pass on you at all times [the results won't be good].
Q: A lot of guys, a couple in particular, think this is already one of the better tackling teams they've had here in several years. Yet there's not a lot of tackling in practice; how do you accomplish that?
Coach Tarver: Okay, one thing is the emphasis on body position and tackling. And this is a big deal in general to me anyways. Because as a coach you want to help the players get better so you want to put them in position where, number one, they are not going to hurt themselves and two, this is from teaching little kids to NFL players, you've got to teach them how to tackle. You got to teach them to keep their hips down, their eyes up, their feet moving, the correct leverage, and no where there help is. So we drill it. We drilled it at the beginning of practice today; we drill it, we emphasize it. And in team periods we talk about how for example if you and I are going to make a tackle and I'm on the outside of you, I'll say, 'outside, outside, outside.' That lets those players know that I'm on his outside. Those little things and knowing where your help is make you a better tackling team. And then the body position, so knowing where your help is and your body position on contact is are things we've emphasized since day one and you can do that without pads on.
Q: You said you're emphasizing the wrapping up part of course. In the game against where [QB Tony] Romo threw to [TE Jason] Witten and Rolando [McClain] hit him, but he didn't wrap up. He just kind of hit him and bounced off, did you take him and say, 'that was a good hit but you should have wrapped up,' or something like that?
Coach Tarver: As he was coming off the field I'd said, 'that is a great job on the bootleg like we've been working on all camp. Now wrap him up.' That's exactly what I told him.
Q: Are there any position groups you are going to paying particular close attention to especially with the backups for some clarity there?
Coach Tarver: You know what's nice about Detroit is they have the ability to change the tempo of the game both on offense. They can either put bigger guys on and run and take shots to the big receiver or their other guys who are fast. Or they can put three wide receiver personal groups or flex [TE Tony] Scheffler or different guys out, and change the pace of the game. So I'm most interested in our process and how we handle those situations, because we haven't gotten a lot of that yet. That's what I'm excited about Detroit for us, let's see what we can do. Player wise, group wise, I'm excited to watch them all. Hopefully Jack Crawford's back from injury that would be one. I know our head coach talks about injuries, but hopefully Jack is out there he'd be good to see. Miles Burris continuing to progress, the d-line continuing to work together, all those safeties like you guys mentioned. All those safeties being pieces of this defense, seeing who's going to set up. Those are just a few I can think of. The young corners seeing how our 2nd, 3rd, 4th who's ever in the game that those corners continue to gel. And see who is going to compete to win to help us.
Q: How would you assets DeMarcus Van Dyke through the first two games?
Coach Tarver: I would really like to see him play like he plays out here, and just play with what we know he can do. And he's heard that from me this week. That's what I'd like to see him do. Play like he plays at practice because he plays pretty good in practice.
Q: In the beginning of camp Rolando said my personality, I don't really consider myself a leader. I know they need me to be a leader. I know that's what a middle linebacker is, I'm working on it. Where is he on that?
Coach Tarver: That process from working with Patrick Willis, to the young men that became leaders at Stanford last year, to everybody I've been around, it is a process; just like that. It's communication, constant communication after the drive. If we have an eight set in practice, 'hey come on over, what went on? What'd you do?' But it's not as much one man, there's a few unique one's like Mr. [Ray] Lewis and some of those guys. But for the most part in this league it trades off who's going to talk. Tommy [Kelly], Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch, Ro, etc. It's the 11 guys figuring out how to talk to each other. So that's what I'm trying to facilitate. If I see a conversation that may be headed one way or another I'd say, 'hey lets go over here let's fix this here.' But not when we are on the field, but when we get off the field, that's our time to fix it. Just go on to the next play while you're on the field, that's how you have to fix things. So yes we are working with Ro. He's doing a great job so far. And we will continue to do that, but it is more than that. It's guys working together that's what great about this game. Is 22 pieces move every play, and sometimes the officials move to. And they got to analyze it and get the guy with the ball on the ground or take the ball or way and go on to the next play. So the leadership has to come from the outside in all the time.
Q: [Ron] Bartell was already recognized as a pretty solid tackling cornerback, but I don't know if the same could have been said for Shawntae [Spencer]. How much more comfortable is he then when he started in camp? And how is his tackling?
Coach Tarver: Shawntae has really improved. Some of it is the drills, some of it is himself, his dedication to it. He made some nice tackles last week on the sideline; early in the drives last week. He's improved. I'm happy with where he is and where Ron is. And again it is the same thing when we emphasize a lot here and it comes from Coach Allen to us to the defensive backs coaches, where's your help? If you know where your help is you can take a shot from the correct angle. Because you don't want to just get in there on an NFL back and chatter your feet. You're done, you're done. You chatter your feet on the big receiver we are about to play and it's a stiff arm get on the ground.
Q: But on both plays the other day he didn't need any help. He just made the clear open field tackle.
Coach Tarver: Exactly. But he did it because he was able to take a shot and he knew where his help is. And that's what Shawntae has done well.
Q: The team has pretty much advertised itself as we are going to be multiple we are going to do a lot of things. It's going to be hard to hint what we are going to do. How advantageous is it to have a guy like [LB Philip] Wheeler who looks like he can pretty much do just about anything?
Coach Tarver: I'm excited and pleased where Phil has gone since he's been here. And yes that's what you get and as long as we keep it multiple and still simple like you guys heard me say before, Phil has done a good job with that. We liked his position flexibility, that's the coaches' term for it. He can rush it, he can drop, he can do those things, and he's really taken to it. So as long as Phil continues to progress we have some things we can do with Phil.
Q: Encouraged by the pressure you've generated the first couple of games?
Coach Tarver: Yes. There's good pressure at times. More encouraged is the guys working together and the mindset. It's about mindset, it's about I know where I'm going and you've got to deal with me.