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Tarver Breaks Down 3rd Down Issues


Q: Cleveland does a lot of throwing downfield and you guys are pretty depleted at safety right now … Is that a concern?**

Coach Tarver:"They do a good job of formations and changing tempos and running the ball and then making the run and the pass game look the same to the defense and then taking shots. We need to do two things. One, we need to set edges and use our hands in the run game to limit their runs so that they can't go run, run, run, run and then throw a shot so it feels the same, that's one. Then two is top-down coverage. We have to play top-down on this football team, meaning if they throw underneath we can go rally and go get them. So, it's the run game in our hands and our edges and then our coverage aspect needs to be top-down regardless of the form of coverage that we're in."

Q: Have you considered making Khalil Mack a sub-package, pass-rushing specialist so that he is fresh for third downs?

Coach Tarver:"Well, we functioned last week rolling guys in to rest Khalil, as I think Coach Sparano told you. But, Khalil is an outstanding player and he's one of our best players, so he does a nice job. He's way up there in the NFL in tackles for loss, I don't know what the numbers are, but he's, if not our best edge setter, he's certainly around that and he's also good when he's running around off the ball tackling the ball. So, having your best player, we've got to keep him on the field as much as we possibly can. Khalil has affected quarterbacks on third down, and it's a matter of time until he finds a few here. But, what's great about Khalil is you can move him because he's smart and he doesn't make the same mistake twice. So, as we progress here, he'll move to different positions to take advantage of his abilities on all downs and distance. Our thing on third down is really quite simple. It's, we've got to understand, we're pretty good in the third-and-mediums, two, three, four, five, six, because we understand the situations and we've gotten better there. Our biggest thing is in that seven, eight, nine, 10, understanding the distances and understanding our leverage and staying on that to create more time, and then rushing coverage working together. We've moved quarterbacks, moved them a lot. Now, we've got to find a way to get them on the ground before they can make a throw. We had a lot of them moving in the pocket. So, he'll continue to be moved around. We'll find ways to keep him as fresh as we can, but he's a big athlete and he's fun to watch and he's a good football player, so we need to use him as much as possible."

Q: How do you move on from here with LaMarr Woodley's injury being long term?

Coach Tarver:"You know the classic phrase in the NFL, Bill, is next man up. Well, Benson [Mayowa] went in, did some good things. He set edges well, he affected the quarterback some in that game, so it was good to see him step up into that role. Hopefully we can get [Justin] Tuck back here soon. But, edge play in the NFL, this goes to your question too, is this, the most tiring thing to do in football is be an edge rusher, because a lot of times you're 260, 270, 280, going against 320 every snap. So, there's a bigger man leaning on you over and over and over, so the best way for those guys is to roll them in and what will happen in our situation is, more guys are going to get an opportunity. Some of them haven't been able to show what they can do yet, so it's a good opportunity for them. Then us as coaches, we'll track it and see who's winning and see who's handling it and the ones that play better will get more playing time."

Q: How much of a blow is it to your defense though, even if LaMarr Woodley hasn't put up the numbers?

Coach Tarver:"I really like, we really like … LaMarr plays the game. He plays the game, he's physical. It was his first year here, but he's a physical player when he's on the field. So, we defensively, throughout this year, and it's been next man up all the way through the year, and that's what it is. That's how this league goes, especially about this part of the year. So we're going to have to roll guys, but the physicality, somebody is going to have to step up, so we'll see who that is, because this is a team this week that will try to test that."

Q: What progress have you seen in DJ Hayden now that he has five practices under his belt?

Coach Tarver:"He's moved a little better every day. He's moved a little better every day. We put him in a few more situations every day, as [Interim Head Coach] Tony [Sparano] told you guys. He's improved. That's going to be a decision for Tony and [General Manager] Reggie [McKenzie] and everybody, but he's improved every day. I like the way, we all like the way he is working. I thought our corners, our younger corners, did some good things in the game last week. They're getting better. The future of the Raiders, this defensive last couple years of these young guys that are brought in, how they progress is what is exciting. This rookie class, from Khalil [Mack] to [Justin] Ellis, to TJ [Carrie], last year, DJ [Hayden], Sio Moore, Stacy McGee, they're getting some playing time and this is going to help them in the future and they're the group that are good enough football players, where as they really learn to focus in, and they're going through some times right now where they're getting frustrated. A couple of them got frustrated at practice today, that's good, because they're learning how to become really good football players, and they've started to show some flashes of it. Sio played better last week. TJ denying the ball on fourth-and-three, that's a big time stop now. They went for it on fourth down in our end to begin the game and TJ made the play on the tight end. That's a big time, big time stop. That's a big time play. Those guys are the future and that's what the Raider Nation and everybody should be excited about, is these guys are starting to play. Ellis had some good knock-back in that game. You're talking about Khalil, the guy, athletically, can do a lot of things. So, that's what we're working with and that's a positive going forward, is watching these young men become good pros. That's how we get better."

Q: When did TJ Carrie really first start catching your eye?

Coach Tarver:"TJ did right away, because he could focus and get in and he found the ball. The ball finds him and he knocks the ball away, and he gets the ball. He's already done that. He's done that in games, he did that in the preseason, he did that in practice. When he stays focused and stays in that mindset, which he does for a young player pretty darn well, that's what he does. The ball finds him and he makes plays on the football. He needs to continue to work for that, but he caught our eye right away because of that, because of staying in the moment and getting the ball. That's a unique trait. One of our safeties is a pretty good player, he gets the ball, he has that and he needs to keep getting some more for us, but he got one last week and hopefully more as we go forward."

Q: Can you talk a little bit more about Charles Woodson? I think that's who you're talking about … He's 37 years old and playing at a high level. You couldn't have expected this?

Coach Tarver:"Yeah, that's who I'm talking about. (laughing) He's gotten better at the safety position. Bill, you came over a little after when I was talking about it kind of in the offseason, but he's gotten better with his breaks, his angles, what we call eyes before feet, because the further you are away from the ball, you find the angle with your eyes before your feet take you there. He's gotten better and better on that. The tipped pick last week was an example of that. He was a little deeper like he was supposed to be, maybe last year he was tighter, and now he gets the ball. He's gotten better. It's amazing. He's tackled well, he's playing at a high level for us, he really is, just like you said. It's amazing that he can get that much better. He's also communicated with the young guys better and that's helping us. That's helping us as we go forward. Even the last couple weeks, his communication level has helped some of the younger guys that he's playing with, because we do have a gap between our veterans and our rookies. He's helped bridge the gap."

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