Q: I know he just got here, but what can Martez Wilson do for you guys?**
Coach Tarver:[General Manager] Reggie [McKenzie] and Dennis [Allen] and our personnel guys liked what they saw on film. There are some athletic things that he does pretty well. He's shown the ability to rush the passer. It's a new team for him, so all we know is what he does from this point forward. Coach Allen said he's going to be down this week, but in the future we'd like to see what he's going to do in practice. Then we'll teach him the scheme and see what he can do.
Q: What kind of role do you have in that? Did Reggie [McKenzie] get ahold of you and say, "There's a guy that's out there that we like. Does he work for you?"
Coach Tarver: One thing that we do as a defensive staff is we want to make sure we evaluate everybody that the personnel department gives us so we can go back and look at our reports the year they came out of the draft and then if they're on our list for free agency. We have information on most people, but Dennis [Allen] and Reggie handle all those decisions.
Q: Speaking of adding new pieces, you moved a lot of pieces around in the offseason. Tracy Porter is a guy that you brought in. How's he been playing for you this year?
Coach Tarver:Tracy's been performing well, and there's more out on the table. He's been challenging in coverage, which we like. He's been knocking down a lot of footballs. He made some plays on the ball the other weekend versus San Diego. More and more balls he's been getting his hands on, which is good, and he knows how guys try to run routes. He understands leverage, and when he's on his correct leverage and challenging he plays pretty well.
Q: Can you talk about what Lamarr Houston has meant to this defense?
Coach Tarver:Lamarr is a lot of fun to be around. He loves football. The good part about Lamarr is he continues to learn from his mistakes. He's very excitable, and he's very easy to be around when you're working with him because he's responsive and wants to do it the right way. When he continues to do that, there's more play for him out there on the table still, but he loves playing football. He's got a great skill set. He can mentally handle things and situations. As he continues to progress playing better in situations, we'll get better as a defense.
Q: As a coordinator, you look at other defenses to see what guys are doing — borrow what you like, that sort of thing. What have been your observations of Dick LeBeau over the years?
Coach Tarver:He's been great watching him over the years. When I was on offense at the 49ers there were very few people that could break down our protection systems, so I had things drawn from a long time ago when I was a very young coach. He was one of the few guys that could attack that protection and really hurt us. He knew how to attack protections, so paying attention to his scheme is something most coaches do. There are certain ways to break down protections, and like you said, you're going to watch what has hurt people. Then you look at it, and you decide if it fits your scheme or not.
Q: [Ben] Roethlisberger's always been one of the hardest quarterbacks to actually take down. Does it make it even more imperative that you don't just get the pressures on him, but that you get multiple hats on him?
Coach Tarver:Yeah, you've got to approach him as if he's not down. He's not down if somebody's hanging on him because he's so strong. You have to keep taking your shots and keep on scratching and fighting because that's what he does. If he does get out or do something, get the guy to the ground and go to the next play. You guys hear that from me a lot, but that's how you have to play him. You can't get that in your head. Just keep activating guys and getting on him. Keep jumping on him.
Q: How much has getting Le'Veon Bell and Heath Miller back the last two weeks helped them on offense?
Coach Tarver:It has. It's helped their offense. The last two weeks after their bye they've done a nice job with being balanced, with running the ball at you — at the defense — at you runs for positive yards. He's a big back, and he can get positive yards. Miller is good in the run and in the pass game. He's been one of the best all-around tight ends in the NFL. That helps them in what they want to do — being able to run and pass more efficiently. People say it's a 50/50 balance. It's not always that. It's what percentage you're going to use in each game plan to win the game. They're more balanced since the last two weeks after the bye, and it's helped them.
Q: Was Tyvon Branch expected to practice today?
Coach Tarver:Coach [Dennis] Allen can answer those questions on Tyvon. He handles all the injury questions.
Q: What are you thinking about Brandian Ross? It's hard to replace a guy like Tyvon [Branch], and he's very young.
Coach Tarver:Brandian has done well. What's good about Brandian is he learns from everything he sees. There was an example on the practice field today that he'll learn from very quickly when we go into meetings in a minute. He learns, so you don't get him twice. That's his strength, and last year he got to play everything for us. He's played almost every position — corner, nickel, safety, strong safety, free safety. We like our safeties that flexible as you'll hear from myself and Coach Allen. Many times up here we like position flexible safeties and linebackers because that way when they're asked to cover or play deep paths or pressure or whatever they need to do we can do it with them. He's good at many things, and he learns when something happens to him.
Q: Coach Allen mentioned that Miles Burris might be back next week at practice. Have you thought about how he fits in at all? Coach Tarver:Yeah, Miles has been studying all the linebacker spots. Last year we gave him one spot which is what we typically do with rookies. Sio [Moore] is in one spot right now. Miles has been looking at all three. Again same thing, we've been trying to acquire as many players as we can one, that love football and two, that can be position flexible — set an edge in the run game, use your hands to get off of blocks, cover a back or a tight end when they need to. Miles showed last year that he can do a lot of those things, so he's in the mix. We'll see how that goes as soon as he's able to get out and function with us, but he's a smart guy. He's been able to pick up a lot of stuff. I usually show him a picture of himself every day in meetings so that he's, 'Hey here's the daily Miles play,' so everybody can see that he's here. We do that in our defensive meeting sometimes to keep Miles entertained. No, to keep him with us and say, 'Hey, Miles, remember this? OK good. Let's see how you did. Was it good or was it bad Miles?' 'Oh it was good J.T.' 'OK, now tomorrow might be bad. No, it's going to be good.' So we keep him going because you don't know when those guys — it's a long season. It's a marathon, not a sprint. You don't know when those players are going to help you win a game. Week 1, Week 12, you don't know. Tyvon [Branch], whoever, they have to be as good as they can when they're not practicing. We keep them engaged, and that's what professionals do anyway. It's your job. Miles and Tyvon have both been very good in their rehab process in making sure they understand everything that's going on.