Q: Do you think you guys got as much work in as you could, considering you had to move to the indoor facility? It couldn't have been a totally normal Thursday practice, could it?**
Coach Tarver:"I think the guys did a good job. [Interim Head Coach] Tony [Sparano] set the mood this morning and players did a good job of responding. It's not what happens; it's what you do with it. So we went in and we got some good work in, moved around – some good mental work and some good physical work as well."
Q: Is this the first time in your three years that you see a young nucleus that is developing? You have a lot of guys that weren't on the team last year now playing bigtime roles? What is your sense of this thing going forward?
Coach Tarver:"We've talked a lot up here about our young players and they're right on – if you guys remember last week, we were talking about process and progression a lot. As we went through that game, you could see us get into our process and learn how to work together, both older and younger guys. So we're right in that process. To answer the question, when we work together we have gotten better and focused every week. This week our challenge is to go to a place where we need to really learn how to work together, and it's going to be a lot of fun to watch ourselves learn how to work together in that environment, handling anything that's thrown at us and working with our 11 guys that are on the field. Yes, we like our young group and we like how they're starting to work together."
Q: You're pretty familiar with Alex Smith. Is there something about him that scares you when you go into games against him? Something that you try to prevent him from being able to do?
Coach Tarver:"The old saying in football is you fear no one and respect everyone, so we definitely live by that here. A great young man – very smart. One thing about Alex is he can hurt you with his feet and his arm and his decision making. You have to be right. You've got to do your job whether it's a front-end or a back-end, and where we've improved on our defense is rush and coverage working together. We've got to be on point, rush and coverage working together, to hold down explosive plays, because there's some good space players on this next football team and we've got to make sure we're correct working together – angles form the outside in. And we've improved on these things, but a space team like this can test those rules. So he can hurt you. He's solid, but it's us working together – rush and coverage working together – that's the key."
Q: Coach Sparano said yesterday that he is not big on trash talk, but that some guys actually need it and thrive on it as long as they don't cross a line. Where do you come out on that?
Coach Tarver:"I really like Coach Tony's answer, reading the transcripts of course, because everybody motivates themselves differently for this game. Some people are more vocal than others. Some people have to yell and scream before they play. Some people have got to throw up in the locker room every week. Everybody gets ready differently. I think some of our younger players are in the process of learning exactly what they need to do week-in and week-out to reach that mental point. Where I am is I think everything is in that process, meaning I know what level I played at and it took me a while to figure it out. Now, he gave the example of DJ [Hayden] and it was a great example, because DJ made a great play in one of his first games back, but then drew a flag. It's right on that edge and you have to learn how to play on that edge, where within the time of the play – until the ball is on the ground – everything you got, and then to pull it back at the end of the play, take a deep breath and go to it. Young guys have to learn how to do that. I think some of our players know how to do that. Others are right in the middle of learning how to do that, and every man is different."
Q: What is the biggest improvement you've seen from Sio Moore this season?
Coach Tarver:"Sio has improved weekly on his diagnosing plays, visually seeing things. He needs to continue to improve on certain things like run and pass keys and those type things to become consistent all the time with his eyes off the ball. He's improved, but there's still more improvement to go there and we like where he's headed. That's the biggest though, his eyes and how it takes him to determine run and pass. There are certain things that tell you run and pass – pulling guards, angles of fullback, etc. – things that we coach. But he's improved there and needs to stay on the progression, because once he figures that out and does it all the time, as fast as he is and as quick as he is, he can get to all the plays. There are only two things they can do – they can run or they can pass. That's all they get, so we need to figure it out. He's getting better."
Q: One play early in that game looked like it was a Colin Kaepernick designed run, which I know you guys didn't want him to do successfully. Sio Moore immediately dumped him for a 7-yard loss.
Coach Tarver:"That was a heck of a burst play. He was activated on that play and he ran right through where he was supposed to go and then saw it and went and caught him. That's an example. He's quick and he's fast. When he's in his mindset of, 'OK, it's pre-snap. Let me read. OK, now let me get my eyes right. OK, trust my eyes.' Take a little bit of time, because the further you are off the ball, the more your eyes find the ball before your feet take you there – eyes before feet. Furthest away are DBs – you've got to find angles. Linebackers in the middle, they named him linebacker because he's backed off the line, right? There's times where you're going to do things right away like you did there, and there are times where, 'Oh, there's a puller. I need to move here.' And that's kind of on the progression where he is. A lot of times those are correct, and then every once in a while there might be one that he misses, but what's great is he learns. He has the ability to do both. His 'eyes before feet' has improved."
Q: He obviously has a lot of energy, a lot of dancing on the field last week. What do you think that brings to your defense – his energy level – and how important is that for the rest of the guys?
Coach Tarver:"One of the things that we've talked about and you mention our three years here, but every year is different and every team is its own team learning how to do things within itself. This team with the collection of guys that we started this year [with], really didn't celebrate together. So one of the things we did as coaches is we cut out before and after the play and watch them. There might be a good play, but everybody turns around and walks back to the huddle. That's not defense. That's not the Raiders. So what we did is we showed that. Now, we don't need to have a 20-second celebration when we've got to use a timeout, but we learn from that. Celebrating together and working together with that like kind of passion, that's defensive football and we've grown a lot. We've improved in that area. The dance with Sio – that's what he does, but guys working together and enjoying when each other makes a play and helping each other make the play is a big deal. You can see that. A whole bunch of people – as we've gotten better, more and more people have hit quarterbacks, more and more people are making plays on the ball. That's what happens. It becomes contagious and that's where we want to go. We need to stay in that. We need to keep going."
Q: You actually told them to celebrate more? You guys aren't celebrating enough after plays?
Coach Tarver:"I want to see some emotion. I want to see some genuine emotion. I want Miles [Burris] to be happy for Sio when he makes a play. I want [Justin] Tuck to be happy for everybody to make a play. We're going to enjoy playing football together, and you can see the improvement. This group of young men, I think they are learning how to play this game the right way, which is full of passion – together."
Q: We saw DJ a couple of games ago make some nice open-field tackles, but coverage has always been his thing. How is he grading out and how far is he still behind, having missed most of the past two seasons?
Coach Tarver:"I'll answer grading out first: He's improved, grading out better and better. He can still improve in some technique. When he stays in his technique, he's been very, very, very good. He's right. He's moving up, so he's improved. His strength is improved. He's made some good tackles. One was one of the third downs the first time we played our next opponent [the Kansas City Chiefs]. That was a bigtime tackle on third down. He grabbed the guy and yanked him down hard, so his strength has improved. When DJ stays in his technique, takes a deep breath and plays one play at a time and plays with some of the passion we're talking about – on that play he got up and he was full of emotion. It was great. It was a great play and we're off the field – bigtime play. So that's where he's improved. He had one game where he wasn't quite as passionate and since he's been good. He's right where he needs to go and this week, we'll see. We want to see him stay in that passionate, 'I can cover you,' 'I'm going to stay in my technique'-mode in a game in another environment. That's our next step as a football team and as a defense, is to go somewhere else and play great defense."
Q: When you say he's doing fine when he's in his technique, does he have a tendency to get away from those things?
Coach Tarver:"It's any young player – any player. We were talking about Sio with his eyes – he's good, good, good, and then maybe he doesn't quite see something. Maybe DJ in press technique steps with the correct foot, steps with the correct foot – oh, didn't step with the correct foot. 'Oh, a little bit behind, now I've got to catch up.' Those kind of things. That comes from playing. The way you get better at playing football is playing football. Instead of having two out of three right, now he's up to three out of four, now he's up to four out of five. That's what I mean. Did I answer that OK?"
Q: Are you seeing similar ascent in terms of making those right choices or showing progress? Not just with Sio or DJ, but with TJ Carrie and Justin Ellis and a lot of these young guys? Coach Tarver:"Yes. I think we're working together – players and coaches on this defense – and I think they're all moving, they're all learning. Justin Ellis had a good game of knocking back and controlling the inside of that line, which is hard to do because that's a big offensive line. This will be another good test for him. I think our young guys and coaches and players are very pleased with this defensive staff and the players and how they're working together. That has improved."