Q: You guys have been getting more pressure on the quarterback. Given how much they like to run, is that something that's a possibility against a team like Kansas City?**
Coach Tarver:"Kansas City does a good job running and passing the ball. They've improved, they have a good scheme. What we're concerned about is ourselves. We need to continue on our progression, which is setting edges, using our hands, continuing to improve techniques and fundamentals inside and outside. You asked specifically about the inside guys; they're improving in what they do. We're improving in how we work together. We need to stay on our progression and keep getting better, play-in and play-out. This team has some explosive players that we need to keep in the cage."
Q: Has Justin Ellis pushed through a wall lately? The last couple of games it seems like he's making quite an impact on the inside.
Coach Tarver:"Biggest thing for any first year player in the NFL is that this is a marathon, not a sprint. This is about the number of games they've played in a college season. All of us, young players and young coaches, need to push through. It feels like you should have a pause around Thanksgiving and then you're playing in a bowl game, or you're not. You need to push through. The biggest thing is learning your body and learning how your nutrition works and how much rest you need. A lot of our young defensive players have done a good job with that. Coach Tony [Sparano] has done a good job of talking to them about it. We talk to guys constantly and monitor where they are."
Q: With Jamaal Charles specifically, is it just bodies to the football like always?
Coach Tarver:"It's knowing where your help is. Setting edges in the run game and in the pass game, making sure that you're on the correct leverage when you approach him, because in space he can make moves and accelerate really quickly. Again, we're talking about what we need to do and we're in our process of improving. We're going to worry about what the Raider defense and where our 11 guys are and how we fit together."
Q: Is that the big reason for the improvement on third downs, knowing where everybody else is?
Coach Tarver:"We think it's a focus. It's learning who our identity is and learning the situations. Situational football is where our defensive unit is improving. Knowing when it's third-and-12. Number one, what are they trying to do? Number two, what do we do, what do we do well and where is our help? All of that works together. Rush and coverage works together. We can talk about the number of sacks. We can talk about the number of hits. If you cover them longer, you get more sacks. If you've got a great rush, on a certain play you don't have to cover them as long. Some of those things are improving as our guys continue to work together, whether we are pressuring or not pressuring, because we're going to do some of both. That's what is improving, rush and coverage and guys working together."
Q: There was a third down play in San Diego where DJ Hayden made a real nice open-field tackle. His occasional physicality, was that something you noticed about him or is it since he's built his body up a little bit and been developing?
Coach Tarver:"I would say it's the last part, he's developing. DJ has had power in his body. He's letting it go a little bit. It's good. Keep going that way. We need to all become more physical tacklers. Those are critical situations. If we get off the field in those situations, we give ourselves a chance to win the game. That's the ultimate goal. As we all get better, we need more of those tackles. But yes, there were some good, solid tackles. This team is a space team so we need to tackle and get hats to the ball."
Q: Khalil Mack has been playing well for a long time, but do you think it meant something to him to finally get the sack?
Coach Tarver:"I like his progression. He really looked at what happened to him in that first San Diego game and we made an emphasis with the young man. We told him, 'Look, you get to see these guys again so let's study them.' What things work against this team? He was able to put a few more of those into effect. That was a huge penalty that he forced and hit on the quarterback on that third down in the higher red zone area. That was a great rush. That was something that he learned to improve that to force the hold and helped us take points off the board in that situation. That one was really good. There's more out there for that young man. Again, continuing to work in the frame of the defense. We want to see him start downs with speed like we talked about right up here last week. When you ask me a question about him, I get excited. We all do. He can just stay in his progression and keep gaining ground, moving faster and faster. That's the key."
Q: Kansas City hasn't thrown a touchdown pass to a wide receiver all season. Is that just a statistical oddity that's just a fluke?
Coach Tarver:"They do a good job of throwing to the guy that is open and running their progressions. I've been fortunate enough to be around that type of offense and they do a good job, whoever is open, they throw them the ball. That's what you should do. We know that. I don't put much stock into that. They have good players and threats. We're going to work to match them up. It's going to be exciting on Thursday night."
Q: TJ Carrie seems to be a kid that pays attention and stays focused. How much of this missed practice time over the last couple of weeks has hindered his progress?
Coach Tarver:"Coach talks about the injury situation so I'll leave it at that. Any young player, the more practice time the better they get. The more game time, the better they get. TJ did some good things in the football game. We're just going to keep on our teaching progressions. [Defensive backs] coach [Joe] Woods and [assistant defensive backs] coach [Marcus] Robertson do a great job with those guys. We're just going to stay in our progressions. Going to that question, when younger players in this league hit this point of time in the regular season, their minds might be tired. That's when you've really got to take more notes. That's when you've really got to focus. You're a pro now. Your job is to play against the best and beat the best. You need to make sure you're in that process, regardless of what you get to do on the field physically every day."* *