**B:** Today ended up being a pretty busy day. I'll talk about today first and then recap the whole draft. We kind of took stock of things last night and this morning and talked about the players that remained on the board. We thought that the one player that stood out for us was Kenyatta Jones and we called San Diego and made the trade to move up and take him. Kenyatta is a player that played left tackle at South Florida. He played inside at the guard in some of the all star games. We think he has some position flexibility, he can play tackle and he can also move inside to play guard. We will work with him and see what the best fit is, the same thing I said about (Matt) Light. We will put the best players on the field whoever they are. Kenyatta is also a guy that we brought up last week. He was one of the last visits up prior to the draft. It was kind of a surprise thing because we got talking about him and there was a little bit of a difference of opinion between the scouts and the coaches. There were a couple pieces of the puzzle that were missing and we had some questions about guard tackle and so forth so we brought him up. He was here I want to say Wednesday or Thursday of last week and was a pretty late entry into the visitation group there. That as an enlightening visit. I think it helped us answer some questions and spend a little time with the kid.
We drafted (Jabari) Holloway later in the fourth round and he is a player that we felt played real well early in the year. He injured his ankle about the third or fourth game of the year and then kind of played through it the whole year, but probably wasn't 100 percent. He might have hurt himself a little bit by playing in terms of his overall performance, but we were impressed with his toughness and the grit and determination that he played with. I think that he will be a good, competitive guy at that spot.
Then we went to Hakim Akbar, Hakim is a safety that came out of Washington. He kind of followed (Lawyer) Milloy in there, he was pretty recently after him. He is a California kid. I actually worked him out at Riverside when I was out for the Owners Meetings. He is a guy that I think slipped in the draft a little bit because he didn't workout all spring and I think that maybe some of the teams may have lost a little interest in him based on the spring workouts and so forth, but he is a guy that has been a regular player at a high level of competition at Washington. He has played well and I think it will be good competition for us at the safety spot. Again, he has been in a good program and has had a lot of different responsibilities up there, so we are impressed with his toughness and his level of competition.
Then we took Arther Love and Arther is an interesting player from South Carolina State. He is a very intelligent guy, a smart kid, a kid that is very disciplined and dependable, a solid guy. He played in an offense at South Carolina State that was option oriented. They almost never threw the ball and I want to say his junior year he had maybe six or eight catches something like that. It was almost impossible to evaluate him. During the bye week this year Scott Pioli went down to see him and take a look at him down there just so we could see in practice whether he could catch the ball because you couldn't tell on film because they never threw it to him. Then he went down to the Senior Bowl. He had a good week at the Senior Bowl and we were pretty impressed with him down there. After the Senior Bowl he pulled his quad and really wasn't able to run all spring. So again he might be another guy that in the spring workouts maybe lost a little ground in the draft. I don't know, but anyway the bottom line is that this is kind of a developmental player. He doesn't have much background in the passing game, but Arther was impressive in the Senior Bowl in terms of his ability to compete with players at a higher level of competition than what he was at in college and I think his stock rose for us a little bit for us there.
Then we took Leonard Myers in the sixth round. Leonard was a corner at Miami. A tough kid, a hard-nosed player, I think it will give us good competition at corner. Again we have been talking, since I don't know when last year all the way through about improving our third down defense, getting more guys that can cover and play in the kicking game and I think he falls into that category.
Then in the seventh round we kind of saw (Owen) Pochman up there at kicker much earlier in the draft. We had pretty high grades on him and he just continued to stay on the board and stay on the board and stay on the board and we got to the seventh round and just had a lot of respect for his ability. He is a left-footed kicker, kicks both kickoffs and field goals. That pick is not taken with a message to anybody, but he is a good player that on the board at that point in time we just felt like he had a good chance to compete. As a seventh round pick I think that he is a guy that certainly has the ability to kick in this league. We have a very good kicker and it will be competitive in camp. Owen also works out pretty regularly with Lee Johnson out at BYU. So from a mental standpoint with a kicker, which we all know is so important at that position, I think we had a little comfort level there because we know the quality of people, the quality of workout and the quality of kid that he is.
Then we took T.J. Turner as our last pick in the draft. T.J. is a big linebacker. I think some people even projected him as defensive linemen. He is somewhere around 260 pounds give or take a few in that range, but he is a big linebacker. He has played all three positions. Of course Brian Daboll on our staff was there with him at Michigan and Nick (Saban) coached him and he had a lot of responsibilities in a defense very similar to ours at Michigan State. Nick played a style of defense that I played at Cleveland and so forth and so on. So we had a quite a bit of background with the kid. He has got some flexibility, he has played the different positions at linebacker and has a pretty good feeling for the style of defense that we run and terminology and that kind of thing.
For an overview from an overall standpoint we went into the draft picking in the first three rounds having a big whole in the fourth round and then having later picks in the fifth, sixth and seventh. After Saturday's drafting we ended up with two picks in the fourth round, which ended up being Jones and Holloway so, those are kind of really bonus picks for us. I don't think we anticipated those, I mean I know we didn't anticipate those going into the draft, and I think we felt kind of fortunate to get those to end up with them. Overall we had ten picks, which is what we started with. Having the two picks in the fourth is a plus and we were also able to add a pick in the fifth round next year so we want to continue to have at least as many if not more picks than the normal each year if we possibly can to just keep ourselves in a competitive position on draft day so that we can strengthen the team. So overall I think there were a lot of positive things that came out of it. We wanted to stock up our depth and I think we were able to do that in some positions. Obviously there were other positions that we didn't draft in and I don't think there was any way we could fill them all the way the draft unfolded. We felt like we tried to take value with each pick, so that is what we did.
Q: When did you work on the trade?
B: It was late this morning. Last night we sat in there until about midnight and kind of went through the board, talked about a lot of different scenarios and not only talked about our team, but also about what we thought the league would be seeing at that point. Then we came back in this morning and spent another couple of hours on it, going through it, rehashing it again, got everybody's input and the bottom line was that everybody felt the same way. There was one guy up there that we thought stood out among the rest and then a lot of the players that we saw as guys we would like to have in the fourth round just started peeling off. I am sure that the rest of the league recognized the same value that we did on the board at that point in time so we called San Diego and I think they were looking to pick up added picks in the back of the draft because they had a couple of holes in the fifth or sixth round. We talked to them I would say about ten minutes before they were on the clock and then closed the deal right about as they were going on.
**Q: Of all of the deals you made was that the most important one as far as your view is concerned?**
B: I don't know, I think that trading in the second and the third rounds being able to add the fourths, I think those really helped us. It was nice to be able to go up and get Jones if we hadn't made it I don't think he would have really made it down to us, but we will never know that one. But I think being able to pick up the fourths in the second and third round picks, I think that definitely helped us. I guess as it turned out all of our picks, other than our compensatory picks and the first pick, were involved in some kind of a trade and it wasn't really intended to be that way, but I guess it just worked that way.
Q: The one thing that still stands out is that you didn't pick a running back or wide receiver, those were perceived as great needs for the team. Was it more a case of how your draft picks fell that the people just weren't there that you were interested in or are you just that confident in what you already have at those positions?
B: We added a couple of receivers to the team prior to the draft with (David) Patten and (Bert) Emanuel, but we had receivers on the board just the way it turned out for us we thought that the value was in different spots. Again there were a lot of good players up there on the board that we didn't draft that we would have liked to, but we couldn't get them all and we just tried to maximize each pick. We weren't intending to pick this position or not pick that position. Obviously all things being equal there were certain things that we wanted to do. We wanted to try to add a corner, we wanted to try to add a tackle on the offensive line, a defensive linemen, but we just felt like the value was there and it outweighed what the risks or the value of what the other players were.
Q: Do you think that your third down problems last year were more coverage related than run related?
B: No I think it was a combination of both.
Q: You have 16 offensive linemen on your roster, that is a lot of guys to look at do you think you will have all 16 at training camp?
B: I know what happened last year, last year we went into training camp and within a week to ten days into training camp we were down to seven and we were on and off for a couple of weeks there. We went into preseason games with eight guys and I just know from experience that if you don't have at least two good offensive lines it is very hard to evaluate your quarterbacks, your running backs and your receivers because the rest of your skill people on offense don't have enough time to do anything. So in the preseason games you end up limited in what your offense can do and trying not to expose people and I just think competitively we need at least two lines to be able to put out there. We kept a number of players around last year as practice squad players or developmental type players on the roster and stocking the offensive line is certainly an area that has been addressed since, I feel like, since the day I got here and we are going to get the best players out there. I don't know how many it is going to take to do it, but as long as we think a guy can improve the position and be competitive we will continue to work with them. Do I think all 16 will be there? I don't know. I think that we are going to have a lot of players in camp this year. We have a number of European exemptions and I think we are going to have a lot of competition. How that is going to turn out I don't know, honestly I don't really care, I mean whoever the best players are they will play and that's what competition is about. So we will try to do a good job coaching them and get them all ready and put them out there and let the competition start.
Q: How about running backs, did you have them on your board or was that a low priority?
B: No it wasn't a low priority, we had them on our board and just…I can't really give you a reason why it did or didn't happen, it just kind of worked out that way. We just didn't feel comfortable reaching and losing value by jumping over other players that had rated higher. So we will be able to look back in retrospect at some point and see a guy that we took that wasn't as good or somebody in our position that we could have taken, but based on what we saw on the board we did what we thought was best there.
Q: A weakness on a lot of the guys chosen was over-aggressiveness. Was that what you were looking for?
B: Yeah, I think it is the overall philosophy of the team. We want to find tough, competitive guys to put on the team. We take as many of them as we can get. I think that is the way the game, that is the way our philosophy of playing the game is. That is the way we need to play both in this division in this climate and in this league. It is a competitive game, we saw how many games come down to one or two plays or one play or one situation or that type of thing. A big part of the game is mental toughness and physical toughness too. So that's a high priority in the criteria along with being mentally alert, mentally tough and not making mental mistakes. Those intangibles are…I don't think you can overrate them. I mean you've got to have some talent too to go with it but, that is all part of the package.
Q: With the draft picks it now gives you four tight ends and a possibility of finding a target for Drew [Bledsoe]?
B: Actually we've got five tight ends on the roster now with [Jabari] Holloway and [Arther] Love and then [Jermaine] Wiggins, [Chris] Eitzmann, and Rod [Rutledge]. So it will be a competitive position, I think the players bring different strengths and weaknesses to the position. As I mentioned Love is a little bit in the Eitzmann category in terms of, Chris played at a level of competition that made it a big jump into the NFL. He had a lot of things to work on and improve on. And as I mentioned with Arther he'll have the same or similar situation in that he wasn't really involved in the passing offense in college, it wasn't Division I competition. I think he'll have a few things to learn and adjust to at this level and it may take him a little longer. Whereas I think a guy like Holloway, Wiggins, or obviously Rutledge who has some experience, I think those guys are a little ahead on the experience curve. But in the end it will all catch up and the best players hopefully will rise to the top.
Q: Why didn't [Hakim] Akbar workout at the spring workouts?
B: He was involved in a situation where I think his agent advised him not to. And I am not sure exactly what happened, but the bottom line is he eventually changed agents and then after he changed agents he was advised that he was going to work out at Southern Cal. He wasn't able to do that when he went to workout there, that was ruled illegal by the league because it was out of his workout range, the way they set the structure up. So then they had to reschedule it and he worked out at Riverside where he is from. And that was kind of a late entry into the scheduling in the spring. I am sure a lot of people had trouble fitting that into the workout schedule and so forth and so on. So I think it was a series of circumstances there that probably didn't help him any.
Q: You said you had some unanswered questions with [Kenyatta] Jones, what were they and how were they answered?
B: Well Kenyatta is…as I talked about with Arther Love, played at South Florida. There was some good competition they played against, they also played against some teams that weren't Division I teams. He played left tackle at South Florida, then he moved inside and played guard in the all-star game. He had a weight problem, little bit of weight problem. He has lost quite a bit of weight, he has lost twenty five or thirty pounds since the end of the season. So a number of those things, his playing weight, his playing style, his position, his flexibility, things he was asked to do at South Florida, the all-star game experience, things like that. We wanted to try to get a feel for how he'd fit in at guard, how we thought he'd fit in at tackle, how long it would take him to adjust to the different schemes and things he'd be doing at this level relative to what he was doing in college, things like that. The whole weight issue, there is a number of things that, I wouldn't say they are major questions but they were just things that …we had a couple days left while we could visit players. We had a couple visits left and we said let's get him on a plane, get him up here and talk to him about it.
**Q: Is it harder to convince yourself when a guy doesn't play at a higher level of competition?**
B: I think a general rule of thumb would be when you see a player at a lower level of competition you'd like to say that the player dominates. So if you see a player dominating at a lower level of competition then you say ok, well that's pretty good evidence that he could step up and play at a higher level of competition. If he doesn't dominate or doesn't always dominate, then you wonder well is this just a good player at a lower level of competition or what is the situation? Again, going back to Kenyatta I think that was a little bit of his situation too there in they played I think it was three Division I games last year and those were probably his three best games. He actually played better against the better teams then he probably did against some of the teams that were lesser competition on the defensive line. Usually it would be the other way around. So that's, as a general rule of thumb you'd like to see the guy dominate. If he doesn't dominate then that is a question of how good is he? If he can't dominate on this level then how good is he going to be jumping up two levels?
Q: Were one of the moves you made or players you got that you hoped to get but didn't expect?
B: I think I'd say looking back on the draft the one thing that was probably the biggest help to us overall was the Matt Light situation. We saw Matt there in the second round and I think that would have been a good pick for us if we had just selected it. Then we got involved in the trade down kind of hoping that he would slip for one reason or another. We saw a couple other people out there that were comparable value and then as it went down through the second round we just got to the point there with Detroit where it was only a couple picks before us but we'd gotten a fourth and were able to move back up for a sixth. It was a good deal for us with Detroit. I think it was good deal for them too, but we got the guy we wanted and basically exchanged a sixth for a fourth. So from our point of view it was a good trade and that put us into the fourth round which was a big hole for us going into the Draft and I think any time you can take those mid-round type players, last year we got Robinson-Randall in the fourth, you've got a chance to hit on those guys. They are nice guys to add to your team and if they come through it… your not paying first round money you're getting good solid depth on your team and I think we need that.
Q: Does [Jabari] Holloway have any pass catching ability?
B: Notre Dame is not a big passing team. They are pretty run and play action oriented. I do think he probably has good hands, he showed that down at the Senior Bowl and can catch the ball. He wasn't asked to do it a lot in college but he, like Love, I mean they were both down there, I thought they were impressive catching the ball and running a Pro-style offense that the Senior Bowl coaches ran down there. [Alge] Crumpler did the same thing. Really that group of tight ends was I think overall showed up a lot better at the Senior Bowl then they did in a lot of their college films because you could see them in a pro-offense as opposed to the college offenses.
Q: Does this take focus away from tight ends on the free agent market?
B: Well I think right now with the team what we want to do is step back here for a couple days and take stock of where we are and what other options are out there. We're not going to stop trying to improve our team, but at this point I can't sit here and say we're targeted on points A, B, and C. We kind of backed off that in the week before the draft and once Brandon Mitchell, once we signed Brandon last week, we kind of stepped back, focused on draft preparation. So now that the draft is over we're going to try and re-inventory, revisit the pro free agents that are out there, maybe take a look at the potential June 1st market, and then readdress things again. And if there is a trade to be made or if there isn't I am not really sure at this point. There are none that are specifically targeted but we'll continue to assess and if we feel like we can improve it then we will…at any position, not just the tight end position. We'll try to address it team wide.
Q: Do you have a schedule yet for this week?
B: Well today and tomorrow I'm sure, all the coaches and scouts are on the phone now going a hundred miles an hour running up a pretty big bill trying to talk to players, agents, and finish the college free agent recruiting. I am sure that will go on into the night and into tomorrow. The players will travel here on Thursday night. We'll have a dinner with them on Thursday night and then we'll have the mini-camp over the weekend. So they'll all be here Friday for the physicals and start of the mini-camp.
Q: Were you reasonably pleased, the best you can tell, with the way the draft turned out?
B: I feel good about what happened the last few days. I haven't really had a chance to take a good look at what the other teams did. We were pretty active. Even when we weren't picking we weren't moving around from one spot to another so there wasn't a lot of lag time where we were just sit there watching the draft go by. Kind of like we were last year when we didn't pick until 46th in the second round we were there for seven or eight hours waving as the parade went by, but I feel good about what we did in terms of creating depth on our team. I think we have a couple of quality players that will add a lot of competition to our team. Whether that means they will excel or they will push other people to perform at a higher level that remains to be seen. I think also with the free agents that we added, the pro free agents plus the draft, I think that now is the time that we are going to have to sit back and take stock because we need to start to put things together it is not just about one player and what he can do and what his skills are, but how he meshes with other guys or other guys in his unit or the other players he is around. How that fits into the special teams, how it effects our punt team, our kickoff team, how it effects the depth on some of our situational units, our third down offense, our goal line offense, our goal line, our goal line defense, things like that. We really need to take some time and re-inventory the whole roster from top to bottom. I know it is a lot better than it was a week ago and I know that we have improved it, but we still want to keep going and we will see where, if there are any other opportunities to do that.
Q: But 16 offensive linemen that is not a bad thing…
B: No and I think all of the players on our roster bring some definite strengths to the table. Some of them have different strengths, there are different packages, but it is competitive and we have tried to put that type of player on the team, players that like competition, players that respond to competition. Our offseason workouts have been strong, the players are working hard, I can see a tremendous improvement in a lot of young players, the guys that were with us last year that really didn't have a clue that were not anywhere near the physical developmental that they are now eight, ten, twelve months later. Guys are just way ahead of where the were last year. Now how much that translates from the weight room and the practice field onto the football field we will see, but we have targeted a lot of different areas with different players whether it be pass catching where they are out there catching 50 to 75 catches after there regular workout or flexibility or whatever it happens to be. We have targeted different areas for different players and I can see the players making gains in those areas. Again, I am anxious to see how that will transfer onto the football field, but I know that we are getting better from within I think we are getting better from the pro free agents that we have added and I feel like we have improved the team through the draft.