BB: How is it going? We did a run down on all of the guys yesterday. You know what we are doing in this camp. How can I help you?
Q: Is there anything fundamentally that young safeties coming into the league lack generally?
BB: Well, I think that the passing game in the NFL is a lot more sophisticated and they see a lot better receivers than generally speaking than they see in college and better quarterbacks. That is just the level of competition. I think the big thing for the safeties is just understanding our defense, knowing what things apply in which situations, which adjustments go with which coverages, how to solve formation problems or pattern problems within each coverage so that they run the same pattern against five different coverages it might play four or five different ways. There might be a couple of those coverages that would not be that great against it and how would we handle it. Really learning and understanding the system and learning why and how different things apply to get out of a problem, that would be the biggest thing for them. Once they learn that and see enough of those situations then they should be able to apply it on the field. But it is a process to work thorough that. You go through the playbook and say, 'Well when this happens we do this. When that happens we do something else.' On the field that could run together when you have a lot of multiples and a lot of different situations.
Q: Is that something that struck you about both of those guys, Dexter [Reid] and Guss [Scott]?
BB: I think they both had a lot of playing experience. They kind of quarterbacked their respective positions in the secondary. They played different positions within the safety position. They played those coverage positions, they played down in the box, they have played high, they have played split safeties, they have played middle of the field type of responsibilities. They blitzed Guss but he really played what amounted to the corner position in the sub-defenses at Florida. I think they have had a lot of different responsibilities and it seems like they are picking things up pretty well. That is a big part of it. Communication is a big a part of it because all of the communication on defense starts in the middle and works its way outside to the perimeter to the outside linebackers to the corners but it has to start inside with the safeties and the middle linebackers. That goes with the position. You can't play that spot and not be verbal and not communicate wit your teammates or it will break down the defense eventually.
Q: Among the different positions is that safety position one of the toughest to adjust to for rookies?
BB: I think mentally it probably is. There is a lot more mental responsibility at safety than there is at nose tackle. They are both tough to play, they each have their different problems but from a mental standpoint and responsibility standpoint safety is tough because it is not only what that position does and it is not just taking directions from somebody else but it also making decisions, making adjustments, and being the last line of defense. So a mistake at safety is probably going to cost you a lot more than a mistake at nose will. Again, I am not saying that one position is important and the other one isn't but, again, you know what happens if you make a mistake at safety and go into the wrong coverage or drop to the wrong spot, it is all over. The nose tackle goes the wrong way, maybe it is a 10-yard gain or maybe it is a 15-yard gain, but it might not have the same implications as it does in the secondary, making that type of mistake.
Q: If you were still going to keep Eugene Wilson at safety this year and both rookies safeties didn't seem to be picking up the system that well but one of them is great on special teams that would be more important in making the team right? Like how well they perform on special teams than on how they quick pick up the system?
BB: I think that their ability to get on the field will start with special teams first and then defense second. David Givens is a good example of a player who was okay at his position as a receiver, not really good enough to get onto the field but he was valuable for us in the kicking game. He earned his playing time and his roster spot in the kicking game. Since he was going into the game on special teams, then offensively you start to incorporate him into some of your receiver sets, whether it is as a back up or maybe actually in four-receivers and that kind of thing, [where he] actually has a position. The fact that the players goes to the game in the kicking game means that he practices the plays on offense or defense during the week, which allows him to get better on the offensive or defensive side of the ball on a weekly basis so that in time he is making a lot more improvement there than the guy who is not active who is just running the scout team plays and that kind of thing because he just doesn't have a roster spot at the game. In a reverse way special teams, in a lot of cases, really opens the door and provides the opportunity for a player on offense or defense, more than his play on offense or defense does in some situations. Givens was a great example of that. Givens value was he was going into the game on special teams. He was in on special teams, might as well try to use him on offense. As he got better on offense, then he developed more of a role for himself on that side of the ball. That is the way those kinds of things can happen and it would be true with any of our defensive backs too. If they were really a standout, integral part of our special teams unit, we would use them defensively. They would have to play well when they have an opportunity defensively, but we would create an opportunity for him.
Q: How well do you find that defensive rookies know how to tackle coming in?
BB: It varies. It does. Some better than others. Some of it is talent. Some of it is technique. Some of it is experience. Sometimes you can improve it. Sometimes it is pretty much it is what it is. You might have improve it a little bit but maybe the player just doesn't have some of the natural skills for tackling that other players might have and is not quite as good at it.
Q: But it is not something that you just say, 'Man, every year we have to breakdown these guys because for some reason at the college level, tackling isn't emphasized?'
BB: Well I don't think that tackling in college football is as good as it used to be. I think there are a number of factors involved there. One is certainly the number of days that the colleges have in spring ball, which historically was used for fundamental area period for the colleges particularly when they are in pads, now you have a limitation on those days and a number of those days are in pads which makes it even harder to work on tackling. However many days they have, it is not very many compared to say what it was back in the 80's when you had a lot of kids coming out early so they had one less year of college experience to include, a lot of things, tackling being one of them. I think that is definitely an area that you can see, generally speaking shows up a little bit deficiently on defensive players, that is the most important thing for a defensive player. If you can't get the guy with the ball down, then what are you out there for on defense?
Q: How do you attack that as a coach when you can go full contact all the time, how do you get these guys to get fundamentally sound in tackling when you don't do a ton of tackling?
BB: You work on all of the things that lead up to it and try to get to the proper position. That is a big part of it. A lot of tackles are missed just because the player isn't in good position to make the tackle. He never gets to that spot so he is reaching or he doesn't have the good leverage angle on the back and he just can't get him. Getting into the right spot and being in the right position is probably 90 percent of it. Really most tackles are made with a guy's feet as opposed to his arms. If you get in the right position and you break down your body and get into a leverage angle on the back, unless you just don't grab anything or just close your eyes, you are going to miss him. If you bring your arms and wrap up and you are in good position then that should secure the tackle. Most of them are missed because of players not in position close enough to get the guy to actually grab him. You try to work on all of those things. It is not the same as doing live tackling, which most teams do in spring ball. That is what they do. They do a lot of blocking and tackling and fundamental types of drills.
Q: What is Stephen Neal's position on the offensive line?
BB: He didn't play last year so he is starting where he was the year before.
Q: How is his health?
BB: It is good. He never got on the field last year. His injury occurred a lot earlier than what a normal football season injury would be say if a guy got hurt in November. He was a lot earlier than that so he is a lot further along in his rehab. We will just see where he is.
Q: What about the rest of the offensive line?
BB: Well we pretty much played the whole year without [Mike] Compton. Mike played one or two games. Obviously, we didn't want to lose him, but we didn't have him for 15 or 16 games or however many games it was. That was all without him. [Damien] Woody we all know was there a majority of the year. Russ [Hochstein] played a little for him in the last couple of games. I think we have a number of young players on the line. We will give them a chance and put them out there and see what they can do. We also have Wilbert Brown, Gene Mruczkowski, Steve and Koppen obviously. Those guys will all be in the mix in addition to a couple of the younger people that we have that didn't play much last year that we signed like [Jack] Fadule and [Tim] Provost, guys like that.
Q: Is Adrian Klemm a tackle or guard?
BB: I think he is more of a tackle, but he can play guard and has played guard. In the end we will try to put our best five on the field, whoever those five are.
Q: Would you expect to bring in any veterans?
BB: I wouldn't rule it out. If we have to go out and play with what we have got, we feel like we can go out and play with what we have got. If we can add somebody we will do it. If we can improve the situation, then we will try to improve it.
Q: Are you going to make them sign a no-retirement clause?
BB: That is the main thing we are looking for if they come in to actually see them on the field and play.
Q: In terms of coaching the running back position with the players coming out of college, you have people say that is one of the positions where a guy either has it or doesn't. Do you buy that?
BB: In terms of actually running the ball, I think there is a lot of truth to that. Yes. This guy has the ball in his hands, what he sees … he has been able to work on that skill in terms of his vision and having his pad level low going through the line of scrimmage, protecting the ball and breaking tackles, he has probably been doing that eight to ten years – high school, maybe junior high. There is a pretty good experience level there. I think the problems coming from the back are in the passing game. In terms of protection, route running and handling different coverages so the flow of control is distributed underneath to open up the pattern and not congest it. Backs that don't have a lot of experience with that, that is a big step for them. Backs that don't have a lot of experience in blitz pickup, which a lot of colleges don't have a lot of blitz pickup. A lot of dropback blitz pickup type of responsibilities a lot times it is play action and a lot of times when they do have pickup the whole line goes one way and the backs go the other. It is pretty well defined. 'You go that way and you have the first outside and I have the first guy outside of you.' It is pretty simple. In the NFL it is a lot different. It is much more assignment oriented. 'You have the mike or the will and then when the front changes then you may have a new will or the guy that was a lineman in the new front he becomes a linebacker and he is my responsibility, whereas is another position he isn't even though it is the same guy. There are a lot of moving parts in terms of protection and then in terms of the passing game and the route running. I think that is a much harder transition for a back in terms of the basic skill. How much he has done in college that varies from player to player.
Q: On Cedric Cobbs?
BB: I don't think there is any question about his running skill. He probably ran for more yards in high school then any other back in the history of Arkansas. He had a lot of production at Arkansas in the running game. I think in the passing game he has less background in that. He is going to have to work on that. How quickly he will pick that up and how naturally that will come to him, I don't know. I'm not saying that he is done as a runner, but I think he has a lot more experience at that.
Q: A lot of defensive lineman didn't seem to make that big of a splash in their first year.
BB: I think that is generally what you see in rookies. For the most part, even in the first round you can probably year in and year out take a look at half the guys in the first round and see them maybe not all that productive in their first year. Most of the time the production will follow. I know what you are saying. Overall, you can pretty much take any position and find that. You can look at a lot of the receivers that have been taken in the first round over the last couple of years and see what they have done. You can take a lot of different positions.
Q: Is there something particular with the defensive line?
BB: If you think about it for a minute, most of the defensive lineman taken high in the draft are going to be bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic then all the guys they play against. In college it is relatively easy to be productive if you are bigger, faster, stronger, quicker and more athletic than the guy you play against every single week to play pretty well. You line up this far away from him and you are better than he is, you can win a lot of those matchups. Now you come into the NFL and it is probably never that way. The guy across from him is every bit as tough, fast, athletic and more experienced then he is. To be able to take that raw strength, speed and quickness and transfer that into technique where now you have to do things with hands and your body placement, assignments and all that and be able to utilize all those things to gain an edge over another good football player, that takes some time. It is not just taking him and tossing him and going to get the runner like it is in college a lot of times just because it is a big mismatch.
Q: Have you had a chance to see any Rohan Davey tape? How is he doing in NFL Europe?
BB: I think he is doing fine. He has got a lot of game experience which is what we felt would be most beneficial to him. I think he has handled it well. The team is playing well. He has been in a number of different situations. The team has been ahead, behind. They have come from behind. He has managed the clock. It looks like they have a pretty competitive team. I think he is having a good solid experience over there and the team is playing well.
Q: Do you almost root for that so you can see what he is going through and how he handles those situations?
BB: I think everything he is going through is a good experience. You just can't orchestrate them. You want him to be behind, you want him to be ahead. You want them to blitz. You want them to drop back and play coverage. You want the running game to be going, so you can run play action. You want them to be behind so they are going to have to throw. You want them in third-and-long. You want them in third-and-short. Every one of those situations, every time the ball is snapped can be a learning experience for him over there. From talking to him and from watching him on tape, I think that it has been a good experience for him and he has benefited from it. He has some guys over there that he has a little bit of familiarity with. The most important thing for him is the experience he is getting on the field. We just can't give him that. We can go out here and run routes. We can go out here and hand off and run play action, but it is just not the same as the game conditions he is experiencing on the other side of the Atlantic.
Q: Will how he plays over there depend on whether or not you bring in a veteran?
BB: I don't think so because he would be in the same position for us whether he was here or there. Whereas if he was here and hadn't completed a pass, he would have the same opportunity that he would have going over there and throwing 200 of them or however many of them he throws. He is going to get that same opportunity. What he does with it, we will all see. It won't affect him. If there is an opportunity for us to improve our team, with adding a player to any position, then we will always consider it.
Q: Is there any danger that there might be football burnout by sending guys over to NFL Europe?
BB: I think that is a consideration. We have talked about that and I have definitely seen that. The way it is set up now the structure works so that it is still a possibility, but I think it is less of an issue then it used to be. First of all, the NFL season starts later at the end of July. The Europe season is finishing earlier in mid-June depending on if they are in the playoff game or not. You are looking at a minimum of six weeks and it could be seven. I think there is enough time there to separate them, but I do remember situations where it was more like four weeks, so the guy has an ankle and a shoulder and he has a little something, by the time that is over he is right back out there for two-a-days. That is tough. In a case like Davey, here is a kid that hasn't played football in two years. I think you are looking at the other end of the spectrum. There is still a little burnout, but then there is also not playing. I think there is a rust factor. A few snaps here in preseason, a quarter here and a quarter there, it is not the same as going out and playing the game. To not play it for really a couple of years, there is a lot of practice time, but not very much real game time, especially at a position like that. Now you are starting to go the other way. We don't want anything to happen to our starting quarterback, but at the same time you have to get your other people some experience. That might be the same position Damon [Huard] was in too. Damon was here for three years and really never took a snap. I thing those are the type of things that are hard as a quarterback to stay sharp. It is like golf. You can spend all day out on the practice tee and go out there and never play. You finally play and I don't know how good it is when you go out and play. My game anyway. You know how it is. You get on the tee. It is flat and straight. You hit a bad one, you tee up another one and it is no big deal. You go out there on the course, there is a tree in the way, and there is a trap. It is the same shot as on the practice tee, but it is not the same and the consequences are a little bit different.
Q: Do you feel like the development of guys like Ashworth and Hochstein led you to believe that you can get starters on the offensive line through other means besides drafting them?
BB: Well I think you are always trying to do that. I don't think you can really count on that. I can't sit here and say four years from now we don't really need to take anybody at this position because we are going to beat the bushes and find one out of nowhere and that is where one is going to come from. I don't think you can say that. If you look at the starting tackles in the NFL, I forget what the exact number is, I looked at it closely a few years ago – it might have changed a little bit – but there are not many tackles in the league that weren't high draft choices. There are very few left tackles in the league that weren't taken in the first couple rounds of the draft. Very few. In Cleveland I was very fortunate to have Tony Jones there who was an undrafted player at Western Carolina and started at left tackle when I was there and went on the have a great career. Orlando Brown was another undrafted player out of South Carolina State. He has been a solid starter in the league for a number of years. I think those are exceptions rather than rules. When you get on that starting tackles list there are a lot of high draft choices there. Get them early or don't get them at all. That is why they go in the top couple rounds of the draft. They don't last long. They didn't last long either this year. I'm not counting on that, but we are always trying to do it. That includes every position, whether it is quarterback, offensive line, and every position. I not going to sit here and say we are not worried about a position because we will find one somewhere. We will try, but there is no guarantee of that.
Q: Did you do similar research on guards?
BB: I think that is a little bit of a different story. Just look at the drafts. How many guards go in the first two rounds of the draft? That being said there are going to be middle rounders or sometimes late round choices and sometimes even free agents. I think the landscape on that position is a lot different than on the tackle position, especially left tackle. It can extend to right tackle, the Mike Williams of the world or Kareem McKenzie. Now Miami taking [Vernon] Carey. In our division there are three guys taken high in the draft recently. That is where the right tackles are