Q: There was a report out of Cincinnati about their linebacker, Marquis Flowers, being traded to the Patriots. Is that accurate?
BB: If we have an announcement, we'll make it.
Q: Are there more of those trade conversations this year than in the past considering there is now only one roster cut-down day?
BB: I don't know. I don't really track them.
Q: When looking at who may become available after roster cut-downs, do you look at other teams and try to evaluate who you think will be left off of their 53-man roster?
BB: Yeah, that's probably part of it; yeah. Nick [Caserio] and the personnel staff do a lot of work on that. Obviously, we're going to have eleven-hundred players, or whatever it is, released here in a few days, so there are a lot of guys to keep track of. That's what they do - they keep track of each team and different situations that different players are in. Injuries - how that affects other teams and so forth.
Q: Is that period going to be a little more chaotic this year with all of the cuts essentially coming at the same time?
BB: I mean, I don't really think so. I don't think that the players that are released between 90 and 75 are going to have a huge impact on the final rosters. Now I could be way off on that, but my sense of it is those players who - I think we can identify most of those players on every team. So whether they're released last week, or this week or whenever it is, I think that's probably about the same group of players. I don't really see that as a big obstacle, personally.
Q: Is part of preparing for this final preseason game doing some work on all of the little situational aspects of football that could come up during the regular season?
BB: That's part of the 16-game preparation, right. We don't know if they're going to come up opening night or not. Some will, most won't, but we'll still have to be ready for them. It wouldn't matter who we play opening day. You want to be prepared for those situations. It's not about the specific opponent, although we'll get to that maybe if they run a certain play in a certain situation, obviously, we would prepare for that but, just in general, those hundreds of situations that can come up and rules and so forth, yeah, that's part of this week.
Q: How do you prioritize which situations to work on over others?
BB: Well, we cover all of the situations, some in more detail than others. When you go through each situation - last play of the game - there could be 20 situations for that one situation. Where is the ball? Kickoff return, scrimmage play, scrimmage play backed up, scrimmage play midfield, scrimmage play on the plus-10 yard line, so there are a lot of situations just on, let's say, that one play and just keep going right down the line. So you pick out the ones that you think are most important. If you can get to all of them, you get to all of them. If you can't, you get the ones that cover the most specific situations or the most frequent situations and then do the best that you can on the other ones. I would say most of the time we can at least watch those plays on film based on our library. Maybe we don't get to practice every single one of them or get every one of them on the field, but we've at least talked about them, at least gone through the awareness part of what we're trying to do, what the situation really dictates regardless of what play we call. At least we understand what the situation is. We need to get out of bounds, or we need to stay in bounds, they don't have enough time for two plays, or they do have enough time for two plays or whatever it is.
Q: Often times we see players make a significant jump from year one to year two. Was what we saw from Trey Flowers last year that kind of jump or was last year really his first year since he missed most of his rookie campaign due to injury?
BB: Yeah, I think that was more year one to year two. I mean, I know he didn't play much as a rookie, but he was in training camp. There was enough, but he still had a lot of things that he needed to, I would say, fine-tune and adjust to pro football in our defense and he did those. Playing inside - that's something he only did I think in one game in college against Texas A&M, so that was an adjustment. The coverage was not something that he did a lot of at Arkansas. Not that he's a linebacker, but he has some coverage responsibilities at times, so things like that. Just playing against NFL-style offenses instead of college offenses, but he started to make that transition his rookie year, but I would say the jump was really from year one to year two.
Q: We've heard in recent years that some basketball teams have begun to build their rosters in a position-less fashion where a point guard is no longer just a traditional point guard and so forth. Do you see any of that in football where perhaps some positions are now being asked to be more versatile so that they can fit more seamlessly into varying roles?
BB: I think there is a degree of that, sure, for some players, not all players, but some players and the more versatile they are, the more things they can do then the more flexibility that gives you either to call plays or to defend your opponents. Our linebackers are going to have to go out and cover backs lined up in the receiver position. Our backs are going to line up in the receiver position so at some point they need to know receiver-type routes or adjustments from that wide position as opposed to coming out of the backfield, vice versa for the guys that are covering them and so forth. Punt team, kickoff return team, playing outside, playing inside, the leverage on the blocks because you could be outside and dropping inside, or you could be inside and blocking a guy on the outside, so again, just things like that. The more flexibility you have, the more depth you have and the more, I'd say, diverse your scheme can be because you can do the same thing from different locations.
Q: Is that something that you've talked about at all with any basketball coaches?
BB: Yeah, probably not so much. I'd say the X's and O's, I don't know, maybe they're the same but I don't see as direct of a crossover on that. I'm sure there probably is one somewhere. Certainly the picking game and getting through traffic and all of that like defensive backs and linebackers have to do in bunch formations. I mean, there are definitely elements to that, but that's more of, I'd say, a technique. But there is an application there.
Q: What are some of the things that you are trying to accomplish when watching other teams in their preseason games?
BB: To see what other new players are doing in the league. Guys from college that we haven't seen play at this level, so what do they look like? What were our grades on them? What do they look like in this competition? Teams that have new coaches, new coordinators, which are a lot of teams, how much of it is who? How much of it is the head coach or the coordinator or however the staff is configured, how they are using different players, if they are using them differently or using them the way that we're used to seeing them being used, things like that.
Q: Does that film study change once the regular season amps up and you turn to more of a focus on specific opponents?
BB: Yeah, we're focused on the team we play and the teams that we crossover with. In this case, Kansas City, the teams that they've played, obviously, we'll see them. But two teams that aren't on our schedule that played each other last week, generally, we wouldn't be pouring over that film unless there was some particular reason. Now if there are significant plays in the film, that's kind of a different story. That gets into the situational football category, but just to study the film of two teams we don't play, there are other priorities.
Q: You've mentioned that the coaching staff has taken a look at Kansas City to do their due diligence on them. At what point do some of the players who won't play or have a role in this final preseason game begin to look ahead to the Chiefs?
BB: I'm sure they've looked at them somewhere along the line. I mean, there are still a lot of question marks, the final roster and so forth. It's not like we're going to go through a whole game plan based on April, but they just traded for a player yesterday. So we'll see what his projected role will be and so forth, things like that. We're not set there, but certainly there is an awareness of some guys. I mean, they have good edge rushers. That's no secret. That's something that we're going to have to deal with - those three guys - just to pick an example.
Q: As you pivot to the regular season, is it challenging to keep your eye on the fundamentals and the things you focused on early in camp to make sure those are squared away without losing sight of other goals?
BB: Yeah, we never want to lose sight of fundamentals, but it's easy to do because you get caught up in schemes and a bunch of other things. But we're still in the building block stages of fundamentals for each position, or double-team blocks, combination blocks, things like that, where it's not just you, but you and a teammate working, or maybe you and two other guys working on three-for-three or that type of thing, being able to see it the same, using the complementary techniques and so forth. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we're definitely not there yet. Hopefully, we're gaining ground on it but we're not there yet. I'd say as you get into some of the more higher degree of difficulty things like picking up three-man gains on pass protection, things like that, which we haven't seen a lot of in training camp or preseason games but we know they're coming, those are the kind of things that I would say are the next stage of one-on-one pass protection, two-on-two pass protection, three-on-three pass protection. A team like Kansas City can create that in a lot of different ways. They can be center-guard-tackle. They can be guard-center-guard. If your tight end is in protection they can be tight end-tackle-guard, things like that. The degree of difficulty on some of those will pick up, yeah.
Q: Are there things that you've learned over the years that you think have helped with how you approach that portion of the season, the transition from preseason to regular season, in terms of knowing which fundamentals to peel away from earlier on or other ones to put more attention towards?
BB: Well, I mean, ideally it's probably like anything else. What you do, you want to get done properly and then lay the foundation and move on to something else. If you move too quickly to the next step, then your foundation crumbles, then you don't really have anything. That's really the judgement, is how long do we stay on the first phase? When are we ready to go to the second phase? And that may vary from player to player. It may vary from group to group. It may vary from the left side of your line to the right side of your line. There are a lot of variables there but you have to try and figure that out and, if you move too quickly, then your fundamentals are just never really in place. If you stay too long, then you can get beat by some schemes because you just haven't worked on them, so there is a balance there. Like I said, it's not the same for everybody. You move at the pace you can move at. Where the [defensive backs] are might be different than where the linebackers are, might be different than where the offensive line is. You've still got to make - that's where position coaches and coordinators make such important decisions, just on not little things, but little things, those types of things. When do we go to the next thing? How much work do we need before we can move ahead? When are we ready to go to the next stage? That's what a good position coach, a good coordinator does. They make a lot of little decisions like that, like "Look, we're not going to be able to do this. We've tried it. It's not going well. I just think we need to try something else or do something else, an alternative way to handle this problem." And those are the kinds of things that really make great assistant coaches because there are a thousand things like that and each one of them is a little bit different and the players are different and so forth. That teaching and those decisions and the presentation and kind of keeping that moving forward, not staying in the same place but moving forward, be moving forward at the right pace, not just at the pace that we did it last year or the pace we did it in '13. It's doing what's right for this team, for this group of guys, how to get the most out of them. That's really the key. It's not easy. That's hard to do. Sometimes you go too fast and you have to back up. Sometimes you go too slow and you're in a catch-up mode and it's hard to catch up. You want to almost on a daily basis continue to hit those sweet spots until you get to a certain point - call it halfway through the year - where you're at that point. The ship is pretty well under way. You can't go back into port and make any adjustments. You're on the voyage, but you want to be in good shape when you get to that point.
Q: How important is it to involve your scheme over time? Is that something that you can be proactive about in seeking out the tools to make that scheme work, or is it more reactionary in the mold of you need to work with what you have?
BB: Well, I think you always have to be ready to go with what you've got. I mean, you can't ever count on you're going to get somebody who's not here, get them off the street or get them from another team. They may not be available. If that option comes up then I think you look at the player and say, "OK, how would we use him? How would he fit in? What would his role be? What's the cost?" And so forth, and you make that decision on an individual basis based on that player, his situation and your team needs, whether it be short or long term, whatever you happen to be looking at. The scheme thing is, look, one thing you don't want to do if you can help it is to spend a lot of time on a scheme that you don't use. We're going to spend all of our time running this play, or this group of plays or these coverages and then you never use them. For example, defensively, if you were to put in a certain couple of coverages or a certain type of defense but you never face the offense that used it, like some two-back defenses, and the teams that you play are one-back teams, then when are you going to use them? It's a waste of time. On the flip side of it, if you know you're going to use something like, "OK, here are our first four opponents. Three of them do this and we would want to do this against three of these four teams," then to not put it in in training camp, to not address it in training camp and wait until the first game when it comes up like "Alright fellas, here is what we're going to do," and now you're kind of starting all over again on this scheme, like well we haven't really done this before so on 'this' we're going to do 'that,' and we haven't practiced it. We're putting this in, a new thing, and now you're trying to get it ready during the week of practice - I mean, that's a hard thing to do, especially if it's somewhat extensive. If you just don't get enough practice plays and it comes up in the game a little bit differently than how you practiced it and then you get beat, then that's usually what's going to happen.
Q: Is it important to evolve with some type of foresight and try to do things that you may have never done before?
BB: Sure, yeah, but again, if you put time into it, you can put three days into a reverse and run it one time. I mean, that's a lot of time on not very much. Now if that play wins the game for you, then great, but you only have so much time. So how much of it do you want to put it into a sliver of what you're going to be using. But that's kind of the trick, to figure that out. When you commit to something and then at some later point you de-commit to it and you change, then that's a lot that's being washed down the drain. If you have a fairly broad package that you know you're going to use all of it at some point, and when it comes up you're not going to be repaving the road, you're going to be saying "OK, well this is what we did a couple of weeks ago. This is what we did in training camp. Now here is the application for it against this team. Here, they do a lot of this. Here's a situation where they use a lot of bunch receivers. Here is our coverage and these bunch sets that we worked on back in training camp." OK, now there is some recall. There is some fundamental background that you can fall back on versus having never talked about it and like "Alright, well here's how we're going to handle this this week." Well, that's a lot to take on if you haven't taken it on in the first place. Fundamentally, what you want to try to do is have a system that covers the things that you're going to have to cover and be able to go to the different areas when you need to go to them. If you know you're going to be heavy in one area, then you're probably having to go 60-40 or 65-35 in your time allocation to be able to address it rather than 35-65, the other way around. You're spending all of your time on something that isn't going to come up or it isn't going to come up very much, then yeah, you're great at that but it only comes up ten percent of the time. It's just not worth it. Sometimes you get things that come up that you haven't covered before, you've got to cover them. That's football. That's going to happen. You try to, I'd say, keep those to a minimum and when that does happen you just have to be careful about how much you try to do with it like "Alright, we haven't covered this before," so trying to do six different things against it is probably going to be hard. You're probably going to be limited to one or two and hope you can do those well. Yeah, those are the hard decisions in coaching, is trying to anticipate what you're going to need and trying to make sure you have it, and not only have it, but can actually do it. If you can't execute it, then it doesn't make any difference what you have. You've got to be able to do it. To get to that point, that's the hard part.