Q: **Where does the Carolina defense rank amongst the defenses you have faced this season in terms of its ability to pressure the quarterback and the difficulty of its scheme?
JM:Well this is obviously a very highly ranked defense in basically every statistical category, and they should be. This is a good, well rounded group of players with, I would say, a lot of guys capable of making big plays. They've certainly been able to turn the ball over. They have one of the better linebackers in all of football in [Luke] Kuechly, but they've got a good linebacking corps. They get an incredible amount of pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz, which is, I would say, a luxury that some teams have and some teams don't. When you can do that with just a four-man rush, that certainly allows you to take your other seven guys and try to make it difficult to find holes to throw the ball in in the passing game too. [Head] Coach [Ron] Rivera and [Defensive Coordinator] Sean McDermott do a great job with this group and they play real physical; it's a real physical group. They don't give up a lot of big plays, [they're] really good in situational football. Playing there is very difficult – even if you get it down there in the red zone it's not easy to score touchdowns. [They] sack the quarterback, like I said, [they] create turnovers. It's all the things that you would want in a defense, and they have them and they are obviously playing as well as any group that we've played all year. This will be a great challenge for us on Monday night.
Q:Do you see any linkage between the Panthers defense and the New York Giants defenses that you played against in the past, given that Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman comes from the Giants?
JM:I think there are different teams that have been able to do this. The fact that there may be a connection there from the past with the general manager, maybe that has something to do with it, or maybe it is just a coincidence. I'm not sure. But we've played many teams in the past that have, I would say, fallen under this category. The Indy [Indianapolis Colts] teams were always like this, the Giants did a good job of being able to create pressure, the old Miami teams back in the day [with] Jason Taylor and those groups. So, what is this defense like, relative to those? I think this is really its own group, [with] their own style. They use some different coverage aspects that those teams didn't. I think they are very fortunate to have good depth and really solid players along the front. That's the key there. They have good, talented players that play extremely hard, very physical that can all rush the passer from any spot on the field. Like I said, it will be a great challenge for us, and they are certainly playing well.
Q:Without Austin Collie, how do you envision piecing together whatever his role was with other players?
JM:We've got a lot of guys that have played in different roles and different spots. I think the guys that have been active the last couple weeks with AD [Aaron Dobson] and Julian [Edelman] and Danny [Amendola] being able to try to have some consistency in terms of the things we are doing with those guys. And then, KT [Kenbrell Thompkins] and Josh Boyce will also, I would say, factor into the competition in terms of who is active and how we go about forming the game plan. I think this is actually, you never like to have a player get hurt and certainly Austin was helping us and doing what we asked of him, but any time you have a situation like this that comes up during the course of the season, it provides a little spark of competition and [I] think that is healthy for any group on the team. We will look forward to the receivers going out there and having a good week of practice and then trying to let it unfold from there.
Q:We saw what Shane Vereen did in the season opener, so with him being eligible to return from his injury this week, what are your thoughts about getting him back in the mix and what he brings to the offense?
JM:Shane is a good football player. As soon as he is ready and able to help us and we are able to play him, certainly he will have a role in the game. He definitely did make a big impact in game one. I don't know if we can expect him to do that right off the bat in his first game back, whenever that is. We'll look forward to having him back. He is a really good kid, a great teammate and a good football player that can help us. So, we're looking forward to that.
Q:Can you highlight the key personnel in the Panthers secondary and what they have been doing thus far that has led to them having success against opposing offenses?
JM:I think they have a good blend of experienced and veteran players along with some younger, talented players mixed in there. [Mike] Mitchell and [Quintin] Mikell at the safety spot, they have both been in the league for a while. They know the defense, they are rarely out of position, they do a good job of disguising the coverage and making sure that everybody is on the same page. [Captain] Munnerlyn and [Drayton] Florence, this isn't their first or second year in the league either, and both of them seem to be playing the system very well. [Melvin] White is a younger guy that has made some plays this year, and then they've got some other guys. [Josh] Norman and [Josh] Thomas have also played in there at corner as well. So, I'd say overall it is a very consistent group. They don't give up a lot of big plays, they are very rarely out of position, they almost always are in the proper leverage position. They tackle when the ball get completed in front of them, which I said they don't give up a lot of big plays from catch-and-runs or big plays over their head either. So, they fit in very well with the entire scheme of the defense. They know that they've got a good front up there that's not going to allow the quarterback to hold the ball forever, and when they take a chance they are usually right like Florence did in the Atlanta game. They understand that they don't have to cover forever, and that gives them an advantage. I just think they are group that is playing well right now, and [they are] really complementary with the rest of that group.
Q:In reference to Ryan Mallett, with the number of starting quarterbacks who have gotten hurt this year it seems to be very important to have a quality starting backup. We haven't seen much of Ryan, so can you tell us what you have seen from him in practice and what are your thoughts on his development at this stage of his career?
JM:Ryan comes to work every week with a great attitude and a great approach. He prepares as if he is playing. I think he has continued to try to work at what it means to be a quarterback in this league; prepare hard, go through you daily preparation of segment of the game plan. He has really done a nice job of trying to give our defense a good look each week, which I think is an underrated part of a backup quarterback's preparation, but it is important nonetheless because it is an opportunity to go back there, make reads, and throw the ball accurately and work on your fundamentals, get better and lead that team. Even though it might not be the first team offense all the time, you get a chance to do those kinds of things as a quarterback on the scout team. I think he has really done a nice job and taken a lot of leadership and responsibility there. So, I think Ryan's doing a good job of continuing to try to push himself to get better and improve. We have a lot of confidence in him.
Q:When you are watching tape of what another team is doing against the defense you are playing, and it doesn't fit what you want to do today, do you file it away to maybe use at a later date? In other words, do you use that information to add to your playbook in order to expand your repertoire?
JM:I think that any time you see a team or a coach try to implement something that maybe you don't do that gets them an element of success, I think you notice it and take note of it. Whether you keep it filed away, whether you try to implement it and incorporate it in your offense what you are doing currently, I just think all coaches are interested in seeing other good teams play, other good coaches coach, and if you see something that you think may have a chance to fit what your team does then you certainly aren't too proud to take an idea from somebody else and try to use it to help your team win. You know, it's interesting. I think ultimately you have to do what you believe in and if you see some things that may fit into that category, then I wouldn't be afraid to use them.
Q:If another player comes in during the course of the season and he brings a different skill set, would you consider putting something different in to fit the skill set of that player?
JM:We are always trying to use our players in the right way. If that means a player is better blocking these types of plays than another type of play, then maybe you run a little more of those. If a runner sees this play better than he sees that one, then maybe you adapt some of your system and do it that way too. The key is having a broad enough background and foundation that, if and when you need to use something different and choose to use something different based on either the talents of your players or the skill or the system of the team you are competing against, determines that you do so that you are able to do it. That is really the biggest thing. That's why we practice a lot during the course of the offseason and training camp. You know, not every single thing we are doing is for the here and now. We are trying to get better every day, but there are also a lot of things that we try to get practice reps at and improve and get better at that you may use a little bit down the road. I think all that fits in together and that's the way a long season goes.