Q:As you start to wrap your head around the challenge the Titans present offensively, where does it start?
MP:I think obviously this is a real challenge for us here to go against the Titans. They have a lot of different weapons they can use offensively along with obviously a great coaching staff to utilize all those players. So, we've got to just really pay attention to all of them, make sure we understand who's out on the field and make sure we understand what packages they're running in the game. I don't really think you want to single anybody out; they obviously have great players at every position. Chris Johnson and all the ability that he brings; [Jake] Locker, the quarterback, obviously, everything he can do; the wide receivers, you could name them all: [Nate] Washington, [Kendall] Wright. The tight ends: [Craig] Stevens, [Jared] Cook, I mean, all of them, along with a really solid offensive line that does a great job within their system.
Q:What did you see in the preseason from rookie WR Kendall Wright?
MP:Obviously, a guy that can do a lot of different things for them, a player that was very productive in college coming out, and someone that looks like they're using him in a couple different ways out on the field. The guy's got real good speed, a good sized receiver for them, a player I think they can really utilize in a lot of different ways that has production. He definitely will be somebody we'll have to be very concerned about.
Q:Can you talk about Jake Locker a little bit and how he's played in the preseason?
MP:I think you can definitely see just the ability that he has to be able to run their offense, recognize what the defense is doing, get the ball to the appropriate people versus whatever the defense may be running and be able to read the coverages and get the ball to the soft spot of the defense. I think he's done a great job as far as running the offense and showing his athletic ability along with his ability to read the defense and get the ball to where he's got to get it.
Q:Has Nate Ebner's work on defense been as advertised and what you expected? Or is he maybe picking things up a little faster than you expected, given the fact that he didn't really play much defense last year?
MP:I think with every rookie that comes into our system, we're obviously hoping that they can handle what we do, progress through the defense, learn our system and try to prove themselves every day, which hopefully we're getting that done on the defensive side of the ball. Certainly, Nate would fall into that category: someone who's got to come in and work hard and improve and keep learning the game of football. He'll come in and worked every day, so we're definitely pleased with the effort and his ability to come in and work hard. But he's obviously got a long way to go, so he'll just keep working at it.
Q:Does he seem to be picking things up quicker than anticipated?
MP:I think the whole point of all of it is that you don't set your standards too high and you don't set your standards too low. You just try to see how he progresses each day, and that's really just what we grade it off of. Make sure he comes in every day and tries to improve from the previous day, so that's kind of where we're at with it.
Q:How different is what you're doing defensively this year compared to last year? Are the techniques the same? Is it a drastic change in your view?
MP:I think defensively, what we're trying to do is just go out and play good, solid, fundamental football and make sure we can handle the fundamentals and that's really our focus of what we try to get done every year. We're always a defense that's going to have different things, different changes, whatever it is, but the basics and the fundamentals are really what we focus on.
Q:What are your thoughts on the work of Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower so far?
MP:I think they fall in the same category as Nate and really everybody who has come into the defense this year: just guys that we're trying to make sure improve every day and learn the system every day to get better. I would say those guys, all three of them and really the defense as a whole, I would say comes into work every day. [We're] very blessed to have great guys that like to come to work, like to work hard, study, work together, and just really love football, which is what you're looking for. So, [we're] just really lucky to have all these guys on defense that will come in and work hard to get better every day. That's kind of our focus.
Q:How has the way offenses play changed the way you coach defenses from the time you started with the Patriots to now?
MP:I think offenses in general have different trends every year or every couple of years: things that you'll see a lot more of or things that you'll see a little bit less of. You've just got to try to recognize – and that can change every week, too – but just try to recognize: 'What is this offense doing? What is it doing differently? Is it similar to what somebody else is doing?' I just think that in the recent years, whatever trends offenses tend to be pushing towards – whether it's more passing, more running, more multiple wide receivers, bigger running backs, whatever it is – I think you just tend to see more of that in general. I think it really just depends that year or those two years time where an offensive system may be trending in a particular direction, which can obviously adjust how you try to defend it. So I would think that in general since starting on defense, definitely things change, but then again they change the next year or the next year, so it might just cycle through.
Q:What has Steve Gregory brought to the back end of the defense?
MP:I think Steve comes in and really tries to help us as an experienced player who has played in the league for a little while here. [He's] someone that can be a true professional around some of the younger guys and show them how to study, maybe how to learn, and just be a good role model for them. But obviously in his own right, having to come in and learn our defense, learn our system and the way we do things here, so he's had some of his own learning to get done. But so far, he's just been, like I said with all the guys, he's been great as far as coming in and working hard to get our defense learned and get on the same page as far as what we're doing. That's been a great positive.