Q: What stands out to you when looking at the Patriots coming off Monday night's game?
NT: The explosiveness of their football team, obviously. We know they're an awfully talented football team. Obviously in the offseason, like everyone did, we spent a lot of time looking at them like they did us, so we feel like we know them from a personnel standpoint, but just the explosiveness in the game – you can see where guys really have taken a step up as players. [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez were awfully impressive – what they're doing with that personnel group is awfully impressive and obviously they've always been a great passing team, but to add the number of explosive plays really jumped out at you. I think on a defensive side how physical their defensive front is certainly made a strong impression.
Q: You mentioned the things they do with that two tight end look. Did you see the Dolphins and did you see teams in the preseason treat Hernandez like a tight end as far as setting the defensive formation or do people treat him like a receiver?
NT: You have to really be careful because obviously they run a lot of their base offense with him in the game and the running game and the big play-action passes we refer to. But then when he starts moving around and is in the slot like that or whatever, he's capable of being an explosive wide receiver. He's a matchup problem for defensive teams.
Q: You guys gave up a lot to go after Ryan Mathews last year. Are you happy with what you've gotten out of him so far?
NT: We're excited about Ryan and the progress he's made. He was injured most of last year – a big part of last year – so it limited his production, but when he was ready to play, he was great and I think he's made great strides. He's come along ways in the passing game [and] he's had explosive runs in each of our games that we've played, including the preseason. I think he's making great progress. I think the thing that happens in this league too many times is if a player doesn't come in and just have an immediate impact and be all rookie and all that, people think that there's an issue. There's as many guys that take time to develop and fit in and overcome different things like Ryan had to with injuries as our guys that [have made] an immediate impact.
Q: Last season you guys struggled with turnovers and discipline in some cases. How does a team like the Chargers improve in that area?
NT: Well, the biggest thing is that you've got to look at the guys who had the issues with the ball. Two years ago, we were second in the league in fewest penalties and second in the league in fewest turnovers and that's the way we see ourselves. We have a lot of young people handling the ball. I didn't see us having a discipline problem. We had issues in terms of ball security and we've worked hard to handle those so we'll find out as we go through the season if we've fixed those issues.
Q: Given some of the special teams problems you guys had last year, when you get a kick run back on you does some part of you say, 'oh man, here we go again?'
NT: No, because I've watched what our guys [and] what they've done since camp has started and I know the commitment we have made to the kicking game. One play isn't going to affect you one way or the other. Obviously, we've made some changes on our kickoff coverage with a couple of guys because it still comes down to players making plays. I liked a lot of things – most of the things we did in the kicking game; I liked everything we did during training camp. This is the National Football League and as I told our media: I watched Green Bay and New Orleans – they're the two returning Super Bowl Champions in the last two years and one gave up a 108 yard kickoff return and one gave up an 80 yard punt return and those are two extremely well coached teams. This is the NFL and [when] a guy makes a great play you've got to find a way to overcome it and then you've got to find a way to fix it if you have a problem. We didn't handle the kickoff coverage the way we'd like to, but we handled most things in the kicking game very well.
Q: When you watch a team roll up that many yards is it tough to see the film and take that to your guys and say, 'here are some areas we can exploit?'
NT: No, I think what you have to do is you have to say, we're going to do everything we can not to put ourselves in the position that the team they did it against was in. New England had an unbelievable performance and they're explosive, and they've got a lot of good players. We're going to do our best to contain it and the way you contain an offensive football team like that is you do everything you can to keep from giving up big plays. And if you give up big plays then you have a chance during a drive to get good pressure on the quarterback. The teams that have played the best defense against New England – I look at Detroit in the preseason and I look at the Jets and Baltimore from the last couple of years. They've been able to pressure the quarterback and disrupt Tom [Brady] and that's what obviously people try to do to our quarterback. When you have a quarterback who plays at the level that Tom Brady is, [if] you can't pressure him and disrupt him a little bit, you're going to be in for a long day.
Q: What do you see as Vincent Jackson's potential as a receiver? Do you think he has the ceiling or the ability to be one of the three to five best in the league?
NT: That's always going to be a matter of someone's opinion who really doesn't matter. I think he has the chance to be a great impact player for our team and to be a really productive player. People who want to rate guys as the third best or fifth best, sixth, eighth best – I don't think they usually know or have enough information to be able to make that evaluation. We want him to be a big producer on our team. I see him as a guy that should be over 1000 yards and we're not as caught up in numbers and catches as the production in term of yardage.