DC Jim Schwartz (5.31.23)
How are things coming along with this defense?
It’s too soon to tell. It’s too soon to really get a judge of where we are when you’re not full speed. There’s things that you can do with walkthroughs. There’s things you can do, tempo and things like that. But to really play defense, you need to be physical. That’s the number one thing. You need to be physical and we can’t do that now. So it’s really hard to say where we are. We’re making progress on schemes and communication. We were pretty crappy early on. We needed a little kick in the butt to get going a little bit today. But communication, getting some things under our feet. We’re getting a little bit better there, but the road will hit the rubber when training camp comes and we can play with toughness and effort and physicality.
They’ve really overhauled this defense, especially up front with defensive line. How much did they sort of reach out to you and say, ‘hey, what specifically do you want in this spot?’ How much input did they take from you to make some of those moves?
Well, I’m not going to speak on that. Those decisions are Andrew Berry’s and Kevin Stefanski’s decisions to make. But the point of it is, there is communication. There is communication of how players are going to be used right. And what’s going to be asked of them and does this player fit? What do you think? Things like that. But final determination–like I said before, this is Andrew and Kevin’s team. It’s my job to coach the guys that they give us. But I’m really happy with the guys up front. The additions they’ve made, I think they fit us really well. I think we got a lot of interchangeable spots. We’ll play a lot of guys up front, right? We’re not just going to play four guys. We’ll roll through eight, maybe even nine guys at times, trying to keep guys fresh and keep them throwing 100 mph fastballs. You guys will get tired of my baseball analogies. A lot of d-line is a lot like throwing relief in major leagues now, right? Like these guys coming in from the pen, throwing 100, 101. I watched that guy from the Guardians last night and the guy from the Orioles last night. Both of them are throwing over 100. Unless you’re Nolan Ryan, you can’t do that stuff for seven, eight innings. And same thing with d-line. The tempo that we want those guys to play, we want to need to rotate fresh troops in. Offensive lines don’t sub, but we can. We can keep the pressure on those guys and we can play to a high standard with that depth. And that’s an important part of what we do.
How do you feel about your upgraded pass rush?
Yeah, we’ll find our personality in training camp and that’s part of what training camp is going to be for us, is finding out what our best combinations are and how guys play off of each other. That’s going to be important. I think that we do have some flexibility there, particularly a guy like Za’Darius Smith, who’s a very effective inside rusher. We have some young, developing players here that have had good offseasons so far. Alex Wright and Jordan Elliott, both of them have stood out in a lot of stuff and I think both of them can contribute inside. But flexibility is important for matchups in the game. Moving guys around a little bit. You’ll probably see a little bit more moving guys around, maybe, than they’ve done in the past, but it’s all about just creating good matchups and finding out what the guys can do the best. We’re going in with an open mind. We’re not making determinations. May 31. Yeah, we don’t have a game this week.
How much does the addition of Za’Darius elevate, or at least in your mind, change, maybe the prospects of how you approach and feel like you’re going to be able to do what you really want to do up front?
He’s a good addition. We’re still going to do what we do, but he is a good addition to add in. Like I said, he’s got some flexibility. He can play right, he can play left. He’s had a lot of success in this league. He brings great veteran leadership to us. There’s plenty and plenty of positives right there. I just go back to that multidimensional ability. You can move guys around. I mean, I won’t keep any secrets. You’ll probably see five guys in pass rush a lot of times. We’ll probably have five of them out there. We’ll drop a guy occasionally, but we’ll play some down-five stuff, and that all goes back to the corners that we have. And it’s hard to play five-down if your corners aren’t any good. We’ve got good corners, and we’re going to rely on those guys, too. So it’s all part of the pass rush.
Have you had any interactions with Myles Garrett during his absence and how do you feel about his absence?
Those questions aren’t for me. We’ll keep conversations between players to where they belong, between coach and player, and, you know, he’ll be here and he’ll be ready when the time comes.
When you mentioned corners, do you like to have one guy as your nickel, or do you believe in rotating guys in that spot?
It’s probably not going to be rotating guys within a game. But what you might see, depending on the matchup, you might see different players playing nickel in different games. A bigger guy that plays more physical, we might have one guy in there. A small, shifty, quick guy, we might have somebody else in there. There’s the way we play our coverage. There’s a lot of carryover between corner and nickel. It’s not its own specific position, so I think it’ll make us compartmentalize and be able to move guys around a little bit more.
Is that one of the reasons why Greg Newsom is probably maybe a little bit happier and excited about what his role is going to be this year?
My interactions with Greg have been awesome. He’s been willing to do whatever we’ve asked. But the happiness of players is not my concern, and that’s not going to be the determining factor of how we play guys or anything else. We’re going to do what’s best for our team. We’re going to play guys in the best matchups. And our job as coaches is to put guys in positions that they can succeed. But I don’t want to make that sound like a negative on Greg, because he’s been outstanding. He’s had some really good reps in this stuff. He’s played outside corner, he’s played inside corner. He’s going to be an important part of our defense, whether he’s playing inside, outside, rushing the passer.
When you have two corners only on the field, who’s the second corner right now?
We don’t have a depth chart right now. I’ve been preaching that to the players. Right now, everybody’s trying to get about the same number of reps. Depth charts will come as we get toward the end of training camp. You guys were out there. You probably saw rookies out there when Deshaun Watson was a quarterback. We’re going to rotate. We’re going to rotate on our own basis and expect guys to be able to compete against whoever’s out there.
We’re going to compete. We’re going to chart everything we can, and we’re going to play the guys that give us the best chance to win and that fit the best in the positions and everything else. But, yeah, it’s way too early to talk about depth charts or who’s leading and stuff like that. Everybody here is competing against themselves, first and foremost.
How high is the confidence level in the linebackers?
Yeah, I mean, it’s a good returning group. There’s a lot of different types of players there that we can use a lot of different ways, guys that have a lot of experience in the league and they’ve been very well coached. Jason Tarver is an outstanding coach. So all those things all, sort of, combine to be what you’ve seen.
How valuable is it to have a guy like Rodney McLeod familiar with you and your scheme when you come into a new team?
Yeah, I mean, he could play a game right now. We changed the terminology. You try to roll terminology and signals over just so people you played before don’t have a good grasp. So the first couple of days, that sort of threw him for a loop. But veteran players like that, who have played the techniques, it comes quickly for those guys. And there’s going to come a lot of times where we play three safeties on the field and he’s a part of that. How that happens, I don’t know. Whether it’s Grant Delpit going down low and playing like a dime position or Grant staying deep and a guy like Rodney going down. We value flexibility in those players. We value multidimensional skills. Right now, they’re all playing all the positions. But again, by the end of training camp, we’ll sort of get a feel for where we are and what our best matchups are, and we’ll go with that. But whether it’s first and second down or third down, the league is trending toward more wide receivers on the field, more tight ends that are really wide receivers. You need people that can neutralize those guys. You need guys that can cover these tough-matchup running backs, these tough-matchup tight ends, and they can play in the box, play deep, play man. And I think our safeties fit that.
So how often will we see a three-safety, percentage wise?
A three-safety? Well, it’s going to depend on the game and things like that. It’s definitely a package, that as we get going–we don’t really run it right now, but in training camp, you’ll see a significant amount. How much we play, it’ll depend on if it’s our best matchup and who we’re playing and all those things. But our job in training camp is to get ready for all those different situations. And again, you can’t play three-safety packages with sort of one-trick ponies. Your guys have to be flexible, have to have some multidimensional skills.
Is it harder to bring physicality out of certain guys when maybe they haven’t been playing like that in the past?
Well, right now it’s just trying to get mentality. It’s really, now, it’s more coming from meeting room, things that we’re preaching and individual periods. But again, we have specific rules that we have to abide by here. And we’re trying to keep the contact down and we’re trying to work with the other players. It’s not a competition of who can win the spot. All those things that are things that defenses do. What you see in team periods, what you see, even in seven-on-seven periods, that’s not where we’re going to develop that. We’ll develop it individual periods and then we’ll develop that through training camp mentality. Just setting a standard. We have some physical players and we want to play with effort. We want to be physical and we want to have a little personality. Those are the things that we’re going to emphasize as we go. All the good defenses have those things.
Would you like to play your guys more or less in the preseason?
It’s the head coach’s call and that’s a long way away. I’d say this, it depends. And I know that’s a crappy answer, but it does depend. It depends on where we are in training camp. How much more do we need to see? What kind of work we get against teams like the Eagles. Sometimes, some of the things you’re looking at are back-of-the-roster stuff and you want to play those guys as much as you can. there’s so many different agendas. I mean, people play preseason a lot of different ways. Things, obviously, have changed a lot over the years. I mean, the offseason program used to be 14 weeks and it’s obviously a lot shorter now. You adjust with the times and we’ll see. But we’ll have the guys ready.
What do you like about standing in front of the center?
Well, I’m just out there right now just trying to hear guys communicate, just to have a little presence out there and those things. I don’t know if I’ll be out there all the time. Right now, when things are new, I can get my ears real close to them and I can hear where the communication is. And that means you can feel the players. It’s one of the reasons as a play caller, as a defense coordinator, I’ve always liked to been on the sideline, because you don’t make calls in a vacuum. You have to really feel the players. You say like, ‘hey, can you get that guy covered?’ It could be two different things. You need to be there in the mix and feel the guys as much. And as much as we’re trying to put into schemes and communication and things like that, us as coaches, we’re learning the players and we’re learning their different personalities and we’re learning where they’re going to need to be pushed, where things are going to fall. So it’s a learning experience for us, too. And I like to be out there just in the mix and I think there’s a lot of good information out there.
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