Defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire (6.5.24)

I mean, you obviously had a great defensive line the last couple of years in Houston, but coming here, the opportunity to work with this group, what was it that specifically attracted you here? 

“Yeah, I mean, well, the very first thing was just the opportunity to work with Jim Schwartz, right? I mean, you’re talking about a guy that has just a wealth of knowledge. He’s been incredible at the attack front. He’s won championships. He’s produced $100 million defensive tackles, $100 million defensive ends. So just the opportunity just to work with a guy that understands the front, understands attacking, understands pressuring, and just knows how to call it on game day, you have to get excited about that. Then you add in Myles Garrett, right? Defensive Player of the Year. Za’Darius Smith, Shelby (Harris), Dalvin (Tomlinson), Mo (Maurice Hurst). Now we get to work with Mike Hall Jr. It was kind of like a dream come true, almost.” 


Speaking of Mike Hall, what have you thought about him early on in OTAs?  

“Mike’s been great. He’s been really serious and just all about ball. He’s explosive. He knows how to rush already. We’re tweaking some things right now with him, but he’s physical, he’s fast. I love the way he’s cornering right now, and he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do for us in this defense.” 


It’s funny, I asked Duce (Staley) a similar question, and I mean, coaching style wise, you guys both seem very detail-oriented when we see you out there with the position groups. How important is that to you as a coach, and especially at this point in the spring? 

“Well, it’s everything. I mean, you got some guy, you know, not everybody can be Myles Garrett, right? And so, what separates everybody is details. Your technique and details. And so, the more these guys can get down the details of their job, all right, and go out and execute it, the better off we’ll be. So, I really harp details, technique, fundamentals, and obviously, effort. We have to be a high effort team at all times.” 


How do you reinforce something when they’re doing something well and when they’re not doing something well? How do you make sure that balance of not being too hard on them, but also drilling it into them because it’s early? 

“Well, first of all, I’m not the type of coach that cusses my guys out. I believe that they’re grown men that won a lot of games. My job is to make sure that they’re doing things right. That they’re building dependable habits, that they’re working hard, that they’re giving tremendous effort on every single play. Whether it’s in indy or team drill—nothing changes for us. We’re still going to launch, we’re still going to come off the ball, we’re still going to attack people, we’re going to use our hands, we’re going to rush. We’re going to be very detailed in all our games, in our execution of our pressures, and ultimately, we’re always, at the end of the day, going to try and practice winning.” 


Jacques, Jim talked extensively last week about the Wild Card loss and what happened in that game in Houston. And I know there was that game, and then there was a couple games in the regular season where the d-line didn’t get a sack, and he wasn’t afraid to kind of chew the unit out for that. Just getting that pressure. I mean, what do you think that you can bring? Obviously, so many guys are back, but just kind of maybe correcting some of those things that you got to see from the other side you know.  

“And like I said, from the start, we got a lot of guys with a lot of experience in rushing the passer, right? Got a guy with 60 sacks in his career. We got the Defensive Player of the Year. So, we have guys that can rush to the passer. My job is to make sure that they know the fine details of their pass rush plan, their pass rush games, alright? And they go out and execute at the end of the day. Everybody in this defensive line can rush. It’s my job is to find the guys that can rush together, right? Four guys equal one rushing together, attacking the pocket, assaulting the pocket, and we’re just converting the pocket every single play. So, once we establish that, then we talk about, if we’re not rushing, we’re stealing, okay? Plain and simple, if we’re not rushing, we’re stealing. We’re stealing from our kids, our family, the fans, everybody, this organization. So, I want guys that want to get after the quarterback. That’s what we’re trying to figure out right here, right now, okay? I want guys that want to rush, rush violently come after their man, attack the pocket, assault the pocket, crush the pocket as much as they can, no finesse stuff. We want dogs that are just coming at the quarterback at all times. We want to suffocate the pocket, okay?” 


Off that, when we talk about pass rush, we talk about the guys on the edge. But how big is that interior rush, and then developing it? Because I know you had that, and you had that a lot in Houston. They had it last year here with Dalvin and such. What does that do maybe different from that edge rush? 

“Yeah, it’s the most important part of the rush is those two defensive tackles. Nothing can happen unless those two different tackles are collapsing the depth of the pocket. And so, we focus on those guys a lot, on the different things that they have to do, the different techniques that they have to do in order to do that. They have to be specific with their footwork, with their hands, and what they’re doing with their hands. And then ultimately, they have to be rushing together. Someone’s going to get the center, someone’s going to get the guard, but ultimately guys have to be rushing together. So, the defensive tackles, the quarterback standing right there, so we don’t need to be running out or doing anything fancy. I want guys that are going forward at all times.” 


I know Jim last week talked about you and your path and coming here and mentioned you were willing to go earlier in your coaching career and start from the bottom. Like, how much has that informed who you are and just obviously your background as a player and everything? 

“Yeah, I mean, as a player, I was an undrafted free agent. And I had to start at the bottom, and I had to learn the NFL game and learn how to practice and learn how to play in these games and playing tight games and then playing playoff games and championship games. All of that takes a level of experience, a level of training and grit. And so, I just try and bring that same style to my coaching. You know, I don’t want anything handed to me for free. I don’t want my guys to think that they need anything handed for free. Everything we do is predicated on hard work. That’s it. I just want guys that are willing to work hard. I don’t need any sidebars or anything like that. I just need guys that want to come in, listen and work hard.” 


I was asking Duce about the offense. Kevin’s (Stefanski) talked a lot about collaboration in the development of the offense, and he talked about that. But, you know, we talk about this system and it’s Jim Schwartz’s system, but I’m sure there’s a lot more collaboration that goes into it that you can find fingerprints of yourself and coach (Jason) Tarver and whatnot. How does that collaboration work on the defensive side? Especially when you have somebody that has sort of established himself as sort of his system. 

“Yeah. It all starts with the guy up top, right? Jim Schwartz. And he’s a great teacher, first and foremost. Great teacher, great leader of men. And he wants to empower his coaches, and that’s the most important thing. There’s no egos on that coaching staff. All the defensive coaches are really good coaches—smart coaches. They bring a lot of juice, a lot of energy, a lot of knowledge of the game. And so, all of us respect each other. We’re all pushing each other, because ultimately, we all want the same thing. We want to win, okay? We want to win. We don’t want to go home in January, okay? We want to continue playing. So, in order to do that, everybody has to keep the eagle at the door and come together as one. And everything has to be geared toward the team.” 


When you look at the guys you have, I mean, obviously, Myles’s sack numbers have been what they’ve been the last few years. I mean, do you feel like you have multiple guys that can push for 10+ sacks this season? 

“Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, young Isaiah McGuire is one of those guys that he’s been really coming on. Alex Wright had a nice season last year with five sacks. I think he can really push those numbers up to the double digits. You know, you’re talking about youth that has a lot of length, power, and speed in their game. They all know how to rush really well. They all know how to flip their hips and use their hands. So, I’m excited about those two guys. You bring back Ogbo (Okoronkwo), you got new guys like Quinton Jefferson. Mo looks great out here right now. So, I’m just excited with the progress that the guys have been making. I know we’re just starting off and we’re just sitting here. We’re playing in underwear, you know, but eventually we gotta play in pads, and I think what we see out here is gonna translate nice into pads.” 


How much of what you guys did in Houston, how much is there carryover? Are there similarities or is there DNA between the two systems? You know, the one you came from and the one that you’re coming in? 

“Absolutely. Yeah. So, we like to. When we’re in Houston, we’re like, Schwartz’s attack little brother, and so obviously, Schwartz, the system, and everybody takes a part of that and they kind of add their own wrinkles to it. So, it’s the same system. But I’m just coming in, adding my little wrinkles to it—that’s it. And Schwartz, like I said, he empowers his coaches. He allows us to do our job. You know, he bounces ideas off of us. But ultimately, our job is to make sure that we’re executing exactly what the defense coordinator wants.” 


I know we haven’t seen Myles out here yet, obviously, but just like Defensive Player of the Year, coming off the numbers he’s put up, like, what more do you guys envision for him?  

“A lot more. And Myles knows that. Myles is the type of person that he wants to be great. You know, he wants to be great. He’s not just resting on his laurels and what he did last year, he understands that and he’s working. We’ve been in contact with each other, and I know that he’s been working. He’s working hard. I know he wants to come back, and obviously, when you lose in the playoffs, you don’t feel great about it. And so, he has things that he needs to work on. Everybody’s working on some things, so you’re going to see a drastic improvement from everybody this year.” 

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