Linebackers coach Jason Tarver (6.13.24)

What’s Jordan (Hicks) added to the room?

“Jordan has seen almost everything in his years of experience, and he’s the same every day. He’s positive, he’s direct, he makes things simple and he’s great to have in there because if it’s like almost finishing my sentences already, which is rare for people that haven’t worked together. So, he’s just impressive in how he carries himself, a pros pro, and that’s been a great addition to the room.”


What do you think an encore from JOK (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah) is going to look like this year?

“We’re approaching one day at a time, same process, which is get in great shape and go one day, one play at a time. Like today, he had a really good day of just going one play at a time, two really good breaks where he’s anticipating the ball out and going. So, we’re just going to approach it exactly the same way because every year is different. Every year is different. Nothing that we’ve done before matters, all that matters is getting ready each day. Like today, we treat it as the first day of training camp because we got to be in better shape when we come back.”


Over the years, he’s talked about how he’s put on muscle, even though he’s an alkaline vegan and he’s really made sure to try to get the game to slow down and be able to focus on things out there. How have you seen him develop and really tackle this role of being in the NFL and trying to get better each year?

“Well, one thing that he’s done is with his food consumption and things, he’s got to make sure he’s on schedule. He’s gotten better at being on schedule, and so we kind of know where he is, and he just keeps going so that’s that part of it. The other part of it is what we just said, it’s being able to go one play at a time and think about that. ‘My next play is my best play. My next play is my best play, no matter what happened,’ going quicker reactions from good or bad to the next play, and he’s just gotten better and better at that. He continued to do that this spring. So, he keeps going on this trajectory, we’ll be happy.”


When Anthony Walker left, he said that if he wasn’t the best linebacker in the league, that it was his own fault. Do you see that type of potential for him and where do you stack him up amongst some of the better linebackers?

“Yeah, with his unique ability to see things and quick, like, he picks up. You’ve heard from me before. He picks up everything. It’s what clues do you want to use on certain types of schemes? Cause he feels it all. So, a lot of times, I just say, ‘What do you feel?’ ‘What’d you feel? Okay, do this.’ And the more he does that and goes one play at a time, I mean, I’m not in the prediction business but what I know is when that young man stays in that focal point and gets his body ready, he can really help us make plays.”


Along those lines, this is, like, the most turnover. It seems like you guys had personnel wise in your room. Just with Sione (Takitaki) gone and AWalk (Anthony Walker Jr.) gone in the last handful of years, like, how has Jeremiah maybe stepped into that leadership kind of old guard role, even though he’s younger now? Like, he’s one of the most seasoned vets in the system?

“I mean, I love Anthony and Sione. They’re two of my favorite people in the world. They really are. I’m really proud of them. So, you guys better be playing good, too. But Tony Fields, Jeremiah, they’ve been here at the same time together. Tony’s really grown up as well, so it’s been fun to watch Tony and Jeremiah because they’ll compete to be first at things. But what we also have in the room is we have Mohamoud (Diabate) and Charlie (Thomas III) that have been around for a year. And the scheme is still here, so, there’s actually a lot of carryover. They competed all spring to see who could be first to answer all my questions, and you can probably tell I ask questions pretty quickly, right? So, I mean, Charlie’s first, then Mohamoud’s first, then Jeremiah’s first, then Tony’s first, and Jordan’s first. I mean, and that’s how you want it. So our group, because you never know what’s gonna happen. I mean, two years ago, we had almost every linebacker. I don’t even know how many go on IR. You never know, so we train everybody, and we want everybody interacting and answering questions. So, Jeremiah and the guys are right in that. They’re a lot of fun to be around. There’s energy in there all the time.”


So, I wanted to ask you about Tony. What kind of opportunity this year?

“Oh, he’s got a great opportunity. By the end of the year, Tony was our third linebacker, and Tony got more and more consistent. Tony’s really good at shedding blocks and running to things. He did that really well throughout his college career, and when he got an opportunity in past years. Last year, he was able to get more specific in the pass game, and by the end of the year, he had some really good plays in the pass game, and he played, he was our starting base linebacker at the end of that year. So now it’s for Tone (Tony Fields II) to own that role and get more and keep going. He had a really good spring, so we’re excited about where he’s going but Tony’s, he’s on the right track. He’s gotten stronger and quicker, and he does more flexibility things, let’s see what he can do.”


How has (Nathaniel) Watson been since he got here knowing he was such a good tackler obviously in a tough conference, what does he maybe bring to the table even though he’s a rookie being 24 basically?

“Yeah, he’s very experienced, and what Nathaniel does a really good job of is not making the same mistake. And if you’re a rookie and you can learn from your mistakes and not make the same mistake twice, he got better and better and better. Like, he had a play today that was the same as one yesterday, and he corrected it. So, if he keeps going on that’s what rookies need to do is don’t be the guy that’s making mistakes over and over, be the guy that’s fixing things. The other thing with Nathaniel is he’s played a lot of football. Like you said, he’s experienced, so he sees things pretty well for a rookie, but like you said, a slightly older rookie in the NFL. So, we like where he’s going. I’m excited to see him in pads. Yeah, I want to see him in pads.”


Going off of that, how have you seen him, though like, kind of pick the brain of the guys that have been here, like JOK, Tony, et cetera, kind of with the other guys in the room as he’s trying to learn the system?

“He’s very direct. And you said, ‘Nate, you got that?’ He says, ‘Yes.’ And sometimes that’s all he says. You know, everybody else is like, ‘Yeah, I got you, coach.’ They’re happy. He just goes, ‘Yes, coach,’ and, but he’s got it when he tells you, ‘Yes, coach.’ So if he keeps that up, he’ll be good. He listens very well. He’s quiet in the meeting, but he is picking up on everything. He’s very quick, so he stays in that right. Keep doing it, Nate!”


Jason, you touched on this a little bit when you were talking about having guys in that room for a few years. The NFL is not a very patient league. But, you know, a guy like Tony’s an example of this right? Kind of came in, I think he’s like a fifth-round pick. It’s taken some time for him to get to this point. How valuable has it been that this organization tends to be patient with guys and tends to let guys grow and develop a guy like a Tony or even a Mohamoud or whoever?

“Oh, yeah. Well, the whole evaluation process and everybody involved, we spend the time to pick them and then that’s awesome as a coach. Well, they’re patient with me, too, so that’s good. But that relationship sometimes can be hard, and you got to build it really fast in the NFL. But the more you’re around guys because it still is a developmental league. In our room, it’s just about how good you’re going to get, and production, and it doesn’t matter when you go in, you’re expected to play. There is no depth chart in the linebacker room, we just go. And the guys that jump into that and just develop themselves, get to build themselves into players. And that’s what we’re here for, that’s my favorite part as a coach, is helping people do things together that they couldn’t do on their own. That’s why I do it.”


I mean, it’s not like that everywhere in this league, has it felt different here?

“It can be. It can move fast. Every – I mean, I would say from being on a few of these teams, all 32 teams are different and how they approach everything. So really, it’s almost like not a comparison. It’s just, they’re just 32 units that are all in there, however they decide to develop, that’s where they are. So that’s how I would answer that one.”


Bigger picture though, I guess when you look at you guys are going to the second year of Jim Schwartz’s defense, just kind of another year in the system. How helpful is that, especially in minicamp and as you guys are prepping for the season that, you know, the system kind of been implemented and now you guys are tweaking things and that kind of thing?

“Yeah, like what Jim said, we’re able to tweak things, but to back, just to what we’ve been talking about, the backers, like Jeremiah and Tony and Mohamoud and Charlie and all the guys that are coming back in, they know those words already. So, there’s not the transfer of language, if that makes sense. We’re not transferring an old word for a certain technique to a new one, we already know that, so we can move quicker. So just like when I was – the questions, when they’re competing for the questions, they already know the words. So, that’s what happens in your first off season. And I’m proud of the guys for how well they’ve done, especially on the stuff we did last year. I mean, that’s why you have coaches. That’s why your practice is to get the new stuff and get it done. But it’s definitely helped, biggest thing is language and what they’re expected to do.”


Has Jeremiah, I was trying to eyeball him, and I couldn’t figure it out, is he a little bigger this year or is he about the same size as last year?

“He’s doing well right now. He’s right on his progression. You know, he knows where he wants to be for camp, and he’s right on course to get that.”


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