"Im really pleased with our speed and our defensive coaches are pleased as well," Brown said Monday following the fifth session of spring drills. But the flip side of having speed to burn is the tendency to get burned while over-pursuing a play. Thats why coaches are impressing on the entire unit to also play smart, stay at home, protect their turf and not allow their speed and aggressive play to take them completely out of the play.
"Were playing a lot more base defense," Brown said. "Were putting more pressure on the guys to whip the guy in front of them and to protect their gap."
Case-in-point was Saturdays scrimmage in which the defense blitzed only seven times. There were times last season when Brown thought his defense was a little blitz-happy. This year, he wants to mix in more zone defense while, at times, playing man-to-man defense without blitzing.
"Were putting more pressure on the secondary but were trying to put more pressure on our defense, in general," Brown said. "Weve got more quality players in the two-deep as well. We should be developing more depth. It doesnt mean were there yet. Reed Boyd has played at linebacker, Derrick Johnson has played, but the other guys are learning right now how to play. And theyre doing it fast. Our (defensive) line is young, so theyve got to grow up."
The D-line, of course, was battered and bruised by seasons end and will be hardly recognizable without DE Cory Redding. Defensive end has been thinned this spring with Bryan Pickryls shoulder surgery and Kalen Thornton easing his way back into the lineup.
"Kalen Thornton had a really difficult year, both emotionally and physically, because he wasnt well," Brown said. "Were trying to get Kalen well in order to get him back out there. (CB) Nathan Vasher and (FS) Dakarai Pearson are guys that have been around a long time, along with (DT) Marcus Tubbs, if we can get him back well and back into condition because the older guys are usually the ones that have the spirit of your team.
"You want Bryan Pickryl out there because hes really good player but were also getting to look at Eric Hall and Mike Williams along with Austin Sendlein and Kaelen Jakes. So weve got some new guys out there that are showing up across the board so were excited about watching them. Chase Pittman is a little behind because hes coming off of a shoulder operation. Hes a little sore today, but all those guys are in that mix."
For now, its a matter of getting the youngsters some reps, establishing depth and not much harnessing all of that team speed but giving it direction and maturity.
"Were really pleased right now with the speed of our defense," Brown reiterated, "understanding that we gave up some bigger runs than we should have on Saturday but thats good for us because it shows the guys that that is their responsibility. Its their gap. Ten guys would be in the right place and one guy in the wrong place, so hes got to pick it up."