WHAT DOES NEW TITLE OF OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MEAN FOR YOU?
The title is giving Pat Meyer more of an opportunity to have a bigger voice in the offensive line room, and it's also given myself a chance to broaden my horizons and not spend 100 percent of my time with the offensive line when it comes to practice and meeting time.
And so, I'll be able to get out a little bit more. At the same time, I want to make sure that I'm on top of what we're doing with the offensive line. Really hands on still, but able to spread myself out a little bit.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BROADEN HORIZONS?
When you're a coach that's continuing to want to grow, you want to make sure that you're in all aspects of the offense and all aspects of the game. Sometimes an offensive line coach can get pigeonholed into just doing that job. I've made it a point throughout the years to make sure I didn't. Although the title changed, I was already working in some of that capacity. More of a promotion for Pat than anything.
BUILDING CONTINUITY ON OFFENSE THIS YEAR
You know, it was a long journey last year, from this first day when we started, just to get the cadence. It was like rookie camp, with veterans. And it's always hard when you have a new staff, because you're working so hard on just the plays and how we call things and what we should be looking at, and the techniques we want, different from other teams, that you don't get the nuance of the play. And that's really the most important. You have to get yourself past the whole, ‘this is who I block. This is what route I run. This is who I throw it to,' to, ‘man, if it's bump coverage or we're against a great corner, we want to make sure we're doing this.' Compared to just plan A. And same thing across the board.
So it's been refreshing being in with Jay Cutler and the offensive line and the running backs. And when you install a play from last year, they look at you like, ‘I remember.' And I'm making a big point — and we are as a staff making a big point — of, ‘listen closely to what we're coaching, because you probably missed a couple things last year.' So we're doing everything we can to have them pay attention to the little things. What are the little things? the little things are things they didn't get before. Getting back to the nuances of each play, and moving on and growing as an offense: last year we had no idea what we would be good at, and what each player would do well. We had some idea, but not in our system.
So as the year went on, we became more efficient as an offense in the last half of the season than we were in the first half, because we started deciding, ‘this is what we're good at. This is what guys like to do. This is what jay likes to throw, and is his most efficient.' It's allowed us to narrow our football and really hone in on what we do well. So we're doing that and also trying to broaden the offense from that spectrum.
WAY TO TELL IF PASS-BLOCKING COMES NATURAL?
So running backs come in and make it to this level because they have natural instincts running the football. And then you say, that's a sufficient running back. A good running back is able to run the ball and catch the ball. a very good running back coming in can also pass protect. But if you looked at all the college film from last year you would find very few running backs that pass protected very well. And then they go to the senior bowl and they have the 1-on-1 pass protection drill, and they don't win, and everyone says, ‘well, we can't draft him, because he can't pass protect.' And really, when you see a guy that's a natural runner and has some violence or some suddenness — when I say violence, I mean suddenness. He's quick from stop to start. That guy can usually learn to pass protect very well. It's a stopped motion that has to suddenly move yourself in a position to get in front of someone. They're not always right in front of you, like an offensive line blocking pass-protection.
DOES LYNCH HAVE NATURAL INSTINCTS TO PLAY RB?
Lynch out here so far has played tailback the entire time and is showing that he has instincts running. You could see he had instincts on tape running the football. You don't rush for that many yards no matter what position you're playing in college. But just getting the ball from behind the quarterback, coming downhill on these runs, it's obviously a different world. But he has natural vision and good feet. He'll just have to adapt and adjust to getting the ball in a different area.
IMPRESSIONS OF FALES/CHALLENGING FOR NO. 2 JOB
We hope so. That's why we drafted David, to challenge for the No. 2 spot. Right now he's challenging to be on the team. He came in and in these first few meetings and practices he's done a good job of understanding and being able to call plays. He can visualize them, he can say them. And he appears to be intelligent in that way because he's picked it up very quickly. He's a good communicator. So we just need time to see what he's going to do when guys really start rushing on him.
TOUGHEST TRANSITION FOR COLLEGE QB INTO NFL GENERALLY SPEAKING
Things happen so much faster. So they have to think faster. The plays are harder to call. Everything's harder. The plays are very short in college so that everybody can understand them. They don't need as many. They can call them one word or two words and make them simple for everybody, where we need to have variation on our base plays and we might have 10 variations. Well, that's 10 different things to learn to say. So it's hard for a guy to just say the play, to say the formation and to repeat the play, and then visualize the play, and then actually go out there and see what coverage it is, then know which Mike we should be [identifying] to pick up in protection, and then drop back with the timing. Make sure that he's not too deep because the tackles' edges are going to be short. So all those things put together, you never know if a guy can do it until he does it. That takes time. It's like any position. You want the quarterback to walk in and throw strikes. But it's like any position. It takes time to learn and hone your skills.
Eben Britton AS SIXTH LINEMAN
We've always felt like if we can get an advantage in the running game and pass protection with an extra offensive lineman, that we'll do it. And Eben was an advantage last year. He was very productive playing the tight end position.
WILL BRITTON COMPETE WITH MILLS FOR RT JOB?
Eben's going to be competing for the sixth man and also competing to start at guard or tackle. We feel good about our positions where we are right now with our starting line. But at no time is anyone granted the position or they walk in and say, ‘This is my position until the end of time.' If they start playing poorly, they'll be replaced by someone that's playing better than them. So we feel good about our starting five right now and we feel good about Eben competing for that sixth spot and if someone starts to play poorly on the starting five, then Eben will have a shot to compete for that.
Ka'Deem Carey has the suddenness I was speaking about earlier. When he sees a hole, he's able to get North. He even did it a couple of times on tape yesterday that when you go back and watch in on tape, you say why did he run there, and then you say to yourself ‘How did he get from there to over there and gain three yards when no one was looking really. That's what Ka'Deem Carey can do. He's a North and South runner, meaning when he decides to put his foot in the ground he doesn't dance, he just goes. He's gaining yards, and that's what we like about Ka'Deem: He makes a cut, and he gains yards. That's what we're looking for.
HE TIMED VERY SLOW IN THE 40
I'm glad, me personally, and I don't know about the scouts and how they evaluated Ka'Deem. But I'm glad I watched the tape before I found out he ran a 4.7, because I didn't see a 4.7 on tape – or whatever it is he ran as a final 40. He's quick, and he can get from Point A to Point B in a hurry. Maybe in the long distance he might get caught by someone faster, but we're more concerned about gaining four or five yards, or 20 yards, than we are about him busting a touchdown that you see three times a year. We feel very good about him being productive with his quickness and his physical play that he has.
Kyle Long'S PROGRESS
Without being rude, we'd be saying he's coming from an infant who couldn't feed himself to a graduate from college – that's how far he's come in one year. And that's a testament to the guys around him that helped him, that's a testament to himself who worked hard at it, and at all times wanted to know why and how, and he didn't always grasp it because it was so much information that he didn't know, that he would get part of it and he'd ask again and get another part of it. And he's still asking. He's done a good job of growing, and it's been night and day from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, and then from the end of the season to even today, in our short football meetings we've had correcting all the tape from last year, as a whole, he's learned a ton since then, and really feels refreshed and free because he's learning these things, so he can go out and play faster.
KYLE WAS HERE YESTERDAY
He loves football, and his best buddy was here with him, Jordan Mills was here with him, and those guys love football. They love to be around, they're like gym rats, and when you have guys like that around you have a good chance of success.
BRIAN DE LA PUENTE
I had Brian at my last job, and the thing about Brian is that he's smart, he has good balance, and he's an efficient blocker. So, he doesn't waste motion while he's blocking. We're glad to have him.
DOES LONG HAVE THE TOOLS TO PLAY TACKLE?
With Kyle last year we were hesitant to move him at all because it was better for him to have: This is what I do, I'm trying to learn this, end of story. And we're probably not past that phase yet. But at some time, if there's a player needed and the best five have to move somewhere else, and you have to move guys around to play, you never know where he'll end up playing. I've moved tackles to center before in my career, and vice versa, so I don't' think, we're not set in stone, but we'd like him to really feel good and have that solid spot. And again, we talked about why we put him there, and why we have a big guy like Slauson playing the other guard. Because we want the protection system to start from the inside out, and have solidity. They have to keep them on the line of scrimmage, and that's what he does. So the quarterback can step up.
KROMER EXPANDING HIS REACH WITH NEW TITLE
That's just part of the process and the plan after the first year. Having a guy like Pat with us has enabled Aaron to spread his wings in terms of just being able to get around and grow as a coach, and get out of the box of being a line coach and what all that entails. And two, just growing. We're excited about that. And I'm excited obviously having him with us. I believe he deserves the opportunity to just move around a little bit more and gain more expertise and more growth. Because we're always learning. We don't ever think we've got it all in any position we're in. So it gives him a chance to grow. And it gives me a chance to move around a little more as well. It's all a ripple effect throughout the team.
KROMER'S STRENGTHS AS A COACH
Aaron's very experienced number one. He's got a championship pedigree. Certainly he's got a pedigree in one of the best offenses that the league has ever seen over a period of time. We know each other well from working together (previously). He did an outstanding job last year of growing our offensive line and being every involved with play selection as well during the course of the game in handling adjustments. And with the add on of Pat and knowing what he can do, he deserves a chance to grow too. And that's what you can really do in a second year if you stay on course. That was the plan from the beginning, that Aaron wouldn't just … I wouldn't have wanted him to leave New Orleans without, in my mind, being able to tell him and Sean for that matter that he would have the opportunity to grow as a football coach.
CREATING CHAOS IN PRACTICE; HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE THE GUYS TO GET USED TO THAT?
I can't answer it for them. I respect the programs they've come from and the coaching staffs that they've come from. So I don't know how they've been coached. I just know that through experience, that the harder we can make practices, the easier the games are. You can see there's a consistency to the tempo of how we go about it and try to create a chaos out there. It's not just original to us. I'm sure there are other teams that have been coached the same way. So I'm not here to say that we do anything different. But it just works. It works. The harder practices are, the easier games become. So that's what we try to provide for them during the course of practices. Any team period, we try to create that environment.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN THESE TRYOUT PLAYERS?
Just how they handle themselves. Specifically, obviously getting a chance to see them work in person. Seeing how they take direction from Matt and myself and Aaron. How they call the plays. Can they handle the verbiage quickly? They've had to learn a lot every night because they're learning something new every night. And then they've got to spit it out and it's completely different language than they used. YOU know, the plays might be somewhat similar but the language is going to be different. So to get the language out and then make that transition from saying it to doing it, it's not easy. We understand what's going on around them. There are new players. There's timing issues. All those kinds of things. But I think you can see a lot. And these first two days, we got a lot out of quarterbacks and saw that David can make that transition. The play was called, he was immediately able to spit it out in the huddle and then do the physical aspects of it as well. So it was a good start for him and the other guys as well.
Jerrod Johnson: COMPARE HIM NOW FROM WHEN YOU FIRST SAW HIM
I don't even remember to be honest with you. I know that when we saw him workout, we saw a young man who … I had spent some time with Jerrod when he came out, in Nashville. I spent a couple of days with him there when he just came out. And he's completely turned it around in terms of he had shoulder surgery. He's throwing the ball quite differently than he did and much better than he did when I saw him the first time. And the first time, I see him differently in terms of his love of the game. When you're with him, you know he loves football, he's into it, he's very articulate in talking about the game and so he's in a completely different place. But I have seen it … Having spent some time with him, I've really seen a change in his whole approach to the game and he's doing some coaching as well in these Elite 11s. So when you get a chance to talk about the things you have to do as a player, I think that really helps you grow.
ON Christian Jones
He's running around. The first couple of days I think he's a guy who has athleticism, and we're watching him closely. He's got a smile on his face the two days that we've seen him. It's clear that he loves football, and we're going to watch him close as we proceed through OTAs and at training camp.
ON Jordan Lynch'S POLISH AS RUNNER
I think that's the case. Phil said it the other day - he's got very good eyes, great vision, utilizing those eyes. Again, it's just his second day as a running back, and I'll say the same thing today I said yesterday - just going to take it one day at a time with him. Didn't look anywhere out of place, so I feel the same way about him today as I did yesterday. I'm impressed, certainly, with his desire to learn, to pick this thing up. He's in the meetings, he's sitting in the front row. He must still think he's a quarterback in that regard. But that's how he feels about himself. I'm not saying he thinks he should play QB - I'm not saying that, I'm not going there - he's all in on trying to do the best he can. He's said it already, he'll do whatever he can to make the football team - and I believe him. I think that's the type of a man he is.
ON TEACHING SOMEONE TO BLOCK WHO HAS NEVER DONE IT
I think that he understands football. He's been watching it a long time and hearing coaches coach it. And he's got the want-to to do it. A lot of blocking, pass protection, first you've got to want to do it. It's not an easy task to block these players coming at you with the speed that they're coming. But he knows how to play football and we're going to work real hard to teach him those techniques. I know Skip is working very hard at it, and we've taken guys over the years who didn't want to block and didn't have any idea how, to wanting to block and knowing how. He wants to, so we have 50 percent of it done. Now we just got to teach him.
FIRST STEPS OF TEACHING PROCESS IN TERMS OF FUNDAMENTALS
Coaching the running back to pass protect, obviously you're going to work inside out, it's where you're feet are. You want to have leverage inside, talking about coaching points, and you got to work with inside out position. And we always talk about your shoulder and your leg - that's where the power is. You got to use your hands properly - Matt does a great job of that; we see it all the time - and then it's being physical. Being physical on contact to stop the rusher. You look at him on the field - he looks like a running back, he's built more like a running back than quarterback at this point. It's amazing what he accomplished as a QB. And when I worked him out, I saw that he was well coached as a passer. His feet were always in a good place, he had good rhythm on his throws. But if you walked into the room, you would probably suggest he played another position than QB.
SO HOW DO YOU FLIP THE WANT-TO SWITCH?
"There's a lot of ways to make your point. You can put a cut-up of players throughout NFL history and some of the best backs, most of the great backs were also more than sufficient blockers. They do get the opportunity to set the real tone because they get the real shots, they get the opportunity to take people down and set a physical tone for your offense, and Matt did that on a number of occasions. "A running back is really part of the offensive line, part of the protection package, so it's critically important to the success of an offense, that a quarterback has got to feel comfortable with the guy standing next to him and behind him. If he doesn't feel good about that guy being able to pass-protect, there's a ripple effect throughout our offensive football team."
PASS PROTECTION IS IMPORTANT?
He certainly is well aware of the importance of pass protection and what a running back can do for him."
COMPETITION BETWEEN FALES AND PALMER
I've talked to these guys about where we are and we can say that we've got three spots for two guys, essentially. I've told Jordan that he's going to have the first shot, that the backup position hasn't been won yet. I talked to Jordan about it yesterday and there's a competition. Jordan's been here and deserves the first opportunity and the reps to get there. But we're not going to put anybody in that position until we have to. We've got a long way to go.
NUMBERS GAME PLAN?
I don't know that there's a plan yet. Right now we're sitting with potentially going into next week with four. We're looking at the possibility of going to camp with all four, or possibly three as we did last year.
With that in mind, there's two spots for three guys. We'll see where it goes but Jordan should have the first opportunity to be that guy, and with his experience, I expect that he will. But we haven't made that decisions and won't until we have to.