Q: Is this defense getting the reputation of being one of the most feared units? I mean you've knocked out five quarterbacks in seven games…
A: I don't know if we're…we're trying to be a physical defense, we're trying to punish the runner and punish and destroy the run game and anything that gets in its way, so I hope that we are developing a physical mentality.
Q: Are you just getting to the quarterbacks?
A: Yeah. I think it's a tribute to our front and some of our pressures and the guys playing fast and the guys playing physical. I think that attributes to what we're doing there.
Q: At what point did you see things start to change on defense in terms of the way they played and maybe the way they understood the scheme as well?
A: Well, I thought we had a good outing against Carolina and obviously we took a step back against Indy. I thought we had a good outing against Tennessee – we let the one run out of the game against Tennessee that was not good, but I felt like the Tennessee game, we started to get a feeling for who we are and what we wanted to do.
Q: Since then it's been good?
A: Since then it's taken off. The guys are understanding their roles and they've studied and we've taken off and we've been able to build our package and understand the things that we want to do with the people that we have.
Q: Antrel Rolle said that the Indy game was a wakeup call, especially in terms of the importance of stopping the run. Was it that simple or did you have to do something different since then?
A: No. It was probably poor coaching because Indy was a pass team and we knew that we had to stop the run but we were set up to stop the pass and they did, they went and they were more physical than we were, they ran the football on us, and yeah, it was wakeup call for us to say, hey, we better stick to our fundamentals and our priorities – stop the run first. So, you learn as a coach and you learn as players and that was somewhat of a wakeup call for us.
Q: You have a first and second round pick who aren't really contributing significantly on defense. Why is that?
A: I think that our first rounder is – we're bringing him along the way we would like to bring him along. He is playing with some talented guys that have veteran experience and he is learning how to become a pro and how to play as a pro. Our second round pick, it's just the number 45. It's a shame that you can only dress 45 on game day, because you're talking about a guy that has a good motor and is very talented and again, he's fighting for that job on Sunday in that 45, so if we can stay healthy, we hope to keep it that way, but any time that guy could emerge and become a factor for us.
Q: After your years in Buffalo, where you didn't have a lot of success as a team, what's it like playing with a team that has possibilities?
A: It's really exciting. It's good to be back in the hunt so to speak without being in the hunt for a little while. It's going to go out and compete and have a chance to punch somebody in the mouth on Sundays and win games – win tight and close ball games. It's really fun to know that when you walk into the stadium, you really have a legitimate shot to be one of the top teams in the NFC, so it's really gratifying.
Q: Now that there are several weeks of play on tape, how much do you have left in your closet and how much do you have to tweak what you've already shown?
A: Oh, there are a lot of things in the closet. We continue to tinker with what we have. There are some things that we can do with some other pieces that we have that we haven't done and as long as the guys keep absorbing the material and having fun doing it and studying, then we'll continue to tinker, but there are a lot of things in the package that we really haven't exposed.
Q: Some dramatic stuff?
A: I don't know what you mean by dramatic.
Q: How has Kenny Phillips been?
A: Very solid. I think that the biggest improvement in our defense is the play of our three safeties and Kenny is a big part of that in letting us do what we like to do. Kenny has been very solid in the games that we have played this year and I think that coming back off of that injury, he's tackled well, he's covered well. We would like for him to have more interceptions, but he's getting the flow. He's getting back into the feel of the game also and I think that will come with time.
Q: The interceptions – has it been still working his way back or a lack of opportunities?
A: Some of it is just rep-wise. I can recall a play against Carolina where it was a dig route and I think that he went for the hit and didn't really see the ball and he reacted a step late and that was because of reps. He didn't get a whole lot of reps in camp, you've got to understand, because we had to manage him and his recovery and so I think that it's just a matter of him getting back and playing more and getting the feel of the game. You could see, like against Detroit, he had a chance to intercept the ball when 81 was running up the sideline and he went for the hit. He's trying to do both – he's trying to be a big hitter and plus, he's trying to make plays and I think that he's more or less trying to be a big hitter right now instead of making the plays on the ball.
Q: Would you rather see him try to make the big plays instead of the big hit or is there a balance there that you see?
A: I think that there's a balance. I think that the young man is very talented. He can do both. I think that when he gets more comfortable and he gets more reps, you'll see all of it come together for him.
Q: Are the three safeties because Deon is forcing you to play him because of the way he plays or just because you like that scheme?
A: That's a package that I like. I think that there are pieces of our defense and there is talent in our defense that you want to use in certain ways and so we just choose to use them in that way.
Q: When you chose this job, how much did the personnel here play into it?
A: Well, not really. I knew about the guys up front and I knew some of the guys in the secondary, but that really didn't play a factor.
Q: These guys talk so much about how much they like playing with each other and the chemistry. Is that something that you know or see?
A: Oh yeah. When they're in the meetings, when they're on the field, the way they communicate, the way they talk, they want to be good, they want to do something special, so that's unique and that's really fun to be around. When you have that type of commitment and they're committed to each other and they're going to try not to let each other down, that's really fun to coach.
Q: What about this group is different from other groups you've had?
A: They're really together and you can see it. They hold each other accountable. They get on each other's butt when the other guy makes a mistake. That peer pressure is there. You don't always have that with a defensive group or groups period and so they know how to do it in a way that they're not chastising each other, but they want to do something really special.
Q: How much have you had to change the defense with Kiwi out and are you surprised that the production has continued without him on the field?
A: Yeah, we had to change a little bit when Kiwi went out. Some of the things that we foresaw to do and were going to do – Kiwi is a special kind of guy, so we looked around and we searched for some guys to take over those roles and we have some guys that can assume that role, but not play it like Kiwi plays it, so that's a special little deal. We continue to learn each other. We're still in the growing process, believe me. I'm still learning a lot more about them and they're still learning a lot more about me and there are more things that we can do and that we will do with them based on their talent level.
Q: How much more involved to do you want to get Jason Pierre-Paul?
A: He is making progress for us and we want to get him more involved and he will become more involved. It just depends on how much more he can handle and execute. He's making a significant contribution on special teams and that's a lot for a young man that's a rookie that's coming in and doing that and then we're asking him to do things other than just put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer and play the run or rush the passer and play the run, so the more he can take on and execute, the more we'll give him. It's up to him.
Q: Barry Cofield has been saying that he wants to play on a defense with an identity or a brand. Are you on your way there and what makes a branded defense?
A: I think that if you punish the runner, if you stop the run and you're able to punish the runner, if you keep people from scoring – I think that's one area that we've really got to improve on, our red zone defense. I'm not too pleased with that. Going into the Dallas game I think we were 19.6. I know it's above that right now. So if we can do that and then if we can create more turnovers and really to be a known defense, you don't play a whole lot. You go three and out and then you watch your offense from the sideline, so if we can do all of those things then we will be well known.
Q: Are you on your way?
A: We're making strides. It's a journey. It's a process for us.
Q: What's the most heartening thing that you've seen?
A: The guys having fun playing the game and their resiliency. Like in the Dallas game, when we were down in points, we were just itching to get on the field. They wanted to go out and they wanted that challenge. I like their mental makeup and their attitude about wanting to go out and stop people. They feel like they can create turnovers and get turnovers. I just like their whole demeanor and their approach to the game, especially on Monday night's game.
Q: As an opposing head coach, what are you thinking when you come up against this defense?
A: Protect my quarterback.
Q: Would this really impact the way you feel about your offense knowing that this defense is ferocious?
A: Yes. I would stay up at night thinking about, "Wow, am I next?"