NFL SCOUTING COMBINE, FEBRUARY 23, 2007
Del Rio: Sounds like we're on the clock, the 17th selection, Jacksonville. I'll be brief and then open it up for questions. We're excited about where we are a football team entering this offseason. We had quite a few guys that were injured last year that are doing well, and regaining their health, so we're excited about bringing them back, adding them to what we played with and finished the year with last year, and then obviously when you're here at the combine, it's the time where you begin to evaluate potential draft picks and get a feel for them, so it's a productive time of year, and we're here working on that process. Obviously, the quarterback topic is one that's been discussed quite a bit, made some statements today to our local media, and I can entertain some questions on that if you'd like. We're excited about 2007. Feel like we have a good strong roster, we have a healthy cap situation and it was one of those years last year where we lost a lot of good players, we fought hard to overcome that and weren't able to get it done to our satisfaction, but we showed good fight. We were very competitive. We had some great moments and great highs and some disappointing lows, and this year we're going to look for more of those highs.
Q: How much did Maurice Jones-Drew champion the cause of smaller running backs?
Del Rio: Well, that's a good question. I think, when you talk about Maurice Drew, you're talking about a real special young man. He happens to be a little shorter than some, but he's not a small guy. He's a thick man, well developed, works hard at his body, very explosive player, and we're excited about what he did for last year and what we think he can do for going forward. And I would think that at least a team would have to think about what Maurice did last year, when he's shorter than 5-9, 5-10, whatever standard you set, it might cause you to take another look at the guy and decide if he's in that special category. He's in that special category. There aren't many guys of that stature that can get it done, but he certainly can.
Q: More opportunity for third-down type backs throughout the league?
Del Rio: Well, I think there's always been opportunity for the undersized back to be a third-down specialist. I think what you've found is more defenses now have looked to take advantage of those guys by blitzing them and making them block in protection, and getting a mismatch there. I think what allowed Maurice to be such a productive player for is, from early on in camp, he showed the willingness to stick his face in there and block. And that he was strong enough to really block. And if you have a guy that's a special, explosive weapon, either with the ball in his hands or as a pass receiver, whether he's carrying or catching it, and he can block, then you can use him at any time. So that's really the one thing we thought he would be able to do, he came in and was able to do that, and that takes him out of that third-down only, has to be out in the route type of specialist and makes him a real weapon.
Q: Development of Matt Jones?
Del Rio: Matt Jones, he had a tremendous combine a couple of years ago. Very fast, he's learning the position, he's been two years now at wide receiver . In both of those years he had some soft tissue injuries that slowed his development. He has really shown the ability to be a terrific playmaker down the field. He's got great hands, great soft hands, he's got the ability to adjust to the ball. He really builds speed as he goes more than he's sudden at the line, but he has the ability to be sudden, and our challenge for this offseason is to work with him on being a more consistent route runner, and a more consistent player at his position. Part of that should be a natural development in his third year now that he's playing the position. He went from a quarterback who handled the ball and there's a little bit of a transformation there that's taken place, and he'll take another step this year for us.
Q: How can a player become ``sudden.''
Del Rio: Well, if he came out here and ran a shuttle time, and it was slow, then you could say he doesn't have a chance to be sudden, or isn't sudden. He is sudden. You go back and look at his shuttle times, they were exceptional. He has the ability to start and stop. What we have to do is work with him to bring that out in the route running, getting off on the ball, and being sudden earlier rather than as he's building speed down the field. If a guy doesn't have it, he doesn't have it. This guy has it, we need to see it more consistently.
Q: Decision to remove all doubt, what about Garrard's situation? He already knows he's not the starter . . .
Del Rio: It requires some work on the relationship end. I think certainly it's a delicate situation, moreso with that position than any other. With a defensive tackle, you go into camp and let them bang around, and you're going to play them both anyway, you kind of let it sort itself out. It's a different position, requires different handling. I learned in my first four years as a head coach just how much scrutiny is placed on the quarterback position, certainly not that way on the defensive side of the ball and clearly, I have learned over the last four years, to handle that position a little differently. I would say with David's situation, we believe that he's a very capable quarterback, that he's got room to grow. We think he will continue to ascend as a player, and we're excited about working with him, I know Dirk Koetter, Mike Shula, the offensive staff, we're excited about him continuing to develop, so we're going to work at it from that angle. Individually, I think the challenge is, for the guy, you don't always hear as an athlete the things you want to hear, but I think the most important thing is how you respond, how you react, the best thing he's been able to do as a backup player is continue to work on his game, work on his trade and then when he's gotten in the game, he's played well. We're 10-6 with him as a starter, and that's a pretty good record over the past two years, and we want to continue to develop him, along with the rest of our football players and our football team, and part of that is for him to have a good attitude and work with that, and part of that requires some adjustment.
Q: You don't think the disappointment will override his development?
Del Rio: I always remain hopeful that people will choose to do the right thing, respond the right way and give our chance to be successful. I think ultimately, we're a collection of individuals, and the more we get those individuals to pull together the better our chances are to be successful.
Q: Jacksonville fan base seems to really around David, and Byron never seems to do enough to satisfy them?
Del Rio: I think the Jacksonville fan base is similar to most fan bases around the country, and that is the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy, and when that guy starts playing, the next backup is the most popular guy, so that's no different. I was in Dallas with Steve Walsh and Troy Aikman. People were clamoring for Steve Walsh. Obviously Troy's in the Hall of Fame. It's not unique to Jacksonville, it happens across the country, and that's just part of the quarterback position.
Q: How is rehab for Reggie Hayward?
Del Rio: Well, I like those big fast strong guys that can turn the corner and hurt quarterbacks. Not hurt quarterbacks, strike that from the record. Put them gently on the ground and record a sack. The rehab with Reggie is going very well. We missed him last year. We missed not only his ability to rush the quarterback, apply pressure and play the run, we also missed his leadership ability. He's a very mature guy. Very businesslike, very professional. And I think we missed that from him last year. His rehab's coming along well. We expect to have him at full speed. Regardless, we're always looking. Defensive end is a premium position, always has been in this league, and it obviously we'll look and see who is available. We always do.
Q: How tough a decision to anoint Leftwich over Garrard?
Del Rio: How tough is it? We make hundreds of decisions all the time. It was one of those decisions we had to make, and we made it.
Q: How will David react?
Del Rio: I don't think that's really the story, how people will react. I think the most important thing is to talk to that individual. The bottom line is he's a good football player, one that continued to work hard to be as good as he can be. He's shown that the past few years and we're counting on him to do it again.
Q: Matt Jones did a 4.37 at the combine, how important is the 40 and do you remember what you ran?
Del Rio: (Laughs). I remember what I ran and I'm not going to share it with anybody. I'm glad the Saints didn't put too much emphasis on my 40 when I came out. It's a tool. It's another thing for us to measure, grade, evaluate. I think at the end of the day, you're looking for football players that produce for you on the football field. There are certain positions, there's a range that's considered acceptable. You can't have a 5-flat corner. He's not going to be able to survive, so there are certain ranges where you're looking for athletes to fall within. I think you look for that as a coach when you're evaluating players and prospects. That's part of the process, though. There's a lot of things that go into it. A 40 time is one piece of the information.
Q: Sometimes guys aren't as fast with the pads on as they are in their 40?
Del Rio: You'd like to hope that it doesn't fool you. I think you can gather information and make good decisions. Nobody's perfect. I think over time, there have been draft choices that everybody, the consensus was they were going to be great players and then they don't end up great players. There's also draft picks people moan about and say, gee, why did you take him, then they wind up being a great player. The bottom line is it's an evaluation process, it's not a perfect process. I think you gather good information and you put your board together, and you make selections, and they come in and compete, and once they're selected into our organization, what we do is let them compete and play the best guys, so we've had undrafted rookie free agents each of the last four years make our team and contribute, and so even guys that aren't drafted at all, we allow a chance to come in and compete. Whether a guy is drafted, whether he comes in in the third round, they're going to compete for a spot and we're going to determine roles for guys that we think they can do to help us win.
Q: Influence of money spent on checking character of a player . . .
Del Rio: I think that's a part of it, the fact that the money is growing, but I think it goes deeper than that. When you determine character when you're trying to build a football team, you want guys that you can rely on. I think many times, the guys that show up socially having trouble being accountable, being reliable, being trustworthy are the same guys that show up having problems doing their jobs for their teams. We look at it hard. I know a lot of teams do. I know the emphasis for this league is to put together a good product and have people represent the league well. I think for the most part we will do that. I think if you look for us as compared to a cross section of society, I think there are a lot of young men in the league who are out at hospitals, donating to charity, doing great things that are unusual, that are special, and I think too many times the focus can be on the negative aspects of the character. I think you can look at some great young men that are doing some great things on society, and we tend to focus on that and look for guys we think can contribute to a better Jacksonville.
Q: Process the same or has it changed since you got there?
Del Rio: I think for the most part it's the same, you gather information, you share information, you have scouts that scour the country for an entire year, they come in, they're going to share this time of year, the coaches begin to catch up and go to different workouts and come her, and then we sit down and process all that information and put our board together. I don't know that it's changed a whole lot other than there's more information being gathered. I think you spend more time researching the backround, the character backrounds, you spend more time with the medical, you really spend more time trying to make sure your checklist is complete with a player in terms of things you're looking for.
Q: No No. 1 receiver without Jimmy Smith, how much did you miss that?
Del Rio: The No. 1 receiver, I think is probably a little bit overrated in terms of anointing a guy No. 1. I think that certainly, Jimmy Smith was a great football player for a number of years, and he was an outstanding veteran with the ability to separate. In man-to-man, he was the guy who was going to win. And so, do you miss that kind of guy? Sure you do. But as an organization, and as the head football coach, what we've got ot do is take what we have and maximize it and go forward and that's what we're going to do as we continue to go forward. Certainly, that's an element, an veteran wide receiver with explosive speed, that we missed last year. Jimmy had it, and he was really different form the other guys. So as a football team, you're always looking.
Jaguar Transcript: Del Rio from the Combine
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