Last year when you came in during the winter, I'm sure you've looked at a lot of tape to see what you had and evaluated. What is the big difference this year in the play of
BILL DAVIS: DeMeco is the leader of our defense and he's having an outstanding Pro Bowl year and we couldn't be happier with everything DeMeco is doing for us. He quarterbacks the defense, we give him a lot of leeway. He can get us in and out of defenses. Gets us in the best defense possible, and as the season has gone on we as a staff have gotten more and more comfortable in his ability to put us in good situations, and he has, and from there he's done a great job playing the middle linebacker position, between tackle to tackle, he is a force. Whether it's crossing routes he's knocking out or the inside run game that he's tackling. He had one of the best form tackles I've seen in a long time last week. We couldn't be happier with DeMeco.
I don't know the difference between last year and this year. You'd have to ask him, me not being here, but I know I'm real happy the way he's playing for us.
Can you expand on what you mean about the leeway? Can he tell a guy to blitz?
BILL DAVIS: I'll give him options within a call at times. Sometimes I'll hard call a play, and this is what we're playing, and he'll set it for us off the formation, and there's other times I'll give him two defenses, he can call either of the two, depending on things that are coming at us and he's got the ability if things get crazy to get us into a base call that everybody is out of harm's way.
You're so young around him at linebacker. How much of a luxury is it to have a veteran like that in the middle of all this?
BILL DAVIS: It's an extreme luxury. I cannot overstate what DeMeco means to this defense and the way he's leading the group.
BILL DAVIS: He had a nice game with limited reps. The guys that had to step in, it says a lot to the position coaches and how well they had these guys prepared. We had two or three guys that had to step into a major role and they stepped up and handled their own, and Najee was one of them. I think he had a good start this week. Taking more of the reps will help and just continue his growth. But we were very impressed with the way he played one game so far.
Do you expect to have Mychal back this week?
BILL DAVIS: We don't know. Mychal is day to day so we'll keep looking at Mychal and how his knee comes along, and we'll see each day and he'll do what he can, and by the time we hit Sunday we'll see where we are.
What about Earl Wolff? Looks like he might be out for a little bit.
BILL DAVIS: Luckily we're getting
What does he have as an injury, Earl?
BILL DAVIS: It's the knee. It's week to week. It's not day to day. I wish it was day to day, but I think he's week to week.
And Patrick Chung, the shoulder, is that still kind of a management thing?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, and I think it's getting better and better. I didn't see it show up at all. He made a couple of nice tackles with that shoulder. We don't foresee it being a recurring problem. I think it's in the rearview window for Patrick. Hopefully it is.
Do you expect to have
BILL DAVIS: He's day to day, also, so every day his strength is coming back. We don't know, we're hoping to get him back this week, but we won't know until the end of the week.
If there's an issue with Chung, who is the next one up there? Is it Kurt or is it Colt?
BILL DAVIS: It would depend on the rest of the package and how much dime, for instance, the first time we played dime this week and Colt is down there low, so I'd probably spread out the reps because I have equal confidence in both of them.
DeMeco was very effusive in his praise of the front three Sunday and the job they've done all season to keep him and Mychal clean. Can you talk about the way they're developing as a run defense?
BILL DAVIS: You know, having one of the youngest defensive lines in the NFL and with [defensive line] Coach [Jerry] Azzinaro and [assistant defensive line coach] Erik [Chinander] are doing on the D line with their fundamentals and techniques, and I think this gets lost in it, but every single practice Azz takes those guys on the sled, and they hit the sled, which is really uncommon in the NFL. The level of fundamental work we do on the defensive line, and we felt that we had to have that happen for us to grow into a two gap system, and the young guys by the way they're playing and the techniques, their footwork, their hand placement, I think it's a tribute to the coaching they're getting at the position level and their willingness to dive in and you see that in the run game, and it's also why DeMeco and Mychal are productive. It's also the front line always has a lot to do with how the inside backers are playing.
Are you seeing a difference between Robert Griffin III now and when you guys played him the first game?
BILL DAVIS: I think so. I think you can see more mobility from him. I think their offense has expanded. Our defense has expanded. You start the season with a core group of things, and then as you go and face different offenses or defenses, you grow your package, and I think their package has grown, and I think RG3's mobility and I think the coaches kind of find what they can do with him and without him coming off that knee injury in this first year. I think they've grown their package, and he looks a lot more mobile than he was in the first game.
Do you look at the low number of sacks and think that you're not getting enough pressure, or do you look at batted passes and hurries and intentional groundings as a sign that you are getting enough pressure?
BILL DAVIS: I look at all of it. I think the sack is overrated in the NFL right now. I think we make too much of it on both ends. I think the pressure a quarterback feels we always talk about can we get the offense off rhythm and the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket, and I think we're doing that. Even though the sack numbers aren't as high as we would like, there's like you alluded to, there's pressures, there's batted balls, there's errant throws sometimes, just a matter of keeping the quarterback uncomfortable, and that ball that looks ugly was a bad pass had a lot to do with a throwing lane being clogged up or an arm up in the face or not having a clean lane to see in.
So all those things you can attribute to making a quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket, and that's our goal. If the sack numbers are high, that's great. If they're not, that's okay, as long as he's uncomfortable. It's when he's sitting back there with a real comfort, comfortable look in his eye that I get uncomfortable.
What have some of the issues been then with a third string quarterback last week coming in throwing for almost 300 yards through the air?
BILL DAVIS: Well, we need some tighter coverage. Some of it was not enough pressure. Some of it was a commitment to the run game and playing eight man boxes which put the corners out there on a little bit more of an island. On every call you make defensively, somebody has the hard down and somebody has a little bit of help, and when you commit to the run with an eight man box, those corners get put on an island, and there’s still an NFL quarterback throwing at him and NFL receivers, it's know it's not the Aaron Rodgers of the world, you still have to watch how often you put them in harm's way. I put all the pressure on the corners in that game. We were going to stop the run, we were committed to the eight man box and attacking them and therefore the corners got put out a little bit, and a lot of times I'll help them more by lightening the box in the run which in turn puts the hard down on the D linemen or the linebackers, but in that game I chose to go all out to the run and the corners got put in harm's way a little bit more than I would have liked.
In the first game you really shut down Alfred Morris and caused some fumbles and everything else. Is their offensive line playing better as he's stepped up his game?
BILL DAVIS: Absolutely. The offensive line now has played together for all10 games, and they're I believe the third rushing NFL team in the league, and they were coming into the season with that. They've got the fifth ranked offense, I believe. Their offense has no there's no problem with their offense. Their offense is putting points on the board, they're rushing the ball, they're throwing the ball equally well. So we have our hands full with one of the top offenses in the league this week and a quarterback that's more mobile than the first time we faced him.
BILL DAVIS: It's in our opinion as a staff and my opinion that I need Boykin to be a great nickel, and I felt and we feel as a staff that it lessens his ability to play nickel if he's playing corner and nickel every down both inside and outside. Some guys can do it in the NFL, and I just believe right now for Boykin to be the best nickel we have because I need a dominant nickel in there for all the 3rd downs and 2 minutes and it was better for us putting Roc outside and handling that kind of compartmentalizing their roles to make them better at each role, and I felt that was the way it was going to be best for all of us, and I think it did work out. Boykin had a great game as a nickel, and I think Roc played a nice job outside at corner.
A nickel is a starting position on this defense, and I wanted Boykin to be great at it.
Is part of that just because of how young he is and he's still --
BILL DAVIS: Yes, that is a part of it, and it's the first year in the system and he's still learning the intricacies of it. If we're three, four years down the road and Boykin has all the experience in the world, I'll bounce him in and out. But right now I just believe and we believe as a staff that the best growth for the defense is to have him compartmentalized at the nickel spot.
Every time I talk to somebody on the defensive line after a game where you've played well, they said, well, we wanted to stop the run first. Is that the philosophy of this defense, that we need to stop the run first?
BILL DAVIS: On certain games, yes. Had Aaron Rodgers played in that last game, I don't know that that would have been our emphasis. But because of the way it played out, it was to stop the run, and our D line is created that way. When we are in our base package, yes, it is to stop the run first, and I think any goal is to make a team one dimensional, and when you can make them one dimensional, it's easier to defend either the all in on the run or the all in on the pass, and when you have the elite quarterbacks now, you have a little bit of a balance issue.
But I guess to answer your question, most weeks it is about being all in to stop the run first and then from there moving to stop the pass.
BILL DAVIS: Well, like we've said from the beginning, I think the scheme change is putting less stress on safeties to fill an interior gap, so he can focus more on the pass. Secondly, I think his angles and the fundamentals that [defensive backs] Coach [John] Lovett and [assistant defensive backs] Coach [Todd] Lyght have been teaching in the tackling, and we're teaching tackling every day. I think the one thing in tackling that we saw from a year ago is everything was an arm tackle because the head placement was wrong, and I think we work hard on the head placement, which turns an arm tackle into a body tackle, and I think Nate has benefitted along with the rest of them from that.
Watching the tape from Sunday, how frustrating was it to see that their longest gain of the day, the receiver was out of bounds and you didn't challenge it? What was the mechanics of that?
BILL DAVIS: You know, like everything in the course of a game, we've got my role specifically is to get this to the next call and assume that that was called correctly and everybody in the box is watching the television monitor. Well, on that particular case, it was late, kept asking, is it in, is it in, we haven't seen it yet, we haven't seen it in. When they did see it, nobody was positive. We always say let's not make Chip [Kelly] throw this red flag if we're not positive. But one clip we saw was right up at the tail end, we had to make a judgment call. We were wrong. Obviously everybody saw a lot more views than we did at the time. We made the call, moved on. We would have loved to have it back now seeing the multiple views. But one thing that caught me is I glanced up after I saw two feet in, and without seeing the whole clip, you see two feet in, then you have to see the rest of it, and that's the first thing I was looking for, both feet in. Well, they were. Now the whole elbow thing obviously later on when you saw the clip, you're like, oh, boy, we missed that one.
But the fact of the matter is on a split second we've got to make the call and we made it, and we missed. That's all.
Do you think it's right for coaches to be in the business of making sure calls are right?
BILL DAVIS: Well, I kind of like it on our side. If we can see it and make it, and I think we'll make more right calls than wrong calls, but like everybody, every now and then you miss. We missed on that one, but I do like having the ability to be involved in the decision.
Has there been any revamping how you guys are doing that, any discussion internally about changing how you approach challenges?
BILL DAVIS: You can only deal with what you see, and I don't think there's a flaw in it right now. We had a lot of eyes in the box looking at it, and whoever wants to stand up and say, hey, definitely throw the flag, then we usually we throw it. We did miss that one, but I don't know if we've made a lot of right calls. Even though we missed that one, I don't know if the system is flawed.
You referenced the elbow and Chip referenced that, as well, but any part of the body has to be out in that circumstance, right, so the hand was out, it doesn't need to be the elbow, right?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, he was out. I mean, and we missed that. But again, it was a quick clip, and again, we made a judgment call and we were wrong. But no. Having looked at it now, yeah, I would have loved to have that one back, yeah.