KELLY: Yeah, I think everybody knows a little bit more with a year's experience. So, yes.
When did TE
KELLY: I don't think we rated him that way. I think we rated him that he could have been a draft pick, so he was on our board from that standpoint. He's a very versatile player.
He was actually an outstanding high school quarterback and went to Florida originally to be a quarterback and then they started moving him all around. He played tight end, h-back, running back, receiver, so he was one of those versatile players that we kind of covet.
So he's a guy that we had through the whole draft process that we were really interested in. Obviously late in the draft we ended up taking a couple defensive guys. After we drafted [DT] Beau [Allen] in the seventh round, you look at the barrel and say, ‘Who do you want?’ He was a guy that was a priority guy for us.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis mentioned that he was really pleased with S
KELLY: One thing I love about Nate, I've seen the same Nate from the first day we've been here until today. He has got a great demeanor about himself. He's one of those guys you can just label professional. He comes here every single day trying to get better.
Nate is not a guy that has bad days. Sometimes you see a guy walking down the hall and all of a sudden their shoulders will slump and something is bothering them or whatever. Nate is not that type of guy. He's come in here every single day with a mind set he's going to get better and I've seen that from him. He's striving to constantly improve and that's a real admirable quality to have.
I think a lot of that you have to be mentally tough to do that. No matter what's gone on that you're not controlling your life through side influences and I think Nate is a prime example of that and I agree that he's a really mentally tough guy.
You mentioned he's a better player from last year
KELLY: Just better knowledge, better experience, things have slowed down for him mentally. You can see him starting to process things at a quicker rate. I think just because he's a lot more comfortable and he's a guy that was in a lot of different systems and had a lot of different coaches in the last couple years.
So I think he's handled it really well. It's a positive for him that Billy is still here, [assistant defensive backs coach] Todd [Lyght], [defensive backs coach] John [Lovett], the defensive scheme and the coaches on that side haven't changed. I think he's really kind of benefiting from that.
Last year, the turnover ratio, is that something you think is repeatable or expect natural regression?
KELLY: I think it's something we always are striving for. We talk about self inflicted wounds, outside W's, and obviously the turnover game is a huge part of that. We want to create them on the defensive side of the ball and then we want to be a real good ball security team on the offensive side of the ball.
When I was at Oregon, we were successful and we were last year, but there's a direct correlation between winning the turnover battle in games and winning games. We try to stress that to our guys.
I think we have multiple quarterbacks that have a really good understanding of what we want to do and don't really put the ball in harm's way and we are always trying to make sure that we secure the ball when we are running with it. It's still a big part of what we are trying to emphasize and teach all the time.
Have your defenses been more equipped to handle tempo because of what you do in practice?
KELLY: I would think so. It's probably a by product of it; it's not the reason for it, but they face it every day. So when people try to tempo us in college, it's like this is what we've seen every single day in practice so it's not like you're going to sneak up on us and run a tempo play. That's what they are used to.
The game I think for our guys really slows down in college on Saturdays and in the pros on Sunday because of the pace and tempo we practice on the practice field. People break in the huddle, you're looking for, ‘All right, what are they in? What's the personnel?’ You already know the personnel coming out of the huddle and you're ready and equipped with the calls you're going to make depending on where the tight ends play and all that. I think it's one of the unintended consequences but it really helps that people do try to tempo us.
Are you expecting any more college and pro teams playing tempo?
KELLY: I think you are a little bit. I think there's a little bit more in this league, a lot in college. But I think it's probably a trickle up effect, a lot in high school are.
So it's kind of started at a lower level and moved up. But I also think because the players have been trained in it, so when you're teaching people in the NFL now, tempo, well, [WR]
So it's not like when you start to introduce a concept to some people, they don't understand it. There's a lot of guys that are coming up through the college ranks that are now in the NFL that have done it at the college level. It's just a matter of, how do you what are your mechanics to get it done. But I think that's one of those things that's kind of coming from the bottom up.
Is that the forefront of your mind from last year, and having that experience at Missouri?
KELLY: No, it wasn't at the forefront. It's just another by product. One of the big things that attracted us to Brad was outstanding special teams player at the receiver spot, and he may be one of the better wide receiver special teams players in the league. He's running down and covering and tackling guys on kickoff, he can return kicks, he's on the punt team, he's on the punt return team.
So the first thing that kind of got on our radar about him, we knew coming in he was not going to be a one, two, or three receiver, so the first thing we ask about anybody that's four, five or six as a receiver is how can he impact special teams and I think that's where Brad really stands out as a special teams player along with a really good skill set as an offensive guy with the ball in his hands.
At what point in your coaching career did you decide you want tempo to be part of your arsenal?
KELLY: I think we started to use it back when we were at New Hampshire, when I started to become a coordinator, and what things are difficult on a defense to defend and some of those things were that when you were on the defensive side of the ball, it was hard for us to handle. So why wouldn't we do something that was hard for defenses to handle to try to get them out of their comfort zone?
As a leader in your offensive system but obviously coach has done a good job with player skill sets, how do you balance the two, particularly when you have a player that may be the best at what he does?
KELLY: I'm lost.
The system versus individual talent.
KELLY: Our system has always revolved around our players, so it's always been personnel driven. I think that's the first premise of what we do offensively is what do we have deployed to us from a personnel standpoint and how do we put those guys in the best situation where they can be successful.
So it's never been the other way around. It's let's try to figure out if these are the guys we have right now, how do we best use them. Obviously there's a process you can go through to acquire people. Ideally, we would like to have this, this, and that, but you don't always get what you want. You can say, we coveted this, this and that and they got picked before you had an opportunity to pick so it's a little bit different.
But you still have to kind of mold it around what you have personnel wise. You can tweak that on a yearly basis. We would like to kind of move in this direction so now when you have an opportunity to do it but at the end of the day when you're getting ready to play a game and you're looking at it on just a weekly basis, it's what do we have available to us.
So if we were going to get an injury or two this week in the game, our offense would look a little bit different next week because these are the guys that are playing. You still have to tailor it to their strengths.
The versatility you have at every position, is that what you're talking about, if you have someone hurt, you can go with this
KELLY: Well, what I'm talking about versatility wise, what I'm saying is that all of a sudden you have a game where you lose three tight ends, well, you can't just say, well, if we had a tight end we would be really good on offense. You have to go out and play the next week without three tight ends and try to put something together that will work.
I think the ability to have guys that can have some versatility, it's kind of a contingency plan so to speak I guess.
Do you have to have versatility to go tempo because you want to keep guys on the field and the two go hand-in-hand?
KELLY: I don't think the two go hand-in-hand. I watched Navy play Ohio State last week and Navy did some tempo and they just kept the same guys on the field all the time. But they have a great system in terms of what they do. I think it helps but it's not they don't have to be together to do that.
The quarterbacks that have played under you have low interception numbers. What do you attribute that to?
KELLY: We bench them if they throw more than two (Laughter).
No. I've just been really fortunate in that the guys I've had an opportunity to coach really understood what we were trying to get accomplished and they understood the value we talked earlier about the turnover question, and we spend a lot of time on that. Sometimes throwing the ball away is more valuable than trying to force it in there and just really understanding and managing the game.
I've been fortunate to have some really, really smart guys playing the quarterback position. A lot about being a good quarterback is being a great decision maker, first and foremost and I've just been fortunate to be around a bunch of guys that are really good decision makers.
On Sunday, what expectations do you have for the rookies?
KELLY: I have the same expectations for everybody – to go out and play to the best of your ability. So I don't put any more on the draft class than I do on a second year player or I do on [LB]
So our expectations are the same for all those guys. We don't look at them any differently and we don't give guys – well, it's okay for you to not perform well; it's okay for you to not give great effort; it's okay for you to miss some things just because you're a rookie. It's what do we believe your ability is, and are you playing up to your ability and that's kind of how we'll judge anybody, whether you're a rookie or ten or 11 year guy.
The amount of man to man coverage you saw last season, are you anticipating the same thing this season?
KELLY: I don't know if we anticipate. I just think you kind of go off of who you play, and some teams going into the game, it's more than other teams. But at the end of the day, you let the game unfold as the game unfolds.
As we like to say, you make sure you have enough tools in your toolbox so if you need a Phillips screwdriver, you use it and if you have a hammer, you use it. What you don't want to be caught short with is if they are playing one coverage you didn't expect them to play but you don't have anything to combat it. We feel like we do, in our system, have plays that can be run versus man plays that can be run versus zone. So we'll see how the game itself unfolds.
Did you go to the Navy-Ohio State game because it was close by
KELLY: No, I went as a scout. [Vice president of player personnel] Tommy Gamble was going down to the game and he was in in the morning and we were talking. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was going to Ohio State-Navy, and I told him I would jump in the car and go with him.
The backup running backs got only two snaps in the New Orleans game and didn't get a carry. Is that a reason why you emphasized adding depth at that position during the offseason?
Had nothing to do
KELLY: We didn't look at the Saints game and say our running backs didn't get any carries so let's go get another running back. It was just the situation was presented where you have a dynamic returner that's an outstanding football player, but it had nothing to do with really a reflection on [RB] Bryce [Brown] or [RB] Chris [Polk].
It was just, you know I think maybe it's the same way, I don't know if you guys play fantasy league but of someone said, ‘Hey, you have a chance to get [RB Darren] Sproles.’ [You would say,] ‘I'm in’. We had a chance to get Sproles. It wasn't an indication of anybody on our roster. It was we really believed he was a dynamic football player and had seen him firsthand, whether it's coming out of the backfield or whether it's as a receiver. He returned a kickoff against us at the of the game. But it wasn't that we were displeased with Chris or Bryce.
KELLY: We don't do anything I'll mention it today and probably 16 times during the year and then during the playoffs is we have a training session today, we have a training session tomorrow and we have a training session on Saturday so that's when we will sit down and kind of figure everything out, because I've been here.
Last year on a Friday practice, [TE]
So we don't sit down on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and talk about, ‘Hey, what about this, what about this, what about that?’ Prime example was and I talked to our coaches about it last week when we were playing, who are we going to get out. We had one linemen, two linemen up for the Steelers game, but who was going to be the first guy out. We said, well let's get through the first half if we can and see if we can get [C David] Molk and [G/T Matt] Tobin out, and on the second play Tobin goes down.
So actually think if Molk or Tobin, how many snaps are we going to get [T] Lane [Johnson], and I literally said over the headset, ‘I guess that o line plan is out the window.’
So you just have to take it as it is. We'll make our decision on actives or deactives, sometimes it goes into Sunday morning where you have to work a guy out on the day of the game. We don't spend any time at the beginning of the week I'm not being evasive on who is going in or not going in. Everybody is up. Everybody is preparing right now that they are going to get a chance to play and that they are going to go and that's the way they should, and then we'll make a decision as we get closer to the game time exactly who those seven guys are.
I should have asked if Brandon Graham is put into the role of Jack linebacker, how do you think he would do? How has he come along this spring?
KELLY: I think he'd be great. I'm really excited about Brandon and thought he had a great preseason camp for us. When Brandon goes in the game, we're excited about him going in the game.