With more time for the coaches to teach their concepts comes a higher level of comfort for the players. For defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, his players' comfort level on the field is crucial for the defense's success.
"Part of playing the game is knowing where you have to line up," Castillo said. "That is critical and then they can just go play. The thing is to know your assignments so you can play fast. That's what we are trying to get."
With the lockout-shortened offseason a year ago, Castillo felt that he and the other coaches had difficulty teaching the players their concepts. Last season, he said, they were trying to teach two or three coverages at a time.
This year, they had the luxury of teaching one coverage at a time. In Castillo's estimation, things are going so well that one of the issues is that the morning walk thru sessions have been too easy.
"We're going to have to go a little quicker," Castillo said.
Compared to last year at this time, "We really are a lot farther along," he said.
He feels that the extra few weeks of Organized Team Activities that the rookies had this season gives them an advantage that last year's rookie class did not have.
"We had 10 to 12 weeks with (this year's rookie class), and with (last year's) young guys they only had a month or five weeks," Castillo said. "That's five more weeks of two or three hours of work than our rookies from last year had."
Entire days, or more, have been spent dissecting only one coverage this offseason. Practicing only one coverage at a time for five practices in a row, Castillo said "they were able to understand not just the concept but the weaknesses of the coverage."
Castillo sees a new level of comfort for second-year players Casey Matthews and Jaiquawn Jarrett now that they have been able to go through the OTA's and enter Training Camp with a broader understanding of the defensive concepts.
Castillo wants Jarrett in particular "to feel comfortable so he can turn loose." He credited the OTA's in helping Jarrett become comfortable with the defensive schemes this year.
"He will feel comfortable out there and be able to turn it loose and just be natural," Castillo said. "Remember that everything is muscle memory and you have to do it over and over so it becomes natural and you can play to your speed."
Matthews also became much more comfortable with the defense thanks to the offseason workouts.
"He'll tell you himself the OTA's made a big difference," Castillo said. "Really he feels pretty comfortable with the defense. Part of being a linebacker is you can't think. You have to be able to react and know exactly where you're going. I think he feels pretty comfortable now."
The OTA's and Training Camp should allow the team to have a much easier time understanding different coverages in depth.
Understanding the defense will allow the players to play comfortably, naturally and without thinking. Then, as Castillo said, "they can just go play."
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