Now that you've had the opportunity to look at the tape, what are some of the things that stood out to you from that preseason game, especially early? **
COACH DAVIS: Well, first of all, we went in there knowing that whatever it was, however we played defensively was going to be a true indicator of where we are today at this point in time. We would have hoped that it would look better than it looked. I was hoping to be further along at this point, but the film is the truth. The game tells you everything you need to know about where we are. We've got a lot of work to do in tackling still.
I was impressed with the effort to the ball and the way guys were running. The assignments, the techniques were sporadic, and that led to a lot of the big plays. In order to be a great defense, we've got to make sure we can fit together as a team, and know how each individual's technique is attached to the other techniques which are attached. And we're still in the early stage of that learning curve.
It was the first time the lights were turned on, and we played for real. The speed of the game gets a little faster. Your techniques are that much more important, your eye placement is that much more important, your tackling is that much more important, and we came up short in that game. But it is where we are. It's a starting point, not an ending point, but we have a lot of work to do.
Why did you go with Brandon Hughes over Brandon Boykin with the first team?
COACH DAVIS: Usually when you're dealing with a nickel and a corner playing the same position. The intricacies of both the nickel spot and the corner. You're playing inside techniques on one, and outside. We were anticipating [Tom] Brady was coming out in 11 personnel, no huddle. So I wanted Boykin inside and have Hughes outside. When they came in to base, I didn't want to start Boykin both spots. So it just played out that way, but it would have played differently had they come into nickel, no huddle, which we anticipated they were going to throw at us.
Would you like to see Brandon outside?
COACH DAVIS: Absolutely. And we will. As we go forwardhe's having a great camp so far, both in and out. But when you're asking him to do the assignments of both, you try not to overlap them in the same series. For instance, he was a nickel for a while, and we moved him out to corner later.
The fact that he starts a game or doesn't start a game it's really more with the scheme we anticipated coming at us, and that's what happened there.
Your philosophy with rookies, is there a breaking in period or are you just kind of, hey, the best man gets it?
COACH DAVIS: I believe when you start, they should start at the bottom and they should earn their way up. It doesn't take long for the better players to push their way up. It comes from the basis that the vets have been here and worked at it, someone's got to take it from them before you anoint somebody. But a lot of times you see the talented young guys come up, they take it pretty quick. When it's time, you've seen it, they've earned it, then they come up.
Coach, are you getting used to the personnel or are they getting used to the scheme as a whole?
COACH DAVIS: I would say it's equal. It's a challenge we're up for. It's what we're working through right now. The new techniques for teaching them, they have to learn to trust them in game day. Our practices are looking pretty solid and the techniques used. When the speed and the bright lights come on, sometimes we take a step back, and I believe that's what happened the other night. But we'll continue to trust the techniques and I've got to continue to do a better job of putting them in the situations that best suit them, I think, again, that was a starting point for us and we have to just put our heads down and work our tails off until both the techniques I'm asking them to do and the scheme that I'm putting them in is best for us.
Why did Nate Allen lose the number one spot at safety? I think you may have answered it, but why did Nate lose that job?
COACH DAVIS: He hasn't. At what point are you talking about?
So Earl Wolff has moved up, correct?
COACH DAVIS: Yes, but we're in a rotation in the training camp practices, so the rotation of the secondary because the battle is so intense, that every day we rotate who is with the ones, and we continue to work and tweak it as we go. Now as we're getting closer to the season, I'm looking at different combinations of safeties and how they interact with each other. So that is not a demotion for Nate. It's just the way the rotation is right now. As we continue to move forward, we'll continue to evaluate. And the starters are not in place at all.
So Earl said he was listed with the number 1s today.
COACH DAVIS: That is true. The rotation. He was. Every day the DBs have a different listing of the rotation in the room. And all Earl was talking about is today he is at the top of the rotation. Tomorrow he will not be. It has nothing to do with somebody beating out somebody yet. As we're moving forward in these preseason games, that will start happening and we'll start settling in on the core players, but nobody has been demoted.
Have you made changes on defense based on the last game?
COACH DAVIS: There have been no changes made because of the game. The changes are a work in the practice schedule of the rotation. So if we hit the game, we'll sit down as a staff and decide later on who is going to start in that game. But right now all Earl Wolff was to start today in practice like he would have anyway.
Like you said, you've been rotating them probably more than any other position?
COACH DAVIS: Yes.
Are you closer now than you were a couple weeks ago?
COACH DAVIS: Every game we play puts us closer. Everything counts, but the games are weighted the most. Because when the lights come on and you have to think fast and you have to make the adjustments and you have to make the tackles, we're going to put the best 11 out there that can tackle the best and sit in the scheme the best. Right now it's a close battle, and the games will separate it along with the practice days?
What do you see out of that position?
COACH DAVIS: I saw some good and some bad. I saw some missed tackles and some big hits. I saw the coverages were closer than I thought. We could test a lot of balls in the secondary, but they caught the ball still. We had tight coverage, but didn't finish the play with the ball out. The ball was caught.
It was a great test to go up against the number one offense in my opinion or at least the top three in the NFL, in Brady and the guys. Practicing against them. The seven on seven periods, reminded me of seven on seven with Kurt Warner. There was never a ball on the ground. The great ones, that's how they work their seven on seven. It was a heck of a challenge for us. In the game, you saw the same thing. That's where we're going. We're striving to be able to shut down that offense, and you saw from the other night, we're not there. We're not close. We're going to strive to get there, but that was a great indicator against the top offense in the NFL of where we are and what we need to do to get there.
Were the drills a result of the poor tackling?
COACH DAVIS: No, we have been working on tackling since day one, and as the pads came on. Now the Patriots practices stopped those tackling drills from happening in those periods. But we have a pattern of those live tackle periods, and this one was going to happen no matter what happened in the game. We made every tackle, we were still going to do these tackle drills.
What do you know about your defensive line? You said the young guys that were brought in you might not have known about?
COACH DAVIS: Well, again, the game, they have a great demeanor to them. They have a mature demeanor to them. But when the game starts you never know how a guy's going to react, especially a young guy. I was very impressed with how they responded to the challenge of a solid offensive line and offensive scheme. The young guys played as well as anybody. Those young defensive linemen, as far as playing the techniques we were asking them to play, they were very consistent in what we were asking them to do.
Do you feel like that is the strength of your defense right now or those young line linemen?
COACH DAVIS: Again, it's one game, an evaluation, but it was started off very well.
Cary Williams yesterday said nobody really fears this defense and it needs to be tougher. Do you agree with that?
COACH DAVIS: I think every NFL defense, every defense in the NFL is striving to be a feared, respected defense. The only way you can get to where you're feared and respected is by playing great defense and being able to get off blocks, make tackles, stop the run. To have a fear of the pass rush they're afraid of, a blitz package with lockdown coverage, cover corners and safeties to where you're playing great defense. Swarm to the ball and have big hits and tackles. That's what puts fear in people.
The only way to get to that is by playing the individual techniques and learning the defense and playing together. So it's the same goal for every NFL defense. There is not one defense I've been on that hasn't talked about wanting to be feared. The only way to get to it is simply by putting the pads on people and being great at your trade and your craft.
Do you have any problem with it? If you're saying you have to go out there and do it, it's not about words. Do you have a problem with him voicing the words before the actions?
COACH DAVIS: I think all of our players need to have a mindset of being a feared defense. And all of our players need to have the mindset that if they master their position and they're great, if you're a corner, you're a lock down corner. If you're a backer, you're a tackling machine. If you're a pass rusher, you're at the quarterback all the time. Everyone needs to have the mindset that they have to be great at their spot for the defense to be feared.
I get the sense that he didn't think during the practices that you were as tough a team and you weren't going to be as feared a team. Did you get that sense? Did you talk to him?
COACH DAVIS: I think with all of the guys when we're talking about tough and feared defenses, it's about making plays on defense, and that is the thing. If you're making the plays, you're feared and you're tough, and you're aggressive. When you're not making your plays, it's not coming off that way. So all of them have to have the mindset of being feared and nasty and tough and great at what they do.
Do you feel that mindset? Do all of them have it?
COACH DAVIS: We're working toward that. I'm going to say, no, we don't collectively have the mindset that needs to be where it is. It's a dailyyou don't just talk about it and say the words and all of a sudden everybody has the attitude. The way you get that confidence in your defense and in your techniques is by having success during the games. You can tell, we did not have that success in that game.
So we have got to work and tighten it down, get better at the individual techniques one position at a time to where we collectively have the success to give you the confidence to have that attitude to where we're growing toward. Nobody wants us to be more feared defense than the guys in our locker room. Nobody wants that swagger more than the guys.
But it's not words that gets you there. It's putting it together on the field during the games that will get us there.
Will you try to get the practices more physical, have more contact?
COACH DAVIS: Our practices right now are some of the best I've been around. We get more reps. And the best way for a player to get better at what he does is to do it more often. We could sit and have fewer reps and meet more and the coaches are always harping on, hey, do this, do that, or the players can actually be doing it. We have gained so much technique work through the practice pattern that we have. It's off the charts. Our learning curve is accelerated because of the way we practice.
So when you looked at that, how much do you think is a technique issue? How much do you think is simply a personnel issue?
COACH DAVIS: I think the techniques in the stage that we are of learning a new system, and I've said it before, if the wide nine is over here, a 3 4 is over here, and we are moving and I've talked about it. I haven't been trying to be coy about what we're playing. I've been trying to be honest. It's about the guys being able to execute the defense they're trying. And they've been practicing it well. In the game, they reverted back a little bit. And some of the break downs happened from those, and we're all over it right now. In practice, we'll tighten it back, peel it back, if we have to. We'll play as many defenses as we can play well, and I'll throw the rest out.
But the guys right now are at the learning stage. I'm learning too. I didn't call a perfect game. I have a lot left to figure out about the car I'm driving here and how it fits, you know and what it does well and what it doesn't. I've got some learning to do with the personnel and we're growing it in the right direction. It wasn't the start we were looking for, but we've got another chance Thursday night to make a step forward.
You're playing such a different guy on Thursday in Cam Newton than you played Friday. What's that do as far as variation you're showing your team?
COACH DAVIS: The game the other night if you watch, it was a complete schematic flop from first half to second. You play Tom Brady in the drop back, you know where the quarterback's going to be. Throw it down field, and then you flip to that diamond read option triple option that we had to defend in the second half with [Tim] Tebow. Well, as we come into these preseason games, I think a lot of that could present itself in the Carolina game, but we see it every day.
So we're getting pretty good at it. The type of offense that comes at us in the preseason, they won't come off of too much of what they've done. So I'm not anticipating them scheming us or us scheming them. Right now my focus is on getting our guys to play our defense the way it's supposed to be played. No matter what comes at us, our rules and our techniques should lead us to where we can stop what they're presenting us.
With a guy like Bennie Logan who is in the mix but is a rookie, do you even have to see him in a live action as a first teamer to know whether or not he can be a first teamer?
COACH DAVIS: Part of the reason you put them in at first team and move guys up is so they go against their best. You see if your young guy, okay, he's whipping up on maybe somebody's third or second, how can he do against a starter like he'll be asked to do for 16 weeks during the season?
So as we go and we see guys earn that spot, they'll get opportunities to go against the other team's ones in game type situations in the preseason so we can better evaluate them.
Is that what you did with Wolff today?
COACH DAVIS: That rotation is on a practice rotation.