From a style or skill standpoint, how is Calvin Johnson different from Larry Fitzgerald?
COACH DAVIS: Well, he's 6‑5 and his range, he's got a huge vertical. So his radius, his catch radius, is second to none. There are similar players that are big bodied, go up and get the ball away from their body. They snatch it well out of the air. But Fitzgerald is one of the top in the NFL but Calvin is the best when you watch him game‑in and game‑out, what he does and what he can do at that size, speed ratio, he's the best.
A lot of players the last few weeks have been talking about the camaraderie on defense, both on and off the field, not just the linebackers. How much have you seen that as the season has gone on and how important is that maybe to the success that you guys are having?
COACH DAVIS: Chemistry is a very tough thing to build, and you never know when you're going to have it and when you don't. You put a bunch of different players together and you are always hoping that the chemistry is a good one and we are very fortunate right now that we have great chemistry going on defensively. The guys work hard and they enjoy practicing with each other and they enjoy working out with each other. They enjoy each other's success on game day. There's a very ‑‑ there's no I or me in this group. It's just playing for everybody. Everybody's playing to be successful as a defense, not individually. So it's fun to be around. These guys have great chemistry right now. It's hard to get it ‑‑ it's very difficult to say ‑‑ you can't coach chemistry. It happens or doesn't happen and we are very fortunate that it's happened.
Do you think you've gotten more out of that past game than a three or four‑man rush than you were earlier in the year as far as more pressure in the front?
COACH DAVIS: The three‑ and four‑man rush did do a nice job this week. We have had some of that in spurts in the past but I would say that's a true statement this week that our three and four man pressure got more.
Would you like to not have to throw as many blitzes at a team?
COACH DAVIS: Absolutely, the math alone, when you send more than four, you are weakening your coverage. When you drop more than usually drop and you only rush three, well, now all of a sudden you're weakening your rush.
So it's always ‑‑ you're always moving the numbers around, and absolutely, yeah, I'd love a three‑man rush to be honest with you, the three‑man rush to get there, that's the perfect world. But the four‑man, and that's what a lot of the four‑down teams do. They get the four best rushers and defensive linemen they can get and they only rush four. So absolutely, the answer is yes, so you would rather not have to add the extra rushers. You would rather add the coverage plus get your pressure.
Teams at Oregon typically had a bunch of turnovers and the defenses that you've had in the past have generated turnovers, as well and this one also. What are the common philosophies that you two share that kind of allows for that?
COACH DAVIS: Well, I think right now, you're not looking at my defense. You're looking at the Philadelphia Eagles defense. You're looking at our staff, our personnel group. We built the playbook as a group. I didn't just bring my playbook down and put it down and said hey that's what we're running.
That's not how this defense has been built. It's been built through a collection of great position coaches and we built it from scratch. We named things the way we wanted to name it and call it and verbalize it, and then from there, we have built to our players strengths and weaknesses as we as a group see what they can do well and what they can't do well.
Well, as a collective defensive staff, we make decisions on what tools we're going to use that week, what defenses we are going to call, when we like to call them. So everything everything, is a group effort. It's Oregon's pass, it's my pass and every defensive coach in there and we have collectively done that and in the personnel departments has done a great job feeding us those players. Collectively we are getting some turnovers and I think it's a little bit a combination of great re‑routing in the coverage, the pass rush, the pressure on a quarterback. It all kind of fits together.
In the red zone, you watch these guys, 6‑5, 6‑7, what you don't have, obviously 6‑7, defensive backs, how do you he defend that? What's the strategy? What's the technique involved?
COACH DAVIS: Well, there's a lot of different ways that you can help yourself there, and then at the end of the day, 6‑5 is 6‑5 and 6‑7 is 6‑7. You can't always jump up and be at the higher position that they are but you can do little things like rip their arms out, their arms down and get the ball where it's not a two‑hand catch. It has to be a one‑hand catch after the ball.
So there's little things that you can do being on them, pressing from the line of scrimmage, playing aggressively, not letting the timing and the rhythm happen quite like they want it to happen more on our terms. So that's on the field or the red zone. That's anybody. You have to disrupt the rhythm of the offense and the timing of the offense in order to stop the talented receivers and throwers.
Do you have any idea if you're going to have Earl Wolff?
COACH DAVIS: I don't know, he's day‑to‑day, I'm not sure.
What has been the key to your pass rush production the last couple games?
COACH DAVIS: I think the guys just keep getting better and better as the weeks go on. The guys, they are fresh, they are rolling them in, so everybody gets the different one‑on‑ones. I think the stunts are being executed at a higher level right now because the guys have been with each other and doing it at full speed for a while. We have been healthy, so the same guys are lining up next to the same guys and that helps continuity. *You always try to prevent big plays but late in the game when you're trying to protect the lead, last two games against Washington, against Arizona, there were big plays for touchdowns ‑‑ two of your guys seemed to knock each other over off the ball carries. Is there anything that you can do to prevent that or is that just being aggressive? *
COACH DAVIS: I think sometimes it just happens but those particular cases I think we could have been better with our technique. Head placement on the tackle to me is real big but changes something from an arm tackle into a body tackle and I think if we'd have hit with the right shoulder on that particular one, I think it would have been prevented. But sometimes they happen. They make plays; we make plays. But we've got to eliminate the big pass play, we just have to and we've got to stay together and we've got to do it for four quarters. We are having a couple good quarters of keeping the offense and then a big one gets on us. Especially at the end of the game when we do have a lead, we have to make sure we are sounder in our techniques.
Returning from injury, how did Mychal Kendricks look?
COACH DAVIS: Mychal had the week off and he looked like he was up to speed and hitting on all cylinders.
Speaking of that play, it was third and 20, they had another touchdown on third and nine. Is that still a concern for you, the third‑and‑long plays; if it is, why?
COACH DAVIS: It's upsetting to be honest with you. That's an advantage defense and we should be making those plays. The third and fours, the third and threes, the third and fives are where they should be but the third‑and‑longers are where we have the advantage and we need to hold onto and get ourselves off the field. I've gone back and forth from max drop to go pressuring like I did on that particular play and trying to mix it up to where we are keeping them off balance and right now, the execution of the third‑and‑longs have to increase and it's a turnover down, it's when we turn the ball back over to our offense and let them do our thing, just like we have to ‑‑ our third down and third down and long has to get better.
How about the Nate Allen interception, what call were you in, can you just talk about what you saw?
COACH DAVIS: It was a great play by Nate. He played the ball well. We also had great pressure on the play to make [Carson] Palmer throw off his back foot and not allow his follow through. The combination of the pressure that elevated the throw and then Nate being in a great place with his eyes, he got over the top of it, made the play, got it at the highest point. We had a bunch of people blocking. I believe we got it back to the 50‑yard line, caught it around the 10. So that was just a good, solid, all around rush coverage combination on that play.
Did DeMeco Ryans, doesn't he have other responsibility?
COACH DAVIS: No, DeMeco wasn't the blitzer on that. He didn't have the pressure.
He doesn't have other responsible ties?
COACH DAVIS: He was the rusher.
He was the one that put the pressure?
COACH DAVIS: Yes, he did, he made them throw off the back foot and elevate the throw. It's all tied together. We talk about it all the time, the coverage is tied to the rush and the rush is tied to the coverage. We get more sacks when the coverage is tighter and we get more interceptions when the rush is better. The guys are growing and betting better and better at that.
When you are rotating a lot of guys up front and even some of your linebackers, how tricky is that to kind of balance, give everybody enough reps and put your best guys out there and still mixing it up, how delicate a balance is that?
COACH DAVIS: I think the position coaches do a great job. We have a plan going in every week of what we are going to get more runs, more passes, what packages we are in, how we are going to roll them. When the game starts, the guys are on top of it, they are in and out. There's also other things in there, who may be nicked that is still going to be able to play but you substitute him a little bit more.
Coaches indicate to me all the time, this series, I'm playing this group, this is the series, I'm playing this group, now I got in my head what they do well, what they don't and we call some plays off who is in and who is not. We have great communication between the assistants and myself and who is in and who is not, and we all talk all week about what the strengths and weaknesses are and who may be nicked and who may not be.
Do you change it up if you see a guy is having a great game?
COACH DAVIS: Absolutely. Sometimes, if we have got a mis‑match that we can exploit, then we continue to exploit it and we try to work that. It is a game of matchups, it really is.
I think you said before that you thought that the defensive backs were being given a little more leeway this season; did you know that going into the year, and how do you coach that? How do you tell them you can get away with a little more? Is it just them feeling it out over the course of the game?
COACH DAVIS: First of all before the season starts, you really never know. But it's very obvious right now that all the games that have been played, no matter you're watching our games or anybody else on TV, that both the offensive players and the defensive players are allowed to have a little bit more contact, as long as you don't knock them off their route, they don't knock us off ours. It's just what they are doing, and each game, we tell the DBs and the guys in coverage, learn how they are calling this particular game, how is this crew calling this game and if they are allowing more, then do more; if they are not allowing more, then do less. And we just play from there, and knowing that every now and then, we're going to get a call against us and every now and then they are going to get a call against us.
Bradley Fletcher, very physical, not afraid to get in contact, so does that play to your strength?
COACH DAVIS: It does, with both our big corners.
How did you see that last play?
COACH DAVIS: I try not to get into the officiating. The officiating always levels out. Through the course of the season, you win some, you lose some. They do a good job out there. We'll never be the ones to complain or be over‑board with what happened out there because there are plays that we think we're fouled and they think they are fouled and at the end of the day it all evens out and I think that once we get a beat on how we are calling it, then we play from there.
You said two weeks ago that Connor Barwin wears more hats than anyone on the defense. What does he do that we can't see on the stat sheet?
COACH DAVIS: Connor makes the scheme go. I move him around multiple spots. He's inside on the outside on the right, outside on the left, he's inside, he's over at guard. We move him around ‑‑ the position is called the Jack, the Jack of all trades, is what it was originally named. We move him around and we have different techniques we use with him and he's great with picking them up; if I need an edge set on one side or a certain reroute or chip, Connor is the guy we go to. He wears a lot of hats and doesn't get as many rushes as he would like but does a lot of things for the defense that it's unselfish on his part. He would love to be rushing every down and getting more sacks but he's dropping and doing more other things and never says a word about it.
Is that the plan when you signed him?
COACH DAVIS: I think it's evolved. You look at the skill set of the guys, the understanding, the concepts, what they feel he's been in 3‑4s before and outside. Just as we've learned about him, we've used him more to where we have the advantage.
Do you think the punter has helped the defense?
COACH DAVIS: Absolutely, the punting has been, the special teams and the field position has been outstanding. That is a huge part of why we had some success in the game against Arizona because that drive start with Donnie [Jones] putting it inside the 20 is really unbelievable. He's as big of a reason for us to have some success defensively as anybody.
If you have a 3rd and 8 around the 50-yard line, are you calling the game based on what your defense does well or what the offense does in that area?
COACH DAVIS: It depends on their tendencies in those areas, but yeah, we can be anything, anywhere. Who are they in that area of the field is kind of who I judge off of.
Have you seen a lot of guys like Connor, an outside linebacker, that can rush or cover? He's pretty unique.
COACH DAVIS: You're right, Connor is unique in that sense, he's got a pass rush skill set, he's got size, he can set the edges and it's really when you are looking at these versatile outside backers, you're looking at guys like Connor who can do a little bit of all of it. The pass rush should be there first, setting the edge and playing a run second and the coverage dropping is third. He's got a nice rounded skill set.
As far as Connor goes, again, you were saying that Connor has evolved into that Jack position. Did you want to have a player like that or did you just realize that, hey, we have this guy now, what we are going to do this?
COACH DAVIS: Well, we go out there and look for the best football player available that we can find that we feel suits what we are going to do, and Connor, we were very excited about getting him signed and he's been everything we thought he would be from a leadership standpoint, from his play on the field on Sundays to his versatility. We couldn't be happier with Connor.
Trent Cole has gotten stronger as the year has gone on, and this time of year in years past, he kind of worn down ‑‑ how much of that is just taking his hand off the ground playing linebacker and is that something you were conscious of going into the year?
COACH DAVIS: I do think Trent has played at a high level the whole year. The sack numbers, to me, the sack numbers, we put way too much on that. If our guys are rushing, sometimes the best rusher, the best pass rush doesn't get the sack. It gets the quarterback moved off the spot and then a guy that might have had a horrible pass rush gets the sack. So who gets the sack isn't always the indicator. When we watch film week‑in and week‑out in practice, who is disrupting or moving the quarterback off the spot the most and Trent is one of our leaders. He moves the quarterback off his spot. Lately he's got the sacks which is great for him, because you like them rewarded but we have way too much emphasis on he's playing well because he was credited with a sack or not in my opinion. So you chart that, you keep track of that?
COACH DAVIS: Absolutely. Absolutely.