Q. Do you expect LB Kiko Alonso back today?
COACH DAVIS: Today? No, not today.
Q. Would you say Alonso will be out for the Colts game?
COACH DAVIS: I would guess that's probably fair, but I don't know. He's not here today. He's not out here in practice today.
Q. Last time we talked to you, you said he was fine.
COACH DAVIS: He is fine. I've got no worries about Kiko. He'll be all right. Just being cautious, that's all.
Q. Any idea why the delay? Has he passed everything?
COACH DAVIS: I don't know all the details but I just know he's not out here today but I'm not concerned about him at all.
Q. How is DB Eric Rowe's progress been the last couple days in the slot?
COACH DAVIS: Good. We just threw him in there. Right now, the plan is to have the corners move in and out of that nickel spot. They have been training in it since the offseason. We hadn't put Eric in there. Due to the injury though, we threw Eric in there. Eric is a real bright, young man and he's had two days under his belt, maybe eight to ten reps. So he's got a lot of reps to go. But so far, so good. We're early in camp still.
Q. Where is LB Marcus Smith this year compared to this point last year?
COACH DAVIS: Oh, he's way ahead of where he was. I think the biggest thing that changes from a rookie year, especially when you end up in that first-round-draft-pick-pressure mode, the confidence level and the pressure you put on yourself and others are putting on you, kind of calms a little bit or you actually have some coping skills to where you can handle it and still function and play and put your focus on the football part. I think Marcus has got his focus on the football part and controlling what he can control and he's in a much better place. He's playing faster. He's reacting faster. He's seeing the field better and those are all indications that he's really taking some big leaps forward.
Q. There were points last year, because of injuries and various issues, you were moving Smith inside and outside. You said you were not quite sure what he would be ultimately. Do you have a better feel now where you'd like to have him?
COACH DAVIS: I believe he's an outside backer. That's who he is. But the good piece is he can swing. In this game, we swing a lot of guys and when you have a person who has the ability, again, it's a mental and a physical ability to play inside and out. It just makes us stronger. It actually gives the linebacker himself a much broader understanding of the defense because those guys inside are our quarterbacks. The guys outside listen to calls. The guys inside make calls. And when you have to make the calls, then you move to a position of listening, you have a much better understanding of why and what is about to be called.
Q. You've coached both 4 3 and 3 4, why was LB Brandon Graham successfully able to make the transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker?
COACH DAVIS: I think his athleticism. The one thing that you get into when you try to convert defensive ends to linebackers, when you go to work them out in college, you test them out moving backwards. How athletic are they going backwards? And Brandon is a good all around athlete and his ability to both mentally absorb the outside backer's standup role and physically handle the moving backwards, that's the biggest piece, the backward moving piece and Brandon is athletic enough to do that.
Q. We saw a lot of change in turnover on the offensive side of the ball. We have seen a good bit on your side of the ball, too. Do you look at this now and say, 'Hey, I've got kind of a crew I like a little bit more and can do what I want to do,' compared to maybe last year, the year before that?
COACH DAVIS: I think defensively, first, I think it starts more from a 'we' conversation, a collective 'we' as a staff. And then it's who you have on your roster. You try to take advantage of the talents they have. It kind of changes. Are we moving some talents more suited to some of the things we think? Yeah. You can say we're moving that direction, but that's what you do naturally in your selection process. But when you inherit a team in the NFL and you're playing with the hand you're dealt, you're trying to make those pieces do what they do the best. You tweak and move a little bit, but injuries sometimes cause that same thing to go back the other way. That's the one thing, you have to have a flexible scheme because injuries can push you in all different directions and that's what we have.
Q. Would it be fair to expect a tangible and sizable improvement this season given that okay, you have a couple years under your belt now, you have a chance to evaluate what you had, and you had an opportunity to get a guy like CB Byron Maxwell and say, okay, we can do better than Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher on the outside?
COACH DAVIS: We're hoping, that's the goal, but the game will tell us if we are there or not. Right now, the expectation is yes, to answer that question, but it's also, Atlanta will tell us where we are.
Q. Is the plan still to have a left and right cornerback or do you want Maxwell to trail the top receiver?
COACH DAVIS: We'll mix that up more this year.
Q. Because of Maxwell's skill set?
COACH DAVIS: Yeah.
Q. Will that be a game to game kind of thing?
COACH DAVIS: Yeah, it will be a game to game thing. But we traveled Cary [Williams] last year in a game or two. The last game of the year he did that and we had the ability to. But you have to really see a difference or a reason why to do that and take him out, because a lot of times, those guys get in a nice little pattern of the footwork in left and right. At practice last year and the first year, we always switched them right and left every other day, so their footwork, we can do that at any time we choose to.
Q. What are you really looking for in the first preseason game?
COACH DAVIS: I'm looking for the tackling piece, to me, because you don't see that. The communication, when the lights are on, who can communicate. I tell the guys all the time, it's about evaluating your ability combined with your coachability. In defense, playing great defense is 11 guys playing as one. So there's the communication. There's the effort to the ball. There's the technique. Are you down-in and down-out consistently using the technique we have been working on the whole offseason? We have been working on it in training camp. If you can show that you can handle your spot using the techniques, alignments, communication, all the things we have taught you, that's a big plus. You don't have to give us a bunch of wow plays to impress us. We have to see that the defense in its whole, the 11 guys, are doing what they are supposed to do.
Q. When you look back on last season, how do you evaluate your performance on first and second down versus third down? What changes are you making with the new personnel going forward?
COACH DAVIS: We have expanded some packages. First and second down, our run game was very strong. The pass game, again, both on third down and first and second down, the vertical passing game, the big X-plays is what our biggest Achilles' heel was, and that's the biggest thing we have focused on in the offseason. We really are solid on third down, but we can be a little bit better in all of them. Red zone, we gave up too much touchdowns, but I think that's also attached to the big passing plays. So we have some areas we were strong in and we want to continue to building on. But it gets back to what I keep saying about the Atlanta game, telling us where we are. This is a new year and all those stats from last year are erased and we start writing our new story this year, and hopefully we are ahead of where we were last year.
Q. What have you seen from QB Sam Bradford from a defensive perspective? What's the chatter amongst the defensive backs and what do you see?
COACH DAVIS: I'm highly impressed with Sam. I always have been. I've always known the skill set that man has got. I was the defensive coordinator at Arizona during his rookie year, the first game he played, and Pat Shurmur was the [St. Louis Rams offensive] coordinator. We blitzed him I blitzed [former Cardinals safety] Adrian Wilson off the edge probably 10 to 15 times. He kept hitting Sam and hitting Sam and it must have been in the third quarter, Adrian comes over to me and says, 'Hey, Billy D, we are in for a long one. This boy's not rattled. I keep hitting him with everything I have and he won't rattle. I can't shake him.' So we knew right then that Sam has the mental toughness and capacity. Then his throwing ability, you've just got to watch practice to know that he throws a real accurate, real pretty ball.
Q. How do you go after a quarterback like that who you know is prone to injury?
COACH DAVIS: I don't know if anyone is prone to injury or not. Just because they have injuries, that's just a bug that happens in the NFL. There are very few guys on our roster who have not had a litany of injuries in their pro career
Q. But Bradford is a guy who is coming off two ACL injuries --
COACH DAVIS: [Are you asking] do you go after them more?
Q. Well do you have to try to make them move around more?
COACH DAVIS: Well, any of those guys -- Sam wasn't mobile before – well, he's mobile enough -- but there's some guys you know they are going to be in that pocket. Some guys, you keep bringing that really what you are looking at is where is their comfort zone in throwing. If it's stepping up in the middle and not escaping, then you bring pressure up the middle. You try to move them off their spot and disrupt their timing. So injury or no injury, it's really about more mobility, no mobility. [Denver Broncos QB] Peyton Manning doesn't have mobility, but he never gets sacked. The conversation is more about his overall mobility than if there's an injury or not.
Q. Do you feel that the same is true with DB Jaylen Watkins as it is with LB Marcus Smith? Are those guys who have taken a big step and guys that you probably need to count on a little bit more this year?
COACH DAVIS: Yeah, we do. Jaylen is a very intelligent young man and he's got the ability to play nickel, corner and safety. So we are impressed and again he's taken another [step]. They know what's coming at them now, so they can relax and be more themselves and let it rip a little more.
Q. For this first preseason game, where are you with the inside linebackers? It looks like LB Kiko Alonso is not going to be able to go, LB DeMeco Ryans sat out yesterday and LB Mychal Kendricks hasn't really been practicing fully. Who are you going to have?
COACH DAVIS: Whoever's left. [Joking, Laughter] I believe we're going in and if Mychal plays, great. But even if the starters are playing, it's usually a limited role. So the preseason is awesome from my standpoint because all these young guys and the guys that are in second and third role, they get all this playing time and we get all this evaluation time. I mean, most every regular season game, there's only two starters or two guys and they play every snap. So we'll have four or five that can play in there. It will be good experience for them.
Q. Is Kendricks okay? It doesn't look like he's doing much?
COACH DAVIS: As far as I know, Mychal is fine other than little nitpicking thing.
Q. Does DB Walter Thurmond's ability to man up on a wide receiver allow you to be more creative in dime and nickel coverages?
COACH DAVIS: Yes, it does, and that's also what Jenk [S Malcolm Jenkins] brings us, too. Our safeties that are converted corners, that's something we look for because they have that ability. But our ability to stay in our base personnel group and against three wide receiver sets, if your safety can drop down and cover like a nickel covers in the slot, then you have the ability to stay in there and you're a little stronger in the run game and you're still solid in the pass game.
Q. Chip had made the comment that CB Byron Maxwell was the best nickel corner that you guys faced last year. Yesterday, Maxwell said that you guys don't want him in there at the nickel spot. I don't know if that's accurate or not, but what are the prospects of him moving into nickel or why you wouldn't want to move him?
COACH DAVIS: He's in the conversation, but it's the latter part of the conversation. Right now we are so excited about having him out there wide and having him cover the big, longer receivers and matching up there. He absolutely could get some reps in there, but right now, again, it's his first year learning the defense and it's kind of our philosophy to try to let him really understand that spot first, before you bounce him around too much. But if at any point we felt the game winning decision would be to put him in the slot, we could.
Q. What stands out about LB Jordan Hicks?
COACH DAVIS: Athleticism probably, and intelligence. The kid really is a three down linebacker, athleticism wise, and he's got a very good football IQ and instinct. So I'm excited to see him against the Colts with the lights on to see how he plays, but he's a really good athlete.
Q. What did you bring CB Marc Anthony in to play? It looked like he was playing corner yesterday, but he had played some safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Where do you see him?
COACH DAVIS: Right now we have him out there at the corner spot. He got there on the first day, had no meetings and had no idea what any call was, so we have to get him [up to speed]. We'll settle him at corner as he learns the defense, and as he learns it, then we'll have the ability to move him if we need to.
Q. What was the feeling on him after his workout and after scanning the other guys who may have been available?
COACH DAVIS: We were impressed with him. Most of the bodies are in camps right now. Everybody has a 90 man roster they are dealing with. So everybody has got a little something that keeps them out of there right now. We were excited about signing him and we are excited about seeing what he can do.
Q. In the 49ers game last year, when Brandon Boykin went down, you moved Jenkins to the slot. This year, would you move your safeties, your corners to the slot and then move someone else either to the outside or to safety?
COACH DAVIS: Our goal is to put the best five out there in nickel or the best six out there in dime. Right now, the beauty of training camp is evaluating who those guys are and that's really where we are. There is no move we wouldn't make and there is no move we guarantee that we are going to make right now. We have the luxury of time and reps ahead of us. We are going to take a good look at the corners and train them. I know I have two safeties in Walter and Jenk that can come down and play the nickel and have played it and played it well. I know they need reps there and at about the halfway point, if I feel I need them down there, I will. But I am excited about them in the safety spot quarterbacking everything.
Q. A lot of the guys have said the defense is further along at this point than they were last year. Is that strange to hear considering how many new faces have come in?
COACH DAVIS: No. What happens in the discussion in Year One, is everybody is learning for the first time. When you get to Year Three, your veterans are helping teaching and coaching your new guys. So there's like triple the coaching. There's coaching from us and there's coaching from each other, and that understanding sometimes from a fellow player explaining it, or when you're in a locker room, it's easier for the new guys to pick up because more people can give them the proper answer that you don't have in Year One.