Q. What do you see from Panthers QB Cam Newton that maybe looks different than when you guys saw him last year?
BILL DAVIS: You know, Cam is really -- it does jump out at you, the progression he has made over his career, and this year he's really running the offense at a high rate right now. You're going to get your runs from him, which is unique to the NFL; you're going to get about eight to ten runs from him that you have to prepare for. But probably more impressively, is how he has kind of settled into the passing game; he's not making mistakes; he's taking what you give him, and he's moving the ball a little bit. He did a great job on the last drive at Seattle.
Q. Are most of his runs designed?
BILL DAVIS: On first and second down they are. I think he makes more of his scrambles on third down.
Q. You spied him last year when he was less than 100 percent; is that --
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, I think no matter what percentage he is, you spy him. Well, you move in and out of it. You can't just sit in a three-man rush all day and spy him, you want to go four and fives. You just have to be real disciplined that you're blitzing as a group and people are in the spots that they're supposed to be in because even the blitzes are designed to have a nice little pocket that we keep him in. But he's such a playmaker, you have to plan on keeping him in there, but the athleticism kicks in and it's about a bunch of effort trying to get him and taking good angles. He's going to make his plays. Athletes like that make their plays, and we have to keep it to a minimum.
Q. He's the first dual-threat quarterback that you have faced this year, and obviously you have had a lot of continuity up front. Is it more challenging the first time you face one of these guys in a season?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, the bonus that we have is what we practiced against all off-season. So the read option, the triple option, all the different variations of the run game that they have, we at least, as a defense, work on it and have the conversations in the off-season. Now, we haven't had it in six weeks, so we have to dust those conversations off and focus on it. But, it helps us in the sense that it's not brand new to us like a lot of NFL teams I've been with all said we hit 'this' offense and it's a brand new conversation that you didn't have in the off-season. So at least we've had it in the off-season.
Q. I think spying was LB Connor Barwin's job last year; what makes him good in that role?
BILL DAVIS: Well, we mix it up. We don't try to just let him -- but Connor is a good, big athlete. One thing about Cam is you can spy him and run with him, but then can you tackle him? Because he's so good. So Connor has got a good mix of size, speed and athleticism, and is a good match-up. So we did spy him last year with Connor, and it was because of how big he is.
Q. Cam is on pace to be sacked the fewest times in his career, and the offensive line has really played every single game together. Do you think the continuity of the line has really helped their situation?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, they are, and it's a little bit different. There are only two guys from the offensive line that we faced last year. So they've got some new faces in there; they do a great job of protecting him. I think he has got a better feel of the protections. As you move, I think [Panthers offensive coordinator] Mike Shula does a great job and has done a great job bringing him on. The O-line, we've talked about it a lot of weeks, but when an O-line can play together and they play as one unit, you kind of count the O-line as one position, not five individuals. These guys are playing well together, and they're very strong in the run game. When you get 32 rushes per game -- they are No. 1 in the NFL at the attempt; I think they are three of four in the rush yards; I think 133, but it's because O-linemen can move people, and that is going to be a big challenge for us.
Q. What inside linebackers do you anticipate having in practice?
BILL DAVIS: Well, we're going to test the waters with [LB] Mychal [Kendricks] and [LB] Kiko [Alonso] today. They're going to get a little bit, and it's just kind of saying, "Okay, where are we?" So they will get out there a little bit this week. I don't really anticipate them -- it's a day-to-day thing, so hopefully they surprise me, but I don't know if they will. The key thing is them getting healthy and getting healthy at the right pace that their body will allow them to.
Q. What sort of challenge does Panthers TE Greg Olsen present?
BILL DAVIS: He's probably one of the best pass-receiving tight ends in the league, and he is a big target of theirs. He runs great routes; he's a primary in a lot of their route patterns, and he's playing at a high level. And [for] Cam, it is kind of his comfort zone getting it to [Olsen] and finding him. You throw it anywhere near him, he catches it. He's really hitting his stride and is one of their top targets.
Q. How does LB Jordan Hicks compare to some of the other rookies that you've coached as far as picking things up as quickly as he has?
BILL DAVIS: He's up there at the top of the list, he really is. He has been a -- I don't want to say a surprise, but you never know when you get a rookie. You know you have an intelligent -- we knew when we drafted him, he was a highly intelligent, high-football IQ, good athlete, solid inside backer. What you don't know is how they respond to the NFL games, and a lot of times that's where they kind of hit a wall. Even though you have a smart guy, it takes him a year or two to be able to do it on Sundays when it's going fast. And Jordan, the piece that's kind of very -- it's not surprising but it's exciting, that on game day he's as calm as a veteran.
Q. Does he remind you of anyone that you've coached before?
BILL DAVIS: Not really -- veterans. He reminds me of veterans, but not so much a rookie. Most rookies are kind of in that backup role and don't shine like he has done so far.
Q. On that CB Nolan Carroll interception, did he have outside zone there? Or did he just jump the pick?
BILL DAVIS: No, we actually sat in the two-deep zone. We hadn't run it all year, and we knew, because of their quick game, that we wanted to throw some cover two in there, a hard, zone cover two. And [Giants QB] Eli [Manning] is right, he saw mostly two man from us the whole time. And right about that time in the game we put the hard two in, and the guys had been working hard at it all week. And [defensive backs coach] Cory [Undlin] and the guys did a great job of ruling out all the quick game, and he threw it right into where we were hoping he would. So we stole one there, and it was fun to have the plan work that way.
Q. Carroll did have to jump switch really fast to get out there, though?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, he did a great job. The way we read it, it kind of starts as a man, but then as two goes out – [S] Malcolm [Jenkins] did a great job of hollering 'out, out, out' because Nolan could not visually see it. So he's yelling 'out, out, out,' and Nolan knows to drop it then, and the safety is over the top of No. 1 and Nolan just stepped right in and made a big play for us.
Q. As far as the turnovers are concerned, you guys are, I think, second in the NFL at getting them. I know you get asked this quite a bit, but are you kind of surprised how many you guys have been getting so far?
BILL DAVIS: It is a high number. We're in the top three, I think, in the NFL in taking it away. But, it's something we focus on, and we don't focus on it a lot, but we really -- this year we said our turnovers, we're going for three a game, and we're going to work hard on tackling and get our tackling better. I think I'm probably more excited about the tackling we've been doing, but two weeks ago in the Saints, it was the two running backs who have been breaking tackles at a league record and they didn't break any on us. We continue to focus on tackling. Turnovers are a big emphasis. We have a huge challenge in Carolina because they're not turning the ball over. I think they're under one per game, so that's going to be a big part of the equation here is if we can tackle well because it's a 'big boy' game with the running 32 times a game. We're going to have to tackle well and try to create the turnovers, which is going to be tough on this stage.
Q. LB DeMeco Ryans is going to be out there today as well?
BILL DAVIS: I don't know that DeMeco is out [there] today. I think we may rest him today. He's another day-to-day guy, but knowing DeMeco, the way he handles injuries, you expect him back because he is a warrior in that category.
Q. And then Mychal and Kiko, I guess you factor in the fact that the bye week is coming up?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, it's not so much the bye because every week we need as many hands on deck as we can get, so if they can go, they will go. But it's just a matter of their body and where they are. First, is them healthy and getting back so we have them the rest of the season. But if they can go, they'll go.
Q. How much of your fumble recoveries, is something you are tackling and something you can sort of design and plan? And how much of it is just random luck?
BILL DAVIS: Well, we work on it at least once a week. And we have three pieces of that: we have a how to strip a carrier, how to attack the quarterback when he has the ball, and then how to recover a fumble. We talk about it a lot. The art of recovering a fumble, and the hardest part is when you're on the bottom of the pile keeping the ball when the scrum is happening, and those guys are doing a great job. And it matters how you are laying; are you laying on your side or on your back? We teach you how to get in the fetal position on your side that helps protect the ball. So there are a bunch of little things that go into recovering that fumble and holding onto it after the scrum happens.
Q. Chip was singing CB E.J. Biggers' praises yesterday. He said he allows you the opportunity to do some things call-wise. Can you expand on that?
BILL DAVIS: Well, what E.J. brings is a great quickness and speed, and then his intelligence. Again, we're doing a great job of bringing guys with high football IQs into the building, and what he allows is he can play corner, nickel or dime for us at any given snap. So in every game plan, we can go into it with him and Malcolm both being able to switch. Malcolm can play anything, but E.J. has got the corner, nickel and dime spots down, which is a little bit different for an offense in their identification and their protection, so that screws with them a little bit. And then the fact that he can go in and out of that helps us schematically in who we want to take away, who we give help to. So E.J. has been a real big addition.
Q. DE Vinny Curry got some pressure in the last game; I think a sack and a half. I know he's moved around in positions a little bit, but what have you seen from him this year?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, we threw Vinny outside wide a little bit when injuries hit us, but Vinny is always an explosive, gap penetrating -- when it's a passing situation, Vinny is disruptive every time. He hasn't had the sack numbers until this game, but those sack numbers are coming for him. Anybody that has that kind of disruption in the passing game is someone who will continue to do that. So, I was glad to see Vinny get some sack numbers. I don't personally judge anybody by their sack numbers. I want to know how many times they're taking a double team; how many times they're moving a quarterback off the spot; what is the technique in the pass rush, is he doing what we're trying to do, collectively, as a four-man pass rush. And Vinny is always right up there with us. He's had a great season, just the sack numbers are not -- they'll come. They'll come. But he's a solid -- I love seeing him out there and rushing that passer and disrupting the quarterback because he makes a difference.
Q. You gave LB Marcus Smith 12 snaps; how did he grade out in that?
BILL DAVIS: He was good, he really was. Marcus has taken steps in the right direction. Again, that game went to all three wide receiver sets, which kind of takes us out of two outside backers in a game, which limits -- we'd like to get him when he's active, 20 to 25, but because of how the game went-- he graded out fine. He didn't make any big plays, but he was doing what he was supposed to do.
Q. Since the middle of the 2013 season, it has been the same three on the defensive line. At what point did you realize that that had something that could be special?
BILL DAVIS: You know, early on -- once they learned the two gap and how Azz [defensive line/assistant head coach Jerry Azzinaro] teaches it and really the fundamentals and they rep it every day, you see them on the sled, and then in a game you know -- I always look at the wall we create. Defense, they're not blockers; they get off and make more plays. Most people think two gaps just eat up the block and the backers make the play. Our guys not only strike and read the run, but they shed as well as anybody, and I think that's the component that you see over and over again. You'll see all of them heading this side, they'll shed and come off and make tackles in the core. So not only are they building a wall and not moving back, but they're able to shed, throw and go and make the tackle. And probably late in the first season, second half of the first season, you knew what you had because they're strong and they work hard at it.
Q. Does Coach Azzinaro give these guys more sled work than most position coaches?
BILL DAVIS: Absolutely. I've been places where the sled is in a corner that nobody ever uses it, ever, training camp, and it's rusty and got cobwebs on it. Ours won't get that way; ours break every other day because of how much they use it. But it's a great way that doesn't wear the player out. Most guys go player to player when they work on those things, and you wear the players out. So this is a way that we can get better at what we do and really save the players' hands and wrists and all that. It's a great thing.
Q. What was the miscommunication on the Giants WR Odell Beckham touchdown?
BILL DAVIS: They motioned empty, and what happened was it originally -- DeMeco had help, and he was playing outside leverage with inside help. And then the motion empty happened and [S] Chris [Maragos] left him to help over on the empty side and DeMeco is still thinking he had help, was playing outside leverage thinking -- even from the box I thought we had it. That slant was coming, I thought Chris Maragos was going to step into it, but they had changed and he was actually helping on their No. 1 with Nolan. It was tough because we would have liked to have kept that to a field goal. But the communication, it was -- and then we fixed it right away and it was clear. But those things happen in a game. I love the way our guys respond, to be honest with you. I've been a lot of places where those miscommunications happen and people turn on each other and there's a huge argument, and our guys are really together. It's a tight unit because they knew a mistake was made and they were real mad that a touchdown happened. We got to the sideline, we solved it and it didn't happen again, and it won't happen again. But, it's really a testament to the camaraderie we have and the chemistry we have on defense right now.
Q. What made you pick the three turnover goal?
BILL DAVIS: It's the top of the league. We really are setting our goals at what's the best that can happen in the league in all our goals. The turnovers at three, most people are like, 'Hey, let's get one a game, let's get two. Well, we are going to three and can we get there? And we have almost hit that mark.
Q. Following up on what we just said, where do you think that comes from? With a lot of teams, you see the bickering and guys throwing their arms up; where does it come from?
BILL DAVIS: Mental toughness. Mentally tough teams win the most games in the NFL. My whole career, if you have a group -- a lot of times it's a veteran group because they're usually the mentally toughest, they've been through the most. But when your team is mentally tough and can take a punch -- with that first drive, oh, my God, they'd fall apart. We didn't. We had a lot of mistakes in that drive. We fixed them all and settled down. And our guys are at that place now where can you lose a game, like the Washington game, that hurt a lot because we wanted to step up and win that game, and we didn't. Now, can you take that punch and come back to work and still believe in yourselves? And the guys did. And after that -- we played a solid Washington game, but not a good last drive. So now we've backed it up with two solid games, and now the challenge is can we hold serve? Can we keep at this level this week? It's all about this week, and can we sustain it? And the mentally tough group can.
Q. Yesterday Head Coach Chip Kelly was talking about the continuity in having guys in this defense now for a third year, especially up front. With the way the secondary has come together, is this the most comfortable, maybe the most trust you've had with this team and the players orchestrating it?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah. When you're in your third year, the guys that have been here three years, you really can grow it and the guys own it. They start owning it themselves. It's their defense; it's they know the tools; they know the answer to the problem. You know, they're doing this, 'Hey, coach, we'll just go to 'this' front or we'll go to 'this' stunt. Or coach, we'll go to 'this' coverage tool'. That's when ownership happens is when you really take the step of being real strong as a defense. And the secondary, although we have some new pieces, those guys are hard-working, high-football IQ guys that have a great understanding of it, and that's why you don't see guys running free through the zone. Even when we have a miscommunication, you've got guys that are at least covering it up and understand the scheme. So hopefully we're getting better, and we've got a lot of growth to do in the second half of the season to make sure that all those things come together. But we're excited about -- we can still -- we've got a long way to go, and we get a lot better with tightening everything down.
Q. You were at Carolina a couple of stops ago.
BILL DAVIS: Yeah.
Q. When that team went there, people said 'this is a college area: football, basketball, everything,' and maybe because the roots of professional football weren't as deep in places like this. Did that develop over time there? Have you gotten a sense that that team is really routed there?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, I was there in expansion year, so we were at the beginning. Everybody was a Washington Redskins fan; that's what the area was. So there was a lot of NFL football fans, they were just Redskins fans. The city has grown. It's a great city, great place to live. And it's grown a lot, and I think a lot of people coming out of college then go find work. It's just the beautiful weather; it's a growing city. I think banking is a big industry down there. But, the football team hasn't gone to a Super Bowl, and they've had some success there. I think it's grown immensely since I was there, and that was '95, I think.