Obviously Stribling had a really good spring, Clark had a good spring. What’s that battle like for the no. 2 spot right now?
“Well, all three of them had a good spring: J-Lew, Channing, and Jeremy. Really very competitive throughout the whole deal. We’ll just see how that goes as far as that second spot at corner as you were saying. But there’s going to be a lot of defenses where all three of them are going to be involved, so they all need to compete. Hopefully those younger guys we’ve got in—especially Keith Washington, Brandon Watson, now David Long, Lavert Hill—everybody’s pushing everybody to get better so just to make everybody better. I’m talking about J-Lew, I’m talking about Channing and Jeremy as well. Competition’s what we want back there.”
MGoQuestion: I know last year you kind of split half the field [with Greg Jackson]. Are you doing that again this year or are you working more with the safeties or more with the corners?
“You know, B-Smith and I, we’ve got a little plan together. We’re going to work more together, a little bit more together as far as meetings go so there’s going to be a lot of togetherness because the defenses we play, the communication is key and there’s going to be situations because of so much man we play where we’re going to need—there might be a safety involved in coverage, there might be a corner involved in coverage, nickel corner, safety involved in coverage so there has to be communication. That’s the biggest thing.”
MGoQuestion: How much more important, if at all, is run support from corners going to be this season compared to last season?
“Very important because of our trap system, the system that Don Brown brought in from Boston College. Our corners are going to be very much more involved in the run game.”
MGoQuestion: If we could talk trap for a little bit, how do you coach that for your guys? Is it brand new to them?
“I wouldn’t say it’s new to them. For them, it goes back to high school days when they were playing cover 2, when they were hard corners. Their read has got to be the end man on the line of scrimmage, so it’s really nothing new as far as they have to deal with. It’s just that it’s going to be more often than what they’re used to from I’d say a year ago.”
MGoQuestion: Who would you say is most advanced in run support right now?
“As far as a corner?”
“I’d say J-Lew and Jeremy. Yeah. We’ve got to get Strib more involved physically, but as far as eyes go I’d say they all understand what they’ve got to read, it’s just that those two guys are pretty much in it quicker.”
What do you think those top three guys improved most on from last season?
“I think, number one, their man ability. Big-time improvement. I think Jeremy really improved on his eyes. Strib, same thing with his eyes. Strib had a little situation last year with his feet; I think we’ve got that kind of, I wouldn’t say 100% squared away but little things like that they have worked on and worked on with a meaning. They knew it was something they had to improve on and I think I know that they came away from spring better off than they entered it.”
MGoQuestion: When you’re playing man free, I remember last year you were talking about how important eyes are. What do you teach guys to look at when they’re lined up across from a receiver? What’s the first thing you want them to look at?
“Well, if it’s press, it’s on the belt buckle. If they’re off, which we will be at times, it’s on the inside hip. It’s just belt buckle through the hip throughout the route. It’s pretty simple. Once the ball’s thrown, their hands go up, they know their eyes can go up with them.”
I think Jourdan Lewis has been on every list you can think of as far as preseason lists go. In particular, Pro Football Focus put him as the no. 7 overall player in the country among all positions. Do you think that putting him there is a true rating for him? Is he that good?
“He’s that good. Absolutely that good. He’s explosive, he’s tough, and he covers, so yeah. I think for his position, that’s spot on. Yep.”
[Ed-A: I eschewed labeling the rest of these MGoQuestions because they all are, as the other reporter left and I had a one-on-one talk with coach Zordich]
When you’re playing man coverage and the receiver’s coming at [the CB] and he turns with him, when do you then teach guys to get their hands up?
“As far as when the ball is coming?”
Yeah. Are they watching the receiver and then they put their hand through when--
“As far as when the ball’s coming, it’s belt buckle-hip-through the hands. That’s our little mantra as far as man coverage goes. And a lot of guys, guys like J-Lew, Strib, and Jeremy’s getting to that situation where it’s becoming instinctive. You know, J-Lew has it. He understands it. Strib has it, understands it. Jeremy’s getting it. You know, so a lot of the guys it’s just an instinctive part of their position that they get and understand. Some guys we’ve got to work harder on and teach them, but for the most part it’s an instinctive move.”
Is that something where when the receiver’s hands go up you want the corner’s hands to go up and through before he turns to look?
“Up and through, or pick it off. Right? Yeah. [/laughs] Generally that happens on a longer ball where your hand has got to go up and through. On the shorter routes, we’re trying to either bat it down or, if you can make the interception, go for the interception.”
[After THE JUMP: IT’S A TRAP]
I’ve been curious about that.
“Yeah, that’s a good question.”
With trap coverage, I’ve read a little about it but correct me if I’m wrong: when they’re playing trap are they watching the backfield, so the corner is going to run with receiver no. 1 unless he sees somebody cut underneath, then he’s going to go cover the underneath route and let the safety come over and take the no. 1 receiver?
“Exactly, exactly. So if we are running a 2-trap where the corner’s coming in it’s just what you said. He’s got the first to the flat or anything that crosses his face. That’s how we talk about it. And yes, the safety has all one.
“Or we keep the corner down on him or back off man and then the safety’s the trap guy, so the roles just reverse. We have a couple calls so we’re not always just trapping. We’ve got a couple different things.”
Sure, sure. You have to mix it up a little. I just want to make sure I’ve got the basic principle down.
“Yep, that is the basic principle. Absolutely.”
So that’s the thing that’s most different this year, right?
“Yeah. What’s happened is we’ve taken out part of our quarters concept, palm concepts and put in the 2-deep trap concepts.”
Is it fair to say that [trap coverage] is sort of a pattern-matching concept? I guess it’s not exactly pattern-matching like quarters* but you’re matching so if there’s an underneath route you then have coverage there.
“Any zone is pattern matching.”
So it’s not wrong to say that?
“Nah, it really isn’t because you are matching routes that come into your zone. Yeah, that’s fair to say. Absolutely.”
Who would you say made the biggest gains from the beginning of spring to the end of spring in the corner group or in the safety group?
“Uh, corner group I would say Strib. Safety? Both those guys, Delano [Hill] and Dymonte [Thomas], really made strides. Delano’s just full of plays. He really is. If he continues at the stride he’s going he’s going to be something else. And Dymonte, always hard working and always willing to learn but got better as the spring went on.”
Is it now Dymonte’s job to make all the checks in the backfield and make sure guys are lined up correctly?
“It is both those guys’ jobs. Delano—really, if you take our defense and you just take the center, [then] cut it in half. I mean, there’s calls that are made to one side and there’s calls that are made to the other. Both those guys have to be communicating every play.”
Sure, that makes sense. Something like quarter-quarter-half, right?
“Right. Especially in the trap stuff.”
As far as man free is concerned with your corners, Jourdan’s obviously excellent at it. Stribling and Clark: who’s ahead of whom there?
“You know, that’s hard to say. It really is. It’s really hard to say. They both left spring vastly improved, more knowledgeable, I think, of the defense and of the game. Strib is probably a little better in coverage, but Jeremy is probably better physically.”
Like you were saying, in run support, right?
“Yeah. It’s just a matter of us evening those things out because, again, all three of those guys are going to play and hopefully, as I said earlier, hopefully those other guys will push each other so that’ll make everybody better.”
Iron sharpens iron, right?
From a technique perspective, what do you teach for run support? What do you want guys watching in the backfield and then what do you teach as far as--
“Well, generally it’s the end man on the line of scrimmage. So if you’re on the tight end side and I’m a corner or a safety run supporting to the tight end side, it’s the tight end. Is it high hat? Is it low hat? Is he blocking down? That’s a great key and indicator for run or pass, so that’s how we do it.
“If he’s on the open side, a lot of times the tackles, they lie. [We] try and teach these guys to look at the guard on the open side. It’s just a guy removed but sometimes a little harder to see. But he’s a better indicator of run/pass than the tackle, because on a play-action pass the tackle can screw you up.”
If they do read run and they come up, is it just a matter of getting square to the running back?
“We call it force. Keep everything on your inside shoulder, make everything go back inside.”
Okay, that makes sense. Since that’s where your help is, funnel it that direction.
“Oh yeah, funnel it to your help. Yep, yep, yep.”
*[i.e. the safety’s watching the CB because he has to take the no. 1 receiver if the CB comes off of him in trap, whereas the safety’s watching to see whether an inside receiver runs something deeper than 8-10 yards in quarters.]