Over the past two games the passing numbers for the opposing quarterbacks were obviously a lot higher. Is there something that you can pinpoint on that to change?
“Well, the Michigan State game you’re facing a really good quarterback. They made a lot of plays and we made a lot of plays ourselves in that game, but you’ve got to give credit to the quarterback over there.
“Last week, I’m not taking anything away from Minnesota [but] we just laid an egg defensively, especially in the secondary. We just played poorly. That contributes to a lot of the passing yards this past week.”
Do you attribute that to rust from a bye week or…?
“You know, we’ve all tried to figure it out. Nobody knows but we’re fighting through it and certainly we’ve talked about it, we’ve addressed it, and we are working on getting better starting yesterday in practice.”
Anything you saw specifically on some of the breakdowns that led to long pass plays?
“I just, again, think our guys in the backend didn’t play as aggressively as they have in the past; weren’t going after footballs, had bad eye control, and just losing their guys. Did not play well.”
Connor Cook is ancient history at this point, but was he one of the better quarterbacks you’ve seen this year?
“Oh yeah. He’s a real good quarterback. I mean, he puts the ball places where it’s hard for other guys to catch. He’s good. A lot of credit to him. He’s gonna be- you’ll be watching him on Sundays for sure.”
[After THE JUMP: The wings on the helmet will tell on you if you lose eye control]
Jabrill talked about being an “almost” play team at some points, like his pick-six and those kinds of things and how the next step is to go ahead and make those.
“Right, exactly. As coaches we’ve got to do a better job of putting them in position to make those plays and then once they’re there he’s right, they have to make plays. All that goes hand in hand but as coaches we definitely have to keep after them, keep coaching them, keep doing the things we’re doing. I think we’ve made progress. Little setback last week but the kids are working hard. Just keep on grinding.”
What did you tell Channing [Stribling] about the play at the end where he got beat by #82 Wolitarsky but at the same time he caught up to him and stopped him short of the goal line?
“Yeah, a good and bad play all in one. It should have never gone that far. Again, bad eye control. Guy makes a break; his eyes go right in the backfield; he loses his guy for a half second, split second, and now he’s playing catch up.
“I mean, Channing knows that that is something we don’t accept, that we work on every day in practice. All we talk about is our eyes, hands, and feet, especially at that position and just having disciplined eyes on your man at all times. He knows what happened and we’ve addressed it.”
Jourdan Lewis has had to take on some pretty darn good receivers lately. Can you talk about how he’s battling?
“Yeah, I mean, the kid’s a competitor. I enjoy coaching him, I enjoy watching him play. Just go out there and we match him up against the best receiver every week and he embraces it. He really does. He’s just fun to watch and fun to coach.”
Fair to say Carroo will get a little bit of extra attention as well?
“Yeah, No. 4? Yes. 2-6 will probably find him somewhere along the line, I’m sure.”
Couple of those passes they had against Jourdan were passes where he couldn’t have defended it much better. What do you say to a kid when that happens?
“The last couple weeks? Absolutely. They’re good, too. As you say on Sundays, they get paid too. They’ve got some good players.
“He’s had his share of really, really good plays, and I think a lot more good than bad. That’s just the nature of that position and what’s best about him is he dusts it off, forgets about it, goes and plays the next play. And that’s how you have to be there, and that’s a lot you can say about him.”
You’ve talked so much about eye control. How do you coach that?
“You coach it every single friggin’ play. You gotta coach it, you gotta talk it, and you actually do drills when we have individual period of just gluing eyes on hips. It has to be done right.
“Instinctive guys can maybe get away with it if you have enough instinctive, really good football players but on our end, with what we’re trying to do, this was a zone team [and] now they’re playing a lot of man. It’s not like these kids are used to playing the man that we play, so we really have to stress it and we’ve got to practice it. Develop good habits.”
Can you see on film if they have good eye control?
“Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.”
How do you detect it?
“Those wings on the helmet? They better be on the hip and they better not be looking in the backfield. That’s how we detect it.”
MGoQuestion: Halfway through the second quarter they completed a deep corner route, and it looked like Jeremy Clark had it covered about as well as you can. What is the best way to cover a deep corner route like that?
“Well, it just depends what coverage you’re having. I think we were in just single-high safety. He was in good position. I wish he would have had better body control once the ball was in the air, but he was in a good spot. They made a play.
“The problem is on that play is we didn’t get him down. He scored, so I mean, just make the tackle and go play another play. Live the down out. That was what’s frustrating on that play. His coverage wasn’t bad but he looked kind of clumsy in the end of it and then we couldn’t get him down, and the guy looks- you know, runs it in when he shouldn’t of, in our opinion.”
Who’s the best at eye control consistently?
“J-Lew. J-Lew, yeah.”
When you do these drills is it anything out of the ordinary or-
“No. Make it as real as possible. I don’t like to do things that don’t reflect in the game itself, so it’s real. We’ve probably spent a little more time at the line of scrimmage than normal, but that is for working our feet, working our hands, and also the eyes.
“Now, once they get vertical that’s when we just work different routes and the combinations off of them and just make sure the eyes are on the hips.”
Big picture, what are the things that not just in the secondary but you guys as a defensive staff want to see take a step up in November maybe from good to great?
“Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean, from bad last week to hopefully a whole lot better the next four games for sure. When you watch last week’s game, and again, I’m not taking anything away from Minnesota- they played their rear end off and they played really well- but when you watch last week’s game it looked a lot like the Utah game.
“You just didn’t see the effort from our guys, something that we talk about every day of the week. So, that has been what we’ve been stressing and I’m sure that is what we’ll be stressing from today to the next four weeks.
“Just keep the great effort. I mean it proves it works. You play with great effort and enthusiasm and a great attitude, it works, and I don’t think we had that Saturday night.”
I know it’s sort of cliché, but is it good to have that kind of wake-up call?
“Well, you know what, when you can win a game like that, absolutely. You did get the W. It’s a life lesson, for sure. You come in, you say, ‘Take a deep breath. Whew. Okay, great guys. We got the win, but watch this and learn because next week we won’t get the win.’ Absolutely.”
We’ve talked about how the four guys in the starting secondary differ personally and as players. Would you say that’s accurate individually, and how would you say they interact as a group?
“Well, as a group, they’re great. Just like all of you here are different, everybody in our room is different. Everybody has their own personalities, which is beautiful. The great thing is when we’re all together working, trying to get the job done, they are focused and attentive to their job.”
Are Jeremy [Clark] and Channing still fighting for that other spot or is that something that’s-
“Yeah, we’re just going to keep that competition open. I think competition brings out the best in you, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to let them keep competing and keep trying to make them better.”
Is anyone else getting time there or is it just those two?
“Uh, well, it’s- Brandon Watson’s been practicing out there. He’s been getting a lot of work at nickel and at corner, and we brought over Freddy Canteen from the offense. He’s been working at corner, so just always trying to create a competitive environment to push guys to make each other better.”
Is that Canteen’s primary spot or is he still working both offense and defense?
“Nah, he’s been with us the last couple weeks now. I’d like to see him stay. He’s got some great ability there. Could be a really good corner.”
Starting to see more of Jabrill being instinctive as he gets more comfortable out there?
“You know, he’s starting to get a feel for it, absolutely. He’s doing quite a bit. Now he’s on offense, special teams, defense; it just shows what kind of player he is. He’s a really explosive kid but he is starting to get quite a feel for the game. Yeah, absolutely.”