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Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell

Posted Jul 30, 2012

Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell talks about how the defense has come together so far.

Q: We were just talking to Osi. Obviously, he doesn’t have some of the issues that he had hovering over him in the past. Do you notice any difference in him because of that? Any difference in how he is out on the field?
A: No, Osi has always been focused when he’s out on the field and even in the meeting room. We’ve never, since I’ve been here, had a problem with his focus on football. He’s a professional, and all of the distractions outside of the football arena he was able to handle. Osi’s been great for me.

Q: Perry, basically you have all your starters back on defense.  I don’t know if that’s ever happened in your career before. Does that give you a better inclination trying to mix things up knowing that these guys know you and that they’ll be able to handle whatever you throw at them?
A: Yes. Well, Deon’s  [Grant] not back for us and he was a big part of our defense and what we did, but we do have a good feel for each other because a lot of the starters are back. We’re on the same page as far as the calls and our communication is concerned. We’re tinkering with different way that we can use our personnel so that’s a little adjustment for the guys; as we continue into practice 3, 4, and 5 you’ll see that we’ll tinker with the personnel a bit. But, yes we do have a flow right now, it’s very good.

Q: The defensive players specifically are citing the last 6-game run last year, talking about how everybody got all in, everybody believed in things, everybody communicated. Is it really that simple to make it all work well?

A: It’s simple but it’s not easy. Yes it is that simple, but it’s not easy to do because you have 11 guys and you need to get those 11 guys playing together. Without that 11 together we all have to be on the same page and we all have to believe in the same things. So I think that what we were able to accomplish in the last 6 games is a testament to them, when we all think alike we can do some good things.

Q: Is there something to be said for playing more simplified. Guys like Kenny Phillips said you played faster and guys were just more in tune by simplifying some things last year?

A: You think I simplified things last year guys? That was good for you guys to hear but we got more complicated more than we simplified. I think what we did was we listened and we heard each other, and I simplified a few things just from a call standpoint, but as we entered the playoffs we became more complex.

Q: Kenny Phillips was saying earlier today that he hopes to be more involved in the defense this year. Last year with all the corners out and the Super Bowl changes, do you see that happening? Do you want to have him more involved in the defense?
A: Absolutely, there’s no doubt about that. Kenny’s a guy with excellent athletic ability and what we try to do as we look at our players in camp, we try to fit our schemes to what we think we can do with our player’s talent level. Kenny was a good cover guy in the playoffs, as you could see last year. He did some things outside of what he did in the course of the season last year, so we’ll tinker during training camp and fit him into different roles this year. So yes, we definitely have plans for Kenny Phillips.

Q: Before the season last year, probably around this time, you said you expected him to take a quantum leap. How would you evaluate what he did last year and what do you expect out of him this year?
A: Well Kenny’s a very consistent player, and with his athletic ability you want him to have more dynamic plays. I thought he made leaps and bounds for us, and then at times he played the roles that we asked him to play. So again, we’re going to see if he can make more dynamic plays for us because that’s what his athletic ability tells us.

Q: A few years ago when you got Jason Pierre-Paul, he was a ball of raw athletic ability.  As you’re coaching him now what’s the biggest difference? What’s different about coaching a guy like him now?
A: He’s a lot more fun to coach now because you know that JPP is going to do something that you’ve got to say that doesn’t belong, but that’s ok that’s JPP. So you don’t try to coach him too much because you don’t want to screw him up. That’s the best thing about coaching him right now because he understands the game to a certain degree, but he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do and what he can learn and where he can go with his talent. So we try not to over-coach him.

Q: Is he still kind of operating a lot on instinct and athletic ability?
A: I would say so, yes. A lot of him is instincts and athletic ability and that’s a good trait.

Q: You were saying you try to coach him and that he’s got a lot to learn, is that just understanding defensive schemes or are you talking about defensive line moves?
A: Just what the offense is doing to him, how they’re trying to take advantage of him and how he can counteract that, and how some of the offensive linemen are trying to set him up in different ways. He came in as Jason Pierre-Paul this defensive end and now he’s JPP, so people are going to study him a little bit more and pay more attention to him. They’re going to have something ready for him this year, so he’s going to have to be a lot smarter about how he plays the game.

Q: Where’s Prince? It looks like he’s got Tryon and Coe ahead of him on the depth chart a little bit. Does he have some work to do to move his way up?
A: We’re trying to take it slow with Prince. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the depth chart because that changes for us every day. If you attend today’s practice you’ll see that Prince will probably line up with the ones. Just because Prince came off the foot injury we probably inserted him too quickly last year, he made a splash play and we got all pumped up, I got all pumped up, and probably put too much on his plate. So we’re just trying to build him up so he can get in and get the reps and get cutting again with our defense.

Q: What have you liked from your linebackers from what you’ve seen? Obviously Boley and Rivers are a little banged up right now, but what about the young guys? I saw you were moving them around a bit.
A: I think that OTAs helped us tremendously, we didn’t have that a year ago; so having the opportunity to get them in the classroom, to meet with them, for them to hear the defenses, and play as a unit in the spring, I think that were stronger from a mental standpoint. I also think we’re stronger from a depth standpoint, and I think we’re more knowledgeable at our linebacker position.  We have more flexibility now, so I can do more things with them and we’ll experiment with them a little bit here in camp.

Q: When you say you got more complex at the end of the year can you describe that and what allowed you to do that?
A: The players allowed me to do that because they all bought in. So what we might have gone into the game plan saying we had, I’ll just a use a random term, say 4 pressures we may have increased that to 8 pressures in a ball game. We doubled our pressures, we doubled our coverages, we added more to their plate; that’s what I mean by complex. They had a little bit more to think about, and we packaged it in a way that was good learning and good teaching for them so that they were able to handle it.

Q: What are you hoping to get out of a guy like Thomas coming out of an injury?
A: Terrell Thomas was a very important part of our package a year ago and when he went down it threw everything into a tizzy for a while. So first we want to let him build himself back up, he hasn’t played for a year so we want to let him get his legs up underneath him and get comfortable playing football again. Then we’ll go from there, we don’t want to aim too high for him and definitely not set the bar too low for him. We just want to work with Terrell and where he is football-wise, and then we’ll start to use him as we see fit.

Q: Jason said the other day that he thinks he’s only reached 50% of his potential. Does that math make sense to you?
A: That’s pretty good math by JPP, he’s really right. This is JPP’s third year and I was looking at Linval Joseph the other day and I said Linval this is your third year man. I can remember as JPP and I were going through and talking about the defenses he had a lot of questions; but I was in the meeting room with him yesterday and he had more answers than questions. Some of the questions he had were very football related, meaning very technical questions that could help make us better as a defense and help make him better as a player. So yes, he’s just scratching the surface of his knowledge of what’s happening to him, what he can produce in the defense and how far he can go outside the framework of the defense.


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