Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Martindale: Well, it's time, huh? Finally. I joke around with the staff and the defense. It's like we've been here six years together, which is a good thing. But we're ready to start this thing and kick it off. I was real happy with training camp. I like where we're at as a defense, and we're all just ready to go. And I'll tell you what: You get up every morning, and you see that skyline over there, and you know you're in the greatest city in the world and the greatest place to be to work at. And I'm just fired up to actually get into some real games.
Q: When people talk about Tennessee, they speak a lot about (Running Back) Derrick Henry. How much does (Quarterback Ryan) Tannehill contribute to that offense?
A: Well, first of all, there's a reason why they call Derek Henry "The King" because he's on the iron throne for all you Game of Thrones fans (Laughs). They just game him a raise; I think he's the highest paid running back. And I still don't think they gave him enough. But Tannehill, what he does is and what they do is they play to their strengths. And he's a very good, maybe one of the best, play-action quarterbacks in the league today. And that's just how everything fits together. I have tons of respect for (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Todd) Downing and (Head Coach Mike Vrabel) Vrabs. And they know who they are going into it, and Tannehill can run that offense like no other.
Q: You mentioned the king. You've obviously been in situations where you've put your defense on the field against him.
A: Thanks for reminding me.
Q: I'm sure you've followed those themes. But in terms of the approach, do you have to approach a back like that differently because of the way he plays and it's not just one cut and go? He's a physical guy.
A: Oh, he's a physical guy; and it could be one cut and go. And it can be whatever he wants it to be at certain times. And he's just a very talented back. I always get caught in comparing people and everything else, but he's like our modern-day (Former Cleveland Browns Fullback) Jim Brown, I think. He's just that much different when he has the ball in his hands, so it's a challenge every time he touches it.
Q: Why was (Inside Linebacker) Blake Martinez not a good fit for your defense?
A: No one said he wasn't a good fit for our defense; I'm just going to go with what (Head Coach) Brian (Daboll) said. There's tough personnel decisions that have to be made when you're building a roster, and I think he and (General Manager) Joe (Schoen) have done a great job. I'm really excited about the guys we have in the room and wish Blake nothing but the best.
Q: How much input do have on personnel?
A: I mean, they'll ask questions, but it's not like I sit in those meetings. They're going to ask questions, of course, but it's not like I sit in meetings – the final decision meetings.
Q: Why change middle line backers, though? He was your starter running with your first team defense. How hard was that to do that at this point to have to make that change?
A: I think that you look at it a bunch of different ways. I think just in layman's terms, if you change out your MIKE linebacker, that's hard on your defense. But if you look at us schematically, like the Jets, we played four inside linebackers in that game. On third down and schematically, we put the players that we think are best at what they do best positions on the field. So, there will be some games where we don't play with any inside linebackers when you see some of the packages that we have. There will be some games where we'll have (Safety) Julian Love down there playing linebacker, which I think (Offensive Lineman Jon) Feliciano talked about coming from the spring. So, I'm really excited about that room. We're got two great coaches in there with (Inside Linebackers Coach) John Egorugwu and (Defensive Assistant) Kevin Wilkins. I know we're a lot younger, and I'm excited to see what they do come Sunday.
Q: Was that unexpected on Thursday given that you guys kept him on Tuesday?
A: No. I mean, I don't expect anything. It's just you get here to work, and you say, 'Okay. Here we go.' It's been like that; there's a lot of different guys besides that you can say that about that have been here and come and gone. It's a tough. It's tough making those decisions. And I think that we can all say, 'I'd do this' and 'I'd do that' and 'I'd do this,' but until you have to make that decision, then it makes it a little bit tougher when you have to be the one to make that decision.
Q: If you don't have (Outside Linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodaux) and (Outside Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) available, which is very likely, what is your confidence level in the other guys behind them, specifically a guy like (Outside Linebacker) Oshane Ximines?
A: I can't say it enough about how much I love the room – the players in that room that we have because all they've done is come here and work, and they're good people. And they're good teammates. And they're selfless. As far as the other two guys, I know they're working as hard as they can to get back. And Dabs talks about all the injuries and everything else. So, we'll have a plan. I know Custard had one, too. So, we'll see what happens.
Q: Is Oshane, does he show he can play this role?
A: Oh yeah. I love Oshane and what he's done. And he's getting better every day.
Q: How much of your goal is to have this defense really replicate what your great (Baltimore) Ravens defenses did, to have it in that image?
A: I think that's a good question. Every year is different; every team is different. And you can see that through even back when we were at Baltimore. But just for example, we were able to get (Defensive Back) Tony Jefferson here, who was part of the number one defense. And that helps. It's a culture of defense. And I've said before; I've said it to the defense. And I'll share it with you all: There's one thing I'll guarantee you. I don't know how good we're going to be, but we are going to run to the football, and we are going to tackle people. If we start with that, you've got a shot. And I can't wait. I'm really excited about it. All the different pieces that we've had come in and out of here; you see what they're doing at the bottom end of the roster. There's some guys I got to go introduce myself to in the stretch line. That's a different challenge than what I've been in, but also it's fun. I'm excited about it.
Q: What have you learned about Daboll that maybe you didn't know when you made the decision to join his staff?
A: I didn't know Brian real well except how good of a guy he was, you know, when you're around him in coaching deals or combine or whatever. But I love the fact of how competitive he is. We have a lot of similarities that way. I hope he would say the same to you, but it's been a fun journey so far.
Q: You've talked about all the guys coming and going here. In the past, you've talked about (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome Henderson, in your words 'one of the best defensive backs coaches in the league.'
A: Without a doubt.
Q: Can you talk about why you feel that way?
A: A, I think he's a great communicator. I sit there and watch his drills, and his drills carry over to practice. Some guys just do drills that they've always done. You never see a carryover to practice. Everything he does if he sees a weakness in a player, he corrects it and he has a drill to fix it. And schematically, he has some great ideas on the back end with coverage. I'm just real excited about being able to see this thing grow, this relationship grow.
Q: And you feel like he's the right guy for the turnover back there?
A: Without a doubt. No question.
Q: You were in the same place with the same head coach for a decade. You come here. What has the transition been like to get acclimated to a new head coach. Obviously, everything's new.
A: I think coaching, especially as long as a lot of us have, just like the players, you like regimen in your schedule. And the hardest part is just doing different schedules of a different group. Because for 10 years, I knew on Tuesday, Nov. 22, whatever, I knew what I was doing. And the unknowing at times gets a little stressful. That would be the biggest thing. But we'll get into that regular schedule now that we got the season starting.
Q: You mentioned still meeting some guys now. You're in the first year of a scheme. What is a realistic expectation for this group? I don't think the outside expectation (of this is going to be) 'This is going to be a top five defense. This is this going to be the number one defense.' What, for year, is the expectation in year one?
A: I think that's why we kick it off. If I didn't think we could be the best defense, I wouldn't have taken this job. Realistically, I don't know what realistically is. You just don't know the series of events that are going to happen each game, what situations you'll be put in or what situations you can get out – all those different things of calling a defense. But like I said, I am very excited about the group that we have in that room. They are a bunch of selfless, good people, hard playing football players; and they're going to be fun to watch. And that's the biggest thing. It's going to be the first time we have all the ones actually together to play and get into that rhythm that I've been talking about all preseason. So, that's exciting to me. That's why we do it.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka
Q: How excited are you coach? Calling plays, will you be calling from the booth or the field?
A: I'll be up in the booth just like I was in the preseason.
Q: Out of curiosity why do you prefer the booth?
A: It's been cool. It's not the first time I'm in the booth, but it's definitely a different perspective. You get to see the game a little bit differently. Kind of got a bird's eye view up there.
Q: What kind of play caller do you think you are? How would you describe it? We've seen the preseason, obviously that's a different setting.
A: I think you've got to be able to adjust to the game. I think you've got to be able to put our players in a good position to be successful. Find some rhythm on offense and go and execute.
Q: How much do you plan on leaning on (Head Coach) Brian (Daboll) at times? He was saying yesterday that there is so much going on and it's so quick that he didn't really want to get in your ear on calling plays in the moment. I'm curious as to how much maybe you want to go to him?
A: Yeah, I think it's going to be collaborative. When you are in the flow of a game, I think everyone has input and ideas. I welcome that, I love that. The best part of building that staff was all the ideas and everyone's vision of the game. Obviously, I've got to have a clear picture of what I'm feeling and what I'm seeing out there but I'm always going to rely on the eyes of my staff and the coaches out there.
Q: What does it say to you about Dabs, that he was willing to give you this opportunity?
A: It's a special opportunity. I definitely don't take that for granted. Any opportunity you can to call plays in the National Football League is an honor. I'm working to put my best foot forward and give our guys the best opportunity to be successful.
Q: Are you a script the first 15 plays guy?
A: I think there's flexibility in that. I don't think you have to be. But there is flexibility in that, depending on the game plan, the situation, depending on the weather, injuries. I mean, you take all that into account.
Q: When was the first time that Dabs came up and said, 'hey, I want you to call plays.'
A: It happened this week. We were talking and he gave me the nod.
Q: Going back to even the preseason, when was the first time he brought it up?
A: It was a part of the interview process where he wanted his offensive coordinator to call the plays, but he also reserved the right to take the reigns on that as well and I respect that. I think the way that it's gone, it's been good. So, we're working through all that still.
Q: Is it surprising? Because not many guys want to give that up when they become head coaches.
A: Again, I think it's a special opportunity anytime you get a chance to call plays in the National Football League, it's an honor. So, I'm just excited. I'm looking forward to doing my job to the best of my ability.
Q: Going out there Sunday, it's the first run for real at this point. Is the first game a challenge because the opponent doesn't know what you're going to do but I would imagine you guys want to find out what you can do and adjust. Maybe more adjustments, more flexibility in week one versus down the road?
A: Sure, absolutely. Really every game is kind of its own unique situation. But absolutely, first week, I'm sure they have some new wrinkles that we haven't seen. So, we'll have to be able to adjust on the sideline and have enough stuff in the gameplan to counteract.
Q: What's the difference in getting ready for a game as a player and as a play caller? I'm not talking about the physical parts of it, I'm talking about the internal parts of it.
A: It's very similar, at least to when I was a player, the approach I took. I think as a play caller, it's definitely a little bit different because you're the one behind the scenes putting the game plan together. But my approach, my prep, hasn't changed. It's continued to ramp up every single day depending on the situation to make sure the guys are prepared.
Q: You talk about the press box being a bird's eye view. When you're off the sideline and you're off of that emotion, you can talk to (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) but you can't be there with him and things like that. Is that an adjustment? Is it going to be hard to be divorced from the whole sideline?
A: No, I have a bunch of trust in the staff that's down there and the eyes that they have. Obviously, Dabs is down there as well. So, that's been an ongoing conversation, an ongoing communication throughout the preseason of, 'hey our guys are liking this, we're liking this scheme'. They get a better feel for that part of it. 'Hey, so and so is feeling it, let's keep on feeding him' or vice versa. That's just the communication and trust I have with our guys.
Q: When you were a quarterback did you like the OC in your ear all the time?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, you're getting the play, you're getting pertinent information for the situations. So, it's always good to hear that same voice throughout practice and then you hear the same voice in the game.
Q: You had the entire summer to see Daniel up close. What are your thoughts on what you have as a quarterback and how good you think he can be?
A: Daniel has continued every single day, he's gotten better. I love his approach, I love his work that he puts in before practice, after practice. I mean he's a guy that you look at and that's how its supposed to be done. I think where we're at today, we've got some installs coming in today. We've got a big practice, an important practice, some situational stuff showing up today. So, I think that's pretty much more or less what we're focused on.
Q: You mentioned the interview process and Brian bringing it up from the get-go, wanting the OC to call plays. How appealing did that make this opportunity? Obviously, you had a pretty good job in Kansas City.
A: I think the opportunity to work with Dabs was very appealing, regardless, because there always was an opportunity that he might pull back, but I wanted to work with Dabs, I wanted to be a part of this organization, and what it stands for. That's what I was excited about the most.
Q: You've worked with a head coach that's won a Super Bowl and has done it at the highest level. What do you see as Brian's upside? And what's been the best part of working with him?
A: Dabs brings a lot of Super Bowl experience as well, I think, having five. So, I think his experience in those games, whether it's playoffs or the season, he's been through the highest highs and the lowest lows. He's been through a lot as a coach so he has just as much knowledge and just as much experience that you can definitely pull from. (Kansas City Chiefs Head) Coach (Andy) Reid, he's a Hall of Fame coach. He's unbelievable, he's a great mentor and someone I look up to and respect highly, too. So, I've been fortunate enough to be around guys like that.
Q: What did you take from the summer and preseason games that was unexpected that you're taking into the regular season?
A: I took the same approach. Nothing really changed for me. Just working through the gameplan, working through our schemes and what we want to do on a week-to-week basis to make sure it's simple for our guys. Our guys can go play fast and execute. Really, that's been our theme as an offensive staff: let's try to make it simple so that our guys go play fast.
Q: How much will you take player input when it comes to scheming and play calling? Do you take input?
A: Absolutely, absolutely. They're professionals, these guys are super smart. They have a great feel for the game. They understand what they can and can't do and I think when the players take ownership of that, I think that's when you get something really good, really special.
Q: How do you feel about tempo? Do you feel you will be a hybrid of Brian and Andy?
A: I think you have to have flexibility with that, whether you want to jump into it or not. Kind of depends on the game, kind of depends on how the game's going. But there's some element of that.
Q: You guys talked about process so much during the summer. Where are you guys in terms of knowing what this offense is?
A: I think in terms of the process, we're on a Wednesday practice, we're working through our gameplans, working through our normal weekly schedule. That's where we're at in the process really.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
McGaughey: What's going on, good people? How are you all doing? Fire away.
Q: (Running Back) Gary Brightwell is listed as the kickoff returner on the unofficial depth chart. What do you like about him?
A: Gary is a dependable football player. A young player. Up and coming. Smart, tough, dependable. He's everything that we want in a returner. He's got good speed. He's tough. Got good quickness. Has good vision. And again, the most important thing is dependable. So, I look forward to seeing him make some plays.
Q: What was your reaction to seeing (Inside Linebacker) Cam Brown get voted a captain?
A: I wasn't shocked. Cam is growing. He's maturing. And I guess other people see that as well. So, I'm happy for him and his growth as a man and as a football player; and I think his best football is ahead of him.
Q: For that gunner spot, you talked a lot about Cam last year. I assume he will be one of your gunners…?
A: Cam has a lot of versatility. If we need to throw him out there at gunner, he can be there; if we need to throw him out at wing, he can be there. Tackle, he can be there in punt. So, he does a lot of different jobs for us. We'll see what happens on Sunday, but we've got a bunch of guys that are rolling at the gunner spot. It's been pretty good so far. Happy with what we got.
Q: You look like you're still trying guys out there.
A: Yeah. That's the whole team. It's everybody. You turn over the bottom part of the roster, that's just part of it. I'll tell you guys this a hundred times: I make gumbo every week. That's what it is. You don't complain about it; you don't think yay or nay about it. You just go with what it is. You make the adjustments; don't make excuses.
Q: (Wide Receiver) Kalil (Pimpleton) is a guy who's been an accomplished returner in college. I'm curious how much you saw him in college and when you guys had that opportunity to bring him in, did you view that as a possibility for returner?
A: We'll see. Anything is possible in this league. Guys got to stay ready. That's why we talk about it all the time.
Q: I could've asked you this years ago, I'm not sure that I didn't necessarily, but have you ever lobbied for (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) on special teams, particularly kickoffs?
A: He's always lobbied for it. I told him, 'You're trying to get me fired, aren't you?' But no, Saquon is always itching to get back there.
Q: Is he serious, do you think?
A: I don't know.
Q: Because he did it at Penn State. You saw that.
A: Oh, trust me. I've seen him do it before. I would venture to say you've got to have a situation somehow, someway, maybe, who knows.
Q: (Kicker) Graham (Gano) looks like he's good to go. Next preseason, will you tell him to let the returner go in that situation? You don't want to risk losing him in that spot.
A: I think the competitor came out in Graham in that situation. But Graham's ready to rock.
Q: We haven't talked to you since then. I know (Safety) Julian (Love) said he'd never held before. How often do you practice contingency plans for those spots?
A: We do it probably once a week. But that scenario was a little bit different because we didn't anticipate the kicker getting hurt. We anticipated potentially maybe the holder, having a different holder. But I'll tell you what, it was a testament to JLove and his character and who he is as a leader and a captain. And he volunteered for it. He's like, 'I'll do it.' And to be able to pull that off, that's a feat in itself.
Q: Does that change your prep going forward at all or how you approach things?
A: No. We still work the backup holders. We still work the backup snappers. That was a learning experience for me because that was a left footed kicker, and it's different holding for a lefty and a righty. It's a big difference. But we'll work those situations and scenarios moving forward.
Q: I know you're not the personnel decision maker here – you've said that many times. But I'm wondering: it's been several regimes now. Have you chimed in and said, 'Hey. It would benefit us to have a full-time returner.' I know it's become less and less prevalent around the league, but is that something you would like to have if it still existed today?
A: To me, you all know my philosophy. Whoever is out there, we're going to coach them up and get them better. Any time you can have continuity in any spot in any realm of business, sports, continuity breeds consistency. So, anytime we can get continuity, if you can get a guy back there that's there, and that's his job, that's his main job and he's locked in a focused on it, yeah, you want something like that. But you just make do with what you have. I don't get a lot of say-so in how the roster flows. Whatever I got is what I coach.
Q: In the last couple of months, when did (Punter) Jamie (Gillan) convince you he was the right guy?
A: It was probably right in the middle of OTAs. A switch just flipped. And he just started hitting the ball really, really well. It got to the point to where it was like 'You know what? We just need to keep nurturing him and bringing him along and keep feeding him positive things.' And he's growing. He's still has some things he needs to work on, but he's growing as a young punter.
Q: And he is the backup kicker?
A: Yeah. Definitely (Laughs).
Wide Receiver Darius Slayton
Q: Was yesterday a difficult, certainly unique day for you?
A: No, about the same. I went to meetings. Obviously, we covered the Titans – it's our opponent this week. So, pretty much the same.
Q: As far as the financials, what is your mindset now?
A: My mindset now is (Titans Cornerback) Kristian Fulton and (Titans Cornerback) Roger McCreary are good corners. So is (Titans Safety) Kevin Byard and their other starting safety, they're all good players. They've got a good defensive backfield that we've got to be ready for.
Q: Did you think about telling them, you know what – just cut me?
A: Yeah, (Titans Defensive Tackle) Jeff Simmons is a hell raiser. He's a really good defensive tackle. A good rusher, good player. We've got to be ready for him.
Q: Do you have a good understanding of what your role is here now on this team?
A: Yeah, run routes, get open and catch the football.
Q: A lot of people, if they're in your situation, they would be pissed off and it would linger because this is a part of your livelihood. How do you avoid spending a lot of the season very annoyed at your employer?
A: By doing my job, playing football.
Q: Is it one of those where they had all the power and you had very little of it?
A: Yeah, kind of like I said I just play football. That's my job, it's what I do for a living. I tend to do it well and I plan to do it well this year.
Q: What do you want to show people? It's a contract year - whether you're here or whether you're somewhere else. Who knows what kind of opportunities you get but what do you aim to show the league or this team who you are as a player?
A: Probably just that I'm a good football player. I think I've shown that in the past, but I look forward to showing that again and showing that I'm a better player than what I've been in the past.