Q: Mathias Kiwanuka …A: Yup. We re-signed him and he's going to play linebacker this year. Right now he's playing the same position. He's got some adjusting to do because he's been away. But, when he came here right at first he played some. It's a position where there's different things to look at. He's adjusting well as he goes. Good studier, good kid, smart. Every day he learns more and more and more about the position. I think the biggest thing right now is just the coverage part of the aspect and different things that that guy's required to do. That's what we're working on most right now, that part of the game. He's such a physical guy. That's what I love about him. He brings a physical part to the game. Against the run, he'll be a hard guy to move out of the hole.
Q: So he's not a joker as Jerry likes to say? He won't be switching from line to linebacker, he's officially a linebacker?
A: Yes. In our base package he's a linebacker. When we go to third down, all bets are off. We try to put the best people on the field to get pressure, to cover. It's a different game to me. First and second downs are a completely different game than third. It's like a whole different playbook. When we go to third down, he has multiple positions on third down plays and our third down package.
Q: What does that do to Sintim?
A: Clint has actually had a great camp so far. I really like where he's at. He's done a great job. He looks faster. He's leaner. He's done a great job out here. Anytime you can't go into a season with three legit guys and someone gets hurt and you're putting a non-legit guy in. So, he's competing for a job as a starter wherever it is. Really, to me, they're all interchangeable. They should all be able to play all the positions.
Q: So the decision with Kiwi was made when you signed him and not a reaction to anything with Clint?
A: No because we think he can help us. We played him here a little bit last year, at the beginning of the year, if you remember. He played off the ball and did some good stuff for us. We feel like he'll help us in terms of the linebackers.
Q: Why do you think he's more valuable there than he is at end? What is he able to do? What is his skill set?
A: Kiwi has great range. If you ever watch him, he could be on the numbers on one side and get to the numbers on the other in a heartbeat. To me, that's what you look for as a linebacker coach. You look. You run to the ball and he can run all day long. Plus, he's athletic enough that he can move in and out and get around people. So, he's going to help us. He's a good defensive end too, don't get me wrong. But, we would like for him to play linebacker.
Q: As a natural defensive end it seems like most of the movement's going straight ahead or slightly to the right side or to the left. Here you have a lot more lateral movement. Is that a concern at all?
Q: He's already been able to show?A: Yes.
Q: How are the young kids? What have you seen out of Herzlich? You're laughing. Why are you smiling?
A: I like my young group. They're a great group of kids, they really are. Greg Jones from Michigan State. I'm obviously from Michigan. He's done a great job. You can tell he played at a high level in college. He has great instincts to the ball. He picks things up fast. He's going to be fine. He's a good, young player. Jacquain Williams, to me, he's the kind of guy you look for. He played D-end in college. You put him on two feet in pro football. He's one of those guys that can go from sideline to sideline. He can catch quick, he can cover and he's learning the game. If I just say okay go cover that guy, the guy will be covered now. _ the assignment part of it—who am I covering, who am I not covering. He's doing a good job of it. He's learning on the move. Herzlich I love, because he's one of those kids who--something in his life, obviously his sickness--has really driven his focus to succeed and he's going to succeed. That's just the way he is. Pretty much he was on his death bed and now he's playing in the NFL camp with the New York Giants. That's a great story. Then you've got Spencer Paysinger who, to me, is one of those young guys who you know you're really like in college. He played in that system and spread and all that stuff, but he's gained a few pounds since he's been here and he can move, too. He's kind of quick, too. I like that group here. It's good a mesh, they like each other and it's been a good group.
Re: Players moving back to linebacker or up to linebacker
A: Can you remember Adrian Tracy? Adrian made a huge move from a year ago when he got his injury and he's got into the playbook, and he's getting a much better understanding of playing linebacker, because he was a D-end in college. Kenny Ingram actually came the other way—he was a safety. Kenny provides you the type of guy that can cover like a safety and he's put on a little weight, too.
Q: Coach just told us that last year, you had about twenty practices before the first game, this year you have eleven. When you're coaching, are you teaching a lot more? Do you feel that it's more challenging this year?
A: There is much more meeting time, which is good, because you need that. You need to go over assignments, you need to show them what's wrong, you need a walk-through and you need good practices. So, really, this has been very good. We don't get the physical reps that we would if you we were in a two-a-day, one-a-day, two-a-day. I think the veteran guys are ok, because they've done it before. It's the younger guys who are my concern. They have to go out and play NFL football at a fast pace. Their learning curve is going to be real faster in about seven days.
Q: Kiwi is a big linebacker. Is there a plan to get bigger at that position, or is that just something that happens?
A: I just think it's the body types that are there. If you want to win and you want to go to the Super Bowl in the NFL, you better have a defense that can stop the run and force their hand or control of the ball. That's what I believe. If you can't stop the run, you have no chance. So if you're playing in there with linebackers 215, 220, 215, you're going to wear down. Eventually at the end of the game in the fourth quarter, they're going to be running the ball 5 yards, 6 yards, 7 yards and you can't stop them. You can't get them to third down. So, you have to stop the run. You have to be built in a way where you can do that.
Q: A lot of teams go the opposite way with 220 pound linebackers and they're all over the place.
A: Well, it's really hard now because in college ball, there are no 230, 240 pound linebackers because it's all spread out all over the field. What has happened is the migration is from the secondary, to linebackers, you see all DB's—they're playing linebacker in college football and that's hard. You have to take D linemen and pay that guy to be a linebacker and that kind of thing. It's a process that you have to go through to get them where you want them.
Q: What do you see from Jonathan Goff this year that you didn't see last year?
A: I think he really worked hard on his movement skills, quickness, agility. You can see it out here. He's made several big plays when maybe a year ago he might have just gotten there. Now, he's there. That's the flash that you want. I think every year that I've been with Jon, he's gotten better and better and better, and this year is the same. He's gotten better. He feels comfortable. He's a leader out there. That's what I like.
Q: Where do you feel Herzlich lines up?
A: I've got him playing a couple positions. He's a highly intelligent kid, so the concern is just trying to find his niche right now. Probably in the middle, probably at SAM.
Q: So he can do both?
Q: And I saw before Paysinger got hurt, it seemed like you guys were taking a look at him.A: He's a good player, a very good player. I like him a lot.
Q: On passing downs you could probably take Jones out and maybe …A: Part of that is just trying to get everybody reps. You only go three teams and I've got 11 linebackers. That means there's two extra. So you've got to mix them around.
Q: Are cuts going to be tough for you?
A: The cuts are always hard. You spend so much time with the guys; they're like your sons.
Q: Will a lot of it have to do with special teams, too?