Defensive line coach Jethro Franklin talked to Texans TV about defensive end Mario Williams' progress and what expects out of his unit next season.
Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): Last season was your first year as a defensive line coach with the Texans, and the defensive line made huge strides. What was your coaching philosophy going into last season?
Jethro Franklin: The biggest thing when you are dealing with young players, the most important thing that you have to get across is really one word, and that's to finish. We've got to finish plays. We did a decent job of that, but we still have to do a better job. That's going to continue to be the main focus: to finish.
Brooke Bentley: Everyone points to Mario Williams, who had 14 sacks last season. Did you see a light bulb go off in him? Did something change last season?
Jethro Franklin: He gained confidence. That is such a big part of this game, just playing with confidence and belief and knowing that you have the ability to take over a game and take over a certain player. His confidence level went out the roof. If we can just continue to do that and, again, focus on the "finish" part of it and do things for him so that his confidence level continues to go up, the sky's the limit for him.
Brooke Bentley: In the Texans' recent mini-camp, Mario looked stronger and faster than ever. Do you think technique-wise and physically he's on a whole new level?
Jethro Franklin: Again, that word confident comes up. Whenever you experience it, you kind of feel invincible. He's out there doing things that we expected him to do, but it's nice to see him doing them. It's fun to watch. He's going to continue to get better and he still has to finish better, as well. The sky's the limit. He's not there yet, but he's making some strides towards where he needs to be.
Brooke Bentley: Does he respond to your coaching differently now? Or is your coaching different with him?
Jethro Franklin: No, my coaching hasn't changed a whole lot. It can be intense, but it needs to be. Where we play on the defensive line, it is such an intense position and it is really the heartbeat of the team. If we don't go hard, the offensive line doesn't block hard, the running backs don't run hard, the linebackers get blocked. So we have to bring it every snap, whether we're in practice or we're in games, because we really can improve the whole team.
Brooke Bentley: There recently was a column about you in the Houston Chronicle, saying you have a love-hate relationship with your players. Do you think that is an accurate representation?
Jethro Franklin: No, it was too bad that came out that way. Everything I do is about the love of the game and loving the guys that I coach, and they know that. Even though the article wasn't a good article for me in terms of how I feel toward the guys that I work with, what's most important is that the guys that I work with understand what I'm all about. They understand the love that I have for them and the love that I have for this game and the respect that I have for them and the respect I have for the game. They know at the end of the day everything we try to do for them is for them to get better and to become better football players, better citizens and better men.
Brooke Bentley: What jump do you expect to see in Amobi Okoye next year?
Jethro Franklin: Again, as I said earlier, he has to do a much better job of finishing. He left some plays out there. He knows that and, again, that confidence thing. He has to take from what he learned last season and he has to have it carry over to this season, learn from the mistakes that he made and build on the things that he did well. If he does that, the sky's the limit for him, as well. You have to do it in practice as much as you can, and you have to reinforce it as a coach. That's what I'm here to do.
Brooke Bentley: How do you instill confidence in your players?
Jethro Franklin: Confidence comes from previous experiences and success, so you've got to have that success somewhere down the line because that's going to give you the confidence that you have. We're not playing games right now; we're practicing. So you try to put them in situations that can happen in a game. Throughout practice, you point out things that they did well and you harp on those things. Like my old coach used to tell us, "It's easy to catch them doing something wrong. You've got to catch them doing it right."
It's no different than raising your kids. When your kids take that first step, you're jumping up and down excited and all fired-up. You reward them and you let them know that this is an exciting moment. It's the same things with these guys. When you are coaching and raising kids, it's kind of the same thing.
Brooke Bentley: You have another young guy, a big guy, in Frank Okam who maybe can help stop the run. What do you see in him?
Jethro Franklin: He's a young player, obviously. We are still working with him. We expect some good things out of him. Coming in here, he's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He's not sure what to expect, which is good. We've just got to make sure that we channel all his energy in the right direction. We'll just see what happens as we go.
Brooke Bentley: You talk about finishing. What is the number one thing you would like to see out of your defensive line next season?
Jethro Franklin: I use the word finish because that is so important. As a unit, as a defense, as a team, if we are just able to accomplish that - we are going to make huge strides if we are just able to do that one thing. We put them in positions to try to make that happen in practice. Hopefully, with confidence it will have carryover into the game. If we focus on finishing our plays, whether it's rushing the quarterback, getting him on the ground, whether it's playing on a scoop block on the backside in a three technique, whether it's Mario taking a proper footwork step on a base block and getting rid of the blocker and making a play – those are things we have to improve on.