What's it like coaching DT Ross Blacklock and what are your early impressions of him?
"Ross is a joy to coach. He comes to work every day with the mindset of getting better, and that's all you can ask for. I think we saw that pre-draft when we had him here for a visit. We knew he was determined to go out there and reach his absolutely best, and he comes in every day and works to try to achieve that. I couldn't be more happy with how he has progressed to this point."
How has OLB Jonathan Greenard progressed, and does he remind you of anybody?
"Oh man, Jon Greenard – he's a physical ball player. You see that particularly when he's setting the edge in the run game. As far as comparisons, that's tough. That's tough. I'd like to say a little bit like Brennan Scarlett to this point, but you can see that the sky is the limit for that kid. He's very smart. You can teach him all the fundamental underneath coverage drops, particularly zone drops. Like I said, he can set the edge. He's only going to develop and continue to get better as a pass rusher. He's another guy, just like Ross (Blacklock), who just continues to go out there and attack the practice field every day. As long as he continues to do that, he's going to be as good as he can possibly be."
What has CB Vernon Hargreaves III shown you that made him a first-round pick?
"I mean, you see his athleticism. You see his athleticism, his ability to cover in the slot, which is not an easy job. A lot of those guys when they're running off slots, slots have a two-way go. Those outside corners, they can use the sideline. Vernon doesn't get that. He's quick as a cat and he's able to handle those slots. I think that's probably where he's best suited to play and that's where he's going to shine and we're going to best be able to utilize his skillset."
How would you describe the intensity of the goal-line drills today and what did you like about what your defense did?
"Yeah, we were fortunate to go out there and get some stops against what I think is a very formidable opponent. Obviously, on our offense we have a bunch of skill players, a bunch of talented guys and we made some good stops today. But they did get in the end zone a couple times. But all I'm looking for is guys that as soon they cross the white lines, that something flips. Something flips in them. You need to go out there and be like 11 wild dogs once they snap that ball, and I think today we saw a little bit of that out of our defense."
What stands out about S A.J. Moore Jr. and S Eric Murray?
"I mean, I love both those guys. You talk about guys who are completely selfless, team-oriented guys who are willing to go out there and do whatever it's going to take to win. A.J. Moore is dominant on special teams and when I talk about defense, I always talk about defense and special teams. I love our offensive guys, but when you have offensive guys on special teams, they're not made to go tackle the ball and hunt. That's our job. So, what A.J. Moore does on special teams, to me, is a reflection of who we are on defense, and I love him for that. Eric Murray has been excellent back there with Justin Reid. He is an incredible communicator. He's been in a number of schemes and is very smart, so he can handle as much information as we give him. I'm thrilled that he's here with us."
DE J.J. Watt told us he has taken steps forward to help teach the younger players, how have you seen that improvement and how does that help you?
"It's huge. It's huge. Who would not want advice from a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a 20-sack guy? J.J. has done it all, so any wisdom that he can part on those young guys is going to be huge for us defensively. I think that just comes with growth and maturation. As you age – I hit 40 a few weeks ago, and as you age all you want to do is give back and pay it forward to the game that we all love so, so much. I think that's what J.J. is doing."
How does DE J.J. Watt react when he hears younger players say they watched him when they were growing up?
"I think he can't help but laugh at it. But I also know the competitive side of J.J., he wants to go out there and show those young bucks that he's not an old dog quite yet. He can still get a lot of work done."
What did you see from NT P.J. Hall that was worth signing?
"P.J. Hall is a guy that has all of the physical attributes to go out there and be successful in this league. That's why he was drafted so high. So, for us to have the opportunity to get him on waivers and get the opportunity to work with him, we're excited about that. Now, he has work to do. He's certainly been challenged and we expect him to do that. But it's all in front of him. It's all in front of him if he's willing to go out there and do all of the things necessary to put himself on the football field. We love what we see out of him. He's twitchy. He can go out there and play the nose, he can play the three-technique, provide some interior pass rush. We just have to make sure he's in shape to do that."
How does it feel to get ILB Dylan Cole back from the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list?
"Dylan's a ball player. He's a guy that can do multiple jobs for you. He's a special teams core player. For us, he's an energy giver. He's a guy that loves practice. Those are the guys that you want to be with. He uplifts the people around him, and we're thrilled to just have him back out there on the practice field with us and providing that juice."
What is it like to have CB Keion Crossen and his energy on your defense?
"Keion is just that. He is a ball of energy. He comes to practice every day and like I said, he's a lot like Dylan Cole. He's an energy giver. Those are the guys, like I said, those are the guys you want on your defense. They're infectious. They make people step up their game. The more of those guys you can get around, usually the better you are defensively. Keion continues to grow with us defensively as a ball player. He's doing multiple jobs right now. We're playing him in the slot, we're playing him on the outside. Just like Dylan (Cole), just like A.J. Moore, he is a core special teamer. I can't preach the important of that enough to all of our guys on defense."
How much more can OLB Jacob Martin do for the defense this year in his second season?
"Jacob is a guy that can pose problems for offenses because he can do a lot of things. He obviously can rush off the edge, rush on the interior. You saw him get a sack in the playoff game against Buffalo last year when he ran that game with Whitney (Mercilus). You can drop him into coverage. Finding him and IDing him is going to be an issue for offenses. That multiplicity as a coordinator, you love guys like that because you can get creative and you can do some things. The more he can handle from a football FBI standpoint, the more we're able to do with him, it just makes us that much more complex defensively. We're thrilled to have him."
As far as the situational drills that you guys did yesterday, how can that benefit the defense to be put in high-leverage end-of-game situations?
"We love it. That's the game, right? That's the game. First and second down in the middle of the first quarter – every down is important. I'm not saying that. But we know most of these games are won and lost at the end of half and end of game, two-minute situations. So Coach (Bill) O'Brien is putting us in some difficult situations and I think it's important for our defense to understand the situation, to respond and win, and win, because that's the end goal. Regardless of the situation we're put in, our guys have stepped up to the task at this point. We've lost some certainly, but we've won a lot, too. I think as long as they know those situations, we'll be more prepared once we go into Kansas City."
Can you talk about the growth from CB Lonnie Johnson Jr. as he prepares for his second season?
"Lonnie came in here – he's what, 6'1, 220 pounds and he looks like a WILL linebacker, but he still moves like a corner. That alone has showed me that he is motivated. He's motivated to come in and prove why he was a second-round pick and to this point he's done nothing but show us that on the football field. It's awesome just to see that growth and maturation in him and I can't wait to see all of things that he's going to do this year for us."
How do you try to improve the footwork of ILB Benardrick McKinney in pass coverage?
"I put a lot of trust in his coach, Bobby King. Bobby has done a tremendous job with him to this point and B-Mac for the most part doesn't necessarily have bad footwork. There are times, like all linebackers, where we get pushed up a little bit on play-action because we're trying to stop the run. First and foremost, I think as a defense that's what you want to do. When you're measuring the toughness of the football team, particularly on defense, the first thing you have to be able to do is stop the run. Otherwise the offensive side of the ball is imposing their will upon you. But B-Mac, just like all of our guys, they have 'get better' mentalities. The last thing you want to be in this league is complacent. I speak about that from experience. I came here in 2006 as a player and thought I had all of the answers and didn't have the career here that I wanted those three years. I always caution players to avoid complacency and to always try to get better day in and day out."