When you played Kansas City in the playoffs last season, Chiefs TE Travis Kelce played very well. How do you prevent him from doing that again?
"He is obviously an incredible talent and defensively I think the teams that have had success against him have always tried to keep him uncomfortable, whether that's chipping him with an extra guy, putting multiple guys on him in man so he can't get used to one guy and how he's going to attack him. So, that's going to be our goal – how best we can make him feel uncomfortable throughout the game so he just doesn't go out there and feel like he's running through the defense and can do whatever he wants. I think just if you can attack him in multiple ways, multiple coverages, multiple people, you have a better chance."
Is that how you handle all of the talented receiving tight ends or is the approach different for each one?
"Absolutely. Everybody has a different skill set, but those guys who are excellent route runners and pass catchers, you can't just give them a single look because they'll know how to attack you. They're too good. Absolutely, I think that's method to trying to get them stopped."
What have you seen from S A.J. Moore Jr. as a defensive player and where has he improved? Also, where is your confidence level with him playing on defense?
"A.J. obviously has come in and made a tremendous impact all camp. You can't help but notice him day in and day out in practice. He approaches the practice field with a tremendous amount of energy. He was locked in really the entire offseason. When you think about our Zoom meetings, he's a guy that's just always focused on what he can do to try to get better. So, I think it's a credit to his work ethic, his effort. I think Coach (D'Anton) Lynn has done a tremendous job with him as well, and all those guys in the secondary, just teaching them the intricate details of our defense and going out there and executing."
What makes QB Patrick Mahomes a special quarterback and how do you try to defend him?
"He's honestly one of the best quarterbacks I've ever seen and the thing about him is the play is never over. You think you've got him in the grass, he escapes and he's chucking the ball down the field. It doesn't matter if he escapes to the right of the pocket, the left side of the pocket. He can make every throw from every angle. The guy is remarkable. What poses the biggest problem, particularly as a rusher, is typically when you're facing quarterbacks you can give them a launch point. This guy likes to launch the ball between anywhere from seven yards to six and a half behind the snap. You can't say that about Pat. He can throw the ball from anywhere on the football field and still make every throw. He certainly poses a problem, but we're going to do our best to try to limit his explosive plays."
With what you've seen in training camp so far, how do you envision rookies DT Ross Blacklock and OLB Jonathan Greenard fitting into the defense this season?
"I think both of those guys have had really good training camps. Now, Greenard's been hindered a little bit by a hamstring injury or a leg injury or something like that, so he's put himself behind the eight ball a little bit as far as contributing early, but I do expect all those rookies to contribute at some point. The head coach (Bill O'Brien) has said it multiple times, this is a tough year for rookies, and it absolutely is. There's a bunch of cumulative reps that they've missed out on whether it was in the spring or in preseason games, but at some point in the season because of their work ethic, they're all going to contribute and help us here throughout this year."
During the offseason a player mentioned you used the app Kahoot! to quiz players. How did you come to use that, and do you plan on using it in the future?
"Obviously with COVID and everything happening, we were forced to do everything virtually. As a coach, it forced you really to try to think outside the box just to keep the meetings interesting and engaging for a generation of guys that have grew up in the iPhone age. There's a lot of what we did that they were just comfortable, in meeting on Zoom and talking. Guys are always on the phones, they're Instagramming, they're FaceTiming, they're doing all of those things. All we tried to do was figure out a way to incorporate a learning tool that's used throughout any form of education, whether it's high schools, elementary schools, college. They all use it, and we just use it to try to implement some of our teaching of the defense. These guys are competitive, so any time you can create a competitive environment regardless of what it is – whether you're playing a Jeopardy game or Kahoot!, whatever it is, they get involved. While they may not realize it, they're having fun. They're having a blast. They're challenging one another, but they're also learning. For us as coaches, that's obviously the end goal."
Earlier in training camp you stated you wanted 11 wild dogs on defense. How is that coming along and how aggressive do you see the defense playing?
"Right now, I feel confident that we have more than 11, and that's a credit to the roster that Coach (Bill O'Brien) and Jack Easterby have built. Now it's just about us just going out there and executing and doing our jobs. But you can feel the cohesiveness and the confidence of the group building each and every day, and that's all we're trying to do. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel as far as football X's and O's. We just want these guys to know what to do, to feel confident in the scheme, to build trust in one another so that they can go out there and put on a good show on Sunday. I feel really good about those dogs, man. We come hungry and humble and ready to eat every day."
How good is it to have a player like S Michael Thomas in the secondary to help out S Justin Reid?
"It's awesome. It's awesome. You can't have enough smart guys, particularly back there in that secondary. There's so many adjustments they have to make throughout the game whether it's formationally, two by two, three by one, is it a condensed formation? Are they stacked? There's just so much communication that goes on so that you can get all of those guys on the same page. I always compare it a lot to the telephone game when you're younger. You start off, you say one thing to somebody, by the time it gets to the guy across the other side of the field, who knows what they said? So, we're trying to do our best to master the telephone game. When you've got smarter guys back there like a Michael Thomas, a Justin Reid and Eric Murray, Bradley Roby – it obviously makes that communication, that cohesion, a lot more cleaner."
How much better equipped do you feel you are in the secondary going into the game against Kansas City?
"I feel really confident about where our secondary is at this point. I think a lot of that is a tribute to the fact that you have a bunch of guys who have worked together previously. Then I know I've mentioned this guy, I feel like every press conference, but I truly believe that D'Anton Lynn and Coach (Deon) Broomfield have done a tremendous job in just teaching these guys and teaching them the ins and outs of everything that we're trying to do. It's a credit to the players as well for taking that information and going out there and executing it at a high level right now. Hopefully, the goal is to carry that into the game. One thing you want to do is practice execution equals game reality. I feel to this point we've done a good job of executing at practice and we've got to make sure we stay true to that come game day."
Could you speak to the importance of ILB Zach Cunningham and CB Lonnie Johnson Jr. when it comes to making a guy like TE Travis Kelce uncomfortable?
"Can't say enough about those guys. In the defense that we're trying to implement, position flexibility and multiplicity is extremely important because when you have guys that can do multiple jobs, it makes it very hard on an offense to eliminate any particular player because you don't necessarily know where they're going to be. So, when you have guys that have the coverage flexibility of a Lonnie Johnson, of a Zach Cunningham, it gives you some flexibility to do more on defense and be more creative. Those guys, I can't tell you [enough], they have so much value for our defense and because of their intellect as well, that enables us to do more as well because they are smart guys. They play really hard. They obviously have some position flex, but they're also really, really bright."
How have you seen Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien evolve as a coach? Also, what does it say that he is letting you call plays for the first time?
"First, I obviously am extremely grateful for the opportunity that Coach O'Brien's given me. I will be forever indebted to him for this opportunity. As far as him and his growth as a coach, every single year I've been here, he's undergone some kind of transformation for the better. It's not every person – a lot of people don't do that. You've got to be able to set yourself aside and be able to look at the big picture and realize where you need to grow as a human being. I tell people all the time, you're either growing or you're dying, whether you're a player or a coach in this league. He understands that. The thing that people don't realize about Coach is that you only see the one dimension that you always see on TV and on the sidelines, but there's so many more layers and depths to him. He's a tremendous person and he continues to get better and look at himself in the mirror to try to get better each and every day."