OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR / QUARTERBACKS COACH TIM KELLY
Could you tell us the challenges of being a first-time play-caller and the advantages of knowing the roster already? Also, what role do you see Assistant Quarterbacks Coach T.J. Yates fulfilling?
"Being a first-time play-caller is obviously – as elementary as this may sound, you're doing everything for the first time. Being able to put yourself in those situations with live bullets – OK, the first time that happens in Kansas City is going to be the first time that I'm doing it where it actually counts. We were able to get some experience doing that last year during the preseason, but now doing it in a regular season game – that'll be the first time. Obviously I'm looking forward to that challenge. Knowing the roster, it's good to be able to know what the strengths and weaknesses are of the different players so you can take advantage of what they do well, try to capitalize on their strengths and the different matchup issues that they may present. Finally, with T.J., he's going to do a really good job with working with the quarterbacks and their mechanics, all the different techniques that are involved with playing that position. T.J.'s obviously played the position here in the NFL for a number of years, so he's very well-educated and very knowledgeable with what it takes to be successful at this level. He's going to be working with the quarterbacks, strictly with their techniques and fundamentals."
What do you envision from the receiving corps this season? Also, can you touch on the continuity of the offensive line after returning all five starters?
"With the wide receiver position, we see a lot of talented players with a lot of experience that have come through and made plays for people in big time games. You look at Brandin Cooks, who's played in two Super Bowls. Randall Cobb was constantly in the playoffs when he was with Green Bay. You've got guys that have played and performed at a high level throughout their careers and they bring a different style of playing the wide receiver position than we've seen here in the past couple of years. We're really excited to be able to get those guys out on the grass and watch them run and watch them continue to build their relationship with Deshaun (Watson). As far as the offensive line goes, obviously the continuity there with that position group is so important. The communication, knowing how one another is going to handle different movements, reading of body language – all of those can't be taken for granted with the group. Having five guys that have played together with one another is really going to beneficial to the growth of this offense."
How important was calling plays during the 2019 preseason in feeling more comfortable calling plays this season? Also, what can you do to make up for the lost reps due to the lack of a preseason this year?
"I think it was really important. Obviously having to figure out simple things – what hash is the ball on? What's the down and distance? Little things like that can't be taken for granted. The experience that I was fortunate enough to earn last year is going to be valuable. Just being able to continue to put myself in those positions throughout camp and throughout the next couple of weeks to make sure that I'm as prepared as possible when we take the field against Kansas City."
What as the communication like between you, the rookies and the veteran acquisitions during the virtual offseason?
"The communication – not to be too general here, but being a younger coach if you will, being able to get used to FaceTiming and doing all of those things. It's become a normal interaction with people, so this isn't than that different than what we usually do on a normal basis. The communication obviously wasn't ideal. We'd much rather be in person, face-to-face, but being able to see each other through the Zoom media, being able to interact with the different technologies that we have was really beneficial. Obviously, we would have loved to be in person but I think it's a testament to the guys that are in that locker room that I don't think that we skipped a beat there as far as the communication because of the way they approached it, the professionalism of the guys in that room and really their willingness to learn."
How difficult is it installing your offensive schemes, plans and plays without the benefits of the offseason programs?
"We'd much rather be able to practice it and be able to get those reps at full speed, but that's not the case right now. I was just excited to be able to communicate with those guys on a daily basis and have those conversations with them. We really focused on trying to make the best out of this situation. The one thing that came from it is that there was much more communication between the players over these mediums than what we had in the past. It really forced them to communicate, so now we've gotten that box checked. Now once we get on the field, we're going to be able to finally put that in motion when we start practicing here."
How will the running game look different under you and how do you plan to utilize RB David Johnson?
"I think one thing philosophically is that we're always going to try to do what's best for the offense in terms of the different running schemes and trying to put the defense in conflict. Any way that we can try to do that, we're going to continue to do that. Obviously David is a very talented football player. He's not just a great runner. He's obviously talented in the passing game, as is Duke (Johnson). We're in a very unique situation here to have two guys that we trust to not only be effective running the ball, but dangerous in the passing game, also. We're going to do what we can to take advantage of the matchups that they're going to present."
What is it like working so closely with QB Deshaun Watson and how he continuously strives to improve?
"It's been a real joy to coach him over the past year and however long it's been. I think you hit on the head with really his willingness to come in every day even though he has performed at such a high level, he's come in every day willing to learn and willing to get better at simple things that we think can elevate his game. It's been a joy to coach him. He comes in with a great mindset. He's a great example to the other players in the locker room. We look forward to continuing to work with him."
Can you talk about what excites you about this offense? Also, what is one thing that you learned from Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien that will help you in this position?
"As far as being excited about working with this offense, it's really – first of all, coming in every day, I think we have great guys. Being able to work with them and now being able to see them in person, getting to learn their body language and the different interactions – that's exciting. That's just because they're great people and they're great football players and, again, they come here with a great attitude. Schematically, obviously being able to try and take advantage of multiple people that can win one-on-one matchups, not just in the passing game but in the running game. So, being able to take advantage of the unique skillsets that these guys are going to present. Obviously, being able to work with Coach O'Brien, it's going on nine years now, holy smokes. Being able to work under him – his ability to relate to players and his ability to get a feel for the room, get a feel for the locker room, is something that is to me, it's the best that I've been around. It's something that, again, trying to get a feel for the people that you're working closely with is a skill that I can't stress that enough how important that is in order to know which buttons to push in order to get the most out of the people that you're responsible for. Being able to learn from him in that area has been great."
What are you guys allowed to do during this time before you get to full-speed practice?
"Basically once we get on the grass we're going through walk-throughs, nothing full speed, obviously. But we are going through walk-throughs, like you said, trying to simulate as closely as you can without actually going full speed. So, the players are doing a good job coming and getting line up. Basically, you're just getting a general installation and you can see if they know what the install is really without having to go against somebody or worry about making a reach block or beating press coverage. Really, just making sure the players have a general understanding of the scheme that we've installed."
Do the new practice squad rules help you when making difficult cuts at tight end and wide receiver?
"I think that's – obviously with the way that Coach (Bill) O'Brien is going to construct this roster, it's going to put us in a position to make sure that we're protecting ourselves against anything that may be coming down the line here. Obviously with the expanded roster numbers and the expanded vet limitations, that's going to allow us to keep really good players in the building."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR TRACY SMITH
How much was Brad Seely an influence on your coaching evolution and what are you looking to bring to the table now?
"You know Brad. Brad is one of the greatest of all time and we worked together for so long that you can't count the influences. It's immeasurable. Other coaching influences, my dad, who's obviously a professional coach for a long time also. I have a lot of great role models. I'm hoping that the differences will be imperceptible to the human eye. This is a collaboration and always has been with Brad and I for 10 years now, so it'll be hard to tell anything different. We're just going to try to do the best we can in all the phases and see how it turns out."
The preseason is critical to special teams. How much of a detriment is it going to be to not have those four games to determine who you want to play on your special teams?
"Preseason is huge for special teams and always has been. We have to make it up at home and we have to create those opportunities. We have to manufacture those situations in practice, in more of a controlled setting, to figure out who's ready to go. Special teams is an area where guys don't necessarily have a lot of college experience. Especially for the new players, they have to get some full-speed chances to try to what they're going to do before we show up in Kansas City and play against one of the best returners in the NFL."
What are the challenges of having less time to practice special teams? Is it more academic under these circumstances with the limitations of the offseason and no preseason games?
"We certainly have to do more Zoom meetings and more things not in person. It's harder to get the guys to jell as a unit for sure but everybody is dealing with the same conditions. These things are minor inconveniences [compared to what] America is going through. It's a minor inconvenience to stand in line to go to Home Depot right now, so we'll figure it out day by day. All we have to do is when we are together, make the most of those minutes and try to build a football team."
How is going to be when you do get back on the field, knowing how much Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien loves practicing special teams?
"Once it's practice time, it's practice time. We'll have the time we've always had but special teams is a lot about passion and unity and a spirit. That stuff is coming slowly because as you're feeling now, on Zoom it's not the same. It's hard to interact. I can filibuster you if you want. I can just keep going but it's hard to talk to somebody through the Zooms in the exact same way. But we have a lot of returning players, so those guys will help the new guys and everybody will get on board as we get going. Special teams' importance will not change. Once we kick off, the first play of the season on September 10th is a kickoff. I can tell you that right now, so we have to be ready to go."
You brought back WR DeAndre Carter, but who else do you think has some potential as a return man?
"DeAndre is obviously our returning returner, punt and kickoff. Keke Coutee is going to get some chances. Randall Cobb has returned a ton of balls in the past. Will Fuller (V) has a history. Duke Johnson as a kickoff returner. There's a lot of guys on the team that we're going to use these next four and a half weeks to sort that out before really starting to twist it in and get ready for the Chiefs."
Can you talk about having K Ka'imi Fairbairn, LS Jon Weeks, and P Bryan Anger and what their skillset brings?
"It's incredibly comforting to have veterans back in this particular environment for sure, especially experienced guys. These are guys that just go in and play the games and we're OK with what they've done in the past and keeping it rolling. We're also one positive test from who knows what, so we have to be ready for those scenarios as well. But starting off the season with three guys who know what they're doing is a great comfort because. It would be tough to have a brand new, a drafted kicker for example or punter or snapper, all those things. I feel for the teams that are going through that situation."
The last time you were on the field you had some great special teams plays in Kansas City and some bad ones. Have you forgotten about it or will you bring that up to help them learn from that experience?
"There's no forgetting for the guys that were involved, for sure, and there's lessons to be learned for the ones that weren't here to show them what happened. It's just an emphasis that special teams can swing the game and you only have one shot. If you go out there and have a poor punt play, you can't run it back on second down and punt it again. You have one opportunity and you can't miss those. You have to be ready to go each time we're out there. You can make a game-swinging play, good or bad, so we have to be prepared at all times."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR / DEFENSIVE LINE COACH ANTHONY WEAVER
Could you talk about the pressure of being a first-time play caller, the advantage of knowing your roster and having Associate Head Coach Romeo Crennel to lean on when you need him?
"As far as pressure is concerned, I don't really feel a ton of it. I know calling the plays will certainly be a new test for me but it's one I've been preparing for a long time. It's not the pressure I faced running out as a true freshman at the University of Notre Dame against the University of Michigan. That was pressure because I was going to get smacked in the face by Jon Runyan. This is nothing. I can handle this. Knowing the roster is certainly an advantage. Having been around these guys, having relationships developed already, that's been a huge advantage and of course having Romeo there to lean on to assist whenever I have any questions is huge. I'm blessed. As far as pressure goes, I don't feel a ton of it right now. The only pressure I feel is getting our guys prepared to play."
What are the challenges of installation with no preseason games or OTAs?
"There's not so much of a challenge of getting the defenses installed as much as it is evaluating players without seeing them play against other teams. We're going to put in what we're going to put in. We have a very high football IQ defense, so everything we've put in this far, they've been able to handle. I don't see that sponge leaking any water quite yet, so that gives a huge advantage. The only thing we're missing, like I said, is just the opportunity to go out there and see these guys compete against other teams. That's the only thing that we're really missing out on."
What do you see the roles of S Eric Murray and CB John Reid being? Do you expect CB Gareon Conley to be back on the field soon?
"I'm happy with the way our secondary is coming together. I think D'Anton Lynn is doing a phenomenal job with each and every one of those guys. Gareon, while he did have surgery, he is starting to feel better. I know he's on PUP right now but he's champing at the bit to get back out there. He's already coming up to me asking about when we can watch film together so he can know what I'm thinking when I'm making play calls and things of that nature. I'm very pleased with that unit with guys like Bradley Roby, John Reid, who you mentioned, as a rookie, I'll tell you what, he's been impressive thus far. He operates around here like he is a five-year vet. Lonnie Johnson (Jr.), Michael Thomas, Justin Reid, we have a bunch of guys who have been in the fires, who have had success in this league and now as they're coming together as a unit, communicating day in and day out. It's been awesome to see that growth they're making each and every day."
DE J.J. Watt said he feels the best he has since 2015 because he's had nothing to do during quarantine except work out. What do you think about him so far from what you've seen of him?
"He looks enormous. He looks like he can go out there and play a game tomorrow. J.J. saying that doesn't surprise me one bit. He's one of the most disciplined human beings I have ever been around. It's really not shocking to hear that as much as it was kind of expected. For a young guy, maybe they wouldn't be able to handle this scenario where they're not in such a structured environment. Not being in, 'hey, be here at eight o'clock, be here at 10 o'clock for lifting or you're going to eat this.' J.J. doesn't need that. He's going to do that on his own and make sure he's prepared to go out there and do what he loves to do."
How are you going to handle being the defensive line coach and the defensive coordinator?
"It's going to be about time management. It's about time management and making sure I don't neglect any of my duties as it pertains to getting those guys on the defensive line right, individually. But I can do it. I can do that. It's an obstacle but what are obstacles there for? You have to be like fire, you take those obstacles, you grow and you get better as a result. I can handle it. But, it's not just me. I have a tremendous amount of resources with me. I have Akeem Dent, who's helping me right now with the defensive line. Romeo (Crennel) obviously has a defensive line background. Whatever I do or if there is ever a time where I feel overwhelmed or I need help, there's certainly people for me to lean on."
How do you feel about the focus and intensity of the defense through the virtual offseason?
"I feel great about it right now. These guys, they have played this sport their entire lives, so that was essentially taken away from them for quite a bit of time. We were able to get together and do some stuff virtually but now, more than ever, because we're all together you can just tell there's a laser sharp focus on the attention to detail and everything that it's going to take for us to be successful on Sundays. These guys are just – they're ready to go out there and showcase their talent and ability. Attention and focus has certainly not been a problem thus far."
When you finished your playing career and started coaching at the college level, was being a defensive coordinator in the NFL always a goal of yours?
"To say this was my plan from the beginning would be a lie. My initial plan was honestly just to coach the defensive line in the NFL. But like anything, as you reach goals, you set new ones. Once I accomplished that, I made up my mind that I wanted to be a defensive coordinator. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy road. I knew there was going to be a lot to learn and I'm going to continue to learn day in and day out. Going back to the college level was important to me because I didn't want coaches to perceive that I had a sense of entitlement. I didn't want anything given to me. I wanted to make sure that I walked in the same shoes as anybody in this profession from the bottom up so that they could never say that I didn't earn it."
Some players and coaches think you could be a head coach, do you want to be a head coach in the NFL?
"That would be great, but it is certainly not what I am focused on right now. I'm focused on getting these players better individually and collectively as a unit and doing everything we can to go out there and put on a show in Kansas City."
RUNNING BACKS COACH DANNY BARRETT
What do you envision as the role for RB David Johnson? How much of an advantage is RB David Johnson and RB Duke Johnson's receiving abilities when creating mismatches?
"I think you hit it right on the head. The fact that he's a versatile athlete, what he brings to the table is that veteran experience as well. He's used to that type of role and catching the ball. Duke came in last year and did the same thing. Again, for myself, I'm fortunate that I get to work with guys like that each and every day. They're pros and they just want to get better. They play off each other. When I first had the opportunity to talk to David, one of the first things that he had said was that he had already been in communication with Duke, so that was a bonus for myself."
What did you think of FB Cullen Gillaspia's performance as a rookie? Also, what have you seen from him this offseason heading into the season?
"Again, good football player, good athlete, and he brings that versatility to the offense for us. I think he learned a lot last year about the speed of the game and the strength in which he needs to play at the position he does. He has worked very hard this offseason from a physical standpoint. Again, he's excited to be a part of what we're doing. He's going to have – I think, hopefully, a more prominent role as far as being able to help us with multiple personnel groupings because he's athletic enough to run and catch the football, as well."
What stress can a two-back set cause a defense with either a fullback or both RB Duke Johnson and RB David Johnson?
"That's a good question. It allows us to be more versatile. It allows them to see different type of athletes on the football field. I think it makes it a clearer picture for the quarterback and for the offense as a whole as far as the different defensive personnel that they have to put on the football field. Again, we're looking at guys that can run and catch the football being on the field at the same time. I'm excited about this."
In what ways do you feel like the running back corps will be better this season with RB David Johnson and RB Duke Johnson?
"Well, again, I think you're looking at guys with similar skillsets this year compared to last year. Both are three-down backs. Duke primarily last year, even though he was on first and second down, he was probably the only guy you saw on the field on third down. So, now you have two guys that can both play on third down for us. Again, we don't really have to change what we're doing. We shouldn't miss a beat and both guys are very adept at winning one-on-one routes out of the backfield."
How do you see the third running back competition shaping up without a normal training camp?
"That's a good question. Again, we have Buddy Howell coming back from last year, a great special teams player. He understood his role last year as well, and how he fit into the offense, being prepared at a moment's notice. Karan Higdon (Jr.) has also come back. Even though he was on the practice squad last year, he has come back. He's stronger, he's looking like he's faster this year, quicker. Again, having that year under his belt learning our offense has made a big difference now without the offseason program. Those two guys right now figure to go head-to-head at it. Again, it obviously comes down to their role on special teams as being as who that guy will be."
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH MIKE DEVLIN
What does it mean to return all five offensive line starters? Also, what do you think T Laremy Tunsil can do in his second season?
"First of all, I think that we all understand that continuity on the offensive line is a huge, huge, huge thing. Last year at some point we lost Tytus (Howard), so really the continuity begins again in this time now. I think every year is kind of a new year but the fact that they played together and that we got L.T. (Laremy Tunsil) so late, now he's relearning the nuts and the bolts of the system from the very beginning. I think all that helps when you're trying to form an offensive line. Also, I think depth-wise, I really appreciative that we've really built a veteran – some backups there as well. In this day and age with what we're all going through, you have to be prepared for any scenario. I really feel like having those veteran backups like we got is critical for the season, and they've all played for us – most of them, except for (Charlie) Heck."
Without the benefit of an offseason program, how much more difficult has it been to construct your offensive line going forward?
"Well, I would feel much more uneasy if I had not had these guys last year and knowing the type of people they are – dependable, tough and smart. They came back in really good shape and you can tell they've studied, and you can tell they want to improve. Like I said, every year is a different year and you have to go out and grind it and improve yourself. Last year was a starting point of all those guys together and it makes it tougher because you want to hit. O-linemen, you want to hit, you want to get your fix. So, that's still a little bit of a ways away. As I tell you guys all the time, I'll know more about a lot of guys once the contact comes."
What will be the difference for the offensive line when blocking for RB David Johnson this season compared to RB Carlos Hyde last season?
"For us, in our system, I think Carlos fit it and I think obviously our backs we have now fit it as well. I think their skillsets can maybe let you do a couple more things relative to their athleticism and open up some things and be a nice complement overall for us up front and the quarterback."
The new blindside block rule has been in effect for almost a year now. How do you coach with this rule as it seems like a very tough scenario for offensive linemen?
"Let's just say we're going on a screen, right? I wish I could stand up and show you. I basically teach it like a basketball technique. So, as I'm coming back, if I'm going back and facing towards my goal line, I'm going to take my opposite hand and rip across like a basketball and block him like that. That way there's no contact and you're just kind of shielding him. It's the same thing. We had an offensive line meeting at the combine before everything broke and there was a lot of rules talked about. Really, by the rules, by definition, whenever a lineman – let's say a guard is uncovered and he goes back to clean a defensive end out, that's officially, by rule, it's just a couple yards, that's officially illegal. They never call it and no one ever talked about it, but they changed the rule now and made it endless to the goal line so we can go back and block, let's say to clean up a great defensive end. But we have to lead with our hands and keep our head out."
INSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH BOBBY KING
Can you talk about your guys that you have back like ILB Zach Cunningham and ILB Benardrick McKinney? What do you hope to see from them, and is Zach someone that you hope could be here for a long time?
"Hopefully Zach's here for a long time. He's been good for a while now. The world is just now catching up to that, but he does a lot of things very well. He can play the run. He has incredible instincts, he's good in coverage. He's a tough guy, which people miss out on a lot. We hope Zach is here for a long time."
What are the challenges of having new guys up front and in the secondary with the challenges of this offseason?
"It's been good because with a new defensive coordinator we have some new scheme going in. I like to say the vets in my room have been fat cats for the last couple of years. They've known the defense inside and out and now we have new stuff going in, so it's kept them on their toes a little bit. It's been challenging, but the virtual has went as well as I could have ever imagined. It's awesome to have them back in the building and we're taking off from there."
Does the progression of ILB Zach Cunningham come from having veterans like ILB Benardrick McKinney and ILB Whitney Mercilus around him?
"He won't say that but yeah, absolutely. He learned and get got thrown to the fire early on. We threw him out there and I won't say up and down but there were some growing pains. But absolutely he's learned – from (Brian) Cushing, too – from the vets and now he's kind of into that role where he's teaching some of the younger guys, so absolutely."
What can a healthy ILB Dylan Cole do for the defense this season?
"Dylan sometimes gets forgotten about. The main thing with Dylan is – 16 is the number, 19 hopefully is the number for him, games played. He has to find a way to stay healthy and when he does stay healthy, he does things that very few guys in the league do. He makes plays, he's very fast, he's instinctual. He's a really good football player, so that's the main thing for Dylan Cole."
TIGHT ENDS COACH WILL LAWING
Could you talk about the competition among your top four tight ends and evaluate each of those four?
"There's a lot of competition there. They've all got different skillsets. As far as what they bring, Darren (Fells), he's our Y tight end. He's a big body. We've used him in the redzone before, he's a good blocker. The other three, as far athletes are concerned, we can do different things with them. I won't get into too much specifics with that but there's a lot of competition between the four of them."
What have you seen from TE Jordan Thomas so far and what are your hopes for him this season?
"He's clearly worked very hard this offseason. He's in really good shape. He's put the time in, not only physically but from a football intelligence standpoint and really upped his game there. I'm excited about where things are headed for him and we'll see how camp goes."
Will the tight ends be used more in the offensive scheme this year?
"We'll see how that goes. As the tight ends coach, I'd like for that to be the case but as an offense we just have to see how things go. It always depends on who you're playing each week, too. There's a lot of different skillsets and I expect big things from them."
What are your expectations for TE Kahale Warring moving forward?
"Like I said, any time you're going from year one to year two, you'd like to see a jump. It's always a gradual thing. Kahale's worked his tail off. He's put in a lot of time in the classroom. He does a nice job learning from his mistakes as things go on. I've got big expectations for him, as I do for all the other guys as well. I would like to see a jump from him. We didn't get to see a lot from him last year so I'm expecting some progress."
SECONDARY COACH D'ANTON LYNN
What imprint do you want to put on the secondary in your new role? What do you see from S Eric Murray and CB John Reid? What do you hope for from CB Lonnie Johnson Jr. in his second year?
"I'm definitely excited about the role. We have a great group of guys and a great group of coaches I'm with, too. They make it a lot easier. We're excited about the new guys, Eric and Mike (Thomas). They've both been leaders on other teams. Just from the short time they've been here, you can see the impact that they've had in the room. As far as Lonnie goes, he had a good rookie year, great offseason, and just from a playbook-wise, maturity standpoint, you can already see the differences from year one to year two. So, we're excited to see what he's going to do when the pads come on."
Does it seem like S Justin Reid is becoming the quarterback of this defense and wants a role like that?
"It does for sure. It's been cool to see him going from year one, two, now to year three, just to see him mature on and off the field. This year especially you can really see it, especially in the DB room. That really is his room now. And not just the DB room, but the entire defense, other than B-Mac (Benardrick McKinney), he really knows that defense just as much anybody."
How do you see the roles of S Eric Murray and S Jaylen Watkins being different than safeties you've had in the past?
"In the past, when I first got here, we kind of just had corners, nickels and safeties. If you look at our secondary group now, a lot of guys have played different spots. Murray, he's played safety, he's played corner, he's played Star. Justin's (Reid) played safety and played Star. We have corners who can play in the slot, slot guys who can play on the outside. We're just trying to teach everyone the defense conceptually so that way we can always have the best 11 guys out there on the field."
What are some of the things that you've learned from your dad, Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn, both on and off the field?
"I've learned a lot from him, just from being a man, being a coach. I remember I used to go to work with him all the time as a kid, just sitting back and seeing what it took to get to where he's at now. At the time, I was just observing. Now that I'm older it's cool to be able to take the stuff that I've learned and put it into action."
How have you talked with your veterans about the playoff game at Kansas City and how you can move forward from that?
"When we first got back together we had a talk about it and then we buried it and haven't talked about it since. I think everyone on the team kind of knows what happened and we're hungry to get back out there and get a second chance at them."
What do you think S Michael Thomas can add to the secondary aside from being a standout on special teams?
"He's a very smart guy. He's been here for a short period of time and he's already one of the best communicators on the field. I think just the younger guys seeing a pro like him, how he practices, how he acts in the meeting room, how he takes care of his body. Just his presence already has already made everyone else better. As far as him on defense, right now we have all these guys learning different spots and once the pads come on, we'll see what he can do."
How do you feel about the cornerback position as a whole and the competition in the room?
"I feel good. It's super competitive. Like I said, there's a lot of guys that can play two different spots, so we're going to have an opportunity to have the best guys out there on the field and it might look different each week depending on the team that we're playing and depending on injuries. We have a good group of guys, young and old, that can play in the inside and the outside, and a couple of them can play safety if they have to. So, I'm excited."
WIDE RECEIVERS COACH JOHN PERRY
Where do you think WR Will Fuller V's game could grow the most by taking on a slightly larger role this season?
"I think the biggest thing with Will is obviously his health. As long as he stays healthy, he's always taken the approach of getting better. He's never had a problem working on his weaknesses and really strengthening up his strengths. For him, I think it's just health moving forward and if he does that, he's proven that he can be a really good player in this league."
How do you think having a reliable slot receiver like WR Randall Cobb will benefit QB Deshaun Watson?
"Randall is a very professional player. He came in here and just from the minute I met him, he has a certain professionalism about him. When we're meeting and stuff like that, he's asking really good questions and just really trying to get on the same page with what we're trying to do here because he knows he wants to meld in. I think his presence is going to be a positive one on us as a team."
How do you approach the different skillsets of your receiving group and how important is keeping them healthy?
"I think health is a huge part of every season. The big thing is DeAndre (Hopkins) was a great player when he was here and we have a great core of receivers right now that we're moving on. Nothing really changes with your approach or how you do things. The big thing is these guys are professionals. You're not like hovering over them or anything like that, like a helicopter parent or something. You really just give them the information and then put them through the exercises to make sure that they're understanding what you're doing, what you're expecting. If you do that, you get the most out of them."
What are you guys looking to see early on from WR Keke Coutee?
"Keke has come back with a great attitude and you can tell he's ready to work. You can tell, just like a lot of the guys in the group, he took an approach, obviously, in the offseason when he couldn't be here to really take it upon himself. That's going to be a huge step for him because when you take ownership of who you are and what you're all about, that's where your improvement comes from. He's got such an internal fire. I expect he'll just keep getting better every day, just like I know he wants to."
How much have you gotten to talk to WR Kenny Stills this offseason and what do you envision for him this year? What are your initial thoughts on WR Isaiah Coulter?
"With Kenny, he's a great communicator. I love having Kenny in the room because he's a guy that, like I said, is a great communicator. All this offseason when we were doing things virtually – which is a challenge – but he was great. He was a good voice in the room and moving forward I expect that to be the same. As far as Isaiah, he's a guy that has a lot of raw skills that he's shown on tape. I believe he's going to come in here with the right attitude and hopefully just do the things that are expected of him and then just continue to outwork anybody that he can to try to make the roster."
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH CHRIS RUMPH
What do you see as a role from OLB Jacob Martin rookie OLB Jonathan Greenard?
"First of all, with Jacob, what pops out on film with him is his quickness – body quickness, first step quickness coming off the ball. He has some ability to rush the passer, so I really like that. I know he came in late last year so I'm anxious to work with him and see exactly what he has in his toolbox. As far as Jonathan Greenard, I had an early look at him because we played against him when he was in college. He's a big guy that can do a lot of things. He's able to play the Sam (line)backer as well as the Jack (line)backer. He has some power, has some strength, so I'm really excited to work with him as well."
Can you talk about your background with DE Charles Omenihu?
"I love Charles. I recruited him, like you said, at Texas. What a wonderful young man. Besides being a really good football player, he's a great young man who comes from a really, really good family. I'm excited to get back with him. When I saw him for the first time the other day, I was just amazed at how much he's grown. He's gotten so much bigger than he was when I first recruited him. He was just a big, tall, lanky, skinny kid and now he's grown into a young man. He looks really good and I'm excited for him. The sky is the limit for him."
With your experiences, how do you like working under Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver?
"I'm blessed to be in a situation and to be in the room with those guys. Starting off with Coach (Bill) O'Brien and being in there with Anthony Weaver, like you said, and Bobby King, D'Anton Lynn and then you throw Romeo (Crennel) in there, I'm in hog heaven. It's been really good. I'm excited about the system. Some of the things I'm experienced from my past and then there's a lot of new things that I'm also excited about. I can't wait to get in there and start mixing it up and coming up with a game plan. I'm truly, truly blessed to be in this situation and being able to work with these guys."
What do you think about the guys you're coaching and what do you think about OLB Duke Ejiofor and what he can add to this defense?
"Duke has the size and meets the size criteria. Unfortunately he got hurt so I wasn't able to see a lot of him. I'm excited to see what he's able to do. The last couple of days he looked good out there but I'm anxious to see him once he gets the pads on and just see how much rust he still has. I'm pleased with what I've seen so far."
How good does it feel to have a player with the passion that DE Charles Omenihu has?
"Guys always have to have a 'why'. Once you get to this level here, you have to have something that is pushing you every day and something that is pushing you towards that goal. Not only being the best on the team but being the best in the league. I think Charles, along with a bunch of other guys, have that 'why.' I'm glad that he does have that chip on his shoulder and I'm glad to see that he is pushing towards his goals and his dreams."
What are you hoping to develop out of the younger guys and rookies?
"That's a great question, and that's the beauty of this defense. We have a bunch of guys with different skillsets that we can plug in at different places. You look at a guy like Brennan Scarlett, he's totally different from Jacob Martin and Whitney (Mercilus), he's definitely different from Duke (Ejiofor) or (Jonathan) Greenard. That's the beauty of the defense. We're going to have the flexibility of putting these guys in different positions where they're going to be successful and help the defense and help the team win."
ASSISTANT QUARTERBACKS COACH T.J. YATES
How do you envision your role in helping QB Deshaun Watson this year? Is it going to be more mental or on the field?
"Hopefully it's a little bit of everything. Really just sharing my experiences with him, my experiences in this offense. Technical stuff, footwork stuff, mechanics stuff for sure, but really just a little bit of everything. Obviously, Tim (Kelly) is going to be the guy that's broad picture, defenses, scheme and all that stuff, but I'm really just trying to bring my experiences that I've had before in this offense and in this league as a quarterback to help him out in any ways possible."
Did you always think in the back of your mind while you were playing that you wanted to be a coach at some point in time and what has it been like to transition from playing to teaching and coaching?
"Towards the end of my career I had a little bit of an inkling that this could be a possibility. It was one thing that really Bill O'Brien brought up to me in the last couple of years that I was here, if you ever wanted to get into it, let me know. Toward the end of my career I started thinking about that more and more. Transition-wise, it's been really fun. Seeing it from both sides as a player and as a coach in the same offense and getting both perspectives and really bringing that to Deshaun (Watson) as well. Like, hey, this is how I learned it as a player, this is how I learned it as a coach, here are the differences, and this is how I see it differently now. Really seeing it from both sides as a player and a coach in the same offense has been huge."
Is there anything you've learned coaching the offensive line that you wish you learned when you were playing quarterback?
"Absolutely. Going to the offensive line room last year and learning the protection system and the run games from a coaching perspective really kind of changed how I saw defenses differently. I wish I would've learned it that way as a player with how I know it as a coach. Kind of like I said a second ago, perspective-wise and big-picture wise, it changes things for you."
What are some areas you think QB Deshaun Watson can fine tune going into this season?
"Obviously, one thing that I didn't really realize until I saw it the other day, for how young he is – he's 24 years old and going into his fourth year. Compared to me, I was 24 my rookie year. He's still a very young quarterback learning lots of different nuances of defenses. Really his next step in the maturation process as a quarterback, learning defenses, quarterbacking stuff, mechanics-wise and really getting the most out of his body in his mechanics, I think are really going to take him over the top and take that next step."
As a former player, can you put yourself in QB Deshaun Watson's shoes with losing your top receiving weapon and the pandemic this offseason, what are the challenges of all of that?
"I think one thing about him that he's really focused on is learning more and more about the other side of the football, doing whatever he can. In the situation that we had over the offseason, you're not going to be throwing as much, working on your mechanics as much with players out on the field, so he really took a leap and the next step as far as looking at film and breaking down film. Not only seeing the whole picture of the coverages but seeing the weaknesses of coverages. I think that's one thing that's really good about him, his field vision is next level. The way he can articulate it and tell it to other players, other coaches and stuff and how he sees it over Zoom this entire offseason was really cool to see. I think, like I said before, that's going to be his next step. Really just looking at the other side of the ball and being able to take advantage of everything on the field."
What is one thing about your background as a player that has helped you transition into your coaching career?
"That's a really good question. In my career playing in the NFL, I was a backup obviously for the majority of the time. You don't get a lot of reps on the field. You have to kind of stand in the back and do a lot of mental reps. You have to do a lot of coaching to the other players that are in the background and aren't on the field. I think my experience as a backup quarterback really helped me transition into coaching because as a backup quarterback you have to know absolutely everything. You don't get all the reps in practice, so by the time you do get in a game you better be on your stuff. That's how I took my career and approached my career as a backup quarterback and I think that helped transition into coaching."
With WR Randall Cobb in the slot receiver role, how does having a reliable player in that position help QB Deshaun Watson?
"It's huge. Just as any position. Whether it's with tight ends, whether its slot receiver or whether it's guys on the outside, the more a quarterback can feel comfortable knowing exactly where a guy is going to be at an exact time, exact timing, footwork, so he can let that ball go with anticipation, those two guys being on the same page. Sometimes all it takes is a nod of a head and that's all the communication you're going to get between two guys that are veterans, that are pros, that put in the work before and after practice and in the film room just so they're always on the same page."
How good is it having a veteran QB AJ McCarron as the backup for QB Deshaun Watson?
"It's huge. AJ has played in a lot of different offenses in this league. He's had a lot of meaningful starts, playoff starts. He brings a great veteran presence to the room. Him and Deshaun are very close, which I think is also very important. Especially in this year where you never know what's going to happen, having that kind of security blanket in the room is going to be vital for us."
How is it watching and going over film with QB Deshaun Watson and of the unplanned things he does?
"That comes up quite a bit because there's a whole lot that Deshaun does that's uncoachable. That's what makes him great. That's what makes him the player that he is, is because you can tell him to do all this stuff but when stuff breaks down, which happens all the time in the NFL, like blitzes coming that you're not prepared for, guys come free and when he has to go put on that Superman cape and he does, that's the stuff where you're sitting on film and you just have to tell him good job and keep doing that. That's some of the things these coaches can't coach him."