"Getting ready for Atlanta, excited about it. I've known [Atlanta Falcons head coach] Dan Quinn for a long time. He was my D-Line coach in New York. I think he's doing a really great job and a really great guy. It's been fun to watch that progression and the things that he's done."
What's your cornerback situation right now with Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones on the other side?
"Oh, yeah, he's there. Well, we've got to see what happens with [CB Kenneth Acker] Ken. He's in the concussion protocol. Other than that, we'll work Keith [Reaser] out there, we've got [CB] Dontae [Johnson] out there, [DB] Jimmie's [Ward] worked out there in the past. He could go out there if we need him to, and [CB Tramaine Brock] T-Brock. So, really have to see what happens with Ken here towards the end of the week."
What about Reaser and his ankle? Do you think he'll be OK by Sunday?
"Yeah. It's really with both Keith and Ken, we'll have to see how it goes. We'll know more towards the end of the week and we'll prepare for all the different scenarios as they come up."
Do the Falcons rely on or utilize Julio Jones the way Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger did Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown or the Arizona Cardinals did Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald?
"Well, he's got a million catches. He's really good and he can hurt you in so many different ways, whether it's vertically down the field, whether it's some of the catch-and-run routes like the wide receiver screens. He does a good job on those. Some of the read-routes, they move him around so that you can't bank on him being in one spot. And they do a nice job with, he and [Atlanta Falcons QB] Matt [Ryan] obviously have a great chemistry and it's a challenge to find him being able to make sure you have the things that you needed to take care of in terms of dealing with him. But, you've got a running game that creates problems and you've got a quarterback that's really smart and that does a great job of pre-snap reads and gathering information. And if you push too much stuff over too consistently to one guy, he's going to hurt you in other places. And he's got that willingness to do that. Some guys are going to force it, force it, force it, no matter what you do. Where with Matt, in this offense, he does a nice job of saying, ‘OK, I really don't have that, but I know that there's softness in the zone over here, or this matchup is good.' If you give him that information too quickly, it's tough. Matt's a guy I spent time with prior to the draft, really was impressed with him as a young guy. So, I'm sure now with time in the league and experience and all the things he's gone through he's developed really well."
What do you attribute Atlanta Falcons RB Devonte Freeman's emergence to? Is it a great fit schematically and it compliments a good passing game or is he just that talented? Where do you see that?
"Well, he's very talented. He has excellent vision and when he can run straight line, he can close ground quickly. He's got really good burst and he's got nice ability, even if the initial window is closed, jump-cut, get back in hole and accelerate through it. But, I think it's a good fit with the running scheme that they use and then when you've got passing threats that they have and the quarterback that they have, you can't always play eight man boxes, you can't always commit as many people as you'd want to, to the running game. So, now when you start creating lighter boxes, that creates some opportunities as well."
How would you half the way through this season for Kenneth Acker, look at him and evaluate him in his first NFL season?
"I think he's growing. I talked to Ken's dad after the game one night and Ken says his dad's been a longtime coach. His dad gave me his phone number or said tell him I can call him anytime I need to if Ken needs a little extra guidance. So, he comes from that background and it's so hard your first year in that role, especially in that position. A lot of times you're out there on your own. You're out there against guys that for some of these kids they were playing Madden. They were playing those players in Madden and there's getting over that initial awe. But, Ken's competed well, he's grown within the scheme, his technique is improving, his comfort level continues to improve and I thought a couple of his interceptions were like punt fair catches, but the one that he had, I forget who it was, where he had to lay out and go get the ball. I thought that was an indication of kind of the growth that he had, or has had."
How big of a, and if there is an advantage this week to have secondary coach Tim Lewis on your side with his knowledge of what's on the other team?
"Yeah, there's a lot of familiarity with coaches on the other side. There's a lot of familiarity with players. But, just playing against New England all the years when I was in New York and having crossover like that, sometimes that familiarity is a really good thing and sometimes it's not as good because just as you're familiar with them, they're familiar with you and things that you like or you know they like. It's just back and forth. They'll counter it, they'll expect you to expect this and so you're always trying to mix things up. But, it is good from a personnel standpoint. You get some insight that way. And then, the guys that are being used a little bit differently than they have been in the past. So, it doesn't always carry over as much as you'd like."
What was your evaluation of S Jaquiski Tartt in his first start on Sunday?
"I thought it was pretty good. With JT the challenge is slowing down. And, I don't mean be less aggressive. You want to hurry but you don't want to rush. It's making sure you take the time to see exactly how the play is unfolding and then have the fit that you need to have or be where you're supposed to be in the passing game. And, there were times where he was hurrying, and there were times where he was too quick to the ball. And, you can coach that. You can't coach guys that aren't aggressive. Typically, once they're not aggressive, you know, they don't bite when they're puppies, they don't bite when they are older. But, you can coach it the other way and get them to tempo it down. And there was some of that in the game, which was all in the right spirit of it. But, you'll see growth with him too as we move through the season."
Was one of those the 71-yard touchdown run, was too quick to--?
"Yeah, that's a good example of where he came down quickly. Now look, there were multiple things there that could have been better, but when you do come down that quickly and the ball hits that quickly, you saw the separation between he and [S] Eric [Reid] and then he tried to transition, couldn't get his feet underneath him. So, now you've got a, instead of those two levels of the funnel coming down, this level is here, this level is chasing, there's just too much field on the backside."
One more on him. You hear quarterbacks sometimes say that they go up to the line of scrimmage and they look for a tell and they usually look at the safety to tell them what's happening. Is that a concern with a rookie, especially when you've got a veteran quarterback that you don't want him to move too quickly to telegraph what defense you guys are in?
"Yeah, definitely. We preach that all the time and as we were talking about the other week with [former NFL head coach] Ted Marchibroda, you start with the young guy. So, there's a lot of guys they could look out at now and say, ‘OK let me look at Acker. Let me look at Dontae. Let me look at Jimmie.' So, all of those guys as a group need to do the same thing where it's nobody is being the one that gives away that pre-snap information."
I think people look at Dontae's rookie year and he played a lot because of injuries and he played pretty well on a good defense and then this year it seems like his snap count is much lower than it was last year. Are Ken and Keith, did they progress that quickly that they took Dontae's job, that they surpassed him on the depth chart? Did he regress? Why isn't he playing as much?
"Well, he's playing more now and he'll continue to play more. And sometimes it's with Keith's role where he was playing in different packages, he was a good fit for that role that week against that group of wide receivers and the way that it was playing out. With Dontae, he's done a lot of good things, but Ken has done a lot of good things as well and that's why he got the opportunity that he did and then since he's been playing he's continued to grow. But, it's not an unhappiness with what Dontae's doing. I thought he did a really nice job last week in the reps that he got a chance to play in. That was a different role than he had been playing. Really that was Jaquiski's role that was Eric Reid's role and he fit in there. And, at any point his role could increase dramatically. It could increase dramatically this week and he'll get another opportunity to make a case for himself."
Have you spoken to Kenneth Acker's dad?
"Have I had to make that call? No. And I don't anticipate having to, but it's nice to have it there. I'd probably say the same thing if my boys were some place and talking to a coach. Whenever my kids talk about coaches, I'm like, woah, slow down, slow down. Just listen."
With where the record is, does that impact the conversations that you have with LB NaVorro Bowman about his playing time?
"No. That plan's really been in place, or the conversation's been in place since he first came back. It's not with the record being what it is we're going to change things dramatically. It's about finding the best balance to help him continue to play throughout the whole year and beyond. To continue to play as well as he possibly can, to help us defensively. [LB] Gerald [Hodges] has come in, he's gotten to know the system a lot better. He's getting more reps and part of that was figuring out what he could do and how he can contribute and now how do we fit that rotation. So, it changes a little bit during the course of the season as well."
How much of a push is DL Arik Armstead making for more playing time, especially in pass rushing situations?
"He's made a good push. There were some things early on that I wasn't excited about that he's worked on and he's improved upon. I thought last game, three or four really good examples of not just what he could do but really who the player is. He had the chase play, where he pressured on the sideline. To me, that's always going to be one of Arik's greatest assets. He's got tremendous size. He's got good ability. He's smart. He's got good players around him in his room that can help him grow and mentor him. And it's the motor, it's the motor. As he grows into, not just his role, but just in the NFL, he'll continue to make jumps because of how he's wired and who he is."