"Normal prep, we haven't changed in terms of our schedule or any of that stuff. So, we are moving along to the Rams. I know you're excited to get started with this, so I'll open it up."
Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst just kind of spoiled us by delivering a list of some of the young guys that he felt have kind of pleased him with their play. Do you have any guys like that, that maybe the stat sheet doesn't show it, but guys that you think kind of under the radar young guys who really kind of stepped up and you feel developed good building blocks for the future?
"Well, one guy that stands out right away is [DB] Jimmie Ward. Jimmie has played inside at the star position, done a really good job with that and I think he's gotten better and better as the weeks have gone on. Now, we've also had to ask him to learn all the safety roles, be able to play those roles. And, he's worked at both spots and his ability now to see the defense and the offense from a full field, both down low and behind I think has been really positive. Love his energy. Love his approach, his work ethic. I know we talked about him really early, maybe it was the preseason, where he was on the plane and sitting with [secondary coach] Tim [Lewis] and trying to get all the information down. To me, over the course of his career, that approach is going to serve him really well and as he builds up experience and reps and things like that with that work ethic, he's got a chance not just to make plays on ability, he's going to make plays because the whole game slows down. So, I've loved that about him. I think [CB] Dontae [Johnson], who's worked at the money position where [S] Jaquiski [Tartt] was playing, he's done a really good job there, has rolled out and has played corner. His progress over the course of the season too I think is notable and he's another guy that inherent intelligence, very bright, very good work ethic, very conscientious, consistent. That's another young guy that should grow substantially with experience. And then as a group, there's really none of the young guys that I'm disappointed with. We've seen growth from [LB] Eli [Harold] at different points, from [DL] Arik Armstead at different points and he's played multiple roles. He's played inside, he's played some outside. [S] Jaquiski [Tartt], I think he's done a really good job and he's had to work through some different injuries over the course of the season or nagging things. The other thing you find out with this time of year is most of these guys are prepping for a bowl or been on vacation a long time. This last group of games is really hard for them. It's a skillset that you learn and you go through the first time and next year it will be so much easier for them. Everything should be so much easier for them."
Do you believe NT Ian Williams is climbing the ranks among nose tackles in the league, especially against the run?
"Well, Ian should. He's got great short-area quickness, so he can be explosive when he's offset, playing on either side of the center. He's got really good block recognition, so his ability to anticipate, ‘OK, here's where the fullback's offset. Here's where the strength of the running game is. Here's where I'm going to get the double team.' That stuff is really good as well. Outstanding, outstanding pursuit, motor, effort, those things, which from a defensive lineman that can be a little bit hit or miss with that component of it. He plays low, really good leverage and he's a great guy. In terms of his stock or his value, he's a great teammate and an outstanding performer."
Going back to Dontae, did he maybe not just show the urgency that the coaching staff would have liked earlier in the year? He seems like kind of a laidback kind of guy.
"With a lot of guys that are going through transitions, whether it's with staffs or transition from college to pro, they have to learn how to practice and they also have to learn how that group of coaches want them to practice as well. And sometimes it's just learning about what hard is. Your threshold of this is hard, this is draining, this is difficult, it may not really be what it is and you've got to push past that to really find out what that threshold is and it doesn't always jump out at guys. It's another part of the growth process I think with young guys."
Do you think the light's gone on for him?
"I think the light's always been on, just maybe a little bit brighter. It's pushed the dimmer up a little bit."
So, where are you as far as that cornerback spot? It seems like Dontae was the guy on Sunday. Is that where the hierarchy is at that position?
"Well, what we've done in fairness to [CB] Ken [Acker] and [CB Marcus Cromartie] Cro is we split reps. We give them different allotments of reps each day to give them an opportunity during the week to make a case for themselves being the starter or not being the starter. So, that's what we are doing again this week is letting these guys show during the course of the week, OK who's had the best week of practice and then we go with that guy."
How has DT Tank Carradine adjusted to his role these last few weeks?
"Tank's been good. Tank's shown a lot of growth. Not just in that role, but just watching him as a player and learning about him, he's embraced it. He's jumped into it. He made a really great play at practice yesterday and it was a sheer effort play and those things I've really enjoyed about Tank. I think as he gets more experience working outside, working on the edge, you'll see some more of that."
What kind of play was it?
"It was really, it was a wide receiver screen and it was a chase play. But, with that you've got to recognize the way the tackle sets you and then goes out because he's trying to get you to go inside. But, he recognized the tackle. It wasn't his traditional set. And that to me is growth because it's not clean, he's trying to disguise it and then he pushed outside. The corner did a nice job of forcing it back in and he made the play."
Do you envision him becoming a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker or is it more up for interpretation as far as him just being an edge guy?
"I think there's potential for that. There's a lot of guys that transition from hand in the dirt to a two-point stance. Sometimes it takes a year, sometimes it can take a couple years with those guys, but I've been around a ton of them. And you start them as edge guys and sub, outside guys and sub. We have some dropping zone blitzes, you've got some coverage responsibilities and then you work them into base and see how quickly they pick it up."
Do you think, in the offseason, do you want him to learn that? Where is he in the process going into the offseason? Is he going to try to be a base guy?
"Yeah, all these guys that have sub roles, we always have them slotted in base roles too because you want to build depth. So, Tank will work both those spots and in the offseason spend as much time as he possibly can really focusing on, what does that mean? What does that role entail? Because, it is pretty different and there's calls that you have to listen to and there's either-ors that you've got to get used to hearing. It's a little bit more involved than the sub stuff."
With the seven offside penalties at Detroit, how do you control that desperation to get to the quarterback?
"Yeah, it's really frustrating. It's unnecessary. It's purely an issue of concentration. You simulate hard count during the week. It happens early in the game. You talk about it. It's one of those things that if you show a weakness in a game, whether it's hard count, whether it's a double move, you're going to get three or four more of those. It's like sharks to blood. Once you have that weakness, everybody keeps attacking it until you show the problem's been fixed. It's like anything else with pre-snap penalties; it's completely under your control. In the NFL, we've talked about this a lot, more games are lost than they are won and until you stop beating yourself you can't effectively beat other teams. So, it starts taking care of your responsibilities first and the things that you can control. And watching the ball is one of those things that is completely under our control, completely."
How do you, it's so weird that it was seven penalties and not one repeat penalty on the same guy. So, what do you make of that?
"It's like when you talk about mental errors and a guy comes out of the game and says, ‘Well, I only had one mental error.' Well, that's fine, but if all 11 guys have one mental error and you finish up a game with 11 mental errors, you've got a real problem and it's not okay. It's not okay from anybody. It's really the same thing offensively where you know the snap count and you jump offsides when it's a hard count. It shouldn't happen, should not happen. It's focus. You can't get to step two until you handle the first step."
This is the time of the year where coach's jobs are on the line, head coaches.
"I've been through that a few times."
Right, exactly. So, I mean what are you anticipating? Are you anticipating possibly getting any interviews for a head job next week and would you like one?
"You know, I honestly have not been anticipating one thing or the other. The thing that I've found in my experience is that whatever you think is going to happen, usually something radically different happens. And when you think something's not going to happen, something does. The one thing I've learned is not to be surprised by anything. A little bit of that is also explaining it to my kids the way this world works, because it's the first time they've been conscious of transition, they've been conscious of any of that stuff. And as an adult, you're in the business, you know the way it works, the way the world works and kids it's a little bit different navigating through that stuff."
At 4-11, there's obviously scrutiny on the head coach here. Is there an unsettled feeling among the coaching staff? In your position, you've got a lot of young players that kind of look pretty promising. Are you kind of feeling like you're in limbo, "Will I be here in 2016?"
"No. I mean limbo, typically you find out what happens pretty quickly. So, limbo's not, we'll have some guidance with that I'm sure fairly soon after the season ends. Alright guys, I just want to thank you for your patience. I know I'm not [comedian] Don Rickles up here, but I appreciate all of the patience you have in me is the main thing. Alright, have a great New Year."