Is this week more like a normal regular-season week from a preparation standpoint?
“No it’s still training camp, and working on doing the things we feel like we need to install on both offense and defense. It’s really not (a normal regular-season week).”
There’s not much game planning?
“No. No game planning.”
Upon further review of the first contest, what were your opinions of how the team played?
“Some guys came out and made plays. The physical part — up front — that you finally get to see against an opponent, there were good things and there were things we need to continue to get better at. That’s always an emphasis, with being able to play that part of the game. As you look back, which I can barely remember now, other than the one slip (by WR John Ross), we didn’t have the ball on the ground, which is a good thing. We took care of the ball and the quarterbacks didn’t put it in harm’s way aside from the one play. You have to be pleased with that. Defensively, we need to continue to try to create opportunities and takeaways. The biggest thing offensively is to guide the people who played in the game in the second half. We weren’t very good on third down — I think we were 0-for-5, after we were 4-for-7 in the first half. That, you want to be better.”
What were your thoughts on the first-team in the run game?
“We have to continue to work on running a little better. We created some space in the second drive, but we were able to throw the ball. Sometimes that’s the difference, depending on what their plan is. The quarterback did the right things and was efficient with the football.”
How has the philosophy with the run game changed with Bill Lazor being able to put in his new system?
“Well again, we’ve changed quite a bit as far as our structure and so forth.”
So more wholesale changes?
In past training camps, you guys held joint practices with other teams ahead of preseason games. But you haven’t held any the last couple years. Are there ways to get that same level of competition out of it? And have there been reasons why you haven’t held any joint practices the last few years?
“I didn’t necessarily want to do it a year ago, but this year if it would’ve worked out, we would’ve done it. The Bears already worked it out with I think Denver, so that was their plan to go that way. We had another team inquire, but by the time it got to me, they had hooked it up with another club. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
How do you try to go about recreating some of that competition?
“We had more live periods in practice prior to the first game than I had done in previous years. We were able to get some live periods, particularly with short-yardage and goal-line.”
With the two teams getting together, do you have to go through the league for that? Or is it just a matter of coaches contacting coaches individually?
“I don’t have to do anything with the league.”
So it’s more based on relationships?
“Yes, other than if you are trying to do it before the preseason schedule (is released), to try and ask for some help that way if possible.”
Why would this have been a better year to hold joint practices compared to last year?
“The situation (this year) with our players, with knowing who they are and what they are, another opportunity for our young players to see different looks would have been good — particularly our skill players having a chance to compete against other guys.”
The first preseason game is relatively vanilla in terms of looks. Were you impressed with how the young guys handled what they saw?
“They weren’t as vanilla as you’d think. The preseason has changed quite a bit, where a lot of teams that have been doing their thing, do their thing. They want their guys to respond to what they’ve installed, and so they continue to have at it. We saw a lot of safety pressure there. Everybody goes in with different philosophies. Coordinators go in and say ‘Week 1, I want to do this, and Week 2 I want to do this,’ to stay on their plan. I guess all-in-all, I was pleased, as I said after the game. We got a lot of situations, we got some things coached, we got to play one-minute offense/one-minute defense, we had the short drive before halftime, and we had four-minute offense at the end of the game. We got some situations coached, and we also had to play with five seconds on the clock right before halftime and take a shot in the end zone. We had the opportunity to at least put on the tape and review with a lot of things our guys.”
Have you found over the years that there are certain things you want to accomplish in the preseason opener, in regard to competition? Do you want to go into the game not having to fight the competitive fire that is juiced a little bit?
“We got our guys into the game who knew what to do, and that’s the course we want to stay with if we can.”
You talked about preseason changing for you guys this year. Did you want to do more and put more things out there with offense and defense so your players can get used to it?
“No I haven’t (laughs).”
Have you been more adventurous with your play-calling?
“No. We’ve actually pulled back just because it is going to be new for when we open the season. A lot of the concepts and so forth are going to be different.”
You have a handful of first-year, second-year and undrafted linebackers. What are your thoughts on how they’ve come along? I know Hardy Nickerson and Brandon Bell have little tastes of the game from their experience last year, and then you also have Junior Joseph and Chris Worley. What are your thoughts particularly with that group of linebackers?
“I really think because of the history we’ve had with that position, we are able to attract a guy who filters through the draft and is going to get an opportunity here. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time, because they are going to get coached. We are blessed with guys like Vontaze Burfict and Vincent Rey, who came here through the undrafted route, and the guys you mentioned a year ago. Once again we’ve got a couple good guys this year in Junior and Chris that did a really nice job in the first game and have done well on the practice field. You expect things out of them as you move forward.”
How much is this game about some of the guys who played well in the second half of the first game getting a chance to maybe play in the first half and get reps against the first team?
“I will extend the other guys more, so it will be hit-and-miss to see how it works. There are some guys that play earlier and other guys that get pushed back a notch because the guy in front of him plays a little longer this week.”
In terms of the preseason schedule, this is the first opportunity for young guys to travel on road. Do you like how it lays out?
“It will fit pretty well together. We are going to get there, and (the field) is going to be 100 yards. It is travel this week, so it’s a little different for them. But they’ll be handling a little bit of that — the lights and so forth— particularly for the guys we’re counting on to make a significant contribution.”
How impressive has WR Auden Tate been in your opinion?
“He has done a nice job in practice and made a big play there in the game. He came back off the (offensive pass interference) penalty.”
What did you think of the penalty?
“You can’t push the DB over (laughs). It’s a penalty.”
Do you want QB Jeff Driskel to have an opportunity with the first team offensive line this week?
“Stay tuned (laughs).”
You have a guy in S Jessie Bates that you are high on, and he seems thus far to be as advertised. What are you looking to see him do?
“The biggest thing for him is handling the different ins and outs of the game — the situation, the down and distance, field position and all those things. We have been pushing him in (the game) early, and you want to see him take command when he has to take command. He could end up being the guy back there real quick. You have to keep urging Jessie to move forward.”
How has he responded?
“He has done well. He’s more of an analytical-learning type of person. He takes it all in and hears everything you are saying and now needs to come out the other end that way.”
How is he psychically?
“He’s gifted and as talented as we expected. He came up in some nice fits in the run game and made some good tackles. He’s what we wanted. He’s demonstrated in practice how to get to the right spots on the field, and we just have to keep moving.”
How did the young corners — Darius Phillips and Davontae Harris — play in your eyes in the Chicago game?
“It wasn’t too big for them, and that was good. They are people that need to get out there. They play against good guys in practice each day. We’ve got to go out there and play snap-to-whistle against real competition.”
How important was it to get a couple turnovers in the first preseason game?
“It’s important when you have that opportunity to convert on them. The one area we have to get better in is sacks that cause fumbles around the quarterback. It’s a big area that we haven’t been as good in. As you go, you have to create more opportunity like that. We had an intern do a study on NFL turnovers, and we found that it’s still a significant stat, but how they come is interesting.
How do they come?
“I want you to do the research (laughs). I can’t give that away. It’ll give you something to do (laughs).”
Do you have to practice creating fumbles, or does it just depend on how things unfold?
“Unfortunately, working at it doesn’t cause as many as you would expect. You need to create some. There are certain guys that have a certain knack for it. But it doesn’t happen as often as you’d expect, and often is about the offensive player being more careless with the football. They come when you have the lead, amazingly (laughs).”
Carl Lawson was listed at LB last year, but he’s switched to DE this season. How do you like him in his current role?
“His role won’t change much. He still has to do both things. The biggest thing that was true for Carl from Auburn, and that is still true after his first season, is that by limiting his exposure we are going to get more production. He’s not that big of a person to go out and bang with the big guys all the time. It won’t be beneficial to him, and to what he’s going to get done at the end of the game when you need him to.”
Do you expect to give TE Tyler Eifert some snaps this week?
“I think that’s probably a stay tuned also (laughs). Everyone expects to play until they don’t.”
Do you think he has looked good in practices thus far?
“He has done well. He has continued to stay the course. He makes a difference every time he steps out there. Offensively, the comfort level that Andy (Dalton) has, and the things he can create on the field as a mismatch are very evident.”
Is it tough or easy for you to stay the course and be conservative with a guy like Eifert?
“It’s easier for me now than what it would have been (laughs). The thing about the football team is that they are all working. We some have valuable guys on the other side of the ball that are working, and some valuable guys on offense that are working. They all know we are better with Tyler when we have him. I try to limit everyone’s exposure when I can. But it is hard, and it’s harder for the offensive coaches and for Bill (offensive coordinator Bill Lazor) to plan things, but we have a pretty good handle on it now. We know the days when we will have Tyler out there and the days we won’t, and to make sure the emphasis for certain things come those days for certain things.”
Is that difficult for you when you get in the regular season? For instance, if you’re in the middle of a game and you’re thinking, ‘He’s at 50 snaps, and I need to back down.”
“Well I hope he never gets 50 (laughs).”
Is it difficult to manage that during the regular season? You want to get him through the whole year, but he needs to do what he needs to do...
“Yeah. We’re going to attempt it, so we’ll see how difficult it proves.”