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16 May 2018

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Media Availability (5/16/18)

Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith
Special Teams Coordinator Nate Kaczor
Defensive Line Coach Brentson Buckner
Linebackers Coach Mark Duffner
Secondary Coach Jon Hoke
Defensive Backs Coach Brett Maxie
(On offseason additions to the defense)
“There’s always change in the NFL. Sometimes it’s focused on one position, sometimes it’s focused on multiple positions. Obviously our focus has been the defensive line and I think we’ve done a very nice job by adding free agents- three players- and then adding a fourth in a trade that got the ball rolling in terms of what we wanted to get done on our defensive line. Of course we added in the draft as well. We’re excited about that group. It’s a big group of men and I truly believe this: the game of football is always going to be won on the line of scrimmage. We didn’t win on the line of scrimmage as much as we needed to last year and I think this is going to be a great competition with the new guys that we’re adding in. They bring in edge. I like the way that they’re working and they’ve done a good job thus far.
(On new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner)
“Brentson is a coach that has been coaching for five or six years in the NFL and has 10-plus years as a player. So, he’s taped his ankles, taped his wrists and gone out there and done what we’re asking those guys to get accomplished.”
(On what the team needs to do to find more chemistry)
“We’ve got to be good teammates. That’s one of the things that we’ve been striving to do with this group. We have to be able to talk. We have to build trust amongst each other and that takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to happen by going out and performing on the field. The first part of the trust starts in the meeting rooms and I think we’ve done a good job of collaborating with each other thus far. We really haven’t had a chance to go out and play football. We’ve line up against bags and we’ve lined up against what we call ‘stick men.’ So, we haven’t had a chance to really do anything in Phase One and Phase Two in terms of going out there on the field and playing football like we know it.”
(On the three defensive backs acquired in the draft)
“I’m excited that we were able to address all three positions. We got a really nice sized corner in Carlton [Davis]. He’s a big, long guy that’s going to help us when we play the big receivers that we’re going to have to face in our division. You know, our division has three really big guys that are the feature receivers. They have multiple other receivers, but he’s a guy that can get up in press and get his hands on guys and be physical at the line of scrimmage. [M.J.] Stewart is a guy that we feel can play multiple positions. He’s played inside and outside and as you guys know, we’re in sub-defense about 65-70% of the time, so that nickel position is a starting position. He can also play outside, so he gives us some flexibility. [Jordan] Whitehead is a safety that is a very good athlete. In fact, I was super impressed at the way he played offense there at Pittsburgh. He ran the ball and played on the offensive side as well. He’s a great athlete. He understands football. He’s going to be a guy that can be what I call a hybrid. He can be a strong and a free safety so there aren’t going to be situations where we’re going to feel about having him in the middle of the field or down in the box.”
(On the impact that an improved pass rush will have on the defense)
“It has to go hand-in-hand, in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback. Obviously the statistics say that we were not a very good pass rushing team last year. We’re going to have to get pressure on the quarterback to help our secondary and our linebackers be able to cover more efficiently. It’s an issue that was a big issue for us last season and it’s something that we have addressed and now we have to go out and do it. The guys that we’ve added, I think are highly competitive guys and it’s going to be really fun to see them out there competing because they’re going to get after some people.”
(On if having an improved defensive line allows the scheme to be more aggressive)
“We’ve always said since we’ve been here that we want to be as flexible as we can be as a defensive unit and play to the strengths of our players. We’re going to continue to do that. By saying, ‘’Do you want to simplify it?’, until we get out there and play the game and actually get out there and play ball and see how these guys react and respond to the different situations they’re going to be put in is OTAs and minicamp and training camp, it will form itself in terms of how we want to put this together. We have a lot of different pieces that are going to allow us to do different things based on what the guys can handle.”
(On Vernon Hargreaves’ position on the depth chart)
“We’ve told everybody that we want everybody to come in with the mindset that they’re going to be the starter at their position. Vernon’s position is corner and nickel, corner in base defense and nickel in our sub package. We want these guys to go out and compete. We don’t care where they were drafted, how much they get paid. We’re going to put the best 11 guys out there on every snap and we want these guys to go out and compete against each other from day one. In terms of Vernon specifically, Vernon is competing to be the starting corner in base and probably going to be the guy we would move in because I think he has a better skill set at the nickel position in our sub defense.”
(On how much better the defense needs to be)
“It’s got to be a hell of a lot better than what we put out there last year. I’ve said it many times, the numbers are not anywhere close to what we’ve to go to do. We’ve got to be more consistent in everything that we do and it starts in the meeting rooms and building trust with one another across the board. I think that’s the most important thing.”
(On the high points for the defense last season)
“That we did show some resiliency. There’s a lot of teams that, defensively, get into the situations that we were in, the way that we played and how poorly we played. We showed some resiliency at the end. That says that at the core, that we’ve got some really strong willed football players. I think that we’ve added guys that are really strong willed into the defensive meeting room and they’re also better football players.”
(On the importance of Josh Robinson)
“Just an example, last year, we lost Josh for a period of time and obviously in the NFL the ‘next man up’ mantra holds true. We had guys fill in, but when you see a guy do what he did in the last game last year - he runs down the field, grabs a returner with one hand, grabs the ball, pulls it out and we score. The amount of drills or just the way you draw it up, a guy that’s capable of a play like that is obviously a special player. So, obviously, when Josh is healthy and available to us, he has a lot of really good traits. You guys have all seen, just like I have, he’s made some very good ‘wow’ plays since he’s been a Buc.”
(On kicker Chandler Catanzaro)
“Chandler, obviously, anyone can read the statistics, he’s had two really good years and one that wasn’t as good. So, a guy that’s done it as long as he has, he’s got enough experience where he’s not what you’d say green, but he's not old either. So, I think he’s in the prime of his career. He’s been a consistent field goal kicker. He’s gotten better at his kickoffs and his kickoffs are definitely good enough and as you know, we like to have both good kickoffs and field goals. You want it all and you also know that we’ve had a few kickers here too. So, I think what he’s shown so far is he’s very close to having the skillset to do both very well. I like the way he’s wired and the time I’ve spent around him so far, so again, really happy to have him also.”
(On kick return coverage issues last year)
“One of the things -  this time of year, we are going through evaluating and watching that with players. The thing, probably the most frustrating about that is we were having good success with that unit and at the end of the year without being too specific, there were some dynamics that changed with personnel. A lot of it was health related and obviously hang time at times. It was never really one thing, but how it all works together, some of that got breached a little bit. Again, that’s where we have 11 players, I’ve got to get them doing it exactly right. It was really a combination of a lot of things, but it’s helpful to be able to go back and watch the scheme and go, ‘Here’s how it worked all these weeks. Here’s where it broke down.’ So, you’ve got to be able to hang onto the confidence of the players that had success on those units and show them how to recapture that, so it was really just all of us doing it a little better those last couple weeks.”
(On wide receiver Chris Godwin)
“Chris Godwin [is] very smart, very tough and very hard worker, runs well, he’s big. I just named – those characteristics, it’s really hard for a player that has all of that to underachieve, so he’s always going to be a consistent player. Chris Godwin for example, last year, there was a game where he had two solo special teams tackles and as you know, if you get 14 or 15 solos in a year, you’re probably on the Pro Bowl ballet. He had two solos in one game and he also had five catches. That is unheard of because a lot of times your fourth or fifth wideout who’s your ace cover guy could get two solo special teams tackles, but he won’t even see five targets, let alone five catches. So, that statistic from that game right there just speaks to how rare of a player he was as a rookie and it’s because he works so hard and he’s got the height, weight, speed and preparedness and toughness. He doesn’t have a lot of holes in his game. He’s a lot of fun to work with, so I hope I lit up just like everyone else, but I mean, it’s on paper. The guy is a darn good player.”
(On the new additions to the Buccaneers' defensive line)
"It's a nice group. [They] had talent here but you always try to get better. The guys we've [brought] in, they've been great for the room, bringing Beau [Allen], Mitch [Unrein], Vinny [Curry]. Those guys have showed up and showed why they've been special players in this league. I think it's been pretty good adding some new juice in there."
(On how much it will help the defensive backs if the defensive line does better)
"We just had that talk today and I was telling those guys, I've never blamed a defensive back for a long pass or giving up a whole bunch of yardage, because we're closest to the quarterback before the receiver is on the route. So we affect everybody's job. We stop the run and we keep the linebackers free – their job is better. We get to the quarterback, the defensive backs' jobs are better. With that type of responsibility, we've got to work hard and expect it from ourselves and not just look for anybody. We're the big brothers; we're the foundation. If you build a house on a shaky foundation, I don't care how many bells and whistles you put on it, it's going to collapse. So we come in and we're laying the foundation so that ‘Smitty’ (Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith) can do whatever he wants to on this defensive line. That's what we're working for."
(On the most important thing he wants to teach his players)
"The thing I want them to take [away]: Don't make football a science. Don't make it bigger than what it is. Football's a sport that's based on pure fundamentals: tackling, running, blocking, using good technique. And that's what we work on. A Mercedes is still a Mercedes whether you've got rims on it or not. It's still a very expensive car that gets you where you want to go. We don't have to have all the bells and whistles. We want to play technique-sound football. We want to be true to the game. They hit me all the time – I don't do a bunch of drills. I do what helps you in the game. The basics: get-off, hands, knowing what's going to happen to you before it happens to you. Now it's just about, whoop the man in front of you. I've told them before, 'If you can do that, I'm going to be happy.' You're going to win some and you're going to lose some; just make sure you win more than you lose. Then we'll come back, we'll look at it and we'll go over it again. But we're not going to make it something bigger than what it is."
(On if having a deep defensive line rotation keeps players from getting tired)
"Yeah, it's great. The more players you have, the more you trust to go out there, you even out the workload. So now, if I've been a great player with 60 plays, how much better can I be if I only have to play 35? Now I can play those full-speed, 100 miles per hour. Don't count your plays, just make your plays count. We don't even talk about tiring because we work, each one of my guys works to the point where they could play a hundred plays straight. But now you cut those down, look at the energy you're going to have. Because the end goal, it doesn’t matter if I have 1,000 tackles and we're 3-13. The end goal is to win the game. I want the guys on the field who are fresh and give us the opportunity to be the best we can be as a defensive line every snap."
(On Kendell Beckwith’s health)
“Everything that we hear from our trainers is that he is on schedule and he is doing well. He’s in every meeting, he’s just following through the rehab program that they’ve put together for him, prescribed for him and so far, everything is going so far as planned.”
(On linebacker Jack Cichy)
“Jack Cichy coming in as a rookie, so far I’ve been impressed with first, his awareness as a player. He’s been very good in the classroom. He’s a bright guy. He’s been able to, as we’ve gone through installations be able to retain information, so he learns pretty well so far. Then what we’ve done in shorts practice, his movements skills are coming along, so I’ve been pleased that he’s been able to come back from that and get on the field and really pleased with his awareness and attention in the classroom. That’s what I ask him to do right now. Of course, we are one step at a time, but so far, so good.”
(On Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander’s lack of sacks last season)
“I think really as much as anything, we’ve got to get better at our technique. Some of that’s timing, some of that’s footwork, some of that’s awareness. So, regardless of any of the other things, it’s our responsibility at linebacker, as blitzers, to make the quarterback feel us. Sometimes, it’s not a sack. You can be doggone good blitzer, but if you can get the quarterback off the spot or you can get him to hurry throwing the football, that’s a plus. Now, we’d love to get sacks and we’d rather get sack fumbles, but when we blitz, the quarterback has to feel us. That’s when I think that the blitz is not successful if he’s not affected. If we affect the quarterback in a hurry or a batted pass or something, we’d love to get the sack, that’s kind of the ultimate, but anything else that changes their timing is a plus for us.”
(On whether there is an advantage in playing the Saints first this season after finishing with them last season)
“Years ago, I used to be a little more intent about some of those things. Right now, I know that’s our first opponent. We’re focusing on that. Yeah, I think there’s recollection a little bit to it, but all I do know is they’re a hell of a team and they’re in our conference and they’re our first game and before we go any further, we got to take them on. So, I do know that. They’ve commanded our full attention based on number one opponent and who they are and so, everything we’ve got is to be the best we can against them.”
(On rookie cornerbacks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis)
“It was nice, it was good. We needed to get some guys and Jason [Licht] and the staff did a great job with M.J. and Carlton. M.J. is a guy at North Carolina who played multiple positions. He played outside, he played inside. He moved all over the place and adapted well. He’s a very smart football player. He understands concepts, so that was a big part of it, his versatility and his ability to handle both. Carlton had a lot of different coaches when he was at Auburn. He had three different coordinators and so he adapted. Every style was a little bit different from his freshman year to his sophomore year to his junior year. So, it was good to be able to see him, when you watch him from his freshman year when they played off to his last year when they played more up. So, it was easy to see the skill set that he had. That was good.”
(On where he thinks Vernon Hargreaves will play)
“I think he’s just got to help us as a football plyer overall. Vernon is smart, he always figures it out, in my opinion. He knows what he needs to work on. He needs to be better outside. We feel very comfortable with him inside. When we moved him inside, the first thing I thought was, ‘Wow, you have good recall,’ and he said, ‘It’s the first position I learned when I got here,’ because that’s where he started. So, he’s going to be apt at both. We’re giving him an opportunity to play at both and then let them all compete from there.”
(On other secondary players who impressed him at rookie minicamp)
“Godwin [Igwebuike] did a good job. A young man from Northwestern, he did a good job. Mark Myers, who was really a tryout guy and I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know about his college. One of the scouts showed me a tape and I said that he should definitely be a tryout guy. He’s not very big, but he is very quick, he’s explosive and he’s fast. It’s interesting.”
(On if defensive backs have the hardest playing adjustment from college to the professional level)
“It was funny asking those young guys after rookie camp what their biggest shock was. They said, ‘Coach, the routes are down the field.’ They’re so used to the spread where it’s all thrown quick, it’s that. So, there is an adjustment. It is an adjustment for them, no question.”
(On mental toughness)
“You’re challenged physically and you’re also challenged mentally. Nobody wants to fail, nobody wants to write a bad article, nobody wants to play bad football. You’re challenged. When it doesn’t go your way, you’re challenged and mental toughness comes into play. You have to be able to be resilient through that.”
(On the development of safety Justin Evans)
“We thought a lot about Justin when we drafted him. We felt like he did have a lot of potential and I think his best football is ahead of him. He just needs to continue to work on his craft just like all of our players.”
(On how changes to the defensive line can help the secondary)
“On the defensive line, I just think that rushing and coverage works together. I think we did a really good job of trying to address that. We have to hold up our end of the bargain obviously because the longer the quarterback can hold the football, in terms of coverage, we’re going to give those guys more time to get there. The guys that we’ve added this year, we expect the same from them.”
(On rookie safety Jordan Whitehead’s personality)
“I think Whitehead is a really good guy to talk to. He’s very bright, he’s from Aliquippa (Pennsylvania). He’s a good person. Obviously you know he’s a good player.”
(On competition for playing time) 2:20
“Just like every year, it’s our responsibility to make sure that everybody gets a chance to compete and they will. Us as coaches, we have to make sure that the best players play.”
(On looking forward to the 2018 season)
“As a coach and certainly as a player, you don’t ever want to go backwards and think about the past. We’re looking forward. What happened in 2016 is ’16, whatever happened in 2017 is ’17. Right now, our focus is on 2018.

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