Q. What have your impressions of CB Steven Nelson been so far? (Eliot Shorr-Parks)
JONATHAN GANNON: Good. Really good. It’s good to get a vet in that knows a lot of ball. Just got to see what he’s comfortable with within our scheme and get him to play to his strengths. It was a good addition for us.
Q. I know that it was only the second day, but looks like the defense is forcing some fumbles out there, popping the ball free and getting an interception or two. Has that been kind of an emphasis every day, to get turnovers? (Ed Kracz)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, we have a very defined language with how we talk about takeaways. You guys are going to see that in practice, hopefully, a lot. We know the value of the ball, and we put a high importance on it. So, we’re going to coach that up.
Like I said, we have a very defined language with how we coach that. That should be part of our DNA, which is the ‘HITS’ principle, which that is the ‘T’ in takeaways.
Q. What does that mean, defined way to talk about it? (Dave Zangaro)
JONATHAN GANNON: We have very distinct language with how we force fumbles, how we scoop and score, how we block interception returns. It just puts a very clear picture of what the standard is, what the expectation is, of how we conduct or business.
Q. It’s gotten a little physical, maybe more than what you would expect at contact. Is that the goal here or is that secondary? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: No, I think that’s just part of how we’re going to play. It’s actually awesome because we, obviously, have an offensive head coach and he believes in it. A lot of people out there that are offensive head coaches, they don’t want to see that. [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni] believes that’s the best thing for the team, the offense and the defense. He allows us to do that.
Now, we got to clean it up because we don’t want guys on the ground at times but on defense, we’re going to play with a stinger and I’m not going to take that stinger away.
Q. When your top corner is known for his man defense, how does that factor into the scheme you’re going to use and juggling what the strengths of the other guys on defense are? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: I would think with that, the man coverage, he’s going to play some man-to-man. We’re just going to figure out how much of it we can play, if it suits us to win the game that week.
So, you’ll see us hopefully be a little bit adaptable week to week with what we’re doing to try to defend opposing offenses.
Q. How the feeling been with the front seven with how much 3-4, 4-3 are you going to run?
JONATHAN GANNON: Say that one more time.
Q. You said the last time we spoke you were going to kind of figure out as you go. How has that process been?
JONATHAN GANNON: Good. You guys are going to see a lot of looks out there. Again, that’s going into you guys… we believe that our D-line is a strength. We’re going to try to put them in a position to make a bunch of plays.
We also feel like, it’s day two, but I would say a lot of those guys have very unique skill sets, and we’re going to try to accentuate those skill sets by how we align people. The players have done a great job of buying in and understanding the ‘why’ behind what we’re doing.
It’s day two and we got a lot more to put in, but it’s our job to figure out, ‘Hey, this guy does this really well, put him in that spot for the most part.’ As we keep going in camp, hopefully you guys will see a lot of different variation with what we’re doing and we’re using guys in different ways.
That’s why, talking about our guys, we like guys that can play multiple positions because we feel it’s hard on the offense. So, we don’t want to just line up and they know where we’re going to line up. We’re going to change.
Q. So along those lines with guys that can play multiple positions, especially young guys, philosophically do you want them learning both positions from the ground up or becoming an expert in one and then moving onto the next?
JONATHAN GANNON: That’s different with each position and each player. An example for, like, a DB, if we feel like his skill set, he could play both, multiple positions. Some days, we might rotate it by period, where he’s playing corner and he’s playing nickel the next period, some guys we like to get comfortable playing one spot.
This goes for the D-line, too. Some guys we like to, ‘Hey, work on this for this four-practice stack and then we’re going to switch you around a little bit.’
But the value of guys being able to play multiple spots is huge. A couple reasons for that is it allows us to build depth. On game day, you don’t have too many jerseys out there. We always say, ‘Hey, we want a pair and a spare.’ To do that, certain guys have to be able to play one, two, some guys even three spots.
Again, that differs from guy to guy – That’s a really good question – That differs from guy to guy and that’s part of the evaluation as we get going. If this guy is busting mentally, then we’ll calm it down a little bit. If guys can handle it, we’re going to move them around.
Q. I know it’s early for you, but when you look at your defensive line and to have all those guys come back, and they had among the most sacks in the NFL last year, how special of a group is that line that’s obviously going to lead the way on defense?
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, it’s a big-time advantage for us. With that, the leadership in that room is key. I think sometimes that gets overlooked with young guys or guys that haven’t played a lot of snaps. They’re an open book, so they help the young guys. We can stand up and say, ‘Hey, here is how you play a double-team.’ When it’s coming from [DT Javon] Hargrave, it’s a little bit different. He’s got a different viewpoint because he’s in between the white lines.
The leadership and experience and the amount of ball a lot of those guys have played helps the entire defense really. The other thing with that is, because they played a lot of ball, they’ve been in a lot of spots that we’re putting them in, so it creates flexibility within a scheme to do some different things.
Q. I recognize that you’re mixing personnel, but on the first day it stood out that DE Josh Sweat was the first one up with the d-ends. Is that job a competition between him and DE Derek Barnett? Do you view them both as starters? How do you view that role?
JONATHAN GANNON: I view both of those guys as starters. I think you guys should see the switching of groups, like I said, period by period, day by day, week by week.
I don’t really look at that as a competition. We’re just out here trying to get better, like everybody. We feel really good about that entire group and those two guys.
Q. Circling back to Steven Nelson. You mentioned about starting young players, it differs. Does that give you a luxury of having a veteran guy out there with some of your younger corners to slow things down?
JONATHAN GANNON: I wouldn’t say that. We added Steven, which was good, to create competition in the room. We know that he’s a vet, and just like the D-line, he’s giving a lot of information to our young guys.
Right now, like I said, we’re mixing groups. We’re going to see the best 11 out there and the best 22 and the best right now, the best however many we have and try to put them guys in spots where they can function and be successful.
Q. You said we were going to see a lot of looks throughout camp, we saw some 3-4 yesterday. When it comes to the season, is it possible to have as disparate a front like a 3-4 or if you work a 4-3 front? I know that most front are going to be multiple in the NFL, but can you be as diverse as that?
JONATHAN GANNON: If our players can do it, yes. I would say that if you look at the number one defense in the league last year, the L.A. Rams, they had by far the most different personnel groupings and the highest amount of different fronts.
Not to say that we’re going to do that, but I do think that versatility in your front and coverage makes it hard on the offense. We’re going to do that.
The other reason for that is to, again, is trying to accentuate our guys’ skill set to move them around a little bit because they present problems for the offense when you do that.
Q. You have guys that are playing both off-ball linebacker and they’re mixing in as pass-rushers, too. How does that role compare to the one that LB Anthony Barr has with the Vikings? How would you sort of define that role in your defense?
JONATHAN GANNON: I think we’re still defining that role – That’s a good question.
Anthony Barr was a little different because with [Head Coach Mike Zimmer ] Zim, he kind of played Will. That’s what you typically play the game in as a sub, so he did play Sam, but they used him stack in a different way anyhow.
I think the guys that we have in that spot right now give us a very diverse skill set. Just like everybody on the defense, we’re going to try to accentuate that skill set and put them guys in spots to do what they do best. That’s what we’re trying to figure out now. That’s a good question.
Q. LB Davion Taylor has gotten an opportunity to get a lot of snaps here in the first two days both in base and some of your set packages. How has he looked and what are your thoughts on him?
JONATHAN GANNON: DT, he’s had a couple good days. He looks a lot more comfortable to me right now just in what he’s doing. Nick has done a really good job with him of making him understand the ‘why’ behind how we do things and, ‘Hey, this is his specific skill set and we’re going to let him roll.’
We’re excited about the entire linebacker group. DT in particular has gotten some snaps, some really good quality snaps, which is good.
Like all our guys, reps are gold out there right now. That’s what I tell our guys. It’s like, you’re working on your game constantly, every day you’re working on your game. The more reps you get, the more you can work on your game.
Reps are at a premium and he’s taking advantage of those reps.
Q. When it comes to QB Jalen Hurts out there, you guys practice with him every day. How does his athleticism help you out on defense?
JONATHAN GANNON: I got in with the defensive staff yesterday and I said, ‘It’s the first time I looked at all 11 on the practice field. I’ve been looking at five guys.’
I know he’s a really good player, not really watching Jalen honestly. I’m watching our 11 and making sure that we get 11 on the field first so I don’t get fired. 10 will get you fired, and it does happen at times. We don’t want it to happen. I’ve made that mistake a couple times.
I’m really just worried about the defense right now. That’s where my focus is.
Q. You talked about young guys learning two positions, specifically with DT Milton Williams. Does he have that capacity?
JONATHAN GANNON: Absolutely. Like a lot of our guys, he’s extremely intelligent and he has a lot of football instincts. I think he can play five spots on the defensive line, so it is our job figuring out what are his strengths, what are his weaknesses, get his weaknesses a little bit better. You’re going to see him move all over the place.
Q. On the topic of multiple fronts, DT Fletcher Cox has been historically the centerpiece of this defense here. What needs to be done to maximize him and is he someone that you expect to move around or keep as the 3 technique?
JONATHAN GANNON: He’s going to move around, too, because of his skill set. I think we should move him around. When you put him over the center, it’s a hard matchup for a center. He’s obviously a premium player of ours, as you saw that today, I think he had like three TFLs, a couple sacks.
But we’re going to do everything we can for him to let him go and be disruptive and play his game. He can do a lot of things. I mean, he’s a really good piece to have because he’s so unique and talented. He has so much experience. He understands ball. It’s been fun to watch and it’s going to be fun to keep watching him as he goes.
Q. The number one defense last year with the Rams, when you look at this defense and you talk about that front, that line, and you look at the secondary, do you think you guys could be a top defense in this league? I know it’s so early but do you see that nature?
JONATHAN GANNON: I don’t really worry about that. Honestly, Nick has done a good job. We’re kind of just focused on the process, getting better. He says, ‘Get 1% better every day.’
That’s honestly not in my mind. I’m really just focused on our guys improving their game because that helps the defense and it helps the team.
The coaches, that’s our job. Get everybody under your watch better and just improve them a little bit. Some guys make a huge jump. Some of them really good, premium players, the vets, if we can just make that incremental jump, it helps everybody.