Q. You added S Kevin Byard to the secondary, what do you like about bringing him in? How does he fit what you want to do? (Ed Kracz)
SEAN DESAI: He is obviously a great veteran. He’s had a lot of success in this league. Has played in a lot of different defenses. Really smart. Great leader. I’ve gotten great reports. It’s really exciting to get him into the room and get him going.
Q. What will the process be like trying to integrate him? (Dave Zangaro)
SEAN DESAI: Pretty similar to the process we’ve had these last few weeks of getting different guys ready to play in the back end. The great thing is he has a lot of wealth of experience that he can rely on, so we anticipate it being pretty smooth.
[Defensive Backs] Coach [D.K.] McDonald will meet with him extra, and [Assistant Defensive Backs] Coach [Taver] Johnson and [Nickels] Coach [Ronell] Williams will all get with him extra, like we have been with a lot of the guys. So, he will just be on par with that.
Q. He has experience playing in a couple of different spots on defense in the box and in the slot. How much is that versatility a resource for you? (E.J. Smith)
SEAN DESAI: I think you’ve seen it really with our defense over these first seven weeks is we value that. We teach that way. We train it, and that’s kind of how our system has been installed. He’ll fit right into that.
Then as we grow with him in this defense, do what we feel that he is best at and what he feels he is best at.
Q. Do you have any input on anything like that, or does he come and just say, ‘hey, Sean, you have S Kevin Byard this week?’ (Ed Kracz)
SEAN DESAI: No, like I told you last week, I think [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman], they do a great job of staying ahead of everything, and then as decisions get close, we’re always in the know. He gathers information and our opinions and everything, and then obviously I’m focusing on the game plan, but after that, they make their decisions and what’s best for the team.
So, I trust [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni] and Howie fully on that element, but they gather our information also.
Q. When you got a chance to take a look at S Kevin Byard, is he still as good as he was when he was an All-Pro? He is a little older now. (Dave Zangaro)
SEAN DESAI: I don’t know. That’s a weird question to answer. He’s really good. Yeah, I think he is still a really good safety.
I don’t know what was — you know what I mean? I still think he is a really good safety, and he will be a really good addition for us.
Q. When CB Bradley Roby gets back, you’ll have four players in that secondary who are 30 and older, real established players. What’s the value from your perspective in that experience? (Zach Berman)
SEAN DESAI: I think that is the value, the experience. The guys that have played a lot of football and seen a lot of football, you can always rely on their bank of knowledge, and we’re growing that.
The good thing is in this first part of the season a lot of our young guys have had to grow up and gain some experiences, and they’ve done a good job of embracing that, and our coaching staff has done a good job of getting them prepared to do that.
This league is about that. Having experiences, going through some things. And whether it’s winning or losing, you have to go through those trials and tribulations to callous yourself a little bit and get better, and we’re doing that.
Q. What do you like about CB Eli Ricks? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: I like his length. I like his mentality, his toughness. He is a competitor, so he is kind of showing that. He’s a sponge. He keeps wanting to learn and grow in his roles on the defense, and he’s done that.
Q. How is CB Eli Ricks able to jump in and out at such a young age? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: I think it’s a credit to our teaching. Like I said, it’s a big core philosophy of ours through the organization from Nick on down to say we want to be great teachers. We want to be great with our fundamentals and techniques, and that transcends into that DB room. Obviously, Coach McDonald, Coach Johnson, and then Coach Williams. When he is working with the nickels, is to be able to teach that.
We pride ourselves on that. We’ve done a good job of it, and we have to continue to do a better job of it.
Q. How did S Sydney Brown play the other night? (Merrill Reese)
SEAN DESAI: He did a good job. It was his first time. It was an exciting and emotional game for him to be out there. He’s such a competitor.
He played physically in the spots that we needed him to play physically at, came down in the box, and did a good job of communicating. So, I think it was a good game for him to kind of get his feet wet and get going.
Q. When it comes to CB Darius Slay’s interception, is there a teaching point to that, or is that football IQ when a veteran player kind of peels off and does something like that? (John McMullen)
SEAN DESAI: I think the biggest thing for us is the teaching points are kind of pre-snap and awareness and all the things that we teach in our techniques and fundamentals.
Like we tell all the guys, they have to go and play the game. He’s a guy that’s got a lot of experience, and he saw what he saw, and he saw it right where that guy was running a little bit of a skinny post. The other guy was wheeling up on him. The quarterback looked wide outside, and he had his guy covered.
Then you trust the post safeties and be able to help there. Once the quarterback’s hands get off the ball, he can go, and he did. He did, and he made a great play for us in a critical situation.
So that’s a credit to him, man. That’s why they call him Big Play.
Q. Your run defense last year — it wasn’t your run defense, but the run defense was ranked in the middle of the pack last year, and it’s ranked first now. What’s kind of been the genesis for that sort of turnaround? (Ed Kracz)
SEAN DESAI: Again, I can’t speak to last year because I wasn’t here, so I don’t want to.
Really for us — and this is our defense here — our players are making this come to life and our front coaches with [Defensive Line] Coach [Tracy] Rocker and [Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers] Coach [Jeremiah] Washburn really have a point of emphasis there. They talk about every week of you’ve got to earn the right to rush the passer. The way to earn the right is to knock the run out.
That’s a core philosophy of what they believe in, what I believe in, what we believe in as a defense and as a staff and as players. They take a lot of pride in that.
From a stack backer position, I think [Linebackers] Coach [D.J.] Eliot has done a tremendous job of teaching these guys the fits that we want and how we want to play different schemes, our schemes versus their schemes. Whether in a post high defense or split safety defense and how we want to stack and fit on some of those backers.
Then using our support. I thought the DBs did a great job with the secondary support this last game because we knew they were going to try to attack some edges, and they were able to come up and set some edges for us.
Q. Nick Sirianni said DE Josh Sweat was the defensive player of the game, what did he earn to do that job? And two, LB Haason Reddick is known for his sacks being a big effect in the run stop. What stood out about the run stop? (Zach Berman)
SEAN DESAI: Again, you have to credit Coach Washburn over there. There’s a certain style of play that we want to have. You guys have heard it from me speak about the defensive style, but what our coaches do is they bring that style to their players, and they transcend it to their room, and that’s what has been done there.
So, with [DE Josh Sweat] Sweaty, he played a physical game all around in the run and the pass. Had a couple of big sacks for us and a couple of big plays. Impacted the quarterback. Had a really good job on two of them, I think, of retracing on screens, coming out of stack.
Those are critical plays that we need those guys. Otherwise, you’re short in the screen game if those guys don’t come out of the stack, and [DT] Fletcher [Cox] had one that he ran down. [DT] Jordan [Davis] and [DT] Milton [Williams] both ran out of the stack. So, all those guys being able to do that and own that is critical for us to play good team defense.
Then [Haason Reddick] Haas, I mean, that’s right. Everybody wants to talk about the sacks and everything, but I mean, to get two TFLs in the first two possessions versus that run game is pretty dynamic, and he was able to set that tone early, and it was with his physicalness, with his line that — Coach always talks about this nine-line, Coach Washburn, with his guys. They’re doing it. They’re trusting it.
You see, and I think our guys have seen it, the more you trust, and you keep repeating the techniques, you see the plays being able to be made.
Q. Your defense has done well against two Shanahan type of offenses. I know there are a lot of differences there from that basic scheme, but what do you think has lended to yourself having success against all that motion? Obviously, they run unconventional routes. Why do you think you guys have had success against them? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: I think our coaches and players have done a good job in their preparation. I think we spend a lot of time here on Monday and Tuesday really trying to — we call it the story tape. Figuring out what story we want to tell our players of what we think the offense is going to do. What are they doing on tape, and what do they think they’re going to do to us based on the style of football that we play?
So, we build that and send that message to the players, and the players buy into it. Then at the end of the day, I mean, it’s those guys executing; right? It’s the players executing on the field.
I’m on the sideline just trying to stay warm, you know what I’m saying? It’s those guys executing the calls and the plan that we’ve given them, and the coaches giving them those calls throughout the week and making them feel confident that they can go ahead and make plays, and they’re doing it.
I think the guys are feeling that through our preparation and the hard work through the week, and we stay on that process that the game should be easier because we practice harder, and we try to replicate looks, and we try to really be detailed with all those assignments.
Q. Did Miami Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio have any words for you after the game? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: He was upstairs. No, I talked to him before the game. He’s, like I said, a great mentor, and it was a good conversation.
Q. What was it like getting CB Josiah Scott back on defense and how did his familiarity help him in the game? (Olivia Reiner)
SEAN DESAI: I think it was great. It’s just another guy who has been around, been around our guys, and so the familiarity was the biggest thing.
We’ve had some moving pieces with the layers of communication that we’ve had to manage on the back end, and I think our coaches have done a tremendous job of getting those guys prepared, but it’s another calming voice that the guys have some familiarity with, and you saw his poise and his presence out there, and he did a tremendous job for us as well.
That play that he made on [Miami Dolphins WR] Tyreek Hill and swarming him up there was really good.
Q. I know last week you talked about linebackers and the linebacker role, kind of mixing guys in and out. This week we saw LB Zach Cunningham play all of the defensive snaps. What did you like about him in this matchup against the Dolphins? (Ed Kracz)
SEAN DESAI: I think all of our guys — we want to continue to rotate guys, and we’ll continue to do that with [LB] Zach [Cunningham] also, but he’s such a long-ranging guy that’s got good speed and can play on the edges of the defense and is really physical versus a blocker.
So, he did a good job in that role, and [LB] Nick [Morrow] and [LB] Nakobe [Dean] did a tremendous job in their roles this week, and we’ll continue to roll all those guys through because, again, it’s about obviously staying healthy for one game, but really getting through this whole season healthy and with continuity.
When you have guys with the depth that we have that we feel good about playing, then might as well play them.
Q. What was the key for limiting big plays? (Zach Berman)
SEAN DESAI: I think the big part was obviously playing physically up front; right? Having great anticipation in terms of the coverages and the disguises that we presented, and the route distributions that we were expecting. Putting our guys in spots to make sure they understood that this is where these targets were going to come and where they were going to go, and we need to defend these parts of the field and these routes in these parts of the field.
I think our guys really bought into that last week through the week of preparation. The coaches really showed it to them, and they sold it, and the guys bought into it, and you saw.
We weren’t perfect. We still gave up some big plays that we know we have to clean up, but that’s part of this process. We don’t anticipate being perfect right now. We want to keep growing.
Q. I think Washington was the team that got the most yards and points that you have allowed. What are the challenges of seeing them twice within a month? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: I think you just try to approach it like any other game. Obviously, you saw them against you. There’s a little bit of history — of recent history with them, but we’ve got to go in and take the mindset of we’ve got to put our best foot forward, prepare the way we need to prepare, and get a plan together that we think puts our players in the best position to counteract what they do.
They have a lot of skill. They have a lot of good pieces on that offense that can move the ball, and you’ve seen it throughout this year. So, we’ll get going on that today and give our guys our plan tomorrow.
Q. Seems like you’re getting such a high level of buy-in from your players. How do you think you’ve earned that, and how do you think that has taken place? (Dave Zangaro)
SEAN DESAI: Well, I appreciate that. I can’t tell you how I’ve earned that. I can tell you just the process I go about.
It’s about being authentic, being real with them. I hope they respect the preparation and the ability for us to put them in positions to make plays and for their talents to shine because it’s ultimately about them on the field executing.
Then our level of detail and our preparation and our teaching, we hope can help them feel more confident to trust themselves and go make plays. Then we try to give them some liberties of owning the defense, taking ownership of the calls within the defense.
When there’s tools and different adjustments that need to be made, we give them the rubrics of what to do, and they have been owning it. That allows them to play a little bit to their strengths, and so that’s really what we try to do, and we try to be consistent with that. Our approach tries to be consistent.
You guys see my personality. I try not to get too high or too low. It’s a process mode. We’re in this process right now. We’re going to keep going. We’re going to keep going through however long they tell us to keep going through.
Q. DE Brandon Graham mentioned on the radio this morning you took these guys out to play ping pong not too long ago. Can you give us a little insight of what happened there, and what was the impetus of that? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: It’s something that I like to do in these roles. I haven’t been in this role too long, but I learned it from some other people. At the end of training camp, we try to just do a little event together.
It’s about connecting; right? That’s what we’re about as an organization. It’s about connecting. It’s just a different avenue to connect.
I had a ping pong table growing up, so I had to brush off some of my old skills and take it to them.
Q. How are you different or better as a coordinator the second time around and the second year than the first year? (Zach Berman)
SEAN DESAI: Yeah, I think you keep growing, and that’s part of this teaching mindset that I have is that you have to keep growing, you have to keep evolving.
I’m a better coordinator than I was in week one. I’m a better coordinator than I was two weeks ago. I keep growing and keep self-evaluating and reflecting on things that I think I’ve got to do better to help our coaches and our players be the best that they can be.
If I fail them in certain respects in certain weeks or certain moments, I have to improve that. That’s part of my process after the game and going into Monday of what I can do better because it starts with me.
So, I try to be very authentic with that and let the guys know, ‘hey, man, I screwed this one up. That’s on me.’ I take this one on the chin, and I think that’s how you build those relationships through authenticity.
Q. Trying to make guys feel that ownership of the defense, where does that come from? (Dave Zangaro)
SEAN DESAI: I don’t know. That’s a great question. I would say just being around a lot of different coaches and staffs I’ve been a part of. I try to pride myself on my own background in terms of educational background and leadership, and it’s just something I believe in.
I think you have to be able to let guys play freely and within the structure of the defense, knowing when they can take their shots. We’ve got playmakers, and so they’ve got to know when they can go make plays, and that’s our job is to provide them those opportunities to go make plays when we need them to.
That doesn’t mean you violate the defense or violate those people around you. That’s also building that connection amongst all 11. They’re a team. They have to do it all together. It can’t just be one guy saying, ‘hey, this is my turn to go make a play.’ The other 10 guys better be understanding the same thing, and that’s part of our preparation that we try to take them through.