Q. Your run defense is No. 1 in the league. What are the keys to the success that unit is having? (Ed Kracz)
SEAN DESAI: I think it starts with the guys up front, you know, [Defensive Line] Coach [Tracy] Rocker and [Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers] Coach [Jeremiah] Washburn, starts with them and then their players and instilling this mindset that we don’t want people running the ball on us.
There is a certain mentality that we want to play with and a certain aggression level and physical level we want to play with, and it starts there. It translates to the back end.
It becomes contagious and everybody sees the product of when you play a certain way, you can eliminate part of a game for an offense.
Q. What’s your philosophy when it comes to a 5-1 front and the advantages of doing it and maybe some of the limitations? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: I think it’s a really good front. I think it’s a really good front. I think there are spaces for it when you need it based on the package and the people that you have and the matchups that you can create. There are some advantages and there are some disadvantages, just like with anything. With the 4-down front or three-man front there are positives and negatives of both.
You have to be able to make sure in this league you have answers with whatever defense you’re playing with out there, because offenses can try to trap you in certain things, and they try to tempo you and do that.
So whatever defense you’re playing you better have answers.
Q. LB Zach Cunningham got here late. Seems like he’s played better each week. What have you seen from him? What did you see from him when he got here and was trying to learn it all real quick? (Reuben Frank)
SEAN DESAI: One thing you do notice right from the beginning when we first got him, was he’s a veteran. He’s played a lot of good football in this league, and he has some really good instincts and feel for the game.
So, he’s able to learn the defense relatively quickly because he’s had some experiences, so that’s shown, and that’s what’s kind of helped him impact us on defense at a relatively quick rate.
You see that on tape. You see his physicalness. You see his range, his play making ability. He uses his hands well at the point of attack. Obviously can move well. He is quick side to side.
All of that stuff shows up on tape for him, and the more he keeps learning and growing within this defense and the finer points of the defense, he’ll just continue to keep improving.
Q. When you drafted DT Jalen Carter, you knew you were getting a great player. Did you expect him to be this dominant this early? (Merrill Reese)
SEAN DESAI: I don’t know that — and I think part of that is probably I try to limit my expectations of people, especially young players like Jalen, because for us, from our perspective, as soon as we get him, now they’re into our development program, how we want to develop guys with the skills and traits he has.
He has great skills and traits and he has to continue to develop within the defense and learn that. He’s doing that and finding some spots to have some success. But like anybody, to be great it has to be a day in and day out process. He’s learning that and he’s doing that, and he is trying to do it. So that’s kind of the emphasis with him, with Coach Rocker and him, is keep developing him every day with the details and the fundamentals we want to teach him that will help magnify his own skillsets that he brings.
Q. DT Jalen Carter is playing like 40% of the snaps right now. Is that something you want him in that designated pass rusher spot role, or do you see him as someone who can play a bigger percentage of the downs? (E.J. Smith)
SEAN DESAI: I don’t know about percentages, but in terms of being able to play on all downs, yeah. But you see that with all of our guys. That’s the whole philosophy that we talked about here for a long time. We want to be able to send guys in waves at these guys and make them stay fresh. That’s why the standard is the standard in that room. Coach Rocker and Coach Washburn really hold them to the standard that they have got to earn the right to rush the passer. That means you have to play first, second down defense, play run defense, and better be good with our techniques and fundamentals we’re teaching so you can do that, and he’s doing is that.
Q. DT Fletcher Cox has got off to a really good start here. Do you get any sense that young guys like DT Jalen Carter, DT Jordan Davis, have kind of breathed a little bit more life into him do you think, kind of rejuvenated him a little bit? (Ed Kracz)
SEAN DESAI: I don’t think so. I mean, Fletcher has been dominant for a long time, and I think it’s a credit to Fletcher and how he prepares his body and his mind for a season. I think the young guys really need to take notice of that. If they want to have a long career like Fletcher really learn and take some notes on how to go about doing that. We’ve got some good veterans in our room. [DE] Brandon [Graham], BG is another one that have long-term sustained success, and there is a process to do that in this league if you want to be a ten-year guy.
It’s not for everybody, and Fletcher is a great example of a consummate professional of how to do that and put in the grind every day. You see the guy practice. He practices at such a high level in terms of running and setting a standard for the guys. That’s inspirational for a coach to watch that and it should be inspirational for the fellow players to watch it, and I do think they take inspiration from it.
Q. What did you think of CB James Bradberry in the slot, how did he perform? On the flip side, how did CB Josh Jobe perform outside? (Dave Zangaro)
SEAN DESAI: James did a good job. This was his first time in game-like speed to play in the slot and he did a good job in the roles we asked him to do. Will he get better? Yeah, for sure. Everybody is getting better. It’s only week three for us. We’re still climbing in terms of our technique and fundamentals and building that cohesiveness. And then when you have transitions that we’ve had in terms of moving pieces, we’re still building that continuity.
The good part of it is they’re all getting it. They are all getting those reps at it. Josh falls in a similar place. This was his first time playing a big chunk of plays and he got a feel out there and there are some things he knows he wants to clean up and we want to clean up with his techniques and fundamentals, but for him it’s about trusting his techniques and fundamentals and being able to continually down in and down out, like we talked about with the other guys, do that. That’s the mark of a really good player is you’re able to stay focused rep in and rep out and be able to put it at a certain level of output with your technique and fundamentals on every play, and that comes with trusting your techniques and fundamentals. [Defensive Backs] Coach [D.K.] McDonald and [Assistant Defensive Backs] Coach [Taver] Johnson and [Nickels] Coach [Ronell] Williams in the DB room have done a great job, to be honest, of preparing a lot of different guys in different spots.
Q. Your defense has tackled well. What’s your philosophy when it comes to that? Do you want to see guys go full boar and you’re okay if they miss because you have a wave of tacklers coming behind him? Or do you teach the other way? (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: We believe in an aggressive mindset. That doesn’t change for us really on any level. We want swarm. We want bodies to the ball. You’re seeing some of that and that’s how takeaways happen. Good things happen when we run to the ball. We want big men running out of the stack. We want guys from the back side of the field coming. We want people to be at the ball. We want a lot of jerseys in the screen, and that’s part of people feeling us.
If it’s just one guy all the time, it’s lonely out there if it’s the same guy making that tackle. You want your brothers with you, and that’s kind of the mentality we preach and we’re going to continue that way.
Q. So if there is a missed tackle, that doesn’t necessarily result always in a bad grade because… (Jeff McLane)
SEAN DESAI: Oh, grading-wise? I don’t like to get into our grading mechanics. We hold guys accountable to missed tackles. We don’t want missed tackles at all.
To your point, I think this is a point you’re trying to ask, is you can manage a missed tackle if there are eight guys around you to clean it up. So those situational tackles are things that we really try to harp on and teach of how to make those plays, whether it’s just you in a lot of space or you got a lot of people around you.
Q. One of the less glowing stats is the passing touchdowns allowed over three games. You’ve had eight of them. What’s been your evaluation of that? Got better on Monday night. What kind of progress are you seeing? (Tim McManus)
SEAN DESAI: I think the first thing, always have look at yourself. Have to help guys with different calls and put guys in different positions maybe, and that’s part of the process. To be honest with you, every week I go through and recall the game on Monday with the ideal call and see how much that would hit if I hit it or didn’t. It’s part of the Monday morning quarterback I get to play for myself.
But I think so, that’s part of it. Then the other part is a lot of it has been really detailed in our technique and fundamentals within those calls. Whether it’s playing with good leverage or playing with good eyes or making sure that you’re trusting where your help is within the defense.
And sometimes — I mean, this is the NFL. Sometimes they’re going to get you on one. Not that that’s okay. We never want to give up any points on defense. But we have to have that next-play mentality and be able to recover from a play we might have given up.
Q. For the slot, S Sydney Brown also played 11 or so snaps there. What about his skillset lends itself to getting a look in that role? (Olivia Reiner)
SEAN DESAI: I think it was a lot of things. He’s obviously gotten some reps for us at safety as well through camp and practicing. The way, like I said, the DB coaches with Coach McDonald, Coach Williams, and Coach Johnson prepare those guys. There is a certain standard that if you’re in this room you better learn some different spots.
He has a really good football mind. He’s hungry. There is an opening and an opportunity for him to take some reps and learn that position, and there is a lot of carryover for some of the things we require of him at safety.
So, we thought there was a good correlation for him to learn it, and he did it. He did a good job in that game in the role that he was in.
Q. Specifically with the play in the end zone with Buccaneers WR Mike Evans, what did he show you on that snap? (Reuben Frank)
SEAN DESAI: The ability to not panic. He lost his leverage early, but you’re playing against a Hall of Fame receiver, that sometimes happens. But, the ability to stay poised and not panic and finish the down, and that’s really what he’s about, right? I mean, late hands win, and he was able to get that thing out at the end and that was a big play in the game for us.
Q. Going back to your process, going back through your calls, what’s the origin of that? (E.J. Smith)
SEAN DESAI: That’s a good question. I think it was just through a lot of mentors I’ve been around. Everybody has their own process and I kind of developed that into my process of why not do that? I do that during the week when I’m simulating games, try to watch the tape and go back and say, this will be the best call in this situation. Then you build your call sheet, and you go that way.
You always want to be the best. You always want to put your players in the best position, and we take a lot of pride in our preparation for that. You try to be as close to perfect as you can.
Q. What does LB Nolan Smith have to do to earn more snaps? (Dave Zangaro)
SEAN DESAI: I think there is a function of a lot of things. He’s doing a great job. I don’t know if he has to do more. I got to try to get some packages where we get him out there a little bit more and it fits into our rotational plan.
It’s part of the send in the waves people. He is part of that. A game like last time where the offense did an outstanding job. I’ll take that any time of the week, of where they are on the field the whole fourth quarter pretty much.
It limits the number of plays then. We only had 47 snaps in the game, so it throws your whole rotation off. There’s going to be games like that. He’ll tell you if the offense wants to hold the ball for that long, we’ll take it.
His reps count will go up and will go up as we go, and we will be diligent to do that.
Q. S Reed Blankenship, what have you seen of him as he’s evolved and really grown into a significant role in this defense? (Gabriella Galati)
SEAN DESAI: He’s been so consistent. He’s really taken a lot of ownership in mastering the defense and the techniques. He’s been such a rock I guess is the right word for the back end. Like I told you guys, a lot of our communication goes down the middle of the defense from the backers and the safeties, and he has taken on that ownership really well.
And he’s growing with it. He made a great play in the game. Had a great read. Took care of [Buccaneers WR] Mike [Evans]. I think Mike was on the back side of that route with his eyes and then went to the front side off the quarterback. That kind of stuff will continue to happen for him.