Dirk Koetter on Pushing the Leadership Envelope with Justin Evans

Sports Xchange

(On if he has seen the NFL officiating the roughing the passer rule)

“Nelson [Luis] just told me that they put out a statement. Usually those videos come in while we’re in practice and it’s usually a couple times a week, so it’s probably upstairs. If that’s what they said, then that’s what they said. That’s what we’ve been doing and we’ll continue to do it if that’s what they say.”

(On if the team has been adjusting to the rules without getting called for penalties)

“Yeah. We harp mostly on pre-snap penalties – those are the ones that are preventable. Aggressive penalties are going to happen sometimes. We’ve got to try to be smart about it. On both of our roughing the passer penalties last week you couldn’t tell those guys to do anything different. Sometimes on a holding penalty or something like that those are easily – you can correct what we did wrong. You’re going to have some penalties out there. Every crew calls it a little bit different. Even though the league is trying to get it more concise between crews, the crews do call it differently.”

(On when he will say who the starting quarterback will be against the Bears)

“I don’t know the answer to that. I mean, it’s not a mystery in my mind. I don’t know.”

(On he sees from Evan Smith and Caleb Benenoch at right guard individually and the line as a group)

“I think our line play was really good in Weeks 1 through 2. It wasn’t a lack of physicality in the Steelers game, we just had some mental [errors]. We just missed some run-throughs that you just can’t miss. It wasn’t just the line. Like I said, we had one from the running backs. We just had some protection breakdowns that – it wasn’t anything hard that Pittsburgh did. Now they rushed hard, they came hard, they were physical, but that’s every week in this league. As far as Caleb and Evan, like I said before there’s different reasons why you rotate players. If we were rotating D-lineman, everybody would be happy, but as soon as we rotate and O-lineman just because it’s not the way it’s normally done, everyone freaks out. Again, there’s different reasons and some of those just have to stay in-house right now. “

(On making corrections against a 3-4 defense)

“We didn’t make errors because it was a 3-4 team, that had nothing to do with it. A 3-4 team does make you work a little to I.D. it. Those are communication problems. There’s no magic to a 3-4 defense. There’s magic to really good players. There’s magic to multiplicity and making you communicate, especially on the road when it’s hard to hear. There’s no magic in a 3-4 alignment. If there was, everybody would do it.”

(On if defensive tackle Vita Vea has been able to get in better ‘football shape’)

“Yeah and trust me there is hitting in practice even on days when we’re going in ‘spiders’ like we did today. There’s still – none of us in this room would be able to go out there and survive including and especially me. It’s still physical in practice, especially for those guys up front on both sides. You’re exactly right though – there’s no better way to get in football shape than to play football. There’s a fine line though between training camp, preseason, practice football, and real NFL football. Some of that is medical decisions made by the guys that make those calls. After they’re cleared to play, then it becomes our call a little bit. Those are hard decisions.”

(On Vea’s injury status)

“Is he still on the injury report? I think he is. I guess he is.”

(On the veracity of the injury report)

“Supposedly the injury report is supposed to be legit by NFL rules. I think ours is.”

(On if there is something that he believes he is missing from a defensive standpoint)

“Well yeah there’s stuff in every game that we’re missing in all three phases of the game. That’s every game. It’s never perfect, it’s never a perfect game plan, it’s never perfect execution, so we have a million stats – everything is ‘stated’ in the NFL. Everybody is going to place value differently. I’ve got places where I place value. Other people have places where they place value. When you’re winning games, some of those stats get swept under the rug and when you’re losing games, those stats get magnified. Of course, there’s plenty of stuff to work on.”

(On if he can take advantage of Bear quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s inexperience)

“That’s what everybody would think that would happen, but like I said the other day when we talked about this is we’ve been the same boat. We started a young quarterback. I’m a big believer in experienced quarterbacks in this league, but that doesn’t mean guys aren’t going to go out there and shoot the lights out on any given day. That’s what Chicago is trying to do – they’re trying to build their plan around what he does best. That’s the same thing we did and continue to do with Jameis as our quarterback. The Drew Breeses the Ben Roethlisbergers the Tom Bradys Aaron Rodgers of the world have done it over and over and over and over for multiple years. These young guys, that’s why they’re picked where they’re picked first round because somebody believes they can do that too someday.”

(On safety Justin Evans stepping into a bigger role)

“I think that’s something that we’re trying to push the envelope with Justin. He’s been receptive to that. He understands that. He can see that as well. I think receptive. Everybody has to lead in their own way – no different than with the quarterback position of the O-line position. I think he recognizes that and tries to embrace it.”

(On what he has seen from safety Jordan Whitehead so far)

“That he’s not afraid to get out there and get in the mix. Those are grown men trying to hurt each other out there and when you’re playing in the safety position – especially a down safety – a lot of times your eyes are in the backfield looking at your key and you’ve got guys coming from the outside trying to hit you. They’ve made those rules safer – can’t block you below the waist – but they’re still planting you. Then all of a sudden – I don’t know if you remember the play – but Roethlisberger turned around and gave a really hard play action fake and they’re trying to throw it over your head. The coaches are telling those safeties, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get a player in the run-fit. Oh yeah but you’ve also got to play your pass-drop.’ So there’s some hesitancy there and then the guys that they’re trying to run behind your head are guys like Antonio Brown. Of course, if you’re a young safety you’re going to be hesitant at times. When you say the game’s not too big for them, usually you’re referring to there wasn’t much hesitation and there’s going to be mistakes there. From a coaching side, you say make your mistakes going full-speed.”

(On what he’s seen from cornerback M.J. Stewart)

“Same. All three of those rookies I think that’s probably the thing that’s jumped out the most is the way they’re not afraid to go out there and compete and not back down, no matter who it is. Think about it, these guys were all in college last year and they’re going against guys they watched on TV – now that’s the same for every new player in the league. All of a sudden we’ve got three of them out of the five when we’re in nickel defense out there at the same time and they’re going against guys that they dreamed about going against and now they are. That would become mundane after a while. Not mundane in the sense that you’ve got to get up for it every week, but right now Monday Night Football is a big deal.”

(On if making the transition from college to NFL is as difficult for cornerbacks as it is for quarterbacks)

“I think that they’re probably all difficult. I think that the transitions are probably pretty similar. I think you ask any guy – anybody that played football their whole life. You go from Pop Warner to Little League to middle school or whatever to high school to college. The game gets faster and the NFL is the fastest of the fast.”

(On if he can tell if there is any atrophy in timing or working with the receivers)

“I don’t think I would use the word ‘atrophy’ maybe because it’s just not in my vocabulary. I think there’s always an adjustment period getting back to working with those certain guys – getting back to working with your guys. Hats off to Jameis for putting together a group of guys to do what he did. I was asking him yesterday if he had video because I’d really love to see it. I think it would be awesome. Jameis a quarterback, coach and GM all at the same time – perfect. I think there is a little adjustment period and that’s one of the things we’re trying to move as long as quickly as we can.”

(On running back Ronald Jones has been incorporated into special teams)

“Yeah. Sure. Of course. As I’ve said, he’s playing a different position on special teams than Shaun [Wilson] is, so some of that falls on who else we have up for that game – who else is in there. I’ve said it multiple times – RoJo’s day is coming. This has nothing to do with anything he’s not doing well. It’s on me – it’s on us. His day is coming. Guys can get drafted where they get drafted, but my job’s still to put the 46 guys out there that give us the chance that week to win and that’s always what we’re going to do.”

(On making the transition from inactive to active roster while in season)

“That’s a great question. Ask Ryan Griffin that question – he’s been trying to do it for six years. It’s hard. That’s a hard thing. That’s the rules we’re living by. That’s hard once the season starts. That’s why you’ve got preseason and training camp. You talk about opportunity – however many practices we have, however many preseason games we have – those are those opportunities. You have to establish some kind of a depth chart and then once the season starts, it’s hard. Right when I leave here, just like all our other coaches, we’re going to go up there and watch every pay of that practice that we just went through as a coaching staff. Then we’re going to go back downstairs and watch every play with the players and what we don’t get done today with them, we’re going to watch it tomorrow. It’s an ongoing process and it’s the same for every single team in this league.”

(On how players are recovering during a short week)

“You’re short a day. You have to make some adjustments for that. We made those adjustments. You’re not going to know for sure until Sunday at one o’clock and how it plays out in those three hours.”

(On the depth chart being tested during the short weeks)

“It’s hard for any player. Doesn’t matter if it’s a running back, a tackle, a corner. Some places you’re not four deep. Some places you’re only two-deep. It is what it is. It’s going ot work itself out – trust me it will.”