PHIL PARKER: First of all, thanks for coming today. I want to start off by saying that it’s a great time to have a buy week to get some guys some rest. Obviously some of our guys played a lot of reps to this point. I’m very pleased the way our kids have been coming out to practice. And I’ve been really pleased the last three weeks of how we’ve improved in the run game, obviously. That’s definitely improved. I really like the toughness our guys are playing with. I like the excitement and the energy and the way they’re going about things on the field. I don’t think they’ve given up. I think they can win every game. We’ve been in some close games, in one possession games, where we have an opportunity to win. So I’m very pleased with that.
I was very pleased the way our kids came out and practiced today. We had split sessions most of the week. We’d let the first guys go in. And then we’d get those guys off. And then after they showered and stuff they’d come back out and encourage the other guys. So with the second and third teamers out there.
We’re excited about that. I think it was a great time to have a buy week. We’re really looking forward to the next push, because two of the teams we’re not very familiar with Penn State and obviously Michigan with what they do. So it does give us an opportunity to look at some of them guys before we get back on Penn State next week. So we’re looking forward to that.
Q. How frustrating were the first three or four games with the rush defense, and how were you able to change and adapt and go back to a normal —
PHIL PARKER: That’s the basic fundamentals of how to run your angles and tackle. And I don’t think we’ve changed anything. Obviously last year we had Nate Meyer and Jordan Lomax was gone from it, and Cole Fisher, so there’s three guys. And right now we look at Snyder, he’s a first year starter. Some opportunities for him to get in there and do things.
But I think after a while I think it really comes back to the basics and we stayed with it. And guys become better and their preparation became better. They had better energy. I thought during practice during the week of Minnesota the tempo was probably more physical than it was during the game. From Tuesday, Wednesday of the Minnesota game, and if you go to any other games over there, the intensity of practice really picked up and it was a violent practice on Tuesdays and Wednesday. So that’s where I think we kind of gained our edge back.
Q. You mentioned the basics. But could you also say, like you said, you have had to replace Lomax and Fisher and Meyer, and guys like Nelson and Snyder, was it also the game slowing down for them a little bit because it was their first real action in a sense?
PHIL PARKER: When you’re a young player and trying to go in there and playing a full game and understanding what you have to do, it’s a little bit different than going on the practice field and do it in practice than it is when you’re out on the game field. There are a lot of things, you’ve got 70,000 people in the stands and being able to handle all the things, the split second decisions you have to make and the angles you have to make. And for some of the other guys, maybe Anthony Nelson, he was in there at times, he might not be the strongest, but he’s a good pass rusher guy. He has to learn to play his technique versus the run.
And obviously they improve. With the more practice and the more time on the field during the game definitely helps.
Q. When Jaleel Johnson is on top of his game, what does that do for your defense?
PHIL PARKER: I think Jaleel, he definitely has a disruption with the guys, and I think he’s done a really good job of improving and being a factor. You look at the two sacks that he had, he is violently going after the guy, beating the guy, getting to the quarterback, that really put us in a good spot. I think Josey Jewell with his leadership and Desmond King with his leadership, with the way they’re pulling the team together on the defensive side of the ball. I’m really excited to see where this can go in the next four weeks.
Q. How do you explain the uptick in the defense, not just with Jaleel, but with everyone?
PHIL PARKER: I think it all starts up front. I think it all starts with the four guys, the way we’re built, and the way we take our defensive line and the way Chris Doyle works with those guys in the off season, and the way he trains them. I think it all starts up front.
The same with the offensive line. You’re always going to win by the up front guys. The better pad level they have, the better leverage they’re playing and the better they’re getting off the ball is definitely going to help the second level guys with the linebackers and where their fits are. And then we have to be really good in the back end with our discipline with our secondary and make sure we’re in the proper leverage and proper angles going for the ball. Which is probably — maybe not coached as much as other places. Some guys play one simple defense, and don’t understand the angles.
I think there’s a big thing about how do you go to a ball when the ball is being run and what way is it going and where are your eyes at and trying to diagnose all those things that are going on. That’s a lot more complicated than people think.
Q. Jaleel mentioned after the game Saturday that some of the issues about that have been more mental than physical. Have you seen it as well?
PHIL PARKER: When you go in the game there’s always going to be mental mistakes. And this is one of the things we talk about with our players for. Mental mistakes you can’t stand, we’re not going to accept the mental mistakes. But if you give us good effort, you’re tough, you run with the ball, and those are the things that we’re looking for.
We’ll go through it and we’ll evaluate it. The guys that make the less mistakes, will definitely be the guys that are playing.
But obviously to give up a blown coverage or something like that, you’re playing three deep and you’re not in the thirds, that’s kind of uncalled for. But I think we limited them.
It’s simpler. Guys are getting more comfortable and I think the more preparation really comes into it when you start moving on during the season. They’re starting to understand the routine. They’ve got class, you have to go to school. What day am I studying the third downs? What day is the first and second downs. They get used to it as they get older.
Q. How is Bazataâ€™s health?
PHIL PARKER: He’s doing good. It’s the perfect time to have a rest. He went out of the game, he came back. And we’re hoping we’re going to get him back next week. We’re definitely going to give him some rest time and make sure that he’s ready for the Penn State game.
Q. Do you feel like part of this, you can’t really blame it, but the fact they’ve been on the field for so long that the fatigue on that, is part of the mental fatigue?
PHIL PARKER: I’ll never use that as an excuse. But to me, I don’t really care when the fire started, I just worry about putting out the fire, and that was Norm’s thing that stuck in my head a little bit. I think the way you watched our team play the last three weeks, wherever we got the ball we had a chance to go out there and top it. We gave up the big play. And they’re on the four, five yard line, and we get out with a fumble, I thought that was a great response.
Q. How much do you examine the any spots where you feel like you need to get more guys working on the defense?
PHIL PARKER: We look at it all the time. We look at rep counts. We track it during the game. And if it’s a linebacker, somebody will be up there and say, hey, he’s got five, six reps in already. So maybe we might have to sub on him. And the same with the defensive line. The secondary we usually don’t do it as much. Once in a while if I see somebody that needs a break, I give it to them. But hopefully we can use our sub packages on third downs, so they get a break. But we’ve done more of controlling their reps during practice and tracking them during the week of how many reps they have, we know exactly how many reps they have for the whole year actually playing in the game.
But we also track what they do in practice, not only with Chris Doyle’s technology, but also just basically counting the reps, simple reps, how many reps did they take on a competitive level against our offense or whether it’s just a scout team. So we do track our guys to make sure how many reps they’re getting during the week.
Q. The safeties, are you seeing growth there? What areas do they need to work on?
PHIL PARKER: Well, we talk about it all the time, it’s getting in the right place, and sometimes — I’d rather tackle a guy in the doorway, I tell these guys, you’d rather tackle a guy in the doorway than in this big room, it’s a lot easier. It comes back to the angle that you’re going with, and how you’re getting there and can you read — are you reading your keys fast enough and getting in the position to make the tackle. And that’s the really concern. And obviously we’ve got to continue to wrap up a little bit better, and I think our guys have worked that.
To me that’s the whole key of it, everybody leveraging the ball in the right spots, because it’s hard to tackle. I don’t care who you are, you can have the fastest guy over there and the fastest guy over there, you put two guys in the room, and say let’s tackle, it will be hard on a field. But put them in the doorway, get the leverage down, and you can tackle somebody in the doorway, you’ve got a better chance of doing that, even if he runs you over, he might fall down. That’s the whole objective. That’s what I’ve believed in football since I’ve been involved in it.
But obviously that’s a concern of mine, when they do miss tackles, it’s sometimes the angles and maybe duck their head, keeping your eyes up. And we talk about all those things you have to do, but eventually it comes to putting their full body on top of a guy.
Q. What is your depth like in that position?
PHIL PARKER: I think in the back up we’ve got Anthony Gair, we’ve got Jake Gervase back there, and Amani Hooker, that is another young guy that’s really made some jumps these last couple of weeks of all the work that we had. So I’m really looking forward to giving him an opportunities to have a chance, and he’s been on some special teams, Hooker has. So I’m excited to see what he did. And I think he’ll eventually take over at some point in time and get some reps.
Q. What’s keeping Aaron Mends off the field?
PHIL PARKER: I think when you look at Aaron Mends, I think he’s great athletically. I think his progress has not been where we think it needs to be to go out there and be out there on a full-time basis.
Q. Just the understanding?
PHIL PARKER: He’s not as good as the guys in front of him right now. Sometimes he’s been banged up a little bit and probably not practiced as much. Sometimes he has some issues there. To us we’ve got to make sure that he’s on the same page all the time with what we want to do defensively.
Q. Cedrick Lattimore, how is he developing; Amani Jones and Manny Rugamba?
PHIL PARKER: I think Amani Jones has done a really good job. And he’s progressing. We see That’s another guy that’s probably going to help us out hopefully in the next couple of weeks here.
Cedrick Lattimore, he’s done a good job. I looked at two or three plays the other day and it looks like he’s starting to get it. You put a guy up in front and he’s sitting there trying to play blocks and move your feet, and how close you are, and I think he’s finally starting to understand it. Is it getting reached and is he playing his blocks, he’s done a better job with his pad level and moving his feet at the same time. We’re excited about what we’ve seen in the last three days of practice.
Manny has done a good job, he’s been in our sub packages, he would be one of our first guys to go in the corner. I think he’s definitely a dynamic guy. I think he could help us maybe even in the special teams return game. Hopefully we can get him in that aspect of it. But I think he’s grown and he’s starting to understand a little bit what we have to do on first and second down, not only the sub packages that we put him on.
Q. How do you assess Bo Bower?
PHIL PARKER: Bo has great toughness, and he is starting to see the bigger picture from moving from an outside backer to go back on the inside. I think he’s really done a good job and I like his progression, the way he’s going.
When you look at Josey Jewell, does he fit into the Morris, Angerer, Hodge, mold?
PHIL PARKER: Josey is a very interesting guy. He reminds me a little bit of Pat Angerer, could find the ball and could run, and he’s tough. That’s the guy that stands out to me the most recently. Pat Angerer, the way he goes out there every time. He tries to go out there and when he’s hitting you he’s trying to hit you and hurt you. But his understanding of what’s going on has been extremely well. I think Coach Wallace has done a great job with him and keeps on improving as a leader, just knowing what’s going on, and he can see things faster and understand the game, when it goes into a game week plan of hey, this is what they’re going to do.
And he’s obviously sick about the play that happened where we gave up a 34 yard run. But he’s right there. You wouldn’t want a better guy to put on that guy at that point in time. If I went back and did it again, I’d take that matchup anytime. We’re excited he’s on our team and the way he leads our team. His toughness, there’s nobody better leading our team.
Q. There’s been a couple of his teammates that said he’s the type of guy when he says something, you can’t say anything back, because there’s nothing you can check him on. He’s good in the classroom. He’s good off the field. He doesn’t do anything negatively. And that’s what makes everybody collectively follow him. Is that something you see?
PHIL PARKER: There’s no question about it. We like to harass him a little bit. But we like that in him. And I think you can get to him. All you have to do is say Josey, did you do that or what? And then he’ll give himself even more intense and fast, and he’ll get the defense going more. All you have to do is walk by, say something to him a little bit, and all of a sudden watch out, don’t be in his way. Once in a while we have to do that when we go against our offense, you say something to get him fired up.
Q. How was your blood pressure after that targeting flag was thrown?
PHIL PARKER: You know, it’s really hard, because the game of football has really changed. And it’s going to come pretty soon to flag football, I think, at times. And it’s a shame. It’s kind of going away. And hopefully I won’t be around by that time. Some guys are really trying to protect guys. But some good hits are good hits. And the game is a violent game. We all know it before we get here. As soon as we walk on and get into the field, everybody knows that we’re playing tackle football.
And as soon as you tell me there’s a defenseless player on the field, how come he doesn’t know that we’re playing the game of football? We’re allowing receivers down field to catch balls, uncontested, getting hit. If you blow on them, touch them, you’re going to get a flag. Anything that you do to anybody. You have to be aware, you have to be alert. You don’t walk down the street in Chicago without understanding that there’s cars going down there that it’s dangerous on the highway, isn’t it? Have you ever been to Chicago at 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock on a Friday? That’s dangerous, right?
The same thing with football. Football is a violent game. And until guys understand that you’re going to take a hit, then it might not with all these points and these guys catching all the balls thinking, hey, you guys can’t hit me. I can catch the ball free. A little bit different. Before the guys used to say, boy, I’m going to back off that, let the receiver do it. Now it’s the defensive guys backing off of it.
It’s a violent game, everybody knows it. They sign up for it. I wish everybody would kind of look over that.
Believe me, I don’t want to get these guys hurt and injured. But they might have some responsibility that you might get hit, because you are playing football. That’s the concern for me.
Q. Would your style of play revert today if you played?
PHIL PARKER: It’s different. It’s totally different. I wouldn’t be able to play the game. But you take those choices. And I understand about the concussion thing, you know what I mean. I had many concussions, so I understand that. But that was the risk that I took, too, because I loved the game of football. So it’s the same with anybody else on there. You’re taking the risk going out there and that’s what you’re doing, you know it. You know the risk.
Q. Could Bob Sanders have been Bob Sanders today like he was at Iowa?
PHIL PARKER: Probably not, because you hit those guys and he’d be thrown out of a couple of games, I’m sure. But now the big thing now is the rugby tackle, right? That’s what a lot of people are going to now. It’s really cutting you down. What do you want? Do you want a ruined knee or a concussion? Sometimes I think that’s where it’s going down. And now you can’t hit down too low, because they’re going to say that’s a penalty too, because you can’t hit the quarterbacks low, right? Is that right? I don’t even know anymore.
Q. What about Desmond?
PHIL PARKER: Obviously his numbers are down from last year. The targets haven’t been his way. I think he’s done a very decent job of where he has, and it’s probably frustrating to him. But I think he’s been playing very well and he’s been leading the team very well. Being out there every day, and he hasn’t missed a rep in the spring or doing two a days or this year. So I’m really excited about how durable he is.
And also doing the kickoff and punt return things, and how many reps he actually takes doing practice and runs a hundred yards down the field. And I’m saying slow it down, shut it down, there’s nobody there, why are you still running doesn’t trying to save a little bit from him.
To me, I think he gets worked a lot. So how can we get him in better positions? Right now it’s — besides kickoff return and punt return and playing on defense, shut the guys down over there.
Q. Was it be typical for you to move him into the slot if he wasn’t as effective as he is or have Des play the slot and Manny play outside? Typically would you do that, move your best corner into the slot?
PHIL PARKER: Usually the guy that goes in the slot is the guy that I think can handle all the things that they might want to do in there. There’s a lot of different things that we like to call. We could call a fire for him. He can bring him on a blitz. We could bring a zone fire and he has to be a 2-3 player. So there’s multiple things when you put him inside that a player has to do. Usually it’s less thinking on the outside.
So the guy that I’m going to put inside that has the capability of the understanding schemes, the routes, understanding the combinations and understanding where he fits, whether we’re playing zone defense, cover two, three deep, playing man or are we blitzing and what you have to do on the blitz. There’s multiple things when you move to the inside. Lesson the outside. Usually the smarter guys start moving to the inside first.
Q. When people think analytics, how does it apply defensively? Do you get a lot out of those meetings?
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, obviously you understand when guys are going to it and they start getting into the plus 35 area. When we’re calling the defense I’m understanding on third down that they have two downs to get a first. And just watching guys in the future, how many more people are going for it on fourth down. So that does help. You have to make those decisions earlier. And it’s going to change my call based on if I think they are going to go for it or not. So it does help by giving us the odds.
Usually the analytics I think is good, but usually I have a feel for it. And when you’re calling a game and when you’re sitting there and going through it and you’re in the third quarter, fourth quarter, whatever, you better know what’s going on, what they’re going to do. I get it more from my feel than the analytical stuff.