Secondary/Safeties Coach David Merritt
September 29, 2017
Q: What have you seen from safety Darian Thompson in the first three games?
A: Rookie. Thatís what I see. I see a guy who played one, maybe two games last year. And all of a sudden heís coming back this year, playing his first full season. So, heís playing like a rookie, thatís what heís doing. Heís trying to do his best to make sure that he helps the guys on the back end with the calls and adjustments and thereís a lot of pressure on him to do that. So, for right now, thatís what I see.
Q: What do you do as a coach do make Thompson not play like a rookie?
A: Well, what you do as a coach is continue to encourage the young man. You continue to make sure you build him up, let him know that you believe in him, let him know that youíre behind him. So, encouragement goes a long way, even with my kids. If I sit here and I bash them anytime they have a mistake or something, that doesnít work. That old-school coaching, as far as yelling and screaming and maybe dog-cursing the guy, I donít necessarily believe in that. So, encouragement goes a long way and thatís what Iíve done in my career.
Q: Are you still building your relationship with Thompson?
A: Absolutely. When it comes to tough love and some of the things and the statements that Iíve made in the past, these players, each and every guy in the locker room, understands that weíre going to all be held accountable. To have the privilege to be able to come here to work every day and have a job, thatís an awesome privilege. But at the end of the day, itís not just coming to work and collecting a paycheck. So, we have to make sure that these guys are performing the way we want them to perform. So, you sit here and you try to make sure you diligently correct them when theyíre making the mistake, but at the same time, loving them up in a way that is a positive reinforcement, so they can move forward and help the team because thatís what itís ultimately about. Itís all about the team, itís not about the one player. So, my tough love has gone to the point where Iím still the same guy, still the same coach, but I consistently try to make sure that these young men understand that, hey, itís about the team and you have to help the team and your role is very important. Darian was in the room last year, without a doubt, but thereís a different in being in the room and actually being between the lines. So, when you step on the field and you have to actually go out here and perform and things are moving fast, itís an adjustment. So, whether heís played three, four games, itís still always an adjustment for a guy whoís going through his first year.
Q: Was there a common theme with Thompsonís missed tackles last week against Philadelphia?
A: Stopping your feet. One of the things that we teach Ė even our special teams coaches, coach [Dwayne] Stukes and coach [Tom] Quinn, is shortening your stride, but yet, continuing to move towards the runners. So, he was stopping his feet. Every time you see him miss a tackle, thatís been the focal point out in space. And thatís something that weíre working on.
Q: How important is it to stick with Thompson?
A: I tell all of my guys that youíre all starters. We all need to be ready. I mean, [safety] Andrew Adams last year, you all know that he came in here as a rookie free agent. The thing is, is that I prepped him, he prepped himself as a starter and he had his chance. So, weíre sticking with Darian Thompson, absolutely because at the same time, because a guy makes a mistake Ė [quarterback] Eli [Manning] throws a bad [pass] one time, coach is not going to pull him out. So, itís the same thing with this guy. You have to let him go through and growing pains and hopefully heíll learn from it.
Q: Is it tougher to stick with Thompson when you have Adams waiting in the wings?
A: No, because when it comes to Andrew and Darian, theyíre two separate individuals and thatís a decision that the team has made, to go with Darian. So, is it tough to stick with him? No. Because he missed a tackle last week that led to a touchdown, but it shouldíve been stopped before him. But it wasnít. It came to the second level, the third level and we have to be the eraser. So, teaching him and helping a kid grow from that, versus punishing him and putting him in a corner, I think thatís more beneficial to the overall outcome of where we want to go.
Q: Does Thompson just need to get his hands on the football with an interception to get him going?
A: Absolutely. All of us. We all need to get our hands on the football, itís not just Darian. He had the one opportunity, which of course we already know, here at MetLife Stadium to intercept the ball versus the Lions. But we do, we all need to get our hands on the ball. That can end up, hopefully, happening this weekend.
Q: Do you find that teams are scheming against safety Landon Collins more this year?
A: Not really. Landon is everywhere on the field. Heís strong, heís weak, heís inside. So, I donít know if teams can really get a beat on where he is and try to scheme them. But of course, if they see him, you see them consistently pointing at him and they know that heís a threat. But as far as moving him around, coach Spags [Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] has done a great job of moving him in different positions.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in trying to defend Tampa Bay wide receiver DeSean Jackson?
A: Home run hitter. This guy, once he gets off a press, or a jam at the line of scrimmage, heís trying to take the top off. Iíve gone against DeSean his entire career, so I applaud the gentleman for the fact that heís able to run as fast as he can. Because guys ask me, ĎCoach, is that his true 40 time?í I say, ĎNo, he runs whatever. He runs whatever he needs to on that particular play.í So, a guy like that, you have to constantly try to keep him in front of you. But heís definitely a home run hitter once he gets past the first line of defense.
Q: Have you seen the kind of growth that youíve expected from Collins?
A: Yes, heís growing and he has multiple positions, also. So, the fact that weíre grooming him into becoming a multi-talented safety, moving in and out of linebacker, playing free, playing strong. Yeah, heís growing, heís coming along. So, we like his progress.
Q: How much do you have to keep an eye on guys pointing a finger at each other when the team is struggling?
A: That is one of the things that I talk to some of the coaches about. I also grab players one-on-one. Snacks [defensive tackle Damon Harrison] and I, we talk quite often. So, that is one thing that we have to make sure that we do, is stick together. As a team, that is the thing that I constantly preach to these guys because youíre right, once that starts to creep into your program, thatís no good. ĎOh, itís his fault. Well, I did my job.í No, itís not about that. Although you may have done your job, you have to also pick up your friends who may have failed on his job. So, itís one thing that you have to stop, is making sure that no one is pointing their fingers. So, I do try to grab the guys individually.