Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher
September 13, 2018
Opening Remarks: Dallas Cowboys – obviously a division team, on the road. As we know, there is a very storied history between the Cowboys and Giants. When you’re a kid sitting watching the games on TV, you remember watching the Cowboys play the Giants, but most importantly, it’s a division game and probably even more importantly than that, it’s the next game. A run offense that runs the ball really well. They’re going to give 21 (running back Ezekiel Elliott) a bunch of touches, they’re going to find some really creative ways to get him going. They’re going to stretch it hard and cut the ball back, they’re going to give you some gap scheme with some pullers, they’re going to get big personnel on the field, they’re going to run the ball down the field at you. You’re going to get a little bit of everything. They do a nice job with that. Then after that, the boots, the play passes, the taking a shot down the field, some movement stuff to get completions, and try to get you in some one-on-ones on the perimeter and throw the ball down the field. It’s going to be a great challenge and I think our guys had really good prep yesterday. It was a better Wednesday than last week, I will say that. More importantly, we just came from a good walk-thru. That was the next thing. That’s all we’re going to do this whole season, win/lose doesn’t matter – that’s not going to change our preparation. It’s process, process, process. That’s what we talked about defensively when we came into the meeting room and watched tape on Monday. That being said, I’ll take your questions.
Q: Why was it a better Wednesday than last week? What did you see from them?
A: I felt great energy on the field, I really did. I think our guys are building confidence every day. At the end of the day, the years of experience of the players on the field doesn’t matter as much as their experience of snaps playing together. The more these guys play together, the better they’re going to be able to play off of each other and with each other. Defensively, I can see that confidence growing day-by -day, both in the communication part of it which is going to be vital, and then the execution of the jobs they need to do.
Q: I know it’s a little different at this stage of the season when it comes to practice, you can’t tackle to the ground or anything like that, but how helpful is it having a (running back) like (Saquon Barkley) go against your defense every day, going into a matchup with a very similar running back?
A: We have one of the premier backs in the league, there’s no question. He showed that on Sunday, he gave us a bunch of excitement, he got guys going on the sideline with that special run he had. Seeing him play in practice and defending a guy that can split out and catch the ball, and put him in the backfield to run the ball downhill at you makes great one-cut moves and will, at the same time, lower his pad and power you – there’s certainly some similarities, and I’m glad we’ve got Saquon. That’s for sure.
Q: How different is it preparing for them without Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, two guys who’ve been there for what feels like forever?
A: When you talk about a tight end, arguably one of the best ones – top-five to ever play the game, certainly a lot of respect for him as a player. They’re working right now to try to find who those guys are on the perimeter – who’s going to get the big touches on the outside as a receiver and which tight end’s maybe going to be the focal point. I think at the end of the day, they have a belief and philosophy on offense and that starts with running the football. That didn’t matter if Dez was in the game or it didn’t matter who the tight end was, that’s the focus, and the play-action pass that boots off of that.
Q: You limited the Jaguars to 13 points as a defense, shut them out in the second half. How do you feel about your defensive performance coming off last week? You lose the game, but you shut them out in the second half.
A: Make no mistake, we don’t feel great about losing, number one. Two, I love the energy and the effort we played with. There’s some plays on tape where there’s balls that are the sideline and I’m seeing eight, nine and ten guys show up, and that’s who we have to be and that’s what our opponents need to see on tape when they turn us on, and really, that’s what our fans should expect and deserve from us. There were some plays in the run game that we need to fit better and we need to play better, the backed up run is a disappointing play certainly because that’s points. We hold them backed up, we’re thinking that’s a scoring play on defense, and we just need to execute better. Very encouraged but at the same time, I love the thought that we came in with on Monday. We talked about what we needed to correct and our guys are really working like pros and are working to correct those things so we can stack that stuff, and we don’t have to go back and correct some of the same stuff over again.
Q: How vital is the pass rush this week against a quarterback like (Dak Prescott) who, if he gets loose, can make a big run?
A: Yeah, I experienced it last year when we played them. He got out of the pocket twice on us and he hurt us getting out of the pocket. The pass rush is important, but controlled rush is just as important with him. Just like we did last week, we were trying to make him throw from tight levels, make him field a pocket, close in on him. It’s not about whether you say the word spy or don’t spy, some people use that term. It’s eyes – who has eyes, who is the guy that has eyes on the quarterback as we’re trying to still aggressively rush with four or five, or whatever that might be.
Q: What did you think of the pressure overall last week? I think you had one sack.
A: I thought there were a couple times in our four-man rush where I just have to coach it a little bit better, that’s really where it starts. I have to get us so we’re not high on rushes and we can field the counters on the perimeter, then in some of our pressures, just understanding if we’re getting the back or we’re getting the tight end, those are the muscle-in situations in the rushes. Sometimes, we never get confused – we would love every time you call pressure that we have bunch of guys running free. That’s not the reality of it. The reality of it is that you try to create one-on-one matchups and you try to win those one-on-one matchups, and make quarterbacks’ timing and thought process have to speed up. There are some good stuff, and there’s some stuff, in terms of the edge and feeling how high we are in rushes also, some of the one-on-ones we need to do a better job of.
Q: How do you think your two rookies – (B.J. Hill and Lorenzo Carter) – handled themselves in their first NFL game?
A: I think both of them played well. Lorenzo played a little over 30 snaps in the game and I think the more he played, the better he played, and I think B.J. was the same way. The longer the game went on, the better he got. We’ve just got to be clued in. Early in this game, we need those end-of-game snaps that we got from both of those guys, we need them earlier in this game.
Q: How do you miss Olivier Vernon?
A: When you’re talking about one of the elite pass rushers in the league, do you miss him? Sure, you’d love to have him. You go ask the 31 other (teams) if they want OV, all 31 will say yes. I do love the make-up of that room. I love Connor Barwin, Kareem Martin and Lorenzo Carter. All those guys got their hand on the pylon, you can see them. We’re lining them up in different spots, sometimes Connor’s inside, sometimes Kareem’s inside, and we’re moving them around and trying to get them on matchups. They’ve embraced all of it and working their tails off. As a group, I like how they play as a group.
Q: The secondary, I think you had two passes in 20 yards and long, was that just good coverage on your guys?
A: We don’t want any passes of 20 yards of more. That’s what I would say to our guys in the room. I think those guys in the back did a heck of a job, they really did. Some of it was just awareness, and that’s each and every week. You go and look at a new opponent and what are the splits, and what are the routes you’re getting out of those splits, and if the tight ends here vs. the tight ends there – we’ve just got to keep growing that situational awareness and we’ve got to keep coaching the heck out of it and do a better job coaching it. I thought that was something going into that game, our guys played with pretty good awareness.
Q: With (Landon Collins), he’s such a playmaker being aggressive going forward. Can teams try to neutralize that factor that he’s such a playmaker going forward? When he has that big splash play, it kind of gets everybody going.
A: There’s no question. I mean, can they scheme against him? I’m sure they can try to do that stuff, and at the end of the day, we’ve got to do a good job as coaches putting him in good spots, number one, and moving him around a little bit number two, then at the end of the day, don’t make it too hard. Get down, play, get your eyes right, get in a good stance, and it’s football. We won’t overthink it, and try to get a win on Sunday.