Inside Linebackers Coach Kevin Sherrer -- August 24, 2020
Q: When we talked to you 12 days ago, I don’t think any of us thought to ask about Devante Downs. What has he done to impress you? Is he kind of the perfect example of when coaches always say it’s a new slate after a coaching staff change? He didn’t really get much of an opportunity last year. I’d imagine there’s not a whole lot of film on him.
A: Yeah, I know he came in later in the season last year. But yeah, it’s a perfect example of kind of wiping the slate clean, giving the guy an opportunity with everyone on a level playing field. He’s done well. He’s done well for us.
Q: What is it about him specifically that’s caught your eye?
A: I think a little bit probably of some confidence, familiarity with the area, the staff a little bit, the time we’ve been around each other, most of it through Zoom. He’s a bigger athlete. He’s one of the bigger guys in the room. He’s in the 240 (pound) range. Most of the guys are a little bit lighter than that.
Q: I know we talked to you about Zo (Carter), it was more about your background with him in college, but he’s basically an edge guy here. Do you think he can play in the inside? If so, what traits does he have that can translate there?
A: He has a unique skillset overall with his length, athleticism. There are probably a lot of positions he could play. He could probably… I’m sure they’d probably like to have him on the offensive side with the way he can run. There’s a possibility of that. If we got into a bind, I’m sure he could jump over there and do that. There were some things he did at the college level. It wasn’t his main deal to play inside linebacker, but the scheme kind of allowed it to happen, if that makes sense. He’s a guy that can possibly do that if needed.
Q: I want to go back to Devante Downs for a moment. When he came out of college, I believe he had a knee injury his senior year. I’m just wondering how long does it usually take, I know every guy is different, but when you look at his film and you look at his background, how much of that knee injury do you think maybe stunted his development? Do you see him now finally rounding back into that pre-knee injury form?
A: I really didn’t realize that until you brought it up, but that could be. Each guy is different. Typically, a year to 18 months is about what you kind of see the progression back to what they normally were beforehand as a general rule of thumb in some ways. But that could be the case. With him, I see a lot of confidence that I didn’t necessarily see on film last year given only being around him in person for just a few weeks. I’ve seen his confidence really grow. So, that could be true in that case with a knee issue coming in from college.
Q: Similarly, Ryan Connelly is coming back from a knee injury. Again, there’s a school of thought it could take 12 to 18 months for a guy to come back. What have you seen from Ryan, especially since the last couple of days, he’s kind of been put aside, not put aside but he’s been held out of practice. Do you have to kind of coach him differently or coach how you train him a little bit differently since he’s coming off that injury?
A: For the most part, once they get cleared, you just coach them how you have in whatever time you have with them. I wouldn’t say it was any different from the way you approach each day. He’s obviously around, he’s around this system, he’s around practices, he’s around meetings and things like that. There’s not really much of a difference with the way you treat him. It just could determine where the reps are at practice.
Q: What do you think is the biggest difference here going from the college to the pro level in terms of these players? Is it the speed? Is it the focus? Is it their ability to listen? Is it a lot of things?
A: Coming from the SEC, I think the athleticism and the speed was there in that league. I think probably the attention to detail as players, the focus, probably the maturity to understand situational football, not that it wasn’t necessarily preached at all at the college level. It’s just these guys have been around. I’ve been teaching them year-around. Guys have the same kind of goals and mindset that you do, so it allows you to grow and mature more as a player.
Q: What do you see from your group so far?
A: I see a group that’s got a hunger to kind of prove themselves. Each guy has their own different traits and skillset, but they work good together. I see a group that’s trying to be what a linebacker should be. Physical, the quarterback of the defense, and trying to communicate and be the leader. That’s not just one guy. That’s all of them trying to carry that same mold.
Q: I’m just curious, I wanted to ask you about Tae Crowder. We talked about Downs and how he’s on the bigger side. Crowder seems to have a little bit different of a profile in there, bringing speed and athleticism. I’m just curious what you’ve seen from him? He seemed to flash a little bit in the scrimmage last Friday, just kind of willing to hit at the point of attack.
A: Yeah, obviously, being at Georgia, I knew Tae a little bit beforehand and kind of knew what he was about. He’s a guy that coming out of high school was a running back and tight end, offensive player. Through his college career, he transitioned to the defensive side. Very similar scheme to a certain degree of what we do, so I think that’s helped him to where he doesn’t come in with a complete ground zero. He has terms of knowledge and the language he’s trying to interpret. He’s done well. He still has a ways to go, some learning, some understanding, some situational awareness and things like that. He’s done well for us. He does have a different skillset than the other guys. He’s a little bit taller, a little longer, probably a little more athletic than a lot of the other guys.
Q: I’m wondering what have you seen from Blake Martinez from a coverage perspective?
A: Coverage, which we mix what we do a little bit, he’s done well. It’s been some things similar to what he’s done in the past. The one thing about him is he has a really good understanding of awareness, situational awareness, individual players, what it is that they do. I’ve actually been really pleased with him with the way he’s understood that because you kind of think of him as being more of a downhill, mike linebacker. But he has a lot of awareness and ability in the coverage game.
Q: So how comfortable are you guys with having him run with running backs or tight ends?
A: I don’t think it matters what linebacker it is. I think you always have a little bit of a concern that you’re going to have possible matchup issues no matter who that guy possibly is. I think that would be a week to week, game to game situation on who we face, what type of offense, what they do with their backs. In practice now, we seem to have things we can do in the scheme that can help him and things like that if he gets into a bind.