Defensive Line Coach Sean Spencer -- August 24, 2020
Q: I wanted to ask you about, I don’t know if this is something I just noticed, but during the scrimmage the other day, a lot of your players I saw were getting their hands up quite often. I’m just wondering, is that something you really put a focus on if they get stonewalled at the line of scrimmage? Are you coaching them to get their hands up in order to get into the passing lanes, or is that something they’ve always been doing?
A: No, absolutely it’s something we work on. If you’re not getting to the quarterback, you can’t get to his spot, they jump you in the protection, it’s three-set protection, those types of things, or max protection where they use two guys on one, you get a push and then you should get your hands up. We have to alter the throw however we can. We either knock the ball down or change the course of it.
Q: Also, what are some of the other things that a defensive lineman can do? We talk about disrupting the passer or getting him off his mark, but if defensive linemen can’t necessarily get into the backfield, what are some of the other things they can do to create confusion or just kind of knock the offensive linemen off their game so to speak?
A: We need to stay within the framework of the defense, obviously. We cage the quarterback. We want to make sure that he’s uncomfortable at all times. You don’t ever want it to be like a seven on seven where he’s just patting that ball and throwing it. You want him to feel duress. Sometimes, the pressure of feeling those guys in your face is as good as a sack, because like you said, it’ll disrupt timing and throws and all that stuff.
Q: Leonard Williams has looked powerful out there. What do you think of his camp so far? Does he look healthy to you? What do you think he’s doing well?
A: I think one thing is he’s doing a great job of taking the classroom work, the work we do in the meetings prior to practice and being able to bring that out on the field and do the things we’re asking him to do. Clearly, as you guys know, he’s an unbelievable athlete. I think he’s starting to put it all together. He’s always had the tools. He’s working on refining his craft right now. He looks strong, powerful like you said. I’m just happy with his progress right now.
Q: When you watch his film and you’re coaching him up on how he can finish and all those things, what do you see technically or in his game that can lift him above just the pressures to finishing?
A: Obviously, as we stated before, he’s a tremendous athlete. We need to take him from being just this tremendous athlete to refining him as a football player, and I think he’s working towards that right now. What I tell Leonard is the same thing I’ll tell Dex (Lawrence), the same thing I’ll tell Chris Slayton. Everybody is kind of coached the same. I don’t have a particular ‘this is a Leonard focus.’ Clearly, there are things that he’s going to do really well that you want to use those tools. But at the same time within the framework of what I’m teaching, he’s doing those things and trying to articulate those things on the field.
Q: We spend a lot of time when we talk to you about Dalvin (Tomlinson) and Leonard and Dexter. How are the other guys doing? RJ (McIntosh)? B.J. (Hill)? Chris? AJ (Austin Johnson)?
A: I like what I see from all those guys throughout camp. Everyone is working hard. We know it’s tremendous competition in that room. One of the things that I stressed in the meeting today is let’s not lose sight of that. We do things where sometimes we split the field up, and I don’t want those guys to ever think that I’m not watching. I want them to have tremendous competition within each other, day in and day out. They can’t take their foot off the gas ever.
Q: The other thing I was going to ask is how many of the linebackers technically fit into your meeting?
A: Not really. Bret (Bielema) works with the outside guys. We collaborate on pass rush things, twists, how to rush the quarterback. So, we collaborate on those, but those guys really never sit in my room. I really work with the interior group.
Q: What are your thoughts on your group in the scrimmage?
A: I thought we took a step. We kind of got on them about a couple things before that. Not got on them but you set an expectation. Whatever that expectation is that we set, we need to reach it or surpass it every day. I think we took a step. I’m not saying we are there yet, but we definitely took a step. What I mean by taking a step is the techniques we’re asking them to use, are we seeing that on film. The translation from drill to actual practice reps, does it translate? If I’m working on some drill and I see them go out of what we worked on, then that’s a negative. I started to see those guys take from the practice reps and the drill reps on to game and scrimmage situations. I’m starting to see that. That’s what I mean by ‘we took a step’.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Austin Johnson, a guy I believe you have some history with. What do you consider his strengths?
A: Because he is basically a vet, I have a young room, a guy four years in the league is a vet now. He understands the game, he’s very very knowledgeable. He plays with really good pad level and his experience in the NFL has helped him. I think Tennessee and those guys did a great job with him in terms of him understanding the things schematically. What the offense is trying to do. He plays with really good leverage and it’s something that he did in college. Obviously, I was fortunate enough to coach him in college. He hasn’t really lost that. It’s even gotten better.
Q: There’s a theory out there that after three or four years in the league you kind of are what are? How do you get him to the next level? Does your familiarity with him help? Can you almost turn back time to 2015 with him?
A: I think definitely when you have coached somebody before, they kind of know what your expectations are as a coach and what I want from him as a football player. I don’t really believe that you are what you are. I think you can get better all the time. I think he is a perfect example of a guy that can continue to elevate his game. I saw that in college when I first got there. He was a young guy that was kind of a rep guy, a rotational guy. The last couple of years with him he was able to start for us. I just saw his game start going up and up and up. He’s definitely a guy that’s very conscientious of what he’s doing at all times almost to a fault. My thing with him is just to get him to play fast and not having to think.
Q: You talked about how you can help Leonard Williams be a finisher. He’s obviously always gotten pressure on the quarterback. I’m wondering if finishing can really be a technique thing or if that’s something that is more instinctive?
A: I think both. I think understanding your angles and understanding why you finished or didn’t finish on that rep. Sometimes the ball is out. You guys talk about getting pressure on the quarterback, sometimes the quarterback releases the ball. More so, it’s just a continuation of that motor. Keep that motor going at all times. If you’re going fast and you are going hard all the time, I really think that good things will happen for you. I know it sounds cliché, just go hard, but that’s a part of it, it’s a part of the basics of football. If you go hard on every play, good things will happen to you.
Q: I think Daylon Mack was added to the roster since the last time we spoke with you. What are you seeing with him and where might he fit?
A: I can tell you one thing he can’t fit a whole bunch of pants. He has the biggest thighs I have ever seen in my life. He’s a load. He’s a guy that had a lot of success in college at Texas A& M. He was coached by a friend of mine. I’m excited about him. I can’t predict what he’ll bring to the room, but I know that he’s got great leverage, being so compact and strong. I’m excited to work with him.