Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
August 8, 2022
Wink Martindale: I’m excited, I’m happy with where we are at right now defensively. I think personnel and (Head Coach Brian Daboll) Dabs has done a great job of gathering some smart, tough, and dependable players. We’re going to be on the process of the next three preseason games finding out who’s the smartest, who’s the toughest and who’s the most dependable – because all three of those factors are what we’re going to build on. I like where we are at.
With that, I'll open up to questions.
Q. What have you seen so far from the secondary, the youth part of the secondary, and that communication level?
A: I’ve told (Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson) Rome, and I’ve said this already, I think he’s the best secondary coach there is in the league. I love our first group of secondary players and now we’ve just got to keep building on depth of that secondary. I love how they compete; I love how they practice and I’m excited to see them play against another team. It’s going to be fun to watch. That’ll be a process and I’ll keep you all up to date on that. I really love how they compete.
Q. Along those lines, how much fun is it to have a player like (Safety) Julian (Love) and move him around?
A: Yeah, I mean those guys you can move around are fun to coach because the number one thing is how smart he is – how football smart he is. He understands little things and it’s a valuable piece to have when you’re putting a defense together in this league.
Q. You are very well established in the reputation with how run your defense. Have you had to change anything based on the personnel this year? Or do you just kind of say “this is what we run” and we’ll make it work.
A: I think you’re always changing to your personnel. I think that’s not only a weekly thing it’s a daily thing. Finding out who’s available and put them in the best positions that you try to put them in, and I think that’s the strength of our package, it’s very flexible in that way.
Q. We’ve seen (Outside Linebacker) Kayvon Thibodeaux running three a lot out here. What in particular has impressed you about him? How would you assess how he’s done with the less obvious things?
A: I think that he’s come in and went to work. That’s what impresses me the most. He’s just went to work and it’s all about football and he is very smart, football wise. It’s like I was talking about with Julian, he’s a smart football player. I’m just excited to see where his growth takes him. He’s got to keep working on his techniques and fundamentals. You see (Outside Linebackers Coach) Drew (Wilkins) over there working with those guys daily and he’s not afraid to repeat a drill once, twice, sometimes four times. He knows he wants to get better, and he knows where he wants to be. I’ve been really pleased with him.
Q. (Linebacker) Blake Martinez aside, how do you look at your inside linebackers? Because there’s a lot of youth there and obviously Blake missed a lot of time last year.
A: I think that the inside backers, I’ve told them this, it’s open competition. Someone needs to go up and grab that spot. I’ve been real happy with what (Linebacker) Tae (Crowder) has done because he’s had the most reps. He knows the things he needs to work on, but he’s really standing out as far as running the football. The rookies are rookies. It’s one of the toughest positions to play coming in. As a rookie, especially the MIKE-backer, where we are putting (Linebacker Darrian Beavers) DB at right now whenever Blake’s reps run out. They’ve accepted the challenge and accepted me. That’s a position I’ve coached in this league forever so I’m the toughest one. God bless (Inside Linebackers Coach John Egorugwu) Egs. Egs was with me before this so that’s the good thing about it. He’s been with me before, so he knows what I want and how I expect it to look.
Q. How thin is that line between coaching and competitiveness in terms of going against your own offense every day at practice?
A: I think we are all competitors. Starting with our head coach we just play off him. We all compete and it’s a very thin line. You know what I mean? He even said something to me on Friday he said, ‘I love the competitiveness but just stay with me.’ I’m like, ‘Alright. Here we go.’ But it’s been great. It’s been great working for Dabs, working with Dabs, and all of us together as a defensive staff.
Q. I know you’ve done it in the past, but why a safety? Why (Safety) Xavier McKinney as your guy with the green dot and the play caller?
A: Well, I don’t think that’s written in stone yet. I’ve always thought that to survive in this league you’ve got look at everything and just because something’s always been done one way, it doesn’t mean that’s the way you have to do it. That could change week to week on who we have wear the green dot. The biggest thing is to get them all communicating. If you look out there it’s not just X, it’s Julian Love has one, then we mix in some linebackers and things like that. You just reminded me I’ve got to turn in the green dot list for the New England game, thank you.
Q. Having a guy in the back and when you want to shift guys up front or you see something up front there’s a little bit of a gap. Which, why I think generally the middle linebacker is the guy?
A: Well, here’s the beauty of it. Generally, if you’re just speaking of the National Football League, yeah. But that’s not saying that’s the best guy to wear it. It’s one of those things where you pass it forward and the MIKE does what he would’ve done if he got the call himself. You’re just echoing it one level. The other thing is too, is if (Defensive Lineman Dexter Lawrence II) Dex was going to play every play, Dex or (Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams) Leo was going to play every play, they could wear the green dot. That’s how smart they are. So, I just can’t tell you how excited I am for this season. It was great being out there at MetLife Stadium. I’ve been here as a visitor, but it was awfully great to know that this is our home and feel the energy because it’s one of the best stadiums there is as far as the fanbase. It’s real exciting.
Q. Speaking of the secondary we’ve seen that slot corner, we kind of thought it was going to be an open competition but (Cornerback) Darnay’s (Holmes) gotten pretty much all the first team reps. Why is that?
A: I don’t even look at them as all just first team. What I like about Nay is, ‘A’ he’s been productive while he’s in there and, ‘B’ he wants to go against the best every time he gets in the one-on-one reps, and I love his toughness. You know, I call him, ‘Dirty 30.’ I just love his toughness and I’m not saying he plays dirty. I’m just talking about how he embraces the grind of practicing every day, doing things right and asking the right questions. He’s got some qualities that we haven’t had before at that position.
Q. How has (Assistant Defensive Line Coach) Bryan Cox done so far in his kind of different role? What have you seen from that? Have you worked with him before?
A: I’ve known Bryan for 20-25 years. I know Dabs has worked with him at a couple different places. I think not only Bryan but the entire defensive staff, I think Bryan’s done a great job of pushing on what we are saying, where we’re going with it, and how we’re going to do it. It’s not his first rodeo. He is a great leader, he’s a great teammate, I think he’s got a great heart and he’s a good person. Honestly, he’s a good friend. I can say that you know I’ve already talked about Jerome, Drew’s been with me for ten years and I think he’s a star that nobody knows about in this league, Drew Wilkins. (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Mike (Treier) does a great job. Treier does a great job helping Rome in the secondary. (Defensive Assistant) Kevin’s (Wilkins) doing a great job with Egs. Egs and I were together and Egs was with Dabs. But the bottom line of it is the whole entire defensive staff. Dab’s done a great job of hiring assistant coaches and I love the process that he went through in doing it.
Q. One more green dot question.
A: I was hoping you would say one more question. I thought that was (Director of Football Communications) Dion (Dargin). (Laughs)
Q. Green dot. Is part of giving it to Xavier now, do you want to also see if he can do it?
A: Of course.
Q. He’s an ascending leader, kind of almost saying, ‘You can take your game to another level, you personally,’ if you do this?
A: Yeah, of course. Everybody makes a big deal about the green dot. All we’re doing is just echoing the plays and then we all echo it and communicate. You put it in different spots during training camp because you want to see everybody communicate. It’s the same thing in the meetings. I know I run a different style meeting than everybody else. But it’s because I want people talking. It’s the same reason why I come up and ask them about their family and how they’re doing. Just get them talking. It’s a process and you get a defense that comes together because they all know each other and they’re not afraid to communicate, they’re not afraid to workout problems, they’re not afraid to celebrate together. In building a unit that’s what you do.
Q. How early do you start preparing for (Titans Running Back) Derrick Henry or is your mind not there? Are you already putting stuff in for week one?
A: Well, right now we’re just evaluating players. I’ve been in the league a long time and have gone against him several times, so I guess preparing and remembering all the scar tissue from when he’s hit some runs against us. I think that, yeah, we have ideas. We’ve worked on some different things, but not anything specific yet.