Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Martindale: Well, it's time, huh? Finally. I joke around with the staff and the defense. It's like we've been here six years together, which is a good thing. But we're ready to start this thing and kick it off. I was real happy with training camp. I like where we're at as a defense, and we're all just ready to go. And I'll tell you what: You get up every morning, and you see that skyline over there, and you know you're in the greatest city in the world and the greatest place to be to work at. And I'm just fired up to actually get into some real games.
Q: When people talk about Tennessee, they speak a lot about (Running Back) Derrick Henry. How much does (Quarterback Ryan) Tannehill contribute to that offense?
A: Well, first of all, there's a reason why they call Derek Henry "The King" because he's on the iron throne for all you Game of Thrones fans (Laughs). They just game him a raise; I think he's the highest paid running back. And I still don't think they gave him enough. But Tannehill, what he does is and what they do is they play to their strengths. And he's a very good, maybe one of the best, play-action quarterbacks in the league today. And that's just how everything fits together. I have tons of respect for (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Todd) Downing and (Head Coach Mike Vrabel) Vrabs. And they know who they are going into it, and Tannehill can run that offense like no other.
Q: You mentioned the king. You've obviously been in situations where you've put your defense on the field against him.
A: Thanks for reminding me.
Q: I'm sure you've followed those themes. But in terms of the approach, do you have to approach a back like that differently because of the way he plays and it's not just one cut and go? He's a physical guy.
A: Oh, he's a physical guy; and it could be one cut and go. And it can be whatever he wants it to be at certain times. And he's just a very talented back. I always get caught in comparing people and everything else, but he's like our modern-day (Former Cleveland Browns Fullback) Jim Brown, I think. He's just that much different when he has the ball in his hands, so it's a challenge every time he touches it.
Q: Why was (Inside Linebacker) Blake Martinez not a good fit for your defense?
A: No one said he wasn't a good fit for our defense; I'm just going to go with what (Head Coach) Brian (Daboll) said. There's tough personnel decisions that have to be made when you're building a roster, and I think he and (General Manager) Joe (Schoen) have done a great job. I'm really excited about the guys we have in the room and wish Blake nothing but the best.
Q: How much input do have on personnel?
A: I mean, they'll ask questions, but it's not like I sit in those meetings. They're going to ask questions, of course, but it's not like I sit in meetings – the final decision meetings.
Q: Why change middle line backers, though? He was your starter running with your first team defense. How hard was that to do that at this point to have to make that change?
A: I think that you look at it a bunch of different ways. I think just in layman's terms, if you change out your MIKE linebacker, that's hard on your defense. But if you look at us schematically, like the Jets, we played four inside linebackers in that game. On third down and schematically, we put the players that we think are best at what they do best positions on the field. So, there will be some games where we don't play with any inside linebackers when you see some of the packages that we have. There will be some games where we'll have (Safety) Julian Love down there playing linebacker, which I think (Offensive Lineman Jon) Feliciano talked about coming from the spring. So, I'm really excited about that room. We're got two great coaches in there with (Inside Linebackers Coach) John Egorugwu and (Defensive Assistant) Kevin Wilkins. I know we're a lot younger, and I'm excited to see what they do come Sunday.
Q: Was that unexpected on Thursday given that you guys kept him on Tuesday?
A: No. I mean, I don't expect anything. It's just you get here to work, and you say, 'Okay. Here we go.' It's been like that; there's a lot of different guys besides that you can say that about that have been here and come and gone. It's a tough. It's tough making those decisions. And I think that we can all say, 'I'd do this' and 'I'd do that' and 'I'd do this,' but until you have to make that decision, then it makes it a little bit tougher when you have to be the one to make that decision.
Q: If you don't have (Outside Linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodaux) and (Outside Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) available, which is very likely, what is your confidence level in the other guys behind them, specifically a guy like (Outside Linebacker) Oshane Ximines?
A: I can't say it enough about how much I love the room – the players in that room that we have because all they've done is come here and work, and they're good people. And they're good teammates. And they're selfless. As far as the other two guys, I know they're working as hard as they can to get back. And Dabs talks about all the injuries and everything else. So, we'll have a plan. I know Custard had one, too. So, we'll see what happens.
Q: Is Oshane, does he show he can play this role?
A: Oh yeah. I love Oshane and what he's done. And he's getting better every day.
Q: How much of your goal is to have this defense really replicate what your great (Baltimore) Ravens defenses did, to have it in that image?
A: I think that's a good question. Every year is different; every team is different. And you can see that through even back when we were at Baltimore. But just for example, we were able to get (Defensive Back) Tony Jefferson here, who was part of the number one defense. And that helps. It's a culture of defense. And I've said before; I've said it to the defense. And I'll share it with you all: There's one thing I'll guarantee you. I don't know how good we're going to be, but we are going to run to the football, and we are going to tackle people. If we start with that, you've got a shot. And I can't wait. I'm really excited about it. All the different pieces that we've had come in and out of here; you see what they're doing at the bottom end of the roster. There's some guys I got to go introduce myself to in the stretch line. That's a different challenge than what I've been in, but also it's fun. I'm excited about it.
Q: What have you learned about Daboll that maybe you didn't know when you made the decision to join his staff?
A: I didn't know Brian real well except how good of a guy he was, you know, when you're around him in coaching deals or combine or whatever. But I love the fact of how competitive he is. We have a lot of similarities that way. I hope he would say the same to you, but it's been a fun journey so far.
Q: You've talked about all the guys coming and going here. In the past, you've talked about (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome Henderson, in your words 'one of the best defensive backs coaches in the league.'
A: Without a doubt.
Q: Can you talk about why you feel that way?
A: A, I think he's a great communicator. I sit there and watch his drills, and his drills carry over to practice. Some guys just do drills that they've always done. You never see a carryover to practice. Everything he does if he sees a weakness in a player, he corrects it and he has a drill to fix it. And schematically, he has some great ideas on the back end with coverage. I'm just real excited about being able to see this thing grow, this relationship grow.
Q: And you feel like he's the right guy for the turnover back there?
A: Without a doubt. No question.
Q: You were in the same place with the same head coach for a decade. You come here. What has the transition been like to get acclimated to a new head coach. Obviously, everything's new.
A: I think coaching, especially as long as a lot of us have, just like the players, you like regimen in your schedule. And the hardest part is just doing different schedules of a different group. Because for 10 years, I knew on Tuesday, Nov. 22, whatever, I knew what I was doing. And the unknowing at times gets a little stressful. That would be the biggest thing. But we'll get into that regular schedule now that we got the season starting.
Q: You mentioned still meeting some guys now. You're in the first year of a scheme. What is a realistic expectation for this group? I don't think the outside expectation (of this is going to be) 'This is going to be a top five defense. This is this going to be the number one defense.' What, for year, is the expectation in year one?
A: I think that's why we kick it off. If I didn't think we could be the best defense, I wouldn't have taken this job. Realistically, I don't know what realistically is. You just don't know the series of events that are going to happen each game, what situations you'll be put in or what situations you can get out – all those different things of calling a defense. But like I said, I am very excited about the group that we have in that room. They are a bunch of selfless, good people, hard playing football players; and they're going to be fun to watch. And that's the biggest thing. It's going to be the first time we have all the ones actually together to play and get into that rhythm that I've been talking about all preseason. So, that's exciting to me. That's why we do it.