Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale
September 22, 2022
Martindale: Going afternoon. Going back and looking back really quickly to the Carolina (Panthers) game, I was really pleased and happy with A – the fans. When I say they make a difference, they make a difference. It was already quoted from Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers Head Coach) about how they had a hard time communicating, and I think the biggest thing is the challenge I give the fans this week is I told the players from Week 1 to Week 2 is the biggest jump in the NFL of your performance. So, we expect it to be rocking. I heard it’s a white out, so I’ll wear my white sleeves I guess (laughs). And it should be like an avalanche once they get in that stadium. But it was a great environment, and it’s going to do nothing but get better because the fans definitely held up their end of the bargain. And it helps us immensely on defense when they have to go to their silent count and everything else. That should be the goal every time. There was a bunch of great plays in that game, but the biggest thing I was pleased with is seeing a carryover from our practice to our play, and with our effort for 60 minutes. And I can’t be more pleased with what I saw on Sunday. With that, I’ll open it up to questions.
Q: Why do you think your defense does such a good job of confusing quarterbacks and obviously there’s some unorthodox things you do, but what do you think the challenges are for the other side?
A: I think that the biggest challenges for our opponents are the same things as the biggest challenge for us. There’s a lot of time put into studying protections and seeing how they’ll react. And by the time we get to – like today we put in our pressures – it’s easy for us to teach, easy for our players to learn. But yet it’s something completely different. And you’ve heard me say this many times before: It’s a position-less defense. So, just because a guy, let’s use (safety) Julian (Love) again, has safety next to his name in the program, he can play anywhere on the field. Why can he do that? Because (of) the way we teach the system; he’s a smart player. And wherever we need him and wherever I think his skillset would fit us best is where we play him that week. And you’ve already seen two different defenses, and it's a credit to the players because they’re studying their tails off not only with what we do but what they do. And it’s a long process. We got to reap the rewards on Sunday because we gave Carolina a different look than what they’ve seen.
Q: It's a copycat league and you've had success, and you’ve had success. Why do you think there are not more defenses like yours around the league?
A: (I) don’t know that answer. (I) don’t know that answer. There’s a lot of good football coaches in this league.
Q: You were referring to versatility there. (Safety) Dane Belton played quite a bit in that game. I presume you think he has a lot of versatility. How do you think he performed with what you saw – your first look at him? And what can he bring as a versatile piece?
A: I think that Dane’s a really good football player and is going to continue to get better. For a rookie in the first play, you’re in in the National Football League and recover a fumble going down on a kickoff, that’s pretty cool. So, if things go up from there, he’s going to have a heck of a career – which I think it will. He does have some versatility to him. It’s harder earlier with rookies, because until you get them rolling, like the first five weeks after they’re used to (it and) they get in the rhythm of the league itself. You can just imagine being at a young age like that and going out there, and (it’s) your first time doing what you dreamed of all your life. So, I always take that into account.
Q: So, how do you think he played Sunday?
A: I thought he played well. I thought he played really well. As a coach you always think about – like when you just asked me that question – some of the things he didn’t do well. But there wasn’t that many.
Q: For years going against the (Dallas) Cowboys as a defensive guy, you had to deal with that offensive line. They were a problem usually. What do you see in that group this year, and are they not quite the problem they’ve been in the past?
A: I haven’t played them enough to talk about the past except one every four years, being in the AFC as long as I was. But I know one thing is they have a tremendous skillset at the wide receiver, running back and even quarterback position. We’re going against their second team quarterback, and their offensive line – they work well together. When they were giants, big-dudes way back like you were talking about, I know exactly what you’re talking about, but they still play really well.
Q: What do you see from (Cowboys quarterback) Cooper Rush?
A: I see a guy that’s a starting quarterback in this league. Honestly, I do. And I made the comment just watching him and the decisions that he makes, I think he’ll have a long career as a quarterback in this league, and then he’ll be one of those cats that become an offensive coordinator and a head coach by the time he’s 38 or 39. That’s how it usually works.
Q: How deep do you go on him? He’s got two career starts. What do you try to do to find out as much as you can about him?
A: He’s got two career starts, but he’s also 2-0 with those career starts. So, this guy’s a proven winner. And we’ve gone back to college tape on his favorite throws, because obviously when the schedule came out, we worked ahead. But then after the (Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s) thumb injury, some of the coaches went and looked at some of his (Cooper Rush’s) college throws, all of his preseason games since he’s been there. And he’s a smooth operator back there, and he doesn’t get rattled. Our job is to try to rattle him.
Q: Just looking at the other side of the ball, when you see a player like (Cowboys linebacker) Micah Parsons, what makes him so difficult to contain?
A: Because of his skillset and versatility where he moves all around.
Q: You’ve talked about stud running backs the first two weeks. This team has kind of two of them. What problems does that create for the defense?
A: A lot of that is, first of all it’s very difficult for the defense when you have two running backs of their caliber – especially when they’re out there on the field at the same time. But either one of them could be Pro Bowl running backs. They basically have very similar skillset. I’ve always said going against Zeke (Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott) that once he gets his shoulders squared and he starts heading downfield, he’s a problem. You better be ready to come tackling. So, it’s going to be another one of those games where we got to tighten up our chinstraps and try to get 11 people the football.
Q: You guys obviously have (outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux) here for a reason, and he’s trending to play Monday. I know that will still be determined. But when he and (outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) are in the mix for you in your toolbox, does that change anything in terms of how you can deploy your guys?
A: No. I mean, they’re two really good football players, Kayvon being picked where he is and Zeez (Azeez Ojulari) being a second rounder. The change is we have another two guys that are ready to go and play on Monday night if they are. I don’t know if they are or not yet.
Q: The Panthers went after (defensive back Cor’Dale) Flott early, Cor’Dale Flott. What did you think of how he played? Why’d you make the switch to (defensive back Fabian) Moreau, and how do you view that going forward here?
A: I first of all – Cor’Dale has his best week of practice going into Carolina; and he started off well yesterday. He had some cramping issues during the game. Once again, that’s that rookie thing I was talking about with Dane Belton. They’re breathing heavier and everything else because they’re so excited about being out there to play. And then we put Fabe (Fabian Moreau) in there, and he did a great job as well. So, going forward, we’ll see where we’re at. We can still rotate them or do whatever we need to do. But I was pleased with both of them actually.
Q: How would you evaluate (defensive lineman) Dexter Lawrence so far?
A: He’s maybe one of my most favorite players that I’ve ever been around in my life. He’s a great guy first of all – a great person. And he’s a problem. I mean, he is athletic. And I’m glad you brought that up because that play – I told the whole defense on Monday – the play where he chased (Panthers quarterback) Baker Mayfield down and got him short of the sticks on that scramble, I don’t know (if) in my career I’ve ever seen a big man like that make a play like that. And that’s the kind of effort and leadership that he brings to the defense. And he and Leo (defensive lineman Leonard Williams) and X (safety Xavier McKinney) and Julian, they’ve been the blocks of granite. (Cornerback) Adoree’ (Jackson) on the outside has been playing lights out, and we’re just excited to go get this thing cranked up on Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys.