Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale
Alright, here we go. We're counting down to—yesterday was Practice 14. I like where we're at defensively. A lot of things to improve on and we still have a lot of great competition.
With that, I'll open it up for questions.
Q. How many cases of Pepto do you order for yourself when you start to contemplate putting two rookies at cornerback?
A: None at all. I mean, you've got to play the best guys. That's just, like I said, there's still a lot of competition going on out there. But it just so happens, they're both playing really well right now and they deserve the reps with the 1s. That's what this league is all about. That's what our organization, and Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll) and (general manager) Joe (Schoen) are all about. We're excited to see their growth. Every day is a new day for them as far as there's something else they find out, there's a different kind of shift, there's a different kind of movement. The faster that can become just natural to them instead of thinking while they're doing it, the faster you'll see them make more plays, and it's fun to watch.
Q. Is this something you've had in mind as early as draft weekend?
A: No, I think it all happens—I mean, I knew the player that (cornerback) Deonte (Banks) was, and I just didn't know the level where (cornerback) Tre (Hawkins III) was at. He's stepped up to every challenge that we've given him and he's playing well right now.
Q. How would you assess how both of those guys played in the game? You got them a lot of work.
A: Right. I think that when the lights came on in a real game, they both played very well. Very well. That was fun to watch. I think that the practices on Tuesday and Wednesday helped them with their confidence going into the game, the unknown fear of, 'What's this going to be like going against somebody else?' So, I thought that was really good for them.
Q. From the outside looking in, it looks like (Jason) Pinnock is really seizing his opportunity at safety. It looks like you're also trying to find ways to get (safety) Dane (Belton) on the field. What would you call that role?
A: I think that there's times, I've said before standing up here, that the NFL is a matchup game now. There were times last year we played with four safeties on the field. So, depending on the opponent, depending on the health of everyone and everything else, there's great competition there at safety too. Because I think (safety) Bobby McCain is showing up, and he showed up in the game as well. A veteran that knows what he's doing. So, there's those four and then you saw the progression of G.O. (safety Gervarrius Owens) and A.C. (safety Alex Cook) there in the second half. I thought they both played really well. So, it's great competition in that room.
Q. We've seen (defensive tackle) Jordon Riley get a lot of reps just because of the injuries on the D-line. What have you seen from him?
A: I don't classify it as just because of the injuries on the D-line, I think that he was going to get those kinds of reps anyway going into the game. Dre (defensive line coach Andre Patterson) and B-Cox (assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox) have done a great job with him, and he's progressed every day.
As long as he keeps with that progression… It's something like I told (defensive lineman) D.J. (Davidson) yesterday in front of the whole defense, it's a different landscape up front for us. You guys can see it, just physically see the difference in our D-line. Just like I talked about the safeties, there's great competition in the D-line room led by (defensive lineman) Dex(ter Lawrence II) and (defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams).
Q. Another place that you have competition is that second inside linebacker spot. How would you assess what you're seeing from (inside linebacker Darrian) Beavers and (inside linebacker Micah) McFadden?
A: I'll tell you, I thought Micah played really well in the game. He did a lot of good things. I think that this is truly Beavers' rookie year because of the ACL, and he's missed so many practices that Micah's got a year under his belt. It's a good competition and Micah is definitely leading right now. So, we'll see where that goes and where that takes it.
Q. Are you open to adding, say, (linebacker) Anthony Barr?
A: I'm open to adding anybody that Joe and Dabs think that we need.
Q. What's your comfort level with the two? They're both pretty young. You mentioned one guy's a rookie and one guy was a rookie last year. So, what's your comfort level with those two if you roll into the year with them?
A: Well, you always want, as a coach and a coordinator, as many good players as you can get. So, like I said, I wouldn't say no to anything. But, once again, I sound like a broken record, there's good competition there, but I definitely would say that Micah is leading it right now.
Q. We've seen (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) in the slot a bunch. Would you consider doing that full-time, for lack of a better term? Is that something that you're at least contemplating at this point?
A: You know me. You saw some different things out there that you're like, 'What is he doing?' I mean, we consider everything. With the matchups that you would have, that gives you great versatility. We'll see where that goes.
Q. How's he doing at it?
A: He's good.
Q. What makes him good at it?
A: Just because of his coverage skills, number one, his speed, his athleticism. Everything that made him our No. 1 corner last year, he still has. I think when you go into these games, in any sub package, you want to play your three best corners. Right now, those are our three best corners. There's nothing set in stone yet, you know what I mean? We'll see how it works out.
Q. Why do you think Tre Hawkins wasn't drafted till the sixth round?
A: I have no idea. That whole thing, the whole draft process, I think that Joe took Tre on his traits that he has. He's big, he's long, he's fast. There's lots of guys that didn't get drafted till later rounds, starting with (quarterback) Tom Brady. I'm not saying he's the Tom Brady of corners, don't get me wrong. But I'm just saying I can't tell you why. It's just that's where he fell in the draft.
Q. Do you see a huge difference between him and your first-round pick in terms of their learning on the field, and their acclimating to the NFL game?
A: I think that they're different in all kinds of ways. I think that it's great competition for both of them – they're both rookies – to try to compete. Once you get here – this is one of the things I love with Joe and Dabs – it doesn't matter how you got here. I'm sure you've heard Dabs say this before, we're going to play the best 11 that you can play that day. That's what is exciting during training camp for coaches. I would think it'd be exciting for the players because they all get treated equally, all 90 of them coming in that building.
Q. With Belton, last year for the most part from the outside, he was compromised physically with that clavicle for most of the year. Are we seeing him now, the plays that he's made, especially in the last week or so, that he feels like he's back 100 percent to what you need?
A: I hope so. I think that he was making those plays last year before the injury. He's one of those guys that the ball finds him, and he finds the ball. That's a great trait to have when you're in the secondary in the National Football League. So, I'm really happy for him. He is healthy, and I'm seeing the Dane that I thought that I would see being healthy.
Q. One of the first few plays on defense, Pinnock had the interception but (outside linebacker Tomon) Fox seemed to get the hit. How has he played?
A: I think Tomon has done a nice job. Tomon, undrafted free agent from North Carolina, knows how he made the team last year, and he has to keep that mindset, which he has, every day the rest of his career. Those late, undrafted free agents, the late-round draft choices, they have a chip on their shoulder, and they should, because they know they belong at this level. That was one of his better pass rushes I've seen since he's been here, and it obviously caused a big play on the first play of the game.
Q. With Riley in that defensive line room, when you look around and you see Dex and Leo and Nacho (defensive lineman Rakeem Nuñez-Roches) and (defensive lineman) A'Shawn (Robinson), some guys who come in as a seventh-round pick might shrink from that and say maybe it's not their turn to kind of step up. He seems to have gone the opposite. He actually said yesterday that he is pretty comfortable asking those guys. Do you see that? What is it about him as a person or a player that allows him to do that?
A: Well, if you looked at Jordon, that might be one of the first times they talked about Jordon Riley and 'shrink.' He's a large man, and he's very confident. Now he's green, and he's got a great room, Dex and Leo, A'Shawn and Nacho. Players know players, and they know he can help us, and they're helping him every day. They help everybody in the room, but I see them always talking to him on the field. I think that that's just fantastic, because when you think about it, it's like you training another reporter to take your job. I think that's what's great about that room is that they know what we need to win. I'm excited for the kid.
Q. What do you think of (outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux)'s camp and particularly just how he did in the joint practices in Detroit?
A: I thought that in Detroit, on Tuesday and Wednesday, I think he caused two fumbles and recovered two fumbles. I expect him to be at the top of everything, and so do we. I've talked to him about his practice. I think that he heard me clearly. I talked to him in front of the entire defense. So, Kayvon is going to be fine, first of all. Like I said, he caused two fumbles, and he recovered two fumbles. In the two days, we had, like, eight takeaways against, what were they, a top five offense last year, which gave us confidence in ourselves and the way we competed there.
Q. What do you mean you talked to him about his practice in front of the defense? You didn't think he was practicing intensely enough?
A: No. I do a 'keep it real' with everybody on where they're at and why they're there, because the last thing I want as a coach is for a player to drive in this parking lot and not know where they stand, especially this time of year. Because I think that we build our relationships, we build our foundation on trust and honesty. I tell them what I think and where they stand, and where the competition is, where the line is. I talk about all that. So, like I said, we had a great week in Detroit. I'm sure you haven't heard that quote very often. But it was it was a great week, and I'm excited to take this next step.