What do you think of the Panthers new defensive front?
"I would say yeah, for sure I've seen them quite a bit. Even in crossover games, you kind of study all the phases, but I'd say number one, I've certainly been impressed by the pass rush. That's loud and clear, and different guys featured in different ways. I thought to me, that really shows a lot of versatility. The second piece where I thought was one of their strengths really was their ability to ballhawk. They've forced fumbles, they've recovered them, they've gotten interceptions. Those are the things that I've been impressed by. I think you're referring to some of the run-fits and run-fronts when you're putting in a new system and new ways to go. I think as you're going through that, the players experience different schemes – ok, this is how teams generally attacked us when we played one defense or one front. So, here are some new ones that you kind of grow through when you're playing a new concept, a new coverage, or a new front. It's really sound and secure like you'd expect it would be with Ron (Rivera) and Eric (Washington). Always, there is new learning that takes place to go. I'm sure that's probably as much of it as anything, because they're certainly capable. Inside, having Dontari (Poe), and Gerald (McCoy), and Vernon (Butler) playing as well as he is. They've certainly got good guys in the right places.
What have you seen from Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson this season?
"I think some of that – when you play different fronts, where are some of the strengths and weaknesses of each front and defense. With each call, there's a strength and weakness to it. When you play one thing for a long time, you can really recognize where some of the issues are going to come from, and you can almost play for those. For us, for years we've played lots of three-deep (coverage). You get a lot of the ones that people would try to attack three-deep and beat it this way. I think the same thing applies offensively when there's somebody that tries something over and over. They'll try to attack people in a certain way. Anytime you're taking on some new tweaks and some new things, you got to go through the learning process of it. You're right, that speed at linebacker, they kind of set the standard, in terms of Shaq and Luke right at it, all the stuff to do. Then, when you put guys with speed on the end of the line, which they do now with Bruce (Irvin), Mario (Addison), and Brian (Burns), that adds another element too. I think the benefit of having the guys closer to the line of scrimmage – the fifth player so to speak – is you do get more rush opportunities. There's a balance there that every team tries to find."
Can you speak to the growth of WR Calvin Ridley and DJ Moore?
"It's interesting. You were right, both of them were two guys that we had targeted. We actually went up to Maryland to visit with DJ, and we were just so impressed by how aggressive that he played. A lot of times playing the receiver position the way he aggressively went after it, almost like a running back. He's such an aggressive catcher. He could play in the slot, and we kind of had a vision for what it would look like. Both guys, what you see is the development for them is when they get their hands on the ball. It's the yards after catch. It's knowing the awareness of a zone and when to sit down. In man-to-man, how do I go and beat this players' leverage. With Calvin, he's been so aggressive with his hands. He works at it so hard – before practice, after practice. He's always with us on jugs or if somebody is throwing live. He just wouldn't back off of that in terms of attitude and the effort to make sure that part of his game was rock solid. On the other side with DJ, I knew he'd come in with good skillset and a lot of ability to make plays. What I've become more impressed with is the extended plays that he's having – the explosive plays. He's definitely become a guy who's very difficult to deal with."
Has DJ become a bigger target on crucial downs?
"I think the third down and fourth down, that's the spot – and he has the ability to really put his foot in the ground and change directions. When you're playing man-to-man, usually there's some type of leverage that the secondary, or safety, or linebacker is playing on a player. If you can win and break off a guys' leverage, now you can obviously see the target for the quarterback that much cleaner when he's throwing away from a player's leverage, that's a catch and a first down. I think DJ had done such a good job of that of understanding the leverage that that person is trying to put on him, and then have the ability to break them off. Defensively, they'll try to put outside leverage or inside leverage if it's man-to-man and they've got to go and win. When you're playing against zone, really it's the route that has to beat the zone, but in man-to-man you have to beat the player. I thought those two guys, Cal (Calvin) and DJ, have really improved in that area. If you're going to guard me, we're going to try and make you pay."
Talk about the challenges game planning against Kyle Allen and Christian McCaffrey
"I think different teams have different ways and things that challenge you. For a long time, because of the addition of the quarterback runs that made what Cam (Newton) did so unique there were definitely plays on third down, even if you have it covered well, he might pull the ball down and try to convert a first down with his legs – in addition to short yardage, and red zone, and those kind of things. There were some third down that you might've tried to play a certain coverage, he would just pull the ball down and make the guy miss, and have an extended, explosive play. I think that was always something that was kind of the – how do you practice this guy shucking off a safety or a tackle, and then moving down the line. That was hard to simulate. What's equally hard is the speed that they have when they get into the three wide receiver set with DJ, and Jarius (Wright), and Curtis (Samuel), and Greg (Olsen), and McCaffrey, that's a lot of weapons. How do you go about defending that many guys with speed and explosiveness? Challenges are different, but I think Ron and the guys are doing a good job of utilizing the skillset that the guys have and playing to their strengths. I think in a lot of respects, they did that with Cam as well. They played to his strengths. Although it's different, they're still doing a good job of playing to the players' strengths, kind of featuring the things that they do best. I think that's always our role as coaches is to put the guys in position of the things they do best."
Do you see growth in James Bradberry?
"You are, and we are as well. The reason is that for a long time he's had just fantastic length and size. Now, you're adding the real technique – whether it's down on the line of scrimmage to challenge guys. He's got such good size that when you have to release over, and over again on somebody with James' size, that can make it challenging. Like I said, when you're playing against zone, you have free access to run, you have free access to go. In a zone defense, obviously you have more eyes on the quarterback, but what James' has shown he's going to do is when he's playing up on the line and playing aggressive – what we would call bump or at the line – that's a challenging release, and you see it more and more of that for the guy that he is guarding. That's a difficult matchup to win on the release, and you can tell he's worked hard at it. It's definitely been something we've noticed too."
On Bradberry defending Julio Jones
"I think both guys who have this kind of size, and speed, and explosiveness, they're so strong. Whether it's a release to work through and Julio's shoulder to get through, or James where he's really staying square at the line of scrimmage. Such a good matchup because big guys who can move like those two can, that's a lot different. Often times you way see a slot or whether it's a slot corner or a receiver who's smaller, of course they have that kind of change of direction, but when you see the bigger guys really playing like that, that's something, and Julio had done that forever. It's always a tough matchup getting his draw, but James is definitely somebody when they know each other, that they're going to go fight for sure."
Can you talk through the background of how the Colin Kaepernick workout came to be at the Falcons facility and who the Falcons will have at the workout?
"I'm not sure of how it got here. My guess would be it's just an easy place for everybody to get in and out of. We fly there everywhere. I imagine everybody can get down to Atlanta, so that would be the thought I would have there. I'm sure like a lot of teams, from the scouting side, that people get a chance to see workouts, and this will be one that us and others will as well – but I don't have any background of why Atlanta. I guess it just came from the league side. I'm sure probably just ease of access of getting everybody here."