Defensive coordinator Phil Snow on Wednesday held a video conference call with reporters. Here are some of the highlights from that Q&A, edited for brevity:
On acquiring players with position flexibility, particularly at safety:
"When we talk about defensive backs, we tell them they're DBs. They can play anywhere. Those are the types of guys we're interested in. I'll give you an example: Juston Burris has also played nickel in the National Football League, so he has a lot of value. He can play in the back row and play nickel. Jeremy Chinn, I think there were three guys in the draft like Jeremy, Jeremy being one of the three. There are going to be multiple things we can do with him. We have (EDGE rusher) Brian Burns. He is kind of a unique guy. He's long, he can move, and you can do different things with him. So I think it's really important that we find players that can do more than one thing."
On whether Burris will play in the box or be more focused in coverage:
"The game has changed. The safeties have to play in the box today. That's just the way it is. We've got to disguise. If we show them an eight-man front with no disguise, they have things that they're going to take advantage of. So we have to be in looks where they don't think we're going to be in an eight-man front, and one of the safeties will be part of the eight-man front. You know, everybody likes Tre Boston in the post, and he's really good in the post, but if you look at his history, he's also pretty good in the box."
On having a secondary with so many young players:
"There's no substitute for experience. The way we all learn is we get our butts kicked, right? In your business, in our business, that's how you learn. So they're going to go through some growing pains. But I think we hired the best guy to coach them in (defensive pass game coordinator/secondary coach) Jason Simmons. If you look at Jason's history, he's taken a lot of good, young players and made them really successful. ... The thing that we try to do with those guys is don't give up big plays. If you give up something, it's gotta be underneath you. So if we can do that with those young guys and let them grow, then I think we'll be in pretty good shape."
On his assessment of the cornerbacks currently on the roster:
"If you look at how fast they are, and their size, they have talent. So it's our job as coaches to get them to play at a level that we want them to play. That's our job as coaches. We can use excuses and do all that stuff, but that's not what Coach (Matt) Rhule's about. When we get a player, we need to develop the player. And we picked these players for the most part. We picked Eli Apple, and you look at his size and speed, we expect him to play good. Jason Simmons wanted him. So I'm excited to see where Jason takes him."
On third-year cornerback Donte Jackson:
"First of all, Donte's really tough for his size. He's physical, which I love. In today's football, everybody's getting in the tight formations to run the football and make the corners tackle. He can do that. So I'm excited about that. You look at how well he runs — he has catch-up speed. The problem is, is he needs to get a little more detailed. We've talked to him about that, and with our DB coaches, they're working well with him, and I think he's got some real talent to him. So I'm excited to watch him grow with the people who are going to coach him."
On whether he'll coach on the field or from the press box:
"I love being on the field. I get a better feel for the game on the field, and I get a great view of the players eye-to-eye. When they come off the field, I can talk to them. When you study and go into a game, you think you know what's going to happen, but you have to be ready for things that you didn't quite think would happen. You may think, 'Hey, they can't run the ball against us,' and all of a sudden, they're running the football.' ... And if you watch me, I will be about 35 yards away — I won't be even with the ball. I'll be away, and I can see. So I get a lot of the same things in the box as far as visually, but I'm on the field with the guys, and I can really get a feel for the game and how they're reacting to what's going on in the game."
On which players could possibly develop into future stars:
"If you do things by the draft, your first-rounders have to play. And we have some first-rounders on defense. Burns is a first-rounder. We have Derrick Brown. ... Shaq (Thompson) was a first-rounder. ... Tre Boston will play really solid for you and could make the Pro Bowl in the middle. I think Juston Burris is just coming into his own. So we have some guys — (Stephen) Weatherly, I think he can become an elite pass rusher at this level. So we have some pieces, in my opinion. Now, we have to develop them, and how long that takes to come together and play the type of defense that it takes remains to be seen."
On rotating players, especially at defensive tackle:
"We've always played more people than everybody else that we've played. So as the season goes, we are actually a better team late in the year because we have kept guys fresher and more people have played. The other advantage it gives you when more people play — when a player goes down, it's not a big deal. Now, it is a big deal, injuries always are, but the next guy is plugged in because he's probably played some and you feel real comfortable. So the rotation up front's really important. You have to rotate. You can't have these big guys that weigh (300 to 330 pounds) in there every snap. You're going to wear them down, especially over the course of a 16-game schedule. So the rotation will be big in there (and for) the whole group. It'll be interesting to see how many guys we can rely on to play."
On his early assessment of the Panthers' linebackers:
"Tahir Whitehead, we brought in, and he'll end up playing (middle linebacker). We have a lot of possibilities at linebacker. That's the beauty of a Jeremy Chinn. Could he go out and play the field 'backer? He's 220 pounds, 225 pounds and can run. He can do a lot of different things. Can Shaq play the Mike linebacker in nickel? So we have some flexibility with our linebackers that we're excited about."
On whether it's an advantage that the rest of the NFL doesn't know what to expect yet out of this coaching staff:
"We have a couple packages that will be new on defense. Now, the flipside of that, I haven't been in the league, either, for a while, so I haven't coached against them. But if you look at our defensive staff, I love our defensive staff. We've hired a veteran defensive coach at each position. (Defensive line coach) Mike Phair's been in the league a long time. Jason Simmons. (Defensive run game coordinator) Al Holcomb. So they've been around most of the people we're going to play and have good insight."
View photos of defensive coordinator Phil Snow during his three years as defensive coordinator at Baylor with Matt Rhule.