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Alan Williams On Defensive Line Depth, Leadership In The Secondary and More

Posted Jul 30, 2013

Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, it’s always good to see familiar faces out there again and be back here in Mankato. We are loving being down south here in Mankato, the fields have been excellent, the dorms have been outstanding, so we are sleeping well. The food has been good, when you have good food and you sleep well you always know camp starts off right. I like our chemistry of the guys we have in the D-line group, the linebackers, as well as the secondary so we feel good about that. Today will be day two of pads so our guys are excited, we will have some live action today so they are excited to get that ramped up and going so we look forward to today, with that I will open it up for questions.

Q: Is this the best defensive line you have been with the Vikings?

A: Well I have only had one year, so with guys returning and knowing what to expect from me, I would say yes.

Q: What have you seen from Sharrif Floyd so far?

A: He’s a big-bodied guy, he is an explosive guy. The thing that we do like about Sharrif is he picks up things quickly and when the coaches have to correct him he takes that correction, he does the right thing the next time and whatever it was that was wrong is out the window, he is doing that correction correctly from then on. So that is a good thing when a guy has a problem he takes that problem and he eliminates it and finds a new problem so to speak, so we like that. You know what, he is a high character guy, he comes into the meeting rooms ready to go, ready to study, so the things that we saw on tape at Florida, he’s bringing those things here in terms of preparation.

Q: What are a couple of the things he needs to do here in order to be a key contributor?

A: Right now it’s going to be tough to tell. We just need to wait to see what he does in live action. Sometimes guys will revert back to what they did in college and we will wait to see if he has any of those bad habits. Even as of right now, he is on track to being a consistent, powerful football player which we can use and which we like

Q: If he and Kevin Williams are your two best defensive tackles will you play them together?

A: You know what, I don’t think so. That’s not a definite, but the one thing we do is we rotate guys so much that you do need two three-techniques, you do need two noses. We will see how that shakes out. The one thing about those two spots, they are different spots. Just because you’re a great three-technique doesn’t not necessarily mean that you’re going to come in and play nose and be as effective. I don’t think so but I’m not going to rule anything out.

Q: Have you talked to some of the veterans such as Jared Allen about this rotation?

A: Great question, but that is the same question we had from last year and the guys know that they are going to rotate, they know that at some point they are going to come out of the ball game. That is going to be the best thing for the team, not necessarily the best thing for their number of reps, but we want to make sure that we keep them fresh, that we keep them going for two reasons, or really three reasons. One is that at the end of the ball game, when we need to shut it out that guys are fresh, they can get themselves going. Number two would be at the end of the year when we need to make that playoff push that guys are healthy and they don’t have too many reps on their bodies so they are still fresh. The third is that if someone would happen to get injured the other guy has enough reps under his belt the he can come in there and play and play winning football so having that rotation helps the entire team out and they are good with it. Even though they might tell you, ‘hey I want to play every down.’ They know what is best for us as a whole.

Q: What are some of the biggest thing Josh Robinson needs to work on as he transitions to a slot cornerback?

A: He just needs the reps, he needs to see the different plays that he is going to get in practice. I don’t think people realize how tough that position is. That is position that you have to fit like a safety or a linebacker in the box and you have to cover like a corner when you’re on a wide receiver. That’s a position unlike other ones when you can just maybe just get by being talented. You have to have good instincts, you have to be talented and you have to see the reps, so experience is a plus there. He just needs more reps there. From what we have seen, we are very, very encouraged at him playing in that spot.

Q: What kind of leadership roles have you seen Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford take?

A: Big time and really Jamarca has just taken over from what he did for us last year and he is leading us again this year. Chris Cook I think he feels more settled and in his own skin in what he’s doing. He has a second year with me of course he has been with Joe Woods a few years but he’s growing in his own in terms in that leadership position.

Q: If Josh isn’t able to take that slot corner role do you have other guys that you can plug in there?

A: We have a few guys that we are repping in there, of course you have seen Josh in there, you have also seen (Marcus) Sherels he has been in there before and he has done that in the past. In the OTAs you saw a number of corners in there. You have seen A.J. Jefferson, he was in there, so we have a number guys that are in the slot, but I think we will be fine with Josh in there.

Q: Is Jacob Lacey one of those guys?

A: Yep, Jacob was in there, he has been in there. He hurt his thumb in OTAs but that is all healed up and he has experienced being in there the last few years, he did that a little bit when he was in Indy and of course he did it when he was with Detroit so he feels comfortable being inside.

Q: Do you see Chris Cook being more willing to take chances, make mistakes and then learn from those mistakes?

A: I like what you said and I would say calculated risks rather than chances. He does a good job of that and not just Cook, but with any of our guys, we don’t want them playing not to make a mistake, we want them to play full speed and that’s what they are doing. They know their assignments, go all out, read your keys and when you do that it is more of a calculated risk than a chance or guys just freelancing. They know we don’t do that. He’s been doing that and being able to make plays and also not giving up big ones so that is important.

Q: The importance of turnovers, how much of that is stressed for you to the players to create those?

A: Coach Frazier put up a stat the other day, one of the things that we have been concentrating on is when the defense turns the ball over and scores you have a 75% chance of winning that ball game. So that’s in their minds. Not just turning the ball over, but also scoring with the ball.  We say that all the time, we’re going to hustle, we’re going to run to the ball so that when there is a tipped ball, when there is a ball on the ground that we have more purple jerseys around that ball than anyone else. So that is a priority in our camp, it will be as we are going into our season and as we practice. 

Q: What are you expecting out of a guy like Shariff Floyd, who you are also asking to play special teams?

A: What I think people forget about it is Christian Ballard, because we brought Shariff (Floyd) in.  All the guys are going to compete, and all the guys are going to be expected to play special teams. We just look at special teams as an extension of a defensive snap. So the guys know that they have to have a big role on special teams, because the field position game is big in terms of us playing good defense. We’d rather start a team off from the five yard line and make them drive 95 yards, or even 90 yards and make them start from the 10, rather than being on the 50. So the guys know that special teams is going to be a role, they know it’s an important role that we do well here in Minnesota. All of them are willing to take on those reps to help us team wise and the defense.   

Q: When you have a guy like Desmond Bishop who sat out last year, what are some of the skills and techniques that come back fairly quickly, and that takes a little bit of time?

A: I’d say that for him I thought that he was going to be rusty getting back in it, but he’s really not.  One thing that shows about Desmond (Bishop) is that he has unbelievable hustle, he’s a bright instinctive player, and he has always run to the ball, if you’ve looked at all the tape from the previous years.  All the rust that I expected him to come in with for him it’s not there, and for him to pick up the defense, I thought that it was going to be a little bit. He got in there day one with the second group, he was sharp and that was very encouraging. We’ll see how it shapes up once he gets with the live ball in practice and the preseason, but everything right now is very encouraging. 

Q: What have you seen from Xavier Rhodes, and what do you like about him so far?

A: He’s big, he’s long, and he has a great attitude. We talk about here about being a smart football player.  We always talk about being physical, and we put the pads on yesterday, and every indicator showed that he is going to be physical. We talked about hustle, all those things that we’ve talked about with team characteristics he’s displayed. Joe (Woods) mentioned last night he’s a prideful guy. Everything is not perfect right now, but he works at it.  He comes in early and he stays late.  So the indicator is that he’s going to be a good football player, we just need to get him more reps.  It’s always tough for a rookie guy, especially at corner, to come in and play well, but every indicator says that he will, because of his work ethic and his talent.    

Q: Do you expect him to step up and take that outside job, or letting Josh (Robinson) focus on the slot?

A: We have great competition here, and we have a lot of great corners here.  I’m not expecting anyone to take his spot or for a guy to not play well.  I expect for all of our corners to play well, and all we have to do is let him go out there and compete, turn on the film, and the film says what it is. I’m not going to reserve any judgments or any predictions right now, I’m going to wait and coach him up, the film will tell.  

Q: Have you seen Jamarca (Sanford) progress here, kind of solidifying himself as a starter last year, and being that he’s the most experience guy in the secondary now?

A: I think that Jamarca (Sanford) feels comfortable in his skin as I’ve mentioned before.  He’s always been a leader.  You guys have interviewed him, now he likes to talk.  The one thing about Jamarca though is that he backs it up on the football field.  I think that’s an important part of what guys do.  Guys can talk, but Jamarca’s one where when he gets on the field he goes 100 miles an hour.  He plays hard, and he plays smart.  The one thing is that he has probably some better judgments in the passing game than he had in the past.  He’s always been a fire plug in stopping the run, but he’s elevated his game in the passing game.  It’s good to see.  He’s becoming a complete football player, and one of the better safeties in the league.  We like what he brings, we like his fiery attitude, and another guy that exemplifies everything we talk about in terms of Minnesota Vikings football.

Q: Can you talk about him saying he and Harrison (Smith) are similar players?  Do you like having two guys back there that are interchangeable players?

A: Yeah, and that’s what our defense is about.  We don’t have a strong safety, free safety, a right and left safety; we have two good football players, and they’re both smart now.  Harrison’s picked up the system a lot faster than we expected as a rookie last year.  He’s come in and said ‘you know what coach, it’s slowed down for me probably around the last fourth of the season last year.’ I feel confident about what’s going on now, and if you give me a key I can take that key, and know what’s coming before the play, and carry out my assignment.”  Both guys are comfortable in that.  They communicate extremely well, so when there’s a shift position, or one guy’s out of place the other guy makes up for it.  We have a good tandem there, and not just with those two.  Mistral (Raymond) can come in there, and he’s played extremely well and communicates.  (Andrew) Sendejo hadn’t gotten a lot of reps on defense, and Robert Blanton, two guys that we like.  So a lot of depth back there in the secondary that we feel good about. 

Q: How did Jamarca (Sanford) get more comfortable with our defense?  Has he gotten better judgment as he got more reps?

A: Reps, and practice, and in the games, he worked hard in the offseason.  I think that when no one’s around he worked at in the classroom with Coach Woods, looking at tape, looking at some of the mistakes he’s made in the past.  He’s worked himself into being an outstanding safety, it’s not just ‘hey I showed up next year and I’m automatically better.’  He put the work in during the offseason and it shows. 

Q: What have you seen from Audie Cole now, from his rookie season a year ago?

A: Audie feels more comfortable, and you know what, it’s not just him. I feel more comfortable even as a coordinator coming in year two than I did year one.  It’s a year under his belt, it’s a year where he knows the calls.  And the one thing about Audie is when he puts the pads on his game elevates, because he’s a big physical linebacker.  He may not look necessarily that he’s moving as fast as the other guys, but he’s long and he shows up in a hurry.  Yesterday in 9-on-7 if you’d looked at the tape, he kissed the guy pretty good, so it was good to see. 

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