Mike Pettine Interview Transcript 9/22/11

On Thursday New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine addressed the media.  Here is the transcript courtesy of the Jets.

On Oakland’s offense and having team speed…

(They) always (have team speed) and this team is, obviously, no different. I know they’re a little banged up at wideout, but we think they’re getting some of those guys back. That’s the number one thing, though, when you’re playing Oakland. It’s vertical, vertical, vertical. That was our first meeting with the DBs, understanding we can’t get the ball thrown over our head. If you think you’re deep enough, get deeper. That’s always been a trend there and they have guys that can certainly blow the top off a defense and we can’t get lulled to sleep, especially if they’re trying to establish the run and next thing you know, they’re hitting a double move over the top. (They have) tremendous team speed. They’re offensive line is much more athletic than in years past. I think they are deep in the backfield. They have a good combination with (Darren) McFadden and (Michael) Bush, kind of an inside-outside type deal. The rookie Taiwan (Jones) is a good player, as well. From a skill position standpoint, it’s a formidable group.

On if he thinks the defensive backs need to be more physical at the line of scrimmage to combat their team speed…

As you know, our guys, we press, so I don’t think much will change this week. Both those guys like to get up there. (Darrelle) Revis has always been a hands-on guy and that’s been one of (Antonio) Cromartie’s things in this offseason is to improve, as we’ve talked about, (with) getting his hands on guys and I don’t think this week will be any different.

On what the key is to stopping the screen pass…

You always look for indicators. There are certain things that can give away a screen, so we like to study those, study the screen reel, and see if we can pick anything up. If not, a lot of times, it’s a reaction thing. When we play man coverage, we don’t want to wait to go get our man. If he is in the backfield, we want to aggressively get to him. The key to a screen is to get to it before it starts. Once it starts, the other big issue is to set an edge (and) treat it like a running play. Then, the big thing I think in defending a screen is your defensive lineman (and their) ability to, once they recognize it’s a screen, change direction. We’ve set an edge, so all of a sudden, we have a wall of guys chasing it from inside-out. Hopefully, you can force the ball back inside and get a hit on it.

On whether using four-down linemen and having Muhammad Wilkerson stand up on some plays was game-plan specific to Jacksonville or things they will use this year…

Yes and yes. It was game plan specific, but I think a lot of those are core things in our plan. One of our jobs as a defensive staff is to do what we do well. If we’re better off from a four-down (formation), then that’s what we’ll be. The nice thing about the package, the inventory, the system, whatever you want to call it, is that there is that flexibility to play to our strengths. There are going to be some opponents where we think we are better off in a different look, but again, I think Jacksonville should be pretty indicative for the year. I think there are a lot of things that will be consistent throughout the year that we did in that game.

On how Wilkerson has performed so far in his rookie season…

I think he is ahead of the learning curve for a rookie. Again, I touched on this before, that we were very fortunate that we were able to get him a playbook that one day that we had available to us during the lockout, the day after he was drafted and that he was able to get with Mike DeVito and some of the other (defensive) linemen during that time and they were able to coach him up and get him some basic working knowledge, not just from a playbook standpoint, but also from a video standpoint, that we were able to get him some film, as well. He’s an intelligent kid. He has good football aptitude. He understands it. He’s a kid that can think on his feet. I just think the sky is the limit with Mo (Wilkerson). I just think with repetition and getting more game reps (he will be even better). The one thing we just have to be careful of, and I touched on this before, is getting him too many reps. We’re blessed to have two excellent backups in Ropati (Pitoitua) and Marcus Dixon, both of whom have played very well in our first two games. We can consider it five starters with that group and we’re able to roll all those guys through and have all of our guys stay fresh.

On if they have just been rushing three or four players more than they did last year…

I haven’t really looked at the numbers to be able to compare them. I think part of the problem may be that, in the Dallas game, if sometimes as a defense you get behind the sticks and you don’t get in blitz situations, it’s harder to blitz third-and-short or do some of our exotic stuff on third-and-short where you have to be more gap sound. Again, what I think we learned in the playoffs a year ago, is that we can handle and rush four and be effective. That was one of the mindsets this year is to mix it, constantly give an offense different looks and if that’s backing off and just (showing) the threat of the blitz, then getting out and playing coverage, then I think that plays to your advantage, as well.

On whether he has noticed a change in Jason Campbell on film because he is now in the same system for a second season…

Yes, if you just look at his last five starts, he’s really put together some good performances. He’s really gotten better under (Hue Jackson). I know Hue is an excellent coach, especially with the quarterback position, so (Campbell is) a guy, with a big arm, that makes good decisions. The one thing about him that our guys realize is that the one flaw I think he has is that he can be careless with the ball sometimes. That’s critical for us. I know he has, I don’t know what the exact number was, over the last three years maybe had 30-something fumbles. That’s certainly on our guys’ minds that, if we get a chance, we’re thinking turnover. He’s a guy that, if you let him sit in the pocket and you let him make his reads, he’ll tear you up. Just like any quarterback, we want to make him uncomfortable. We want to force him to make quick decisions, hopefully a bad one, and get him out. The problem with Campbell is that even though he doesn’t look to run, if he has to, he will, and that can be a problem. Sometimes, you get caught in a coverage where you’re playing two-man and your guys end up with their backs turned to the quarterback, then he’s a guy that can hurt you with his legs, so that’s something that we certainly need to be aware of.

On Oakland T Jared Veldheer…

(He is) 6’8”, obviously, (with) that great wing span. He had some struggles last year, as I think most rookie tackles do in the NFL, especially coming from a smaller program, but he’s a guy I think has been solid for them. He’s a guy that we kind of have to get into early. He’s a guy that’s hard to run around because of his reach. Again, first two games, he’s been solid for them.

On if there is a player on defense that has exceeded his expectations…

I don’t want to say exceeded. I think the one guy that really hasn’t been noticed who has played really well is Kyle Wilson. He hasn’t really been talked about either way. It’s one of those things, after the game, did he do much? A lot of times at that position, the answer is yes, obviously he played well because you didn’t notice him. Usually, you notice those guys when they screw up. Obviously, Cromartie has made some big plays (and) Revis has made some big plays. I don’t exactly know the grading percentage, but I know it’s been extremely high. Bryan Thomas has played well. Bart Scott, I think, has done some good things. I think some of those have been obvious, some of those not so obvious. I think, as a group, the defensive line has played pretty well, notwithstanding Sione (Pouha) getting run over by Maurice Jones-Drew, which he took a lot of flak for in the meeting room (joking).

On the play where Maurice Jones-Drew got by Sione Pouha…

Oh, he got run over, right in the middle of the hole (laughter).

On Pouha deflecting a couple of passes in the Jacksonville game…

Yes, he did. That’s true.

On going against Dustin Keller in practice and how hard that is…

Well, he’s kind of the model of the tight ends in the league now. The athletic, the pass-catching type. The days of the Mark Bavaro’s and those type guys, those guys are few and far between now. The first two weeks, obviously Marcedes Lewis didn’t play, but (Jason) Witten certainly kind of falls from that old school mold, where I think Dustin is more of the newer breed where you almost treat him as a wideout. You look at the (Aaron) Hernandez kid and (Kellen) Winslow or guys like that. You have to treat them as wide receivers. You can’t cover them. Conventional thinking, Football 101, is you can cover tight ends with linebackers and you really can’t do that in man-to-man coverage. So, he’s a guy that whenever we went against the offense, it wasn’t a real good call if we had a linebacker on him. There are some times where certain safeties can’t cover him, where you almost have to put a corner on him.

On Hue Jackson’s imprint on the offense…

Very creative. I think what Hue does a real good job of is (that) he gets the ball in the hands of his playmakers. He finds ways to do that. It’s a tailback-driven offense, but he has great speed on the outside. They love reverses, wide receiver screens, quick throws. He wants to take advantage of that speed, not just vertically. Guys like Jacoby Ford, (Darius) Heyward-Bey, he wants to get the ball in their hands. And I think he does a really good job. I don’t think their core concepts are very complicated, but what he does a good job of is the window dressing. I think he changes formations, changes personnel groupings, shifts, motions, things that can get a defense back on their heels a little bit and stress your recognition.

On if there has been an Al Saunders imprint…

With just a two-game sample, it’s hard to say that. They are still very similar to what they were a year ago. It’s hard to say that after just two games and a preseason.

On how often the Jets use single-high safety coverage…

I think what we prefer to do even when we are “middle-closed,” the one thing that we don’t want to do is show it too early. We’ve always told our safeties, the one phrase we used is, “Closing the field early on a play in the NFL is an overrated concept. You don’t need to. So, a lot of times, if you want to help our your weak-side corner, hang weak for as long as you can, until you have to get to the middle. If you have to get to the middle, then go. There are some teams, and we’ll do it at times, as well. Let’s say we want to tell the quarterback the read, “You have the middle, now throw at (Darrelle) Revis.” We’ll do that, as well. I can certainly have somebody pull the numbers for you and give you an exact count of single-high (joking).

On whether the Raiders defense is much more transparent using that same scheme…

I’d like to think that we disguise it better. Right before Jacksonville kicked the field goal, the interception that Eric Smith almost had, I think the receiver just got a piece of it, and it might have bounced off of Eric, he was a post player there. He hung on the backside, and didn’t get to the middle until it was time to get to the middle. It really looked like we were playing quarter, quarter halves.


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