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Pagano: We’re going out with 100 percent effort and a physical mentality
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Defensive coordinator John Pagano
With what’s gone on with your brother’s illness and other things that have gone on around the world, does it put a perspective on life?
“Without a doubt, it always puts it in perspective with what’s going on with all the tragedies and what my brother had to go through and deal with. It’s great news that how his recovery has been going and how exciting it is for him to really, truly fight though this deal. It’s an uphill battle and a battle that he still has, but it’s one of those things where you really look back and reflect on it. You truly understand what he had to deal with. It’s such a positive for the football team right now, how they’re playing and how the community really came out, especially around the country, the support that he has. It’s been a great deal these last couple of weeks.”
Will you spend time with him after the season?
“Yeah, we always get together and stuff like that. I’ll probably be able to go and hook up with him at some point and be able to spend some time together and talk some football.”
Will you be around him during the playoffs?
“I haven’t really thought about that. If the situation comes up, we are family, so there’s no doubt that I would go and support him any way that I could. I guess I would turn into a fan and wear all my ‘ChuckStrong’ stuff to the games and cheer him on. But it’s been great for him to be able to fight through this.”
What are your thoughts on the whole “ChuckStrong” movement?
“It’s just amazing. Just what he means and the speech he gave in the locker room and just how many lives he’s touched. His overall fight and what it truly means to be ‘ChuckStrong’, the type of person he is, it’s amazing. It’s amazing what they’ve done with it and how everyone has really rallied around it and supported it. If there was a guy to go through it, the Lord picked him for a reason and he’s so strong that he could get through it.”
How is your dad handling the situation?
“He’s doing good. It’s probably not the best outcome last week for him to come and see a game, but he’s someone we’ve learned a lot from in this profession. Number one, he tried to talk us both out of getting into this profession. As you can see, it didn’t work. He tells you how it is. Sometimes you don’t want to talk to him after a game and sometimes you do. In a football family, you go through the ups and downs in any type of season. That’s how we grew up as kids, with the Friday night lights and being able to watch and support him. I was awesome having him here and any chance you can get to have him around, the football atmosphere, having him come to practice and meetings, it was a good time.”
What are you looking for in terms of some players getting opportunities next season?
“You’re always looking for young players to still contribute, but we sign up for 16 of these every year, regardless of what our status is at the end of the year. We’re going out to win this game. It’s very important for us as a defensive unit, number one. And we didn’t play well last week. It’s something that we’re really not accustomed to of playing with that type of mindset, as I look at it. The young guys, we would like to see them contribute in certain situations and be able to give them certain type of packages where they go do something.”
What mindset did you see the team playing with last week?
“Anytime, our mindset is that we’re going out with 100 percent effort and a physical mentality. I thought that we were physical and I thought that we played with effort, but at certain times we were just a little bit unlucky in some situations where the ball bounced the other way. Number two, you have to go out and tackle. It was that mindset of we didn’t tackle well last week and we have to go finish and do a better job of that. Anytime that you talk about mindset as a coach there’s always the physical aspect, the effort aspect, the mental aspect, the ability to get lined up, make your checks and you calls, all those certain things. If one of those little things in your mindset is not there as a total unit, then I would say that the most disappointing thing is overall tackling as a team.”
Do you think that Carolina pulled out some new things last week?
“I wouldn’t say that. Carolina played a great game and we didn’t play at our best. I wouldn’t say anything about any type of new looks or anything like that. Anybody can come out and do anything they want on any given Sunday. We’ve prepared over the years for a team that’s still doing the same stuff and one personnel group and they came out and totally changed their whole game plan before the game. If you’re a player, you adapt. You’re built on concepts, you’re built on techniques, fundamentals and you play on your rules. Every game, any defense that you call out there is all based upon rules. All they are to us—and we tell the defense—the players are bodies out there. So the ability to adjust and play with that fast mentality, that’s what you have to be able to do. Looking back on it, Carolina had a great game plan and we didn’t play up to their level.”
As you prepare for Greg McElroy, what do you look at?
“You still have to attack him like he’s a veteran quarterback that’s been playing for years in the NFL. He’s a proven winner from Alabama, he had success in this league already his first year. The New York Jets believe in him, so it’s not going to put doubt into our eyes. Any given Sunday, you have to go out there and I tell our guys that just because a certain player is making his first career start it’s not going to change anything or to prepare differently. The thing that we have to do is play with 100 percent effort and really try and create different looks for him. Like any quarterback, you have to try and make him make bad decisions.”
Does it throw guys off for a quarter sometimes to get adjusted?
“Any time that you play someone that you haven’t seen or gotten a look at, I don’t look at it as an excuse. I think that we practiced against it all week. I think they (Carolina) did a great job going out there executing. They’ve been playing at a high level the last five games, they have explosive players and they have an offense with guys that create matchups. They went out and executed and we didn’t, bottom line.”
Is there anyone who you would like to see in the Pro Bowl?
“I would like to get all 11 of our guys out there with the vote. That would be something special. But Eric Weddle is still playing at that level. It’s been awesome just watching him go. Young players like Corey Liuget and the year he’s had, the things that he’s done, watching him grow and get better. You see the veteran linebackers, the same guys get nicked up here, but all four of those guys, Jarret (Johnson), Shaun (Phillips), Takeo (Spikes) and Donald Butler, were playing at some points at a high level. I would like to see all our guys out there if that’s possible.”
Why do you think that Corey Liuget is so much more disruptive this year?
“I think that it’s growth and truly understanding the game. Number two, I think that it’s the job coach (Don) Johnson does with the guys in the room. Put them in the position to make plays. That’s our job, that’s what we have to do and the one thing Don does is get those guys to understand. On game day, I call the plays and the players go out and execute. And they can make everything on that call sheet look wonderful or if one guy doesn’t execute as well as you would like him to on the play, it could have a negative effect on the play or the team. Corey is just getting better every day and it’s something that’s positive for our front with those young guys, the way Cam (Thomas) has responded the last couple of weeks of playing at a high level. There’s Kendall (Reyes) and how Vaughn (Martin) was coming along until he got hurt. You see the progress and you also have those veteran guys with Antonio (Garay) and Aubrayo (Franklin) who they learn from. It’s been good on the front with our d-line.”
Do you think Corey’s growth is physical or mental?
“Mental. I think that the unfair advantage Corey had was not having an offseason and being able to get in there. The best transition is from that freshman to sophomore year in the NFL and just the growth of being in the weight room and having the offseason, getting to those little things, the attention to detail things that he truly missed. For a lot of those guys, it wasn’t fair to come right in and be able to go. I think that he’s getting more mature and kind of like Kendall (Reyes), he gets better every day and they just soak it up like sponges.”
What do you want to see out of Brandon Taylor on Sunday?
“We have certain packages for him, because Corey Lynch was still going to be the guy in there with Brandon and different things that we do with a lot of the linebackers; the young linebackers that we have moving in and out of there. We have to be able to play Andrew Gachkar, Gary Guyton and have (Bront) Bird as a role-type player in those situations. You expect them to go and play at a high level and not make too many mistakes. The evaluation process is ongoing. Brandon Taylor is being evaluated like every other player in the NFL in the meeting room, when he walks out here for walk-through, when he’s out there on the practice field, when he’s doing reps for the scout team, when he’s running down in kicking games and any special teams’ moments. You like to see what he does when he runs plays, so I think that we have a pretty good evaluation of his run skills. Now we have to get some balls downfield to see how he’s going to play it live in the air.”
Have you talked to Ron Rivera about last Sunday’s game?
“I probably will at the end of the year. There’s only one guy that I talk to and that’s my brother. We’ve moved on from that. We’ve got the New York Jets and dealing with how we can get prepared for, which guys and which packages we have to get after.” Read