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Monday thoughts: Norv Turner

Posted Sep 20, 2010

The Chargers head coach discusses San Diego's powerful defense, improved coverage units, Mike Tolbert's ability at running back and more.

The first thing that stood out to me was our crowd.  The fans were completely into the game. With the style of defense we’re trying to play, it even adds to the atmosphere of the game. We end up with six takeaways. I think those were earned takeaways. Sometimes you get lucky and a team is sloppy with the ball. Most of the takeaways were our guys making a play. Certainly the ones where we were able to hit the quarterback as he’s throwing and the ball goes up in the air. Cason made a great play on the deep ball interception, had great coverage, then went after the ball when he realized that he could go get it. Played over the top of the man and went and got the ball. Had a great strip on another play. Applewhite had a great strip. The energy of the stadium obviously adds to what we’re doing defensively. Teams have a tough time with crowd noise whether it’s the false starts or it’s the protection, not being able to get out of your stance quite as quickly as you would, it certainly helps. And our guys took advantage of it. I thought Cason was outstanding. Obviously the production was great but his play was consistent throughout the game. Kevin Burnett had an outstanding game on defense. Brandon Siler, we went through this a year ago where we had a lot of guys miss and we plugged different people in at different times. Well Brandon Siler steps in at the Mike linebacker and really played well without Coop being in there, so that was important, and Jacques Cesaire had an outstanding game on the defensive line. Offensively, Kris Dielman was really good. I mean really good in the run and the pass. Sometimes Kris, he’s such a physical player, he will go after guys in pass protection but he was very disciplined and did a great job with the protection. He and Brandyn worked awfully well over there on that side together. Obviously Tolbert and Sproles, they gave us a nice one-two punch after Ryan couldn’t play. And Gates, he just keeps getting open, and Philip has a great feel for getting him the football. I thought we got a lot better on our coverage teams. We obviously have work to do in areas in the kicking game. There’s some things on each side of the ball we focused on this morning that we want to get better at. We feel we can get a lot better in some specific areas and that’ll be the emphasis this week as we get ready for Seattle.

On Antoine Cason’s statement that he baited the QB on his deep interception:

I’m not all that sure about that. Don’t believe everything you hear. He was in great position and he went after the ball. I hope he’s not trying to bait too many guys.

On his thoughts on corners trying to bait NFL QBs?

I don’t know that that’s a wise thing to do in this league. There’s some guys that can throw the ball awfully well.

How’s Ryan Mathews?

He’s sore. He wanted to go back in the game in the second half. I didn’t think it was appropriate because I didn’t want it to turn into a longer injury. Our next report will be Wednesday and we’ll update you there. The thing about Ryan, he was off to a great start. He had seven touches, he had 57 yards. He came out of the backfield on a couple passes. Obviously one was where he fumbled the football but he was running the ball well and he was off to what was going to be a very big day. I think he was more relaxed than he was a week ago. We have some work to do with him taking care of the football. On that particular play, I’m still not sure it was a fumble or not a fumble, but I do know when you’re young guys go after you and they want to pull the ball away from you. There’s an extra effort when you have a young back in terms of the defensive guys trying to get the ball out and he just has to continue to work to protect it.

Are you concerned with the fumbles?

Like I am with every other guy. Everyone says it’s a young guy, well some of it is a young guy, but Jacksonville has some pretty good backs and they got the ball knocked out. This league is about stripping the ball. Our guys did a great job. We’ve worked hard on it in camp. You’ve just got to expect it’s going to happen and he’s got to take care of the ball. He went through training camp and was great taking care of the ball. He just relaxed at the end of the play and I think he thought he was down. But as I told him, you’re not down until you hand the ball to the ref of you get up and start walking back to the huddle and then put the ball down.

Is he down on himself?

He’s gotten off to a good start for me. I’m excited about what he’s doing. We were smiling this morning and talking about the things that he needs to do and he’s a sharp guy. He gets it. He’s not going to get down on himself. He’s got great confidence.

On Brandyn Dombrowski’s play

You talk to the position coaches and they’d get into all this technique stuff. I tend to evaluate it pretty simply. His guy doesn’t get close to the quarterback or his guy doesn’t touch the quarterback. That’s what it’s all about to me in protection, and his guy has not gotten close to the quarterback. That’s a good thing. They have a very good pass rusher. Kampman is a very good rusher. I think they felt they could take advantage of that situation and it obviously worked to our advantage. He’s a very good run blocker. He’s a 325-pound man. He’s very physical. He’s very aggressive. I can just see his confidence growing right now because he’s having success and I think each quarter he plays in a more physical manner in the run game, and with he and Dielman over there, there’s two very big, strong and physical guys coming after you when we run the ball left.

What is Darrell Stuckey not ready to do?

I think he’s ready. I really do. The time he missed hurt him. We’re on a crash course to keep getting him up to speed. Guys that are playing in there are playing at a real high level and playing well. There will come a time when we need him to play and we’re going to make sure with all our young guys we spend extra time with them. They come in and lift and run today, but with those young guys, we’re going to do some work on the field with them whether it be Monday or Tuesday and get some extra work so when he is asked to play he’s continued to make progress and not taken a step back, but I thought he had a great week of practice last week.

What about Cam Thomas?

I’d say exactly the same thing. He’s going to bring a physical presence when he gets a chance to play in there, but Garay is playing awfully well, (Nwagbuo) is playing awfully well. Jacques is going to get a game ball. He had a heck of a game. We’re fortunate to have those young guys right now and not need them. I know there’s going to come a time where we need them and I think they’ll be ready to help us when we do.

On the plan for all three RBs

I’ll go back to what I started talking about in May and what I talked about all through August. We have a plan to use all three of those guys. They all have different strengths. That was one of the great things to me with Tolbert and knowing that we were going to play him more as a runner that we didn’t have to put all the burden on Ryan. I’m anxious. I’m excited to get to a game where Ryan gets 25 touches because I think he’s going to make some big things happen, but to be in the position we were yesterday and have Tolbert go in and get 18 carries and have the production he had, it was outstanding.

Do you see Tolbert getting more carries at the goal line?

I like both of them at the goal line a lot. You get down in there and things get real tight. Obviously Mike’s a little bit bigger and he’s had more experience with our goal line runs, but I see them both playing at the goal line.

On the difference at the goal line between the first two weeks

There’s two different games. You’re in one game where you’re in a two-minute mode and you’re moving the ball and you’ve got a team that is going to match up and play your personnel groups. We threw two touchdown passes in the red zone  this week, and we missed two opportunities at the end of the game to throw touchdown passes against Kansas City.

On tipped passes for INTs

They’re always a concern. Philip either needed to make it right as he started to slide into the pocket or then he needed to just abort it and take off and go. He turned to throw it back across his body and he threw it high. That ball wasn’t catchable. And I’ve seen Gates make that catch that tipped off his hand but it was a high throw and it’s a throw that I’m sure Philip would’ve liked to have gotten down a little bit and given him a chance because it’s going to be a touchdown.

On if Rivers throws the ball higher because of big WRs

I’ve been fortunate to be around big receivers. I think quarterbacks understand that and have a feel for when they need to throw it away from the defender. Philip does a great job of getting the ball up so they can use their size, use their height. It shows up with Malcom a lot, obviously, and he’s got a good feel for that.

On why he didn’t challenge the INT on the pass that Gates tipped

We talked a lot about it and our guys thought both feet were in. The question on it was did he have control, and I think I would agree with you. The replay that we saw after they ran about two plays indicated that. We had a tough time getting replays during the game and we did not get that look until after the fact.

What attributes to not getting replays?

A lot of it is how many cameras they have at the game. Obviously different games have different amounts of coverage, so it’s the different angles you get.

Would you like to see the Calvin Johnson rule tweaked a little bit?

Yeah, I would. That’s something that will be talked about I’m sure next March. The intention of the rule is good. What we always say, when you’ve got 30 guys sitting in a room watching a game and 30 say that’s a touchdown, they should probably adjust the rule so it makes it a touchdown.

On Pete Carroll

Pete’s obviously an outstanding coach. We just started looking at Seattle in the last couple hours. They’re playing hard. They’re defending the run extremely well. They’re very good offensively on third down. They’re at a 56 percent conversion rate. They have a veteran quarterback. And they’ve got a lot of players who have had success. We know just like we talked about going into Seattle, going on the road, the crowd noise, there’s a lot of things we’ll have to deal with to get ready.

Should the NFL tweak its blackout policy?

You guys are going heavy on me today. (Laughter) I think most of the things about our league are pretty sound. I think the blackout policy is there for a reason. I like our stadium when it’s full and I’m anxious to have it full again so there is no blackout.

On if he studies what Carroll did at USC or if it doesn’t translate to the pro game

You look at the coaches he’s hired and you look at what they’ve done and where they’ve been. Offensively I think we have a pretty good feel for the style they want to do. Defensively, Pete’s been an outstanding defensive coach for a long time, so there’s things that you know he’s going to bring to their system. Whether it’s identical to what they did at USC, I’m sure there’s going to be some similarities. This isn’t the opening game. Now we have two games on tape that count, so we’ll get a pretty good handle on what they want to do.

On Carroll’s defensive style

Pete’s always been very aggressive. Multiple. Their guys are going to play extremely hard. They’re going to be extremely fast. They’ve always been multiple in terms of things they present for you. And his defense has always played real well.

On handling the crowd noise

It’s not Philip Rivers. When we have a problem it’s a team problem. Having been in that circumstance (at Kansas City) and that experience will help us prepare for this one.

Is your defense ahead of where you thought it would be?

Our defense is doing exactly what I envisioned when we started talking about the things we wanted to do better in mid-February and March. We want to be sound in what we do and you always start with that, and we want to be able to hit the quarterback. We want to pressure the quarterback. There’s some things we need to do better. We did a great job getting people in third-and-long and we’ve got to take advantage of that. They converted too many third downs in the fourth quarter. That’s why they had the yardage they had in the fourth quarter. We can do a better job when we get people third-and-12 plus. The league average in converting those is right around 20 percent. It’s not very high. It’s hard to convert a play over third-and-12, so we’ve got to take advantage of those situations.

On the AFC West being 1-1 or better across the division

I’ve always perceived it as a tough division and I don’t know which division in the league isn’t tough. When you go play the same teams twice a year and you play the same personnel four or five years in a row, you get to know a lot about each other and it makes it very, very, very competitive. I think all three of the teams in our division have gotten better. They’ve all been drafting in the top 10 over the last three or four years, and you draft good football players (there). And we know this is about having good football players.

On Mike Tolbert becoming a more prominent back

He’s such a good football player. He always told us when we put him at fullback. ‘I can run the ball.’ He always said that. And then last year I think through the season when we gave him opportunities to run the ball we just felt that he would give us a good changeup back. Changeup can be 18 carries, but he can give us that big, physical guy. Kind of the Michael Turner type deal. He was very productive (last year). We looked at it and we said, ‘We’ve got Jacob (Hester) to play fullback. Michael can still play fullback. We can use him more as a runner and let’s see how it goes,’ and he’s handled it extremely well.

On special teams overall and the blocked punt

I thought we made dramatic improvement in the kicking game. We had a bad play on the punt team and we’ve got to fix it. We can’t continue to have negative plays that give the other team great field position. Fortunately, one of the best things we did defensively is we gave Jacksonville great field position with turnovers and with a blocked punt and defensively our guys did a great job of basically letting them get nothing out of it. We have a lot of work to do in the kicking game and all other areas, and our guys understand my approach. I don’t care how many yards we ran for and how many yards we threw for, how many sacks or pressures we had. We can get a lot better, and we can get a lot better in all areas, plus there’s some areas we need to get better right now. One of the areas would be the kicking game. I thought our coverage teams improved dramatically.

Do you think Seattle is trying to get a little insight out of Charlie Whitehurst?

I know they will. They probably did this spring and I know there’s things they probably talked to him about. Whenever anyone goes from our place somewhere else they always want to know how we get the ball up the field so much. How we throw the ball. Even though some people don’t realize it or appreciate it, we throw the ball up the field more than most teams in the league. That’s why we’re always in the top two or three on average yards per attempt and average yards per completion. That’s a style that we’re going to continue to have, so people always ask that, but I’m sure they want to know about particular players and the people they think they might get an edge with. Sometimes that helps you and sometimes it hurts you.

On Tolbert’s dance moves

He likes those little dances he does. And unfortunately every once in a while he’ll show it to us in a meeting or in the training room too, so we get to see enough of it.

On the punt block and if the snap by Ryan Neill contributed

It was an outstanding snap. I’m very impressed with Ryan. We had one guy that was just out of position and didn’t execute the block the way he needed to. I think he got juked right at the line and he let his guy come around the edge.

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