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John Pagano: They’re still going out there and playing hard

Posted Dec 27, 2012

John Pagano talks with the media after Thursday's practice.

Defensive Coordinator John Pagano


Will you be looking to take advantage of the possibility of an inexperienced quarterback this Sunday?

“Yeah, when you look at some of the things that they do, the big question mark is whether it’s going to be (Matt) Leinart or (Terrelle) Pryor. The effort that we got from our guys last week—not only with our pressures, but with our forward rush scheme, the tremendous rush of the four guys we kept throwing at them—it gave us big advantage. It allows us to play in drop coverage. So say that we have a similar effect this week, I think that every week is probably the same looking at a guy who’s a veteran or a guy who’s making his first start. We prepare for both and keep preparing for what Oakland does, which is that they’re very explosive in the run game and they have receivers and a tight end that can go change the game. It’s always a big challenge for us any time that you play a division opponent. And you play them again because of the things that you didn’t want to do last time or the new things that you want to do this time. It keeps you balanced.”

Is it frustrating to see your concepts and things now taking shape toward the end of the season?

“You’re still building and you see the guys still improving. You see a guy like Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes, those guys up front with Cam Thomas, just that youth and them really getting better. You’d always want to keep going, but that’s why they have the opportunity for you not to make those slip-ups in the middle of the year and get those ones that you need so you can get hot at the right moment and take it into the playoffs. It’s something that these guys are building on, the young players and the veterans. They’re still going out there and playing hard and with the mindset that we need to finish with.”

What’s the team’s mindset after their performance last week?

“That’s the men in that room, defensively. That’s been their mindset all year. It’s been their mindset since we started in OTA’s. They want to go out and out-execute an offense. They want to beat you with effort. They want to beat you by hustling to the football and they bring a physical mentality to their game. It’s something that they try and do week-in and week-out and it shows. The good thing about these guys is that there’s never a doubt in their mind how they’re going to play. They’re always going to show up on Sunday and they’re going to give you their all.”

Has Jonas Mouton just been a victim of numbers this season in not getting an opportunity?

“You get that numbers standpoint of when guys are available or when guys aren’t, certain situations on special teams or to be in the defense. He’s got to go out there and keep improving and keep showing. The transition from college to the NFL, there’s always that growth period where certain guys pick it up faster than other guys. He’s out there working every day. When you play a mike linebacker position and you look at our mikes over the years, certain guys in certain situations, they’re going to get into the games, even when Randall Godfrey and those players were here before. Numbers-wise, having the outside backers that we did, having the inside players with their role on special teams, it really goes hand in hand. Like any young player in the NFL, the first way that you’re going to make it onto the field is playing on (special) teams. That’s something that he needs to go out there and keep excelling on.”

When you’re a second-round draft pick and you’re late into your second NFL season, shouldn’t you be contributing at that point?

“Yeah, he’s getting better. The hardest thing a head coach has in the NFL is that active 45-man roster where certain numbers always come into play. There were times when we were getting ready to tell a guy in the locker room that he’s up then all of a sudden he’s down because of a certain mishap, a situation, hamstring or something in practice. Losing our defensive lineman before our game in Pittsburgh, those are those things that always come up. The numbers don’t just rely on the defense or the linebackers room, those numbers could be elsewhere. It’s something that if you’re really going to pick it up, you’ve got to go out there and play better than the man that’s in front of you on teams. That’s something that he still works hard at. Having a year like last year, that’s not getting that. So you always look at it like a young player being in his rookie year all over again.”

How tough was it to see Brandon Taylor get hurt?

“It’s so unfortunate for someone who’s worked that hard all year and who’s starting to get his opportunity between him and Corey Lynch from base to sub. It’s one of those unfortunate deals. He’s going to come back even stronger from this deal and he’s got the mindset of a guy who can handle it. It was an unfortunate accident, but this was one of those games where things like that happen.”

Do you know if Brandon Taylor’s injury was an ACL?

“I have no idea. I know that it’s a knee.”

What is the mindset of the defense on the practice field this week?

“Excellent. They come out from meetings focused, calling out plays, understanding formations and understanding the plan that we’re putting in. You see it in the way that they run around really trying to make plays. It’s something that we start the day off with in our first period, making sure that we get all 11 guys around the football and get them going right from the start. We start calling things to really get them going. Their work ethic and their mindset all year has been incredible. It’s been nothing but positive.”

How did you feel about the play of Melvin Ingram in the last game?

“We talk to these players all the time and you don’t know which game it’s going to be for them, which one is going to give them that breakout-type performance. He’s been working hard and working even harder, pressing hard, maybe pressing too much in waiting to go out and make a play. He’s had his opportunities and he’s been close. It’s exciting to see him and once someone like Melvin and Kendall (Reyes) has a game like they had last week, it’s a performance that they can build on and keep building on what they want to do in the future on defense.”

What kind of impact has Corey Lynch had on this defense?

“We’re always looking for that one player that can go in and play each safety spot to where you can line up and make the calls. Last week he had the opportunity to take a little bit off his plate to get Brandon (Taylor) going in some reps, some situations in base to where they were rolling. Corey just doesn’t say one word, he just keeps working and stays at it. He made a great play on the ball in the air and played it just like it was drawn up. He went out and executed it just how it needed to be. You see a guy like that and it’s a positive for your defense when they go out and have a good game, understand their role and just work.”

On Corey Lynch’s positive attitude and accepting the fact that a rookie got the start over him:

“I don’t see it as much as being a start because if they would have come out in 11-personnel, Corey was starting the game. From OTA’s and day one, we give guys certain packages to start getting them involved. We’ve always done that since I’ve been here like Brandon Siler playing at goal-line. He understood goal-line like the back of his hand—not to say he didn’t come in and play inside backer for us—but you give those guys certain roles and let them go. Donald Butler, everyone complained two years ago about why had him playing in sub and why we were only playing him in base. It’s something where he can grow and learn the game and understand it. Some of those guys, you give them a little package here and there, not giving it all to them at once and you let them grow in that situation. That’s what we wanted to do, but getting back to Corey, he just does his job and doesn’t say anything. He just shows up to work every day.”

What has been the most surprising thing for you in your first year as defensive coordinator?

“That it’s fun. I had a blast with this year with these guys, just being able to present with our coaching staff, being able to give them a plan and letting them go out and execute it. Like I’ve always said, our job as coaches is to put them in a position to make plays and it’s not the call. They’re the ones who make it happen and make the magic. It’s been fun. I’ve learned a lot from week one until now. Like a player out there, you learn something new every day and you always keep that mind open to keep growing in this profession. That’s how you always want to be with it.”

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