Defensive coordinator John Pagano
On the challenge of getting new linebackers ready this week:
“There are always those challenges, but the good thing is that you get a week to prepare for it, for one. Number two, it’s guys that have played in regular season games, guys that have played in preseason games, guys that have been here and then getting Gary (Guyton) up in the fold this week and trying to get him going up to speed as much as he can learn. We’re really focusing on these guys going out there and doing it as a committee, not so much counting on one guy.”
Do you expect that
“Yeah, we’re looking for all those guys to step up and get opportunities. One thing is that we don’t want to take away their ability and what they do on (special) teams and what they bring there. We’re looking to utilize those guys differently and utilize each guy. It’s not about having one guy in there, but different guys roll in those situations.”
On moving linebackers from position to position:
“We try not to move those guys. Those are more in-game types of positions. Each guy is prepared, but you would like each guy during the week to be able to keep the guys focused in on their spots. But in a game situation, you never know. There have been times here when you’ve seen Stephen Cooper back in the day line up at outside linebacker. That could be because of the situation. So you always have those guys preparing for the role. They’re all in the meeting together, so for a linebacking corps to understand what the other guys are doing, that all comes with coaching and with the job coach (Joe) Barry is doing with those guys.”
Are you doing anything different to prepare for Cam Newton?
“We’re really focusing in on the fact that he’s such a playmaker on his feet. Not only his ability to throw the ball so well, because these last four games have really shown his talent level. His quarterback rating has gone up tremendously, especially in the last three games. I believe he had 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s really playing at a high level. It’s not only going to be a big challenge for us like last week getting him on the ground, but really being gap-sound and making sure he doesn’t sneak out of the pocket.”
“You’re just prepping all those guys who were in the backup role for those guys. You just keep preparing them. We don’t blink and there’s no stopping to what we want to do or what we want to focus in on. The next guy has got to step up. I’m not necessarily worried about it. I’m more confident each week because these guys not only played last week, but it’s their ability to practice during the week. That’s the key. The unfortunate thing that you don’t want is something to happen during games where you have to throw guys in that truly didn’t get the reps. I’m excited about it to tell you the truth.”
How do you make Cam Newton a one-dimensional quarterback?
“The biggest key is probably stopping the run and really focusing in on that. It’s also the ability to make him throw when he’s in those throwing situations. Their offense, Chud (Rob Chudzinski) does a really great job of really mixing it up and keeping defenses off-balance to where you think it’s going to be a pass when it’s going to be a run and when it’s a run, it’s a pass. You really have to focus in on those things to try and make him one-dimensional. It’s tough when your quarterback is a two-dimensional player that can run and throw it. So it’s a big challenge for our guys this week in terms of being gap-sound and understanding what we have to do.”
Will we see a lot of stacked boxes because of that?
“We’re going to play how we play. If it’s not more or less putting eight in the box in those situations, I would think that we’re just going to go play sound with sound technique and fundamentals. The number one thing I ask of these guys when they step on the field is to play with effort. We’re going to need tremendous effort against this offensive unit this week.”
Did Ron Rivera shape your philosophy at all being a defensive coordinator and if so, how?
“Yeah, I think that any time you work for a coordinator there are certain things that you get from them. I worked well with Ron. Ron is highly intelligent in the defensive end. I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot from Wade (Phillips) and a lot from all the guys I’ve worked under. But just his game day composure, number one, I learned a lot from him on that and really staying the course, keeping the guys focused in on what they need to focus in on.”
On the improvement of the younger players:
“The big thing is to just keep improving. This is another week for opportunity and we’re all about opportunity, going out there and being able to make plays and getting these guys to focus in, because this is such a big-play offense from their average of runs to catches. We have to do a great job of keeping those big plays to a minimum.”
What kind of strides have you seen from
“He’s getting into a great rhythm. He’s been playing really well and he’s growing into it. It’s something nice to see. He’s been focused and he’s been working his tail off not only in the meeting rooms, but out here at practice. And you see those things really pay off. The thing is that you want to see him keep improving and all those guys in the back end are getting better each week. It’s something that we can focus on.”
Have you seen anything in his game specifically where he’s made strides?
“I would say his overall game. Number one is his ability to cover and his cover ability keeps getting better and better each week. Another is tackling, getting up in there and being aggressive with wide receivers over the last few weeks and the guys we’ve faced. He’s doing a great job with that. We have calls where we change it up. There are certain times you’re going to be off in the coverage and there’s certain times when we want you up there being aggressive. And right now he does a great job of mixing it up. It gets mixed by the call and it gets mixed by the player. The number one thing he’s being doing a great job of is studying those guys during the week and getting those little tips and things to see so he can go out there and play fast. Number one thing we have to do this week is play fast.”
Is it going to be tough with the Carolina offense and their tendency to confuse defensive ends?
“Last year we faced Denver with their zone-read option scheme and it’s something that we work on in training camp. We have drills on it and it’s something that we do in the OTA’s, getting the Wildcat looks. But it’s not the Wildcat, it’s a drop-back quarterback that has the ability to run. It’s not like, ‘hey, here’s your running back going in.’ That possibility is on all downs and it’s something that our guys are really focused in on. You have to be sound in your option game of football.”
How much of Cason’s improvement has been just gaining his confidence back?
“I think that it’s confidence with any player. It builds. Once you get that confidence going, there’s a lot you can do. But it’s the confidence in the 11 that are out there. Sometimes you don’t need that one difference-maker, you need 11 guys making a difference. When they’re all playing with confidence, communicating and understanding how it’s attacking you, you’re going to play with a higher level. I think our coaches, with coach (Ron) Meeks, coach (Don) Johnson and coach (Joe) Barry, they’re focusing these guys on what they need to focus in on, react and go play fast. And that’s what he’s doing.”
Who’s the unsung hero on your defense?
“I would say all the men who are in that room. Each guy has a certain role and a certain thing, from the leadership of Takeo (Spikes), Jarret (Johnson) and the leadership of
What are your thoughts on
“He’s still growing and still learning. He eats it up every day. You don’t look at him as a rookie. He still makes rookie mistakes, trust me, but he’s somebody who’s growing and if a mistake does happen, he’s one to really correct himself. He’s right there on the sideline to tell you that it was his fault and what he needs to do better in that situation. I think that he’s starting to truly understand his role in the game and it’s building him to keep growing. The more he plays, the better he’s going to be. There’s a lot of improvement with him, but I like what I see so far.”
On showing his emotions on the sidelines during a game:
“I got a lot of text messages about some dance move I was doing (in Pittsbugh). When you’re on the sideline for three hours there’s that energy, emotion and I just get really excited down there. I tell guys not to listen to everything I’m saying down there sometimes because I have a tendency to go a little crazy. When you see them make those types of plays on the road and getting a fourth-down stop like that, I’m going to show my emotion. That’s something that they know I’m about. I get emotional at times, but it was fun.”