SCOTT PIOLI: “Even though there are compensatory picks still going on, we decided to come down because no trades can be made at this point in time so we decided to come down here and kind of do a wrap on our draft. This has been a grueling three days, but a very productive three days I think for this franchise. It’s the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of different people and we feel really good about the work that our crew did here -- beginning with scouting assistants, the scouts themselves, the area scouts, the regional scouts, our new scouting director Phil Emery, who did a tremendous job putting this together and organized a lot of information. Joel (Collier), the assistant general manager and all of the assistant coaches were involved in this process and obviously the head coach and myself. We enjoyed this process, and through this process, I think we came away with some really good results to this point and we’ll see how they manifest themselves moving forward.”
TODD HALEY: “I also would just like to thank all those scouts and coaches and all the people involved for their hard work because again, it is a lot of hard work, tedious [work], that I think everybody feels good about right now. Pretty quickly these rookies will be here, coming in this Thursday. We choose to do our first camp with just rookies and free agents, first-year guys to kind of give them a chance to get their feet under them, knowing that they’re well behind the veterans that have been in here really working hard for the last month and by the time they come back, they’ll be six weeks behind. Again, I’d just like to thank everybody and looking forward to getting started.”
Q: What’s your philosophy going into the draft, what is your game plan and did you accomplish what you set out to do?
PIOLI: “I think what you do, philosophically, is you try to improve your football team, you try to improve the competition of your football team, you try to improve your locker room and get better in any and every way that you possibly can. I think we accomplished as much as we could this year. We made significant progress this off-season, this draft, and there is a long way to go. We’ve accomplished quite a bit in terms of this part of the process. Now there’s a lot more work to be done.”
Q: You mentioned last night that you were looking to improve your team speed and you did that with those second-round guys last night. Were there other tangible qualities that you could point to about the team that maybe you guys improved?
PIOLI: “We’ve got good football players. Team speed has been improved. I think we’ve added smarter players, we added competitive players, physical, tough players and all those things that we added along with the speed improved the overall competitiveness. In the bigger picture, you mention the intangibles, we feel we improved a lot of things, but we improved this football team. We want to make sure it’s understood that we went out and got good football players here too.”
Q: You guys ended up taking three defensive backs. Was that a plan at the beginning of the draft to address the secondary or was it just how the board worked and what the value was at those certain picks?
HALEY: “What I feel like we did a real good job at is pre-draft and again, having had a year together now, all of us being comfortable and all thinking in the same direction, I think we did a good job of going into the draft with an idea of what was needed and we’ve both said a number of times, we have needs across the board. But I really feel we were clear as an organization of what we needed and they were addressed. You can’t address everything, but I feel like we came out of this feeling pretty good about filling some of the spots that needed it.”
PIOLI: “That question specifically, Todd and I talked about this upstairs, when we draft, it’s a combination of need and best players available. I think sometimes with the multitude of needs we feel that we entered this with, it was a matter of need meeting opportunity and best player available. It was a combination of those two things.”
Q: There was a lot of emphasis on character and leadership. You took a lot of team captains. What’s the value in that as far as how it relates to the ‘right 53’ and how much emphasis did you guys want to put on that in this draft?
HALEY: “Well, I think Scott just said it. You need good football players and above all else, we feel like we got good football players and along with those good football players, as I talked about on the first night, I think we found a nice mesh or mix of guys that are good football players that also have some other qualities that we’re pretty excited about. I think that’s why we feel really good about the way the weekend went.”
Q: Is that part of the foundation that you guys want to build to get more leaders than non-leaders in the locker room?
HALEY: “I don’t ever think you can ever have enough leaders and I don’t think our plan, as long as we’re here together, will change as far as the types of players we’re looking for. Again, I just really feel good about the way this weekend went and that we were able to find quality players that also have some other characteristics that we’re excited about. Me as the head coach, I’m really excited about some potential returners on this team. I know Coach Hoffman, our special teams coach, is as excited as I’ve seen him and I said, ‘We better not hear another word out of you.’ We got two of the better returners in the league and now he’s got to put them to good use. I know he’s already diagramming returns up on the board.”
Q: Did you purposely target captains and that kind of players? Did those characteristics put some guys over the top of others?
HALEY: “I think our process, and it has been a long and grueling process – fun for everyone involved, everybody that enjoys football – but it’s just all part of the process. As we evaluate these guys and how those guys are given value, some of those things are factored in and I don’t think it was something where we said we’re looking for captains. We were looking for good players that possess other positive characteristics.”
PIOLI: “It’s not like we have a check-box in terms of our needs positionally. I think the type of player that we’re looking for just so happens to generally be the type of person that could or would be a captain on a football team. I don’t think we say ‘Oh, this guy’s a captain; we’re going to give him a plus on this chart to make him go up.’ We went after good football players that had the right kind of makeup, generally we want competitive people that are tough, that are smart and I think big picture, those types of people end up having a greater chance or likelihood that they’ll be a captain. I don’t think this is a unique approach from the time that we’ve been here. If you look at the off-season, the type of players we signed through free agency, whether it was C Casey (Wiegmann), whether it was G Ryan (Lilja), some of the guys that we’ve brought in here have very similar traits – whether they were captains or not, I don’t think that specifically. This is not a new or unique way that we’re approaching our football team with the types of players that we’ve brought in here and are trying to make a part of this football team. Go back to last year’s off-season, bringing in guys like LB
Q: Can you talk about your plans for WR (Dexter) McCluster on offense?
HALEY: “He’s an exciting player. I think I mentioned it at the combine, ironically, talking about him specifically, when you talk about a player like Dexter, he’s got a unique skill set. He was one of the higher-rated running backs we had on the board and he was one of the higher-rated receivers we had on the board. I think when you have a guy, a unique player like that, the number one thing I think you gain or you have a chance to utilize is matchups or have work to your advantage is matchups because he’s a player that you can put in a number of different spots and pressure defenses in a sense. The good thing is we have another guy in RB
Q: Can you envision a situation where possibly McCluster, Charles and RB
HALEY: “Yeah. Again, you’ve got two unique skill sets in Jamaal and Dexter that could give you an opportunity to do some things like that and create some positive matchups for us.”
Q: Last year, you maybe have a lot of guys you were looking for some playing time for. Did you ever feel like there were times you had too many weapons, you had too many guys that you were looking for playing time for?
HALEY: “Last year? No, we just needed everybody playing a little better. I think the more guys you have with position flexibility so to speak, not always better, but I think when you’ve got talented guys that can do a number of things and again with our staff, I’m pretty excited about some of the things we can do.”
Q: Do you envision some Wildcat with
HALEY: I wouldn’t rule anything out. You’ve got a guy who’s handled the football, he did a good job in college of handling the football and it’s not something we really got into last year other than a couple of snaps, but we need to improve and I think we got a couple players on that side of the ball to help us do that.”
Q: He was a wide receiver that moved to running back and the Wildcat quarterback type of player. If he would have played wide receiver all of his years at Ole Miss that he would have gone higher strictly as a wide receiver?
HALEY: “I don’t know that I’d get into that. I don’t have the answer to that question. I do know that when it was all said and done here, he was one of our higher-rated receivers and one of our higher-rated running backs and that’s pretty exciting.”
Q: On the leadership, is that something the coaches just have to stand back and let it happen? Let the players assume leadership positions on the team?
HALEY: I think through experience you can guide, you can help guide but the player has to have the right attributes or qualities to even have discussions or kind of point somebody in that direction. I think over time, yeah, coaches have a way of kind of pushing guys towards those positions that they feel like can handle it and be effective.”
Q: Do you sense that these draft picks are guys that you can guide?
HALEY: “Again, I think that this group of players as a whole that we have in here, without going to fast because we can’t put any of these guys in Canton right now. They are already a month, going to be six weeks behind a bunch of players that have really been working hard and are making true progress that I don’t think there is any doubt about. These guys have their work cut out for them as it is just to get in here and figure out what to do because that is the number one thing they have to know is what to do. Then we will take it from there. These are guys that have been captains on their respective teams. So those are good signs as they go forward and get comfortable that they will have a chance to take charge on this team.”
Q: You talk about your list of needs going into the draft. Was finding at least one return guy on that list?
HALEY: “It was a must in my opinion. There are musts and there are needs and that was a must.”
Q: As far as Arenas goes, how much of a factor was his special teams talent in drafting him?
HALEY: “I think the guy is a heck of a competitor. Something that sticks in my head that was said by one of our scouts is he acts like it is the Super Bowl every day. And that is the way he plays. He stands out as somebody that is playing with a passion and competitiveness every single play. You hear people say it, but if you put that tape on of that kid and I think you would be pretty impressed with the intensity with which he plays every snap. For that reason, without the returner ability, we would be pretty excited about him.”
PIOLI: “And the position that he lines up in, I talked a little bit about this last night, playing in that slot, at the star position, not every corner that plays outside can move inside and play. He has a unique fit.”
Q: For him, was the return part of his game just icing on the cake?
PIOLI: “I think it is the total package. You can’t sit here and be hypothetical and wonder if he didn’t do this, would he have still gone here. You just go with what the reality is and the reality is he could do both and that is what made him as attractive as he was and is to us.”
HALEY: “In discussions about Arenas I remember clearly, there were other players that you talk about as you come up on each pick and one of the discussions is how many plays will he play? When you add in how much sub you expect to be in, which we are saying is over 50 percent, pushing towards 60 percent with the way the league is right now. Then you throw in special teams returns, you are talking about a guy that is going to be playing potentially 50 plays. Even if he is not a starter so to speak, he could be playing 50 to 60 plays.”
PIOLI: “This is an important part of the discussion that we had because the game has become specialized in a lot of ways where a lot teams are shuffling people on and off the field. Guys who can play three downs, a lot of defensive lineman are only two down players, you have some defensive players that are only one down players (third down specialist). The reality is, we studied this and most third corners on a team are now playing an upward 55 percent of the snaps a year. You look at our division and the number of times the other three teams throw the football, that takes on a little bit more because the first thing you want to do is win games in your division. We talk about what it takes to win games in our division, that position, having three corners that can play, you are looking at two and a half starting corners at least.”
Q: Can you talk about what you have accomplished today with your two picks?
PIOLI: “I think we continued to work on the makeup of the football team and I think we got better. We brought in a safety that I think is going to compete. Every single player that we drafted this year, we think has a chance to keep for a role on the football field, this year and or in the future. Both guys that we had today, DB Kendrick (Lewis) and LB (Cameron) Sheffield, both guys are good defensive players and will have roles. Sheffield was a starting defensive end for three years; we are going to play him at the outside linebacker position and he has pretty dynamic pass rush ability. He will also have a shot with his speed and size to play on fourth down in some places. The safety (Lewis) is another guy who will come in and compete for playing time on every down, all four downs. Just two more players that we think are good football players and have the right package for this football team.”
Q: What is your philosophy on drafting a guy and then switching him from his college position to another role?
PIOLI: “As Todd (Haley) mentioned earlier, in the case of McCluster, he did play wide receiver in college. He started when there was a coaching change and they just decided to put him at a different position because he was their most dynamic football player. Talking with him, they wanted to see how many times they could get the ball in his hands. So, moving him from receiver to running back and all the things that they were doing gave them more opportunity to get the football in his hands as being the best football player on their team. The fact that he did play receiver, in our minds this isn’t much of a position switch for him and like Todd said, when we looked at this player, we had him ranked amongst some of the top receivers for us as well as one of the top running backs. In the case of Cameron (Sheffield), this is something that is not really new. When you are a 3-4 defense, there are not a lot of teams playing the 3-4 defense that is played in the National Football League. A lot of these guys who are under-sized defensive ends who aren’t going to be able to make that transition are the people who are not playing in positions in the National Football League. LB Mike Vrabel was a defensive end in college for Ohio State. LB
Q: What have you done since the end of last year to address your run defense?
HALEY: “I think defense is a team game. Number one, we are developing the guys that we have here on campus and I think each and every one of those guys are working their backsides off trying to move up the ranks so to speak. Because they all know that is what is required to stay in this league and to be a good team in this league. That is number one is developing those guys that are here and I think we are all really excited about that process and where it is right now as we speak. And then adding the guys that we have on defense to the mix, we expect to have an impact on that because if you go back through our season, you can’t blame every big run that was ran on us on our defensive line. It is an 11-man defense in the truest sense of the word especially if you are talking 3-4 and how everybody has to fit. You can’t pin that on any one group. So anybody that was added on defense was added in effort to improve the defense as a whole and I think that is the bottom line.”
PIOLI: “And to follow up on that, I think one of the important points that Todd (Haley) makes is that player development is very important. We had a very young defense last year, young in numbers and spots. The bottom line is that there are a couple players here that we think are good football players that are relatively young that we think need to get better and continue to get better. We need to get better in developing them. I think another year or this year, I think one of our additions on defense quite honestly is the addition of Romeo Crennel, he is going to help us and help this defense get better. He is not lining up as one of the 11 on the football field but I think he is going to help our defense. The draft just ended and we’ve got how many months before the season opens? There is still time. Any opportunity we get to continue to improve the talent of the team, we are going to continue to improve.”
Q: Is June 1st still a big day for you?
PIOLI: “That doesn’t have any significance anymore. Without the salary cap, with league rules changing the way they did there is no real worry about acceleration this year. It has kind of been a little bit outdated.”
Q: When you were talking about your young defensive players that need to improve, who were you referring to?
PIOLI: “Young defensive players that need to improve.”
Q: Do you feel good about where your defensive line is at this point?
HALEY: “As Scott (Pioli) said, it is important that some of these young guys take another step forward for us. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. Like I said, it is at a point right now where we are all feeling pretty good about the direction we are going.”
Q: Did you want to address the offensive tackle as one of your needs?
HALEY: “No. I think offensive line in general was, again, as we went through that process of needs that we have to improve on, we have to improve in all areas and offensive line is one of those. I think the young lineman that we drafted (
Q: You guys didn’t gain much on hidden yardage last year did you?
HALEY: “We were good in some other areas, not directly as a return team that I think kept us in some games so to speak. But having a potential game changing returner would be a nice addition to this team. In general, we felt like we needed some difference makers and at least on paper and how we came out of this weekend, I think we are excited.”