HALEY: “Well, he had to get looks because he missed a bunch of time. It was good that he got out there. I am encouraged about him because number one, when he wasn’t out there he was paying attention because he was able to come in and understand what was going on and what he was supposed to do. The coaches did a good job of keeping him up because that is hard for players when they are not actually doing it, to just be seeing it, and then come out and be able to get through the practice in a positive manner. That is tough to do but he was able to get out there and make some progress. A tight end, another guy without pads that is hard to judge other than he looks like he has a pretty good feel, can find his way open and is not afraid to catch the ball so he is moving in the right direction.”
Q: What have you seen from the LBs that encourage you about that position?
HALEY: “I’m encouraged about the position. Number one, I think last year that was clearly to me one of the hardest-working groups as the year progressed. You could count on those guys that every day after practice, that middle group as we call them, they bust their butts. That encouraged me. They made progress throughout the year and they have come into the off-season and turned it up another level it appears to me. I think a lot of that is competition, trying to create competition across the board and that is a spot that between some of the young guys, they are thinking they can play and try to take the next step. Some of the new guys that came in were able to create a little bit of competition in a couple different ways. Whenever you have competition, if you have competitive guys usually you will see some response, a positive response. It just looks like with that group that is the type of guys they are which is encouraging.”
Q: What would you still like to see out of the LBs?
HALEY: “We are talking about a lot of different things. We need to do a better job across the board of playing the run and knowing where we fit in the defense. A lot of what the linebackers are able to do is predicated on what happens up front so those guys are tied into the mix. The front three have to be doing what they are supposed to do to give the linebackers a fair chance. We all have to understand where each and every person fits in the defense. Say for example LB
Q: Is there anyone in that linebacker group that stands out to you?
HALEY: “There are a bunch of guys that I feel good that they are going in the right direction.
Q: The linebacker position doesn’t seem like there is a lot of room for error. Is that one of those positions you are putting more weight on?
HALEY: “There are multiple positions that we need things to go right because you can’t fix everything with outside variables. You have to develop and guys have to get better. Those are not the only positions (that need to get better) because when you are a four win team, it is everywhere. We are looking, we are evaluating our team and everybody else’s and if there is something that occurs that we feel can improve us in any area, we are doing it and we have to do it.”
Q: You had said the success of the linebackers is also predicated on the defensive line. How is their progress coming along?
HALEY: “There is no doubt about it. If you just evaluate the linebackers it is easy to pick on them but there are a lot of plays that if the guy in front of them isn’t doing exactly what they are supposed to do, they put the linebacker in a position where they can’t succeed or has very little chance to succeed. The defensive line, every one of them is working hard. I am saving judgment until we get pads on and start going. It appears they know what to do, they are lifting, they are working and they are trying to get their bodies ready for the battle they are going to have to endure at that position which is unlike any other. You have to have the right mentality at that position to even have a chance but I will save anything on them until we actually start hitting.”
Q: Does that mean you are not that impressed with them right now?
HALEY: “Oh no, not at all. Don’t take it like that. Like I said, they are all working, but it is the same as I will say about the O-Line, you are just playing games if you talk about it a whole bunch. All I can say is that the guys seem to be learning and understanding what they are supposed to do. Until the pads go on, it is really just wasting time.”
Q: Watching you at practice you seem a little more laid back. Are you taking a more hands off approach this year?
HALEY: “I would never say hands off. That is your words. I think I better be hands on and I better have an idea of what is going on in most areas. I would say more maybe to the comfort that we are operating efficiently and I think that is for a lot of different reasons, none more important than experience of each other and that dynamic that goes on with a coaching staff. It is hands on though. They probably get tired of me coming up and down the hallway, on defense too. I know that I am wearing (Romeo Crennel) out. My job as a head coach now, which is what I was hired here to be, is to make sure that everything is being done the way that I as the head coach believe it has to be done to give us the best chance to succeed so that is what I am doing all the time.”
Q: You guys gave up a lot of big plays last season. What were the causes?
HALEY: “Mis-fits more than anything else. Someone getting out of position and one weakness in that gap control, it is hard to recover from and it takes someone with special ability to maybe save the day. That is all we are trying to do is play sound defense across the board know that our number one goal is we have to stop the run. Part of that is not allowing big plays but there are a lot of different reasons. I would say fits and then someone else not able to make up for that error. Everyone has a gap and everyone has a responsibility, that is defense. In some of the 3-4 stuff it almost gets magnified a little more.”
Q: Is it possible to design defense where you guy doesn’t have to stay put in the 3-4?
HALEY: “Then there would be some other issue with that defense where you have a little umbrella. That would be nice, but I think that is life in the big city. The advantages you gain out of playing this particular defense come in other areas in my opinion as someone who had to game plan against it a bunch over the years.”