How’s your personal evaluation of the younger guys under the new CBA?
“Very good. We like these young linebackers. We like the three young safeties and there are a couple young corners we like. Certainly the draft pick Corey White’s done a good job. We haven’t had the chance to do any hitting at all, any contact work, but it’s a good group, one of the best groups we’ve had.”
Is it harder to evaluate them while trying to avoid any form of contact?
“It’s different/ I wouldn’t say it’s harder. It’s definitely a little different in the fact that again you can’t have contact. But these guys have had great work and they’re teaching a lot of schemes, still getting a lot of fundamental technique work. So it’s been good, it’s just different.”
How challenging is it going to be to judge between John Kasay and Garrett Hartley? Both have done good work here. It’s obviously a competitive situation. How difficult is that competition and final decision going to be?
“Well look, any time you have competition it’s a really. really good thing so we’re going to put both of those guys out there, let them compete, and we’ll be in practice and certainly in the preseason games and then we’ll come to a consensus. But we really believe this is a really good problem to have because you’ve got two quality kickers and I think both guys would tell you about the competition they have, so we’re just going to have to do our due diligence and stay to the plan. Either pick I think is going to be good.”
There’s a history of defensive backs making the roster, especially on special teams. Can you talk about the undrafted safeties on the roster such as Jerico Nelson and Johnny Thomas?
“And Jose Gumbs. Those three undrafted rookies they definitely fit in. You can tell after a couple weeks of work, those guys fit in. So we tell our guys hey here’s (Isa) Abdul-Quddus. You just look at those guys and you know with every team in the National Football League you’re going to have an undrafted player. Pierre Thomas, his first touchdown was a blocked punt. So it’s the culture that we have, they understand that and they know that we’re only going to keep four maybe five safeties so they’ve got to find a way to make the roster.”
Is there one guy you want to see in training camp with pads on, everything, just to see him out there on special teams?
“I don’t think that’s fair though. I want to see all of them. It’s like whether I want to see my older son or my younger son. I want to see both of them and I want to see how they do under preseason conditions, and when the bullets are alive. And we just want to see who can run, who can play with leverage, and at the end of the day, who can make tackles. That’s key.”
What are you having Nick Toon do on special teams?
“You know, that’s a good question. And that happens a lot when you get to the National Football League. If you’re not the first, second or third receiver, and if you’re the fourth, you’ve got to have a role on special teams, so we’ve got to make sure that he’s (Toon) trained like a gunner, training him as a jammer, seeing if he can cover a kickoff like Courtney Roby. Those guys are trained and they understand that at this level, you’ve got to have value. And so your value needs to be, if you’re the fourth or fifth receiver, you play on special teams. So we’re training Nick.”
Would that be the same for like Joe Morgan? Because we know his speed as a returner. It seems like it’s that way with Roby too as he is always near the top of the team’s list for special teams tackles, but can return as well.
“We tell our guys hey it’s rare to have a guy who can be a punt returner, kick returner, and cover kicks so those guys are rare and Courtney’s a great example and so no different than Joe Morgan. Joe knows that he has to be versatile. Certainly he’s got values as a returner but he’s also got to be able to cover kicks and so our job as coaches is to put those guys in positions where we can teach them, train them, and then see if they can do it or not. That’s a key deal, because at the end of the day, we’ve got 53 guys on the roster, and 46 of them will be active on game day.”
Now we mentioned all of those receivers. One that has never had the opportunity for a significant role is Adrian Arrington. He’s been a practice squad player, been active on the back end, but does he realize too that it might take a contribution on special teams to solidify a roster spot?
“In fairness, a lot of times he’s gotten nicked up or if you look at the track record the past two or three years, he’s misses two or three preseason games with a hamstring or another injury. He’s just got to be healthy and to be available as do all of these players but he’s certainly (in the mix with) Joe Morgan, Adrian Arrington, Courtney Roby, (Nick) Toon, all those guys. You look at the numbers and keep five maybe six, so who’s the guy with the coverage (Abilities). Because those guys have value. It’s all over the league. So we just have to figure out who those guys are going to be, and to be fair to them we’ve got to rep them.”
Do you think Morgan could win the job as a returner or is Darren Sproles still the guy. Could he be a backup to Darren Sproles?
“I don’t know. Certainly we know what we have in Sproles, and Darren’s special so the guy’s got to be pretty darn good to return for us because we’ve got Sproles so they’re probably going to have to do a little more than just be a returner to be fair to the process.”
What makes Thomas Morstead invaluable or important to this team?
“Because he can kick touchbacks which is good. He’s kicked 68 (in 2011) which is an NFL record and he’s an elite punter. His strength is his ability certainly but his work ethic and his come early, stay late, get better (mentality) and he just feels like he’ll be better this year than last year. So he is a tremendous talent for us, and he’s a good warrior.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times