Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, 8.1
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Brian Costello, New York Post: How do you feel this first five days have gone?
It’s gone well. This group, defensively, collectively, they’re fun to coach because you have a group of guys who love this game, who are obsessed, who are willing to work, they want to be challenged, they want to be pushed, they want to be developed. So, from that standpoint, it’s been really fun.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: You have a lot of big pieces in the secondary. So, how do you feel all those pieces are fitting together right now?
Good. It’s still a process, obviously. Some of these concepts are still new to some of these guys back there, but they’re coming along. But like I spoke on before, if there’s a group that’s going to get it from a schematic standpoint, it’s this group because they’re so into it and they work so hard at it and they spend so much extra time on it.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How has Kwon (Alexander) fit in these first couple days here?
He’s awesome. He’s got this infectious energy about himself. He’s got an edge to him. He’s got the ability to elevate people around him. So, to get that type of person in the building is awesome. It will make us better in practice. It’ll make us better in meetings. It will make us ultimately better on Sundays.
Connor Hughes, SNY: I know it’s still early, but when you guys worked him out originally, I guess if you were watching him at all when he was specifically on the field, do you see the same player he was pre-injury compared to post?
You still see the foot quickness, the explosion, the anticipation. He’s a very instinctual player. Because of that, you don’t see a potential loss in step that older players may have or injured players may have, you don’t see it because he’s ahead of the offense a little bit. From that standpoint, he looks good physically. It looks like he’s in shape and ready to roll.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: You’ve talked about his demeanor, his energy, and so forth. Do you think that was missing on defense? Do you think you needed a guy like that?
I don’t know if it was necessarily missing, but it’s always good to add that. The more guys that you have like that, the better. I always say — I don’t know if I can say this, Jared is going to get mad at me — it’s like coke is really good, coke with a little something in it is better. You know what I’m saying? You know what I’m talking about. He’s the addition to our coke sometimes.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: What’s the significance of you guys having continuity of the coaching staff here for a second year with the players that have been here from last year, knowing what you guys expect and what the standard is and what not? How much can that help you guys going forward this year? Are you already seeing elements to that in camp?
It’s huge. The more years, consecutive years, you can be in any system. Defensively, guys stop thinking about alignment. Guys stop thinking about technique. It becomes unconscious competence, and they just play fast. The more years that we can get in a system, the better. That goes back to the fact that, although it is the second year for probably the front seven for the most part, the back end this is really year one. So, we’re trying to put them in hyperdrive and get them going.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How has Carl (Lawson) looked so far?
He’s looked good. You could tell the first couple days as anybody who’d missed a full year, you could tell he was kind of feeling it out. But, I think it was the last day of the first block, it was like, ‘There’s Carl, he’s back.’ He was feeling it out. I don’t know if it was a health thing or the timing of his hands and his feet, but definitely that last day of the block started to come on, and he’ll continue to come on. He’s a guy you absolutely don’t worry about from that standpoint because you know he’s going to do whatever it takes to get right.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: What’s your respect level for Vinny Curry and what he went through last year and what he brings to you guys?
He’s another one that talking about Kwon, he’s another guy that brings edge, personality, infectious energy, all that stuff. Plus, he provides this unbelievable model of what a pro looks like from a day-to-day standpoint. The way he meets, walkthrough — he’s just an absolute pro. He does everything at a professional level. He is as detailed as it gets, and he’s the most consistent person I’ve seen from a personality standpoint. He has this juice and energy. You see guys who have peaks and valleys regarding that. He is the same guy every single day. He absolutely brings something that we need on this defense.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: How much did you guys talk last year when he was going through those issues and are you surprised that he’s back?
I’m not surprised he’s back just because he’s a guy who loves this game so much, and he’s going to do whatever it took to get back to it. Last year, I know was a struggle for him. You can imagine that, played football since he’s probably eight years old, and this is the first year he’s missed completely. So, it was hard on his heart, hard on his soul. A guy that loves it and is so passionate about it. It was like losing an appendage. To get him back and to see him working and the way he operates form day to day is awesome.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: When we asked Robert (Saleh) last week about Sauce (Gardner) last week, he said he was curious to see how he would be with pads on. I know it’s only one practice, obviously. What did you see and what do you hope to see now that he’s got pads on and some of the challenges he’ll face in the transition?
Honestly, maybe I have less questions regarding that. He’s a guy that has this innate toughness to him. He’s got this obsession with this game and doing it right. He’s a very interesting young player because most young players are fighting for a roster spot. They’re fighting to potentially start. I don’t think that’s his mindset. I think his mindset is, ‘I’m going to be the best in this game.’ Not saying he’ll get there this year, next, whatever the case may be. He’s going to approach this game in that way. Excited about his future. Got a long way to go, but he’s got a lot of really cool qualities that a lot of special players have.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: (follow up) Can he be that little extra in the coke for you?
He can. He can, but just can’t have too much. That can be a problem, too. Sorry, Jared.
Brian Costello, New York Post: With Jermaine Johnson, you guys have so many guys you have at that position that you’re rotating through. Is it tricky to get him the reps that he needs to sort of get up to speed as a rookie?
I don’t know if you’ve watched practice, watch Aaron Whitecotton’s individual, I would say no just from the standpoint of they probably get a thousand reps a day, the pace in which he goes. Although they’re not getting full team reps, they’re getting so much work in individual. His ascension and his ability to learn this defense and the technique within it, it’ll be faster for most just because the d-line coach he has. The system that we play, we don’t play a lot of fronts. We are very vanilla when it comes to that. We aren’t vanilla in the way we play, but he’s not going to have to learn a whole lot schematically. He’s not going to have to learn a whole lot from a technique standpoint. So, it’s really more about just refining his mindset right now.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What have you learned about D.J. Reed and how can he help? And how’s he helping this defense?
I don’t want to sound redundant, but it’s the truth: For the guys that watch practice, this guy is — he’s the backside corner running 75 yards to the far side fade. You just don’t see that, a guy that strains so consistently like he does. He’s absolutely setting the standard as far as what working looks like, what strain looks like, what finish looks like, and that will infect all of those young players out there. Typically, corners are recluse, and they pay attention to themselves. I think he has the ability, the rare ability, to affect everybody, even at the corner position, because the strain is so blatant and obvious and every single play.
John Pullano, New York Jets: You have all of these new pieces floating around in the secondary that everybody keeps bringing up. Michael Carter II, second year in that role, that nickel position. Just his second year, what are you seeing that is maybe better, worse?
We really challenged him because really year one, you’re just trying to keep your head above water. Even at that, I thought he played at a very high level for a rookie, especially a fifth or sixth round rookie, whatever he was. He did an exceptional job from that standpoint. Now, it’s, ‘Yeah, I know that’s your alignment, I know that’s your assignment,’ now it’s take your shots and start to really gather the information the offense is giving you. Find those spots to make special plays that special players make. That’s been the challenge all spring. He really started to feel that and adopt that. That’s where we think he can take his game to another level.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Jacob Martin has had some flashes here and there early on at camp. What have you seen from him early on and what do you expect him to add to that pass rush in the defense?
Again, to be redundant, he’s a pro’s pro. The way he operates, he is so calculated in the way approaches everything that he does. There is a specific thing he is working on every single play every single day. It is really cool to see that. What I’m starting to learn about him — obviously, you watch the tape and you see the strain and you see the effort, you see the explosion, the speed. You saw that. We all knew that. What you didn’t know is the brain. What you didn’t know is the man who he is. So, I think he’s going to really give us the opportunity to open up the playbook a little bit and take advantage of his versatility.