USA TODAY Sports
Rivera sounds off on the draft, the landscape in the NFC South division, continuity on offense, improvement on defense, Jon Beason and of course the maturation of Cam Newton.
Coming into the combine, it'll be a great opportunity for us to gather information. We've been very fortunate the last couple years, our drafts have been pretty decent, pretty good actually. And we're hoping to do that again. As far as working with Dave, it's very big because it's an opportunity for he and I to get together, work a little more closely, talk a little bit more about going forward as far as our likes and dislikes are.
They're all big needs. We're going to evaluate them and really decide as we go forward. We've got free agency coming up in a couple weeks. We'll have to address that, and we'll address our own free agents as we go forward with that. It'll kind of dictate the direction we're going to head as far as the draft is concerned.
(Gap in the NFC South)
You look at the record, it's obviously big. We'll go from there. Atlanta has a good football team that had a great season. They're really right now the benchmark that we're all shooting at. New Orleans, with coach Payton back, they pose a tough team to play against. And then Tampa's getting better. I think the gap can be closed. We're working in that direction. But right now the benchmark for us in the South is Atlanta.
(Offense under Mike Shula)
I wouldn't expect it to change an awful lot. The reason we hired Mike Shula to begin with as our quarterbacks coach was he shared a lot of qualities that Chud has. But Mike has his own personality, his own distinctive attitude and idea about things. Mike and I sat down prior to me hiring him and we really spent a lot of time together, and Mike was terrific. I really like the direction Mike's going to take this offensive unit. I don't think it's going to skew that far from what we've done in the past. If anybody knows what we need to improve on, it's him.
(Less zone read?)
If you look at what we did the last six, seven weeks of the season, I think that's really indicative of who we are. If you put the tape on, you'll see it. It is a difference from what we did earlier in the year, compared to what we did at the end of the year. That's really the direction we're headed. We found that we had some guys that made plays for us. We've got to get the ball in their hands, starting with the running backs and the wide receivers and the tight ends. All three of those positions are dynamic positions for us, especially in this offense.
We finished 10th in the league in defense. We had an opportunity to finish a little bit higher, but we ran into New Orleans at the end of the year. But he did a terrific job. There were a lot of stats we finished very high on. And he's gotten better and better each year. The first year was tough with all the injuries on the defensive side. This year for the most part we were relatively healthy and I thought he did a great job in terms of designing the defense, working with the defensive coaches, and then putting the players in position to have success, as seen by Luke Kuechly. Talking with Sean, one of the things we both decided and realized we have to make sure Luke grows and takes the next step, as does the rest of this defense. Go back and look at last year, we had two defensive ends with double-digit sacks. That was terrific work not just by him, but the position coaches. There's a lot of good things that have happened with our staff, and a lot of it starts with Sean.
(McDermott as head coach)
I think so, as do a few of our other coaches. And Sean will continue to grow. I think he's going to get better and better as a coordinator. He works hard at it. He's got good rapport with the coaches he works with, and he's developed a very good rapport with his position players.
(Differences in defending zone read in Cam's second year)
If you're not diverse, if you're not giving them something else to look at, teams are going to load eight, nine guys up in the box. When they do that, you've got to be able to throw it. People try to do that, and the one thing we've seen is Cam is very accurate. He had a stretch where he set the (team) record for consecutive throws (176) without an interception. I think teams have to be careful. If you get too many in the box, we can throw it. If they don't, we'll run. It's going to be a mix.
(Advice for Redskins and RGIII)
People are going to look hard and long at it. NFL coaches are going to talk to the college coaches and try to get their feedback and ideas on how to stop it, and what they think. That's one of the nice things about where we are. We started it out with it, so we as a defense got to practice against it a lot.
(How overtake Saints and Falcons)
Honestly, just win. Their both solid franchises that have franchise quarterbacks. Everything you do against them defensively starts with that. So you've got to be able to play against those kind of guys. Then you've got to be able to score points against those kind of guys. It's tough. To sit up here and talk about what you have to do, the bottom line is you have to win. This is a production-based business, and in order to be the top dog you've got to beat the top dog. Our attitude going forward is we've got to be able to have success against Tampa, New Orleans and Atlanta first and foremost.
(Chud and Norv in Cleveland)
That's going to be interesting. They're both tremendous offensive minds. I had the fortune of being with both of them. I think Norv Turner's one of the sharpest offensive football coaches I've ever been around. I know Chud's a sharp mind, as well. It's going to be interesting to see exactly what they try to do and how they want to do it. I would be surprised if they don't score a lot of points.
If he's anything like he was as an offensive coordinator, it's really going to try to be slanted toward the offensive side. He wants to score points. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch them play offensive football.
That's over. We're moving forward and I know they are. So let's just go on from there.
Is it sustainable? It's going to have to be the health of your quarterback. If you have one guy that that's what he does and the other guy doesn't do that, and your first guy gets hurt, now you've got to bring in the other guy and change your offense. That's where you get in trouble. If a team's going to commit to it, you're going to see teams have two or three quarterbacks that are the same. If your offense doesn't have any flexibility where it can go from a zone read back to a pro style back to a spread, you can get in trouble. So you've got to be very careful if it's a commitment you're going to make. We never really made that type of commitment. We have it as a mixer. We have it just enough that coordinators have to pay attention to what we do. I think off of it, we can do so many different things.
We're going to go through that process. We've got until March 12 to start making our decisions.
(Own free agents)
They're all priorities for us. The hard part right now more so than anything else is it's a salary cap position issue that we're working through. Once we get to March 12, we'll know the direction we want to head.
(Keep both running backs)
I believe we can. That's better answered by Dave Gettleman.
He had some flashes early, then he had a little stretch where he dropped the ball a little bit. So we set him down. Given an opportunity to digest everything and then getting back on the field, you started to see the progress and his ability as a play-maker. Hopefully he'll take that next big step because quality returners in this league have a place, and he most certainly can have a place and an impact on this team.
(Adams strictly a returner)
Not necessarily. Watching him, he's a guy if you get the ball in his hands in traffic, he can make people miss. Does he have a spot in the offense? Absolutely. He's got to earn it.
I think Brandon's taken a big step and he'll continue to grow as a football player. He has an opportunity to get better each week. Has he arrived? Not yet. But can he get better and will he get better? I think he will.
(Cam back at Auburn)
I think it's awesome that Cam went back to school, Luke Kuechly went back to school. These guys making a commitment to get their education and hopefully other young players, people will see the realization that it is important to have your education. I think that sets a good example.
Just continue to mature. He's had the best start to a quarterback's career the first two years. His first year he broke Peyton Manning's record and then he broke the two-year record. Andrew Luck has a chance to do that obviously. I'm really excited for what he's done and accomplished. He's really taken some big steps. Just continue to mature as a football player and as a person.
(Beason to weakside linebacker)
I'm excited about that potential. You look at what we did defensively and how things developed, I thought the guys who started for us did a tremendous job. I thought Thomas Davis and James Anderson having the seasons they did, and Luke Kuechly obviously being Defensive Rookie of the Year was outstanding. To have a guy of Jon Beason's caliber back on the football field, that can mean just dynamic things for us on the defense.
(Recent draft success)
We were fortunate. Some of the guys we had targeted were there. We were able to pick them and play them. You've got to be able to pick guys and get them on the field as quickly as possible, especially in the era of free agency football right now. I'm very excited about the fact that you look at the guys who contributed and they all did. Starting with Luke, then Amini, Frank and Joe, Brad Nortman having the type of year he did. Josh Norman starting for us for a while. Then D.J. Campbell rounding it out. I was real excited about the contribution that this past draft class made for us. Would I like to have one like last year's? Absolutely. I think it would be outstanding have these guys emulate what we did last year.
(Need at DT)
I think it's a need. Is it one of our top needs? We'll see as we go through the free agency process and the process of scouting these college football players. But I do know having stout, physical defensive linemen is important. Just ask the linebackers. They'll tell you how important it is so they can run and make plays.
If he can handle that distraction and still be able to perform on the football field, I really don't think it makes that much of a difference. Whatever happened is a set of circumstances that he only he really knows what it was all about. We'll talk about it. We'll find out about it. The bottom line is, is he a good person and can he play football? That's probably the most important thing that he'll have to answer. I don't think it's going to hurt his draft stock. He's coming here to improve his draft stock. I do think he's a heck of a football player and I think he's got a bright future in this league.
Interesting. Of course there's always going to be some elusiveness when you ask a guy about free agents and the draft, but the rest of the answers were Rivera's typical, candid responses.
Based on what we learned from the Gettleman transcript and now the Rivera transcript, the controversial 'zone read' may be more popular with the coaching staff than it is with the upper management.
It's clear that Rivera is quite pleased with the job DC Sean McDermott did with his defense in 2012. Why do most fans get the sense that the defense still needs a bunch of work?
What else stood out? Why would we (he) give "advice" to a playoff team? What'd I miss?