DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR BOB SUTTON
Q:What kind of growth have you seen from Ramik Wilson from last year to this year? SUTTON: "I think he and the other two young guys have obviously absorbed the system at a greater rate now. Going back through it now for the second time with OTAs, camp etc. I think the more comfortable you feel, the faster you can play, and the more you can rely on your instincts. He has really good instincts and he's been an impressive guy. When he played last year, he did a really good job for us and he's been able to play run and pass equally well.
"Any time you get a guy that can stay on the field on third down, that's really impressive. I like what he's done and he's worked really hard out here. He's trying to take advantage of each opportunity and that's really the whole key to this thing. You want to keep getting better each day and each year."
Q:What have you thought of Dee Ford's performance at camp so far?
SUTTON: "He's done a good job. He's played with a lot of energy coming off the edges on both run and pass and he's done a great job chasing down plays from the backside. He has tremendous speed. So he's somebody you have to deal with in that regard. I think he's really done a good job overall setting the edge in the running game. He, as we all know, has some natural rush ability.
"He's learned a lot from Justin [Houston] and Tamba [Hali]. You've got to have a whole plan to be a good rusher in this league. It's hard to do one thing. Usually if you do have just one thing, it's really difficult to be successful. So I think he's learning and growing and we obviously need him to continue to do that."
Q:Everybody is trying to get better at something. What does he need to improve at?
SUTTON:"What he's done is made himself a complete linebacker. That's what I was saying in the run and pass -- a lot of times, the edge guys and especially somebody that came in like Dee did and you think sack-sack-sack. But really, there's a lot of other plays in the game that happened.
"In regards to passing, there's a lot of ways you affect the quarterback besides sacking him -- even as a rusher. I just think he's really grown. He's another guy that has a better grasp of the total defense and his understanding of his job. That's a position that has a lot of jobs and a lot of different things that happen with base and subs. I think he's done a really good job starting with OTA's on through this."
Q:Justin March, he's an undersized guy obviously. Are you surprised at times with the number of plays he makes?
SUTTON: "Justin is a very instinctive player. He keeps himself in good position from the standpoint that he stays square and he's got a feel for the ball. Again, his situation was more complicated with coming off the injury and the lack of repetition. He's understanding the system, he's playing all the different inside positions, which gets challenging. He's got some of that natural feel for the ball and that's a great trait to have, particularly as an inside player. You can't tell where the ball is going all the time -- whether it's staying inside or bouncing back out. He's always had that sense of nature since he's been here. He's got great energy, he plays really hard and he gets his hands on a lot of footballs. If he just keeps coming, he's going to be a real plus for us."
Q:"We haven't talked to you since you've signed Jeron Johnson. What do you see and expect from him?
SUTTON: "We haven't seen a lot of him yet. We're just trying to work him in. He's obviously behind in learning our system. He's a veteran player though, so I think once he gets the terminology down, most of this stuff translates in some way to what he's done in his past. He gives us a guy that's played. He's a veteran player that's played in Seattle and made a good run there. I think he's going to bring toughness and energy to us. We just got to give him a few more days to get comfortable back there. Like I said, for all these guys, if you're doing a lot of thinking, it is hard to play at your top speed. The other thing is, you just don't have your instincts triggering as fast. You're out there thinking, 'Is that the right check?' and the next thing you know 'bam' the play is over. I don't think any of these guys that are learning, are really watching for all the things you normally would look at from splits to the backfield setups and all those things. That's common and hopefully he can add some competition at that position for us."
Q:How would you describe the difficulty or challenge in creating a pass rush without Justin [Houston]?
SUTTON:"Justin is a great player and a great talent. I always say about Justin: One of the things that is really underrated about him is how good he plays ALL of the other plays and ALL the things he does for our defense. In the pass rush mode, we've got to rely on the other guys. Obviously a guy like Dee Ford has got to come along and step in. I think [Frank] Zombo has had a great camp. Hopefully we get Tamba back here eventually. Those are two unique rushers and you can't just go out and grab guys and say, 'hey you're just this guy'. The thing we tell our players all the time is that, 'the team on the field is the team.' So whoever goes out there, they have to perform at a high level. We all know every guy has different skill level and different things they do better than the next guy. So you tilt or move your defense in that direction. There's a lot of different ways you can do that. Sometimes you just change up what you're doing a little bit. I think we'll be fine and we're looking forward to seeing where we go. We've got a good group of inside guys that can add success. I know statistically, sacks are popular and we take as many as we can get. But again, you can affect the quarterback by just rushing hard. That's one of the things that Justin and Tamba do that I think is under appreciated. To collapse the pocket sometimes without getting a sack or getting a hit on the quarterback. All that affects how he plays, what he sees, and how long he can look."
Q:It seems like the teams that win the Super Bowl -- most years -- are way up there in sack totals. Do you draw any correlation between that?
SUTTON: "I have never really thought of it quite like that. To me, on defense, the number one thing you can do to help your team have a chance to win is limit points and take the ball away. That's really the thing. By rule, the offense starts with the ball. Our job is to take it away as fast as we possibly can whether it's three-and-outs, takeaways, etc. I look at a lot of other stats in there that I would probably trust a little more when judging how you're going to be."
CHIEFS SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR DAVE TOUB
Q:Are there young guys who will be seeing time in the kicking game on Saturday?
TOUB:"Yeah, preseason games are the most important thing for us – to evaluate special teams. We don't do any live situations. We don't do any live tackling in our drills during training camp – it's all during the preseason game. So, that's where we get most of our evaluations. Those games are really, really important."
Q:You can't really see out here what you really need to see?
TOUB:"No, not at all. In the games – yes. Certainly, it's a big deal. We're building towards it right now. The guys are really working hard."
Q:Are there guys specifically that you're looking forward to seeing?
TOUB:"Yeah, all the draft picks. Obviously, the returners – how that sorts out. Even our older guys, I want to make sure they have the dust knocked off. We just want to be solid, and we want to compete, finish and tackle. Those are all things we're looking for."
Q:What about a guy like Ross Travis?
TOUB:"There's no question. Ross [Travis] in a live situation, he's never covered a kick – ever. So, it's going to be all new to him, and how he responds because there coaches are coaching them to do the same thing. If you're not going down there full speed, you could get lit up. A lot of these guys, it's going to be a defining moment."
TOUB:"Justin [March], we felt really good about him last year before he got hurt, and he showed us something in camp, and I think he played one preseason game. So, I feel confident about him. His ability is there, so he's just going to have to reinforce that."
Q:Tyreek Hill, of course?
TOUB:"Tyreek [Hill] catching live balls with guys coming down – live bullets. That's all going to be new for him. He hasn't done that since college. NFL is a different element."
Q:You were with the Eagles back in the day when they had that preseason game canceled – what was that about?
TOUB:"When they canceled the Hall of Fame Game, obviously, brought me back to that situation. It was the same deal. It was the field, it was the old Vet [Veteran] Stadium. We had really big seams, part of the turf was peeling up. Coach [Brian Billick] came out and the players said, 'We can't play on this field.' We were all in agreement. They just decided to cancel the game. That's kind of crushing to the players – the young players because that's their chance to show what they can do. That was one of four games that we had, but the fact that this was going to be five games for this team, it's not going to affect them as bad as it did us."
Q:Looking back – did it affect you that bad?
TOUB:"You make up for it. As a special teams coach, you look forward to those situations and now you don't have it. It's kind of an empty feeling. I felt bad for the fans because they were all there. We were actually leaving, and you see them still in line trying to come into the stadium. It's kind of heartbreaking for them."
Q:How would you grade the camp De'Anthony Thomas is having?
TOUB:"He's having a great camp. He's done everything that we've asked of him. He's 100 percent on all his catches. We catch a lot of balls prior to practice, and we chart everything. He's 100 percent catches and that's not even a bobble, so he's been great."
Q:After missing some time, do you feel like he hasn't even missed a beat?
TOUB:"It's like riding a bike for him. He was an established returner before he got hurt, and I expect him to come in at a high level now too."
Q:On Tyreek Hill being the best rookie he's ever had?
TOUB:"Speed wise – he's the fastest person I've ever had, hands down. I say that and I coached Devin Hester. Devin Hester is probably a tenth of a second slower than Tyreek [Hill]."
Q:Do you see similarities between the two?
TOUB:"I see a lot of similarities. With the way they catch the ball – natural catchers. Devin [Hester] is fast, make no mistake. The difference between Devin and him is the size. Devin's a big man, and he can break tackles. That just shows how powerful he is. Can Tyreek [Hill] break tackles? So, that's what we're going to find out in the preseason game."
Q:What characteristics do returners need under you?
TOUB:"Obviously, they need to be good catchers. That's the number one. We really can't afford the ball on the ground. You have to be solid and confident out there because it even increases more when guys are out there barreling down on you – that's number one. The ability to make the first person miss. A lot of the time, we can't get everybody blocked. We double the gunners, and there are some guys inside that come down. They have to make one guy miss or two guys miss sometimes, and then, the top end speed. You have to be able to run away, change the angles and be able to take it to the distance. We're looking for dynamic returners – not a guy who's going to get 10 yards. We're looking for the guy that could at any time score for you."
Q:How well do you think Tyreek Hill sees the field in front of him?
TOUB:"He's got really great instincts. He does a lot of things you can't coach. Like for instance, he reads the kicker on kickoff return. He's reading the kicker before he even gets there. He slides – he just has a natural instinct for things. I never taught him how to do that. I think he just does it naturally, so he's at a higher level instinct."
Q:What are you going to be watching out of the rookies in the first game?
TOUB:"I want to see guys that compete. Guys that don't back down. There's going to be a lot of collisions out there. They have to be physical. They have to play to the whistle. I want to see guys running to the ball. I want to see guys tackle in the open field. Toughness. All those things. It shows up. It shows up quick, and it's easy to evaluate."
QB ALEX SMITH
Q: When did you get to know Nick Foles?
SMITH: "Kinda got to know him at the Pro Bowl a few years back, out there kind of that whole week just spending some time with him, getting to know him."
Q: Had you guys stayed in touch since then?
SMITH: "When we played each other. So yeah last year - we actually played him a few times. Played him when he was at the [Philadelphia] Eagles and played him last year in the preseason when he was with St. Louis [Rams]. Certainly talked to him then during the couple minutes that it is, but yeah visit and see how he's doing."
Q:It's not identical how your career went before you got here like his has before he got here, but there are some similarities there. What's it like for him right now trying to come into a new place and kind of resurrect his career a little bit?
SMITH: "Yeah definitely no two situations are alike. But certainly I agree with you, certainly some similarities are there. From afar, couldn't help but watch as a quarterback and really felt like he took the brunt of that last year for them [St. Louis]. And certainly that was a team that didn't perform well, and as the quarterback, he took a lot of that blame. You know it's tough. And as a QB it is a team game, and you're all out there in it. It's kind of a cliché. You hear it when you win, you get too much credit, and when you lose, you get too much blame. But then it's tough and certainly he'd tell you that he was frustrated and I know he's told me that from last year. You know every situation is different. For him to come here, it's now not only a new place but everything, new teammates, new coaches – the whole deal. It's different and that's the spectrum of this game. From the highest of highs to really, really frustrating lows – it's hard. Losing is not fun and when you have a season like that – I've been there – it's not fun at all to say the least."
Q: What were the conversations like when Andy [Reid] told you he was coming in?
SMITH: "Andy, we'd even talked before it became a possibility when he got released and was out there. I was always a fan of Nick's. He's a really good person, good player, and for me felt like it was a little unfair how everything that had happened. It felt like their last year for him – getting a little bit of a raw deal. Obviously when coach talked about the potential I was all for it. Like I said I had known him, really good guy, obviously like I said felt for him from afar. Thought it was an all-around win, thought it would be great for us in the QB room and good for him as well."
Q: I know this is a short timespan to judge this but in the quarterback room, what does he bring, what has he brought?
SMITH: "I think the thing that makes him unique in any room right now is just the starts, the playing time – they haven't had a guy that's played a lot in this league. You know we've got great guys in there but obviously all a little unproven at this level. So they have a guy that's played a lot, played in multiple systems, been around. For me as a starter, to have that – even for me to have that there – selfishly to be able to bounce things off of, to ask questions and to watch film with. To get that second opinion from a guy that's stood back there is valuable."
Q: Does he see the game differently from you?
SMITH: "Oh yeah, for sure. I think he's still playing catch-up to our system and getting back in, but certainly no question. We all see it from a unique perspective. But that's why it's good, and I think that's the healthy thing for me – all of a sudden the one time he says something I'm like, 'Oh I didn't see that or think like that' in a good way. Then all of a sudden that helps you on Sundays. So we all see it slightly different, for sure."
Q:You've had a chance now to work with this wide receiver group for a few practices, what do you think of it so far?
SMITH: "I think the thing that jumps out at me right away - and it's on film - is how deep it is. I don't care what group you put out there, we got a bunch of guys that can go and a bunch of guys that are making plays. They've all been mixing in; they're all ready to roll. They all come in and play fast; they're all making plays. It's good, there's a ton of competition at that position right now with a lot of guys that are playing really well. So it's exciting here as we get into preseason to see those guys get the opportunities there."
Q: How about the value of an offensive line that's been stable since the beginning of camp. This time last year you were going through a lot of changes.
SMITH: "Yeah it's been nice to have that kind of stability. It is rare with that group. You're constantly kind of dealing with injuries, guys moving around and change of positions, which certainly we've done in our pasts, but to have that group there that's been pretty stable and going, it's good. The lines of communication just get better and better when you have something like that. That's what you ultimately want, those guys really kind of becoming one – one unit. Because when we're all on the same page – those five guys, the blocking unit and myself – I really think good things happen and you avoid the big, negative plays. You're seeing things well, you're playing faster, and all that stuff really helps."
Q: How long did it take for you to get to that comfort level, timing wise, with your receivers?
SMITH: "Every single one is different. Every guy, all these guys, have different body language. It goes back to QBs; QBs see things different so some guys fit naturally more than others; you know some guys just take more time. It just depends on a guy's style – QB and receiver. So every one of those relationships is unique. It's also something that just never ends and that's the nature of the offense. This isn't a cookie cutter playbook; this isn't the same thing we've been running last year, and it's not the same thing we're running four years ago. It's constantly changing so you're constantly working on it, you're constantly detailing it – it's an everyday process."
Q: It seems like you and Rod Streater have synced up pretty quickly here, what have you thought of him so far?
SMITH: "It's been nice to get him in the mix. Albert [Wilson] getting dinged a little bit, and Streater got to jump in with the group and it's been nice. Hasn't skipped a beat. That's what I'm talking about – a guy that's just coming in, knows what he's doing, making plays. Really kind of been the whole group but certainly Streater, I think he's come in and doesn't blink. He knows what he's doing, plays fast and separates."
Q: There were a lot of questions asked throughout OTAs and minicamp about Ross Travis, and now that you've seen him with the pads on, what kind of option does he present the offense?
SMITH: "I think he's done a great job. Still his story is so unique in the sense he's still just learning football, learning the position. I think the thing that is most encouraging is that he's continued to make plays out here; he's continued to show his athletic ability and his playmaking ability. I think the biggest thing is just continuing to keep refining the mental part of it. It just gets faster on game day, it just gets louder – you don't hear everything quite as well. So you got to be able to put it all together there on game day, and continue to play fast and that's just the next step for him in the process."
Q: Last year the numbers show you get more efficient throughout the season as far as the passing game goes, how does having Jeremy Maclin another year, more experience with guys like Chris Conley and Albert Wilson, and having speed from guys like Tyreek Hill, affect your approach to throwing the ball deep?
SMITH: "I think it's just a matter of like you said, you get a lot of those guys on the field and you've got a ton of good matchups, a ton of guys that can stretch the field. You can move guys around in different positions, and Coach (Reid) loves that. In the sense there, yes, you've got a lot of deep threats. A lot of guys you can choose from, a lot of guys that can mix and match, move around. They can't get a beat on one guy, like hey this is the guy that I like to go down the field with, or this is the underneath guy. We don't have guys that fit those labels, we've got a bunch of guys I feel like that can do it all and certainly speed is strength in a lot of our guys. It's nice, it makes it tough when you put three of those guys out, and safeties can't help on all of them. And all of those guys are showing the ability to make plays downfield which is nice."
LB DERRICK JOHNSON
Q:What have you thought of Justin March so far this camp?
JOHNSON: "Justin March is a young player that thinks like a veteran as far as making plays. He puts the pressure on himself, kind of like myself, to try to make plays. He's got the ability. He's not a big guy, not a tall guy, but he definitely has a tall stature when it comes to trying to make plays on the field."
Q:You've got a natural pursuit to the ball, and he seems like he has a little bit of that too. Do you see that when he's out there?
JOHNSON:"Definitely. Like I said it's one thing to anticipate plays, jump balls, or shoot gaps, and trying to hit guys in the backfield, but pursuit to the ball is the other half of it. That comes from hard work and he definitely has that."
Q:Yesterdays Hall of Fame game was cancelled due to bad field conditions. As a guy that's had to fight for a roster spot in the past, some of those younger guys on Green Bay or Indianapolis didn't get a chance to show their stuff on the field. If you could put yourself in those shoes for a second, would it affect you if you lost an opportunity as a young guy trying to make a roster spot?
JOHNSON:"Training camp is full of practices and evaluations, so I'm sure they have a lot of film on the young guys through practices. I don't think it's a big deal, but it's one less opportunity. I'm sure they'll make the right decision when it comes to evaluating players. If I was in that situation, I don't think it's a big deal."
Q:As you've gotten older, how have your priorities changed in training camp and in those preseason games? For the younger guys it's about getting better and for the older guys, it's a lot of times about staying healthy, have you noticed that?
JOHNSON:"It's a little bit of both. As you get older, you definitely want to stay healthy. It's about accountability, and it's about staying on the field. I'm a guy that knows to be accountable you have to stay out of the training room. As a young guy, it's always about getting better even when you're older or younger, it's all about getting better. Even though preseason games don't mean as much for an older guy every time you step on the field is a time to get better. Everybody's in it. You never go out on the field and disrespect the game of football by going out there and saying, 'Oh it's the first preseason game or second preseason game or whatever it's not the real season' and go out there and flop around. When you have that mindset, it means it's time to get out."
Q:How important is it for the guy who plays next to you in your defense to be stout, take on blocks, and really be a solid contributor?
JOHNSON:"Playing next to me you definitely have to take on a lot of blocks. I like to feed off of them and go around and try to make plays off that side guy. At the same time, you have to be smart. Mauga is an example; when we're out there, we're always talking, we're always talking as far as what play is about to come. Making plays is all about anticipation. Even when Ramik (Wilson) stepped in there the last two days, he started talking 'Hey I see this gap is open a little bit.' When he told me that I forgot everything I had over here, I scooted over a little bit, and I actually made a play on the other side. So that's good communication from the inside backers. We all work together. The young guys, like I tell them I think they're smarter than I was when I first got in the league. That's showing volumes of how the game has evolved and how the young guys are prepared for the game. Mentally their IQ is smart."
Q:Is that growth that you've seen from Ramik something he wasn't doing last year?
JOHNSON:"That's an example that he's talking more. You grow up fast in this league. It's not a league where you say 'Oh it's my second year I have time.' You never have time. This is a game of Not For Long. The quicker you can get it, the better you are."
Q:What does this defense need to do to be better than it was the prior season?
JOHNSON:"More consistency. Making sure that it's not up and down. When it's third and long, get off the field. Coach Sutton is always talking about different categories that we need to be better at, and third and long was one of them that we need to get better at. We got something special here with the Chiefs defense. Hopefully it can propel us to something even more special at the end of the year."
Q:Madden ratings came out and the Chiefs are rated pretty high for the video game Madden '17, I think tied for second. How much is that a talking point, if at all, for you guys in the locker room? Is it a fun thing at camp when those things come out?
JOHNSON:"When I first got in the league I played a lot of Madden. I don't play it anymore, but I've heard that I'm ranked pretty high on there like third best inside backer. That's pretty good for an older guy, but young guys come up to me, and they let me know. That's pretty cool. It's not really a talking point for the team. It's one of those things where I know from playing video games during the season if you're doing good or doing bad your ratings go down so it does fluctuate during the season, so hopefully it can stay up during the season because we're doing good."
Q:How much time do you expect to play in this Saturday's game versus Seattle? Do you expect to play a quarter or a half?
JOHNSON:"Traditionally, it's been a quarter. It's whatever Coach Reid wants us to play really. We're ready. We practice our butts off out here in training camp. I wish we could play more. It's a graduate deal. Every game gets more and more to the third game. It'll be fun for us."