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What We Learned From Monday's Media Availability 

Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy, inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens and outside linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon spoke to the media on Monday


Q:On your list of concerns at this point, where does the way the starting offensive line played in the first preseason game fall on that list?

BIENIEMY:"I will say this, they did some good things. Do not get me wrong, we always want to do a better job of keeping the quarterback clean. There's a few little detail things we need to continue to address, that's why we play the game. It's never going to be perfect, but we want to make sure those same mistakes are not happening. Coach (Andy) Heck is an outstanding offensive line coach, he is going to get it done. Those guys take a tremendous amount of pride in making sure they're doing it the right way. We just have to go out there and continue working to get better."

Q:Mitch Morse said he only had eight or nine plays in the game, do you think it's more a matter of getting more game action to work those kinks out?

BIENIEMY:"Every player is going to say they need to get in their groove and into their rhythm. Every year, the first group is only going to play a certain amount of snaps. So, when called upon, we just need to make sure we are performing. As a former player, I do understand how important that rhythm is. Did we want it to be perfect? Of course we did. Those guys gave great effort, they played hard, it wasn't perfect, but they played hard."

Q:Larry (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) won't be available because of a concussion, what are you seeing from the guys you rotated in today and yesterday in practice?

BIENIEMY:"Just as we always say, regardless of who's up on the field or in the game, next man up. It's time for the next man to rise to the occasion. Andrew Wylie got some snaps today, I thought he did a good job. He's a dirty, tough kid. We just want to see the next man perform and play at a high level." 

Q:Do you think you'll keep Parker (Ehinger) in the tackle spot just to see how versatile he can be this season? Would you like to see that for Friday or is it possible he could be in the guard position as well?

BIENIEMY:"Tonight, I know we are going to get together and talk about exactly how much time and who is playing where. Throughout the course of every practice, we do a good job of putting those guys all over the place. I thought Parker did some good things on game day at the right tackle position. We just want to see our guys continue to perform at a high level. Who are the most flexible individuals who can line up and play across the board? That's what you want. You want guys who can line up and play guard, tackle, or center, that's even a bonus." 

Q:What is the relationship like between yourself and Damien Williams?

BIENIEMY:"Damien is a unique character. He is a throw-back, and I say that in a great way. He is one of those guys you say, 'this is the type of cat I played with back in the early 90s.' He has done a tremendous job. He is very good football player. He is an outstanding special teams player. He brings a lot of versatility to our backfield. He's doing a great job of competing. We are excited to have him here. Brett Veach and his entire staff did a great job of doing all the research and making sure we get all the right people in here to help us to compete and be better."


Q: Reggie Ragland has referred to you as a mentor. Is it hard to come into a new team and being seen as a leader?

HITCHENS: "No, not really. It's something I had carried from college, to the Cowboys and to here. I respect that he said something like that because that's what I'm trying to do here, be a leader in the locker room to not only the linebackers but the whole team and the defense. The first part of that is learning your job and learning everybody else's job so you can help others out. I'm glad he speaks that highly of me being a leader and all I've got to do is keep showing up and being that leader."

Q: Can you describe your relationship with Mark DeLeone?

HITCHENS: "We have a good relationship – we both went to Iowa. We just missed each other as I was coming in and he was going – I don't know if he went to Florida or the league first. He was leaving as I was coming in. We just missed paths, but we know so many people in-between through the coaching staff and through players. You could just tell he's an Iowa boy through the conversations we bring up. It's funny you said that, because just yesterday we had a deep conversation about college, Iowa and a couple players. There are a lot of players that when he was coaching there, once I got there, they were a little older than me and I looked up to them and he mentored. So it was good to know. So, you guys got your respect and got your qualities from Mark, which is my coach now. It was kind of cool. It makes it a lot easier knowing that we're from the same system so we can relate, like this is how we did it at Iowa, just play the same coverage here. It helped me out a little bit and made me grow a little quicker."

Q: Reggie has compared you to Derrick Johnson, does that add pressure to you?

HITCHENS: "There's no pressure at all. I'm here and I'm here to do my job and be the best football player I can be. There's no pressure in football for me because it's a game I've been playing a long time and I'm very comfortable with. I don't get discouraged or pressured at all when it comes to football. It's definitely a compliment – a guy that's played 13 years for the same team. That's a great compliment. I'm nowhere near the knowledge he has. I've played for five years and he's playing his 14th. You learn more every single year. The knowledge is not the same, but I strive to be something like that and go down that path like Derrick Johnson went. The way he learned and studied the game, I kind of got that vibe from Sean Lee, a guy that's been playing multiple years. You have to study the game. So, I had a mentor to look up to in Sean Lee. He just taught me all the ropes. Being brought here and having it said that it's similar to what Derrick Johnson did is a compliment to Sean Lee that he's just as good or as smart as these other players in the league. It's a compliment for Reggie to give me that and I'm just trying to keep improving on it."

Q: How critical is it that the guys down in front of you, the down linemen, tie up blockers to keep you guys clean and give you a chance to win the line of scrimmage?

HITCHENS: "I think it all ties together – the linebackers lining up and taking off double teams. We have a good front here. A lot of good, big, aggressive guys who do a great job and it makes our job easy. Everybody wants to play linebacker when you're running free and just making tackles. They've been doing a good job of that all camp and I'm just looking forward to it whenever I get out there on this field, hopefully sooner than later. I'm just looking forward to it."


Q: Is your position becoming second nature to you and more natural this year?

KPASSAGNON: "For sure. I am way more comfortable than last year. Just seeing the playbook again and going over the calls and being in the meeting room. Last year, when I was spending three extra hours trying to study, now I am just 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there and it is just getting that information in my head. It is a lot easier this year."

Q: You looked aggressive the other night, can you talk about the way you played against the Texans?

KPASSAGNON: "If you play fast, it fixes a lot of things. I have learned that over time. One of my goals was to play fast and play hard and everything else will come."

Q: What about linebacker do you like more and use more now that you aren't on the line?

KPASSAGNON: "I definitely for sure have been trying to use my length more, my arms. Just things that are good for me. There is definitely a difference coming off the edge as opposed to being on the line. Kind of having more guys around you, being open on the edge is a whole different rush. I am starting to learn it a lot more and get better at it."

Q: Are there some guys that are giving you some wisdom about how to approach outside linebacker?

KPASSAGNON: "Justin (Houston) has been giving me wisdom since last year. Tamba (Hali) was here last year giving me a lot of little tricks they have learned over time. Honestly, it is everyone in the room. Coach Mike (Smith) and even our rookies. I am learning stuff from them because they do some things where I am like, 'Wow, how did you do that? I should be able to do that.' It is awesome."