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Bill Sheridan, 12.10.09

Q. How about the Eagles speed this week? What challenges does that present for your defense?

A. Same issues, same problems. DeSean Jackson is probably as explosive a player as there is in the NFC. They have had their most success on big plays so that will be a huge emphasis for us. If we can just hang in there and keep the ball in front of us, we will have a chance to be competitive in the game. They get big plays, especially if they get them early, it is a big momentum swing for them.

Q. (Jason) Witten had a big game last week. It seems that the tight ends you have faced this season have found success against your defense. Is there something that they are doing or something that your defense isn’t doing? Have you identified why they have been so successful?

A. That is a good question. I know there has been some of that this year. One, we have played some good tight ends. We try not to have too much of a mismatch, you know maybe having a linebacker cover them that really isn’t as able as some of the safeties are. We take that into account when we put the game plan together and try to put the best available guys. You have such good quality receivers that you are playing against, as well, and normally from a size standpoint you are not going to put corner type of guys on tight ends. You are also mixing up your coverage. You are not just playing man coverage every single time. So sometimes in zone coverage those guys are very capable of getting open. They work away from the leverage of the coverage and that stuff. I know a couple guys, Witten alone, had a Pro Bowl performance against us a week ago. Just different things; you try to attack it and contain it.

Q. How were the Eagles able to get some big runs on you last time?

A. Really just not executing exact gap fits. If they don’t, the ball breaks, but when it breaks it shouldn’t be going for 40 and 60 yards. It should get corralled by the back end guys. The front end starts with the ball getting into the secondary. That is always an issue because you’ve got guys who aren’t executing their gap responsibilities. Actually two of the big runs they hit on us we were in stunts, so we had D-linemen moving, which can create problems in and of itself. But when the ball breaks out you certainly don’t count on it going the distance like those two did the first time we played them. So it is a combination. If the front doesn’t execute their leverages on the blocks in what we call ‘gap-fit’ responsibility, the ball gets out in the secondary, but the back end guys for sure have to corral it and knock it down for a 10 or 15 yard gain. It shouldn’t be out the gate like it was in the first game.

Q. They tend to get away from the run. Do you feel like your approach is similar to the Dallas game where you would like to shut down the run and make them one dimensional?

A. I think you have to do that. You try to do that every week for everybody, but these guys, they love to throw the ball, but they are going to run the ball and they have had success. I am sure they are going to feel like they can do both against us. They will try to run the ball and have a mix, especially earlier in the game. But you try to do that every week; get them one dimensional. We definitely have to stop the run. We are not anticipating them disregarding the run and throwing the ball every play, absolutely not. We know they will run the ball.

Q. With the way Corey Webster played last year and in the beginning of this season, how surprised are you with his struggles?

A. The only thing I say is, as you know, we normally match him up against the best receiver on the other team. So inevitably they are not going to be completely scared from throwing to that guy and he is going to get the ball thrown on him. I think it is just like anybody who is playing a lot. If you are on the field a lot, then you have a chance to possibly get exposed because there are so many opportunities where people are going after you. For him, we put him on the best wide receiver, so I am not surprised or disappointed. I think he would probably be more frustrated than I am because he thinks he can play better on some of those plays where balls have been caught on him. But he is still as good as anybody we have from a coverage standpoint and I am not concerned about it.

Q. You think on those plays it is a positioning thing on that one fade and that maybe he bit on a play action over the middle?

A. Yeah, some of those are different coverages, but I think he would say he wishes he could play better at the reception point. You know, at the end of the down when the ball was there. Because it is not like these guys are running scott-free, you know what I mean? It is an arm’s length from either a completion or a pass break up.

Q. The tackling seemed pretty good the other day, especially in the open field. What is the number one thing that you try to teach these guys about tackling?

A. It is a fair question and I am not going to try to circumvent it. As much as anything in my mind, that is a mentality. We had a tremendous mental disposition the other night. It showed in our tackling. It is not that we reemphasized the mechanics of tackling or the angle of open field tackling. All that stuff is talked about all the time, everyday in practice. Even though we don’t tackle in practice, we talk about leverage and leveraging the ball and angling off the ball carrier. To me as much as anything, our guys had a very aggressive mental disposition going into the game and they played that way. That is why we tackled better, in my opinion.

Q. Is that the idea that instead of rather waiting for the guy to make the last move, you make that last move?

A. Yes. We talk about that all the time. As trite as it may sound, we talk about attacking. You never let the ball roll down on you. Everything we do once the ball declares run or pass is towards the ball. You never bounce and let the play develop towards you. We are constantly preaching that and our players understand that.

Q. You have stood up one or two guys on a play before. But, this past week you stood up the entire D-line. How long have you been holding onto that?

A. We hadn’t been holding out. Honestly, as you know, this is a big copycat league. When we are getting ready for each opponent we watch how other people played them and had success or whatever. Little ideas like that, you think, you know that is not a bad idea. Let’s take a look at that. It is not something that we really had had for a while. We just had seen some other people do things like that. It’s a curve ball, let’s try that.

Q. Denver did it against you guys. Did they do it against Dallas, too, and were successful?

A. Yes, yes.

Q. It looked like it confused them. Did it accomplish its goal?

A. Yes, it did except for on the last touchdown play where we were in a full drop coverage. Our guys were doing that, when really we should have been playing in a two-minute mentality and just get back and play coverage. In their mind they were executing that disguise look and they got caught flat-footed. It does. There are always going to be answers for that. They can quick count you, they can throw screens, they can run the ball and then you got a bunch of guys standing around. So, there are always answers for that stuff. But it can be a curve ball for them, too. If they are going to throw the ball no matter what and they are going to try to figure out how to set the protection, it can be effective.

Q. But it is something that you hadn’t shown?

A. No, we hadn’t.

Q. Was it the kind of mentality where this game was a must-win and you were willing to pull out all the stops?

A. Yes, it is. Again, we anticipate their answers for that. They are not going to sit there and be totally overwhelmed by that. So you do it very sparingly and maybe get a play out of it.

Q. Did they utilize Michael Vick a lot more in the Wildcat last game? I know the circumstances were in their favor, but did you see him being used a lot more than he has been throughout the season?

A. I think some of it might have just been the situation in the game where they were going to play him more no matter what. We will definitely be prepared for him. Of course, when he is in here, the tough thing about him is you can’t view it as what everybody in the league refers to as wildcat. He is a quarterback. So we have to play conventional calls because he can throw the ball down the field. Yet, they primarily run when he is in there but the other day he hit some passes. You have to treat him like a quarterback but he can run a wildcat like offense. It is a problem that the college guys face every week. We don’t normally see that. When they put a running back in there and take the direct snap, you can have a totally different mindset. They could throw the ball but they rarely do. That is a run call and you are in a run mentality.

Q. Is it more like an option type offense with him in there?

A. I don’t think they are running option type running plays. I think he is either going to run it or throw it. Maybe an option for a hand off or him keeping it. When I think of option, maybe pitching it, I don’t see that. It is either a give or a keep off of him.