Q: How has Mathias Kiwanuka settled into the outside linebacker position?
A: It was good to see him show off, though, because he’s gained more knowledge and experience at the linebacker position, and his pass coverage has gotten better in the third session. He’s improved each session, but it got better in the third session. As he told me last week, he said "I’ve seen it a year now. I’m getting more comfortable. I’m going through an OTA now. I’m going to be better." That’s true – he’ll be better.
Q: You have mentioned before that this is a numbers game, a competition. Do you sense in Kiwanuka’s mind that he feels he should try to fit in at another position? When did that stop being an issue for you guys?
A: When you have a player like Kiwi, that’s always going to be something we play with because, obviously, we think he can play the linebacker position. Obviously, we think he can add some depth to the defensive end position, too, depending on what happens. He’s kind of like a hybrid. We’ve turned him into a hybrid player for us. I love what he’s doing at backer right now. Some practices we may play him at defensive end, too. It’s always going to be back and forth for him. It probably will never be ‘this is what he truly is.’
Q: In your mind, it doesn’t stunt his development at linebacker?
A: No doubt about it because that makes us more flexible.
Q: Do you think Adrian Tracy is a hybrid player or more of a defensive end?
A: We felt that he’s more of a defensive end. After looking at him for the past year or so, we feel that’s his strength and we can make some progress with him playing defensive end for us.
Q: Does he need to get his weight up?
A: He’s really strong at the point of attack. If you talk to Robert Nunn, and if you watch him on tape and that type thing, you’d be surprised at how Tracy is strong at the point of attack – much stronger than he physically looks. But I think he’ll do well there.
Q: You tried Greg Jones at outside linebacker. Is that something you’ll keep moving forward with or do you still have him as a middle linebacker?
A: We’re going to try him on the outside. We like the young kid that we have, Jake [Muasau], playing middle backer. We’ll probably split the time with Greg a little bit there. If we try to expand Greg more, we think we can get a little more out of him in what he can do, so it’s a little bit of an experiment with us now. We’ll play him on the outside, and then probably later on in camp move him on the inside.
Q: What have you seen from Keith Rivers so far? Mentally, is he up to speed?
A: He’s still a work in progress from a mental standpoint. He made two good plays out there today in pass coverage. He had two alignment busts today, and we said something to him. The first time it didn’t click, and we said something to him again and it clicked after the second time. It’s still a work in progress but he is an athletic guy. He can move, he can flip his hip. I want to push it quicker. He’s playing the Will linebacker for us. At some point in time, he’ll play some Mike linebacker for us as we continue in our OTAs. It’s how much can he digest and how much he can execute for us at this point in time. Coach Herrmann is doing a nice job at bringing him along, but at some point in time, we’re going to move him around a little bit more.
Q: He has such pedigree. Do you see that in him? Once he figures that out, do you think you got a steal in a player?
A: No doubt. There’s no doubt about it. I want to push it faster than what he’s able to do. And I have to think about that a little bit because you’d like for him to walk away from the OTAs and mandatory minicamp feeling really good about: ‘OK, I got this down. When I go into training camp, I’m ready to perform at this position.’ However, I want him to have a little flexibility, saying: ‘I’ve learned this and I have to put it all together when I get to training camp.’ I have to think about how to approach that and how to do that so I don’t shatter his confidence.
Q: How do you envision using your linebackers?
A: I think it’s important to see where guys fit with other guys… if we can play different combinations. That’s kind of what we would like to do. That gives us an array of coverages, of pressures, of defenses that we would like to run. We’ll try some different combinations that we will experiment with during the OTAs and play with some of our guys and see how they’ve progressed. Mark Herzlich had a great play out there today; he had a clinic play out there today. He’s done some nice things. When you see that, you want to expand him a little bit more. You want him to grow some more.
We’re in the formative teaching stages right now – seeing who works well with who right now. We’re experimenting a little bit because with the addition of Rivers, obviously, we’ve gotten more athletic and we think we’re a little better at linebacker now. I can probably answer the question better at the end of mandatory minicamp than I can right now.
Q: How about Clint Sintim? Where does he fit?
A: We really can’t say because he’s being handled by the doctors on what he can do and what he can’t do. Mentally, he’s in the meetings… I was in the linebacker meeting today and we were talking about different defenses and reactions, so he was mentally in tune with what we’re doing. Physically, he’s being handled by our training staff, so I can’t really say where he’s going to fit right now because I have to wait.
Q: What prompted the team to sign Jake Muasau, who is from a small college [Georgia State]?
A: Obviously, our scouting staff did a really nice job and had him down and we brought him in during rookie minicamp. When I walked in the equipment room and the first time I saw him, I thought he was Kawika Mitchell, and I got excited. ‘Kawika’s back.’ And then he turned around and said ‘I’m so excited to be here.’ Then I said, ‘It’s not Kawika.’ He comes to the meeting room, he’s prepared. Coach Herrm has done a nice job of getting him focused on what to do. We saw something in him at rookie minicamp and said ‘Hey, let’s give this guy a shot’ because he was really professional at how he went about his work and business. We think if we give him the opportunity to get enough reps at the position he’s playing right now, we might find something. Obviously, preseason games will tell, but we like what we saw in rookie minicamp and we like what we’ve seen in these three OTAs.
Q: Where does he fit? He has never played inside linebacker?
A: He looks like a natural Mike, even though he’s not played it, than some of the guys we have. Coach Herrm has really done a nice job with him. Mentally, he has a visual picture of what we want and how we like to fit. I’ll be very interested in how he performs when we get to training camp and when we get to preseason because he’s just doing what we ask him to do. Sometimes that’s just the best thing: just go out and play.
How are Will Hill and Janzen Jackson performing?
A: I’m very impressed with Will Hill. He’s 30 minutes early for the meetings. When I go into the meeting room, he’s always in there studying. He’s a very athletic young man. This is his second chance, so to speak. He is being the ultimate pro by the way he is preparing for his opportunity. Will made a play last Thursday, phenomenal, in our OTA practice. Absolutely phenomenal. If he can continue at this pace, and if he continues to learn and grow, he’s another guy when we get to the preseason games I hope that we’re talking good things about him because he is preparing to make this football team.
We’ve had to move Janzen because of injuries to the corner position, so we start his learning curve. He looks like he can play out there and he’ll be comfortable out there, but we have to get him more practice sessions and get him back in the groove of being a corner. We had him at safety initially.