Q: What are you impressions of Mike Pouncey as a Charger and the difference he’s made in that offensive line? What did you see from that offensive line in terms of their adjustments against the Ravens in the regular season versus Sunday?
BD: Well, I will start with Pouncey. Obviously, we have some familiarity with him based on his time in Miami and playing him multiple times through that period of his career. I had a lot of respect for him over the course of that time playing against him. He’s a little bit unique in terms of physical stature for a center. He’s got length and he’s very athletic and does a very good job in space, smart, understands the communication calls. You can see he ID’s quite a bit of the fronts and the protections and things of that nature – has for the majority of his career. I would say they use him to his skillset extremely well. He pulls quite a bit, he’s out in space on screens, he does a great job getting to the linebacker level, blocks high, cuts, he’s very aware and savvy player. I would say that they’ve used his skillset as an advantage for sure in some of the scheme things that they do. As a whole, this offensive line has great length, great athleticism and they have been healthy. They’ve played together the vast majority of the season. You do see some adjustments from them and obviously Baltimore, playing them multiple weeks without a huge gap in there, there’s a huge game plan element there and an adjustment element, as there is within a game. And I would say that’s one of the things that this group does extremely well, both the players and the coaching staff – understanding the problems that are being presented and making the necessary adjustments or having some answers to deal with them.
Q: How has Deatrich Wise developed as a run defender? He said that he’s learned how to use his long arms more to his advantage in the running game, maybe more this year than in past years. What have you seen from him in terms of that development?
BD: Well, I would say you’re accurate in that he has developed for sure, and he does have great length. I would say his arms and the length in his arms give him an advantage when he uses them. When his technique is good and when his hands are good and when his pad level is in good shape, he’s very effective. I would say one of the things he’s improved upon the most, in my opinion – and we’ve worked quite a bit on this – is once he gets engaged in a block, a lot of guys have a tendency to try to locate the ball too quickly or as they locate the ball, their pad level gets high because they’re trying to find it over the top of the blocker, as opposed to continuing to press the blocker and locating the ball by looking around the blocker. I would say that’s one of the things that I’ve seen improve with Deatrich, specifically, is his ability to press the blocker while he’s locating the ball, maintaining good pad level and playing good team defense, honestly, by helping to cancel gaps with the blocker’s body and then get off once the ball carrier commits. So, I would say he’s worked hard at that. I would say that’s not a finished product by any means at this point, but it is something that he’s improved, for sure.
Q: What have you seen from your first down run defense over the past five games?
BD: Well, I would say that’s something that we’ve worked on and we’ve worked on each and every week. I would say there’s different challenges presented week-to-week, based on the opponent we’re playing, based on the scheme that we’ve got, based on what we feel is going to best help us win the football game that week. Obviously, stopping the run is something that’s very important to us. I’d say we’ve had some inconsistency with that over the course of the year. I felt like we’ve made a little bit of progress over the past couple of weeks. We’ve played some things from a defeating blocks, from a technique and fundamental standpoint, with more consistency, I should say, and that’s helped us for sure. Again, none of that matters at this point. We’re focused on how we’re going to play this weekend. The Chargers present a number of different issues for us in that regard, and we’re going to have to play at a high level. This team’s got a good offensive line, they’ve got very good backs, I think they lead the NFL in explosive runs, so we’re going to have to do a great job. We’re going to have to play our best football this week.
Q: The numbers in the last five games is just over 7 yards a run on first down. What kind of stress does that put on the defense on second and third down?
BD: Well, obviously, listen. We’re hoping to not give up any yards in any situation, but I’m not necessarily concerned about the stats or the numbers, aside from winning and losing football games. To be honest, we’re most focused on how are we going to handle the run game this week and what challenges those present us. What’s happened over the past 16 games, to be quite honest, isn’t all that relevant.
Q: That holds for the Chargers, too, right? Talking about the explosive plays for the Chargers, but that’s really not relevant this week from their end either, right?
BD: Well, I would say that they’re capable of creating explosive plays, without a doubt. You’re right – based on what they’ve done in the past, no. It’s a matter of who performs best this Sunday, and that’s why we go out and play the game.
Q: What have you noticed from Ufomba Kamalu in terms of his traits and what he’s brought you on the defensive line?
BD: Ufomba has done a nice job since he came in – hard-working guy, he’s got good length, he’s got some power and some explosiveness. He’s picked things up fairly quickly, has done a nice job kind of in a number of areas. He’s done an excellent job through the course of practice week in giving our offense a look and has shown a productive skillset that has been able to help us in some of the game opportunities, and he’s earned an opportunity to play a little bit.
Q: Looking at Philip Rivers from the outside, I think it’s easy to group him with quarterbacks who prefer to stay in the pocket and might be less mobile than other guys you’ve seen this season. But what, if anything, are we missing from that standpoint where rushing him might be a little bit different or pressuring the Chargers offense might be a little bit unique this Sunday?
BD: Yeah, that’s a good question. Philip Rivers – veteran guy, first of all, understands what he’s looking at. I wouldn’t put him on the top tier of athleticism in terms of speed and quickness and ability to make people miss. He is big and can be difficult to tackle and get on the ground, but I would say he’s got a very good feel in the pocket for when he’s getting pressure and moving appropriately in the pocket. A lot of that is stepping up in the pocket. Some of it is, when there’s pressure in his face or pressure off the edge, moving away from the pressure long enough to buy time to where he can get the ball to an open receiver. I would say he has very good timing and then accuracy when he’s throwing the ball in those situations. So, he’s a difficult guy to deal with in that regard because he’s got very good presence, very good awareness and he has enough mobility that he can be a problem – not that he’s going to rush for 100 yards, but certainly in some critical situations, he’s able to run the ball, move the chains and get first downs at times, or move to buy time in the pocket and get receivers open and accurately deliver the ball on the move.
Q: With how often Rivers throws to his running backs, have you seen anything that makes it a little bit more difficult for defensive ends to sometimes peel off, or have you seen teams do that with the Chargers’ backs? Or is it hard to keep up because of how good Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon are?
BD: Well, they’re definitely good backs, and I would throw Justin Jackson in that category, as well, who’s seen some playing time based on some of the injury situation with Gordon and Ekeler over the past several weeks. You can put him right in that conversation, as well. They’ve got good backs, they are good runners, they’re good receivers, they do a very good job when they get the ball in space. I would say they use them well in terms of free releasing them out of the backfield at times and creating matchup issues, and some of the formations that they employ help them do that. So, there’s certainly coverage issues there, whether you’ve got safeties or linebackers, making sure that they’re in position to handle them or at times potentially having an edge rusher or defensive end that’s going to have to deal with the release and the matchup on the back. They do a good job, they’ve got a good group there and they present some matchup issues, for sure.
Q: Brian Flores has received interest in terms of head coaching opportunities from different places. As somebody who has worked closely with him for a while, what are some of the qualities that might make Brian a good head coach in this league?
BD: I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Flo. The time that we’ve worked here, I’ve really enjoyed. I think extremely highly of him and I’m very happy for him to get those opportunities. To be quite honest, I haven’t talked with him at all about them. Our conversations have been specific to the Chargers. Again, if and when an opportunity presents itself, I feel like he’s going to do a good job, but I know our focus at this point is definitely on this game.