AJ Smith and Ron Rivera Interviews

XTRA Sports 1360 : Josh and Brian interview AJ Smith (mp3), 5/1

  • AJ: Draft is over and this is pretty much what your football team is going to be.
  • Diamonds in the rough?  AJ: probably won't show up in mini-camp.  It's not football.  Training camp is when these things start to show up.  First preseason game is when you really see it.
  • Excited about Martin?  AJ: This one excites me.  Think his upside is "special".  Lots of athletic ability, strength, smarts.  Not a project, but we are starting from the basics.  We'll see, but he might be special.
  • English and Merriman and Phillips on the field at the same time?  AJ: That is the purpose of it.  Unless we fix the defense and become a dictating, dominating defense, we are not going where we want to go.  We decided to go defense emphasis in the draft.
  • AJ: Added two pass rushers: Merriman (injured last year) and now English.
  • AJ: World of difference between last year and this year.  Injuries played a big role, guys missed the early games, and didn't come back all healthy.  This year we don't have those injuries.
  • AJ: To win it all you need to be injury free, starting the season injury free really helps
  • AJ: Maturity in the team, everyone is a year older and less likely to get caught up in the hype, especially after last year.  We weren't good enough.  You go against the Steelers and you see a physical dominating team who really wanted it.  You grow from your failures and hope last year can be a building block.  Like the Colts.
  • Burnett?  AJ: Part of the defensive emphasis.  Coverage linebacker, veteran who is very good at that.  He wants the starting role.  Will compete with Dobbins (Note: AJ did not mention Wilhelm here...oversight or no?)  His expertise is in coverage downs.
  • Safety, Ellison? AJ: Ellison was targeted late in the draft.  Liked him, but had an injury history in college, doesn't have the 40 times so we assumed he would fall, and got him where we wanted to get him.  Didn't have the speed, but has a great resume, tough, instinctive, smart, teeth-rattler.  Got us a player.
  • AJ: Wants the players to play to their strength.  Ellison will not be covering slot guys one-on-one.  Packages helps.
  • Does the CBA affect any of the deals? AJ: It is an unknown, but we have plans and we execute them.  We had an A plan, which didn't pan out, we have a B and a C plan both work, we have to monitor, think and proceed. (Note: I don't know what that means either).
  • AJ: Lots of great players, and with that comes contracts, everyone wants to get paid, and that is fine.  We have so many players who are good, we make a list and do the best we can.  Some are not going to be able to be resigned.
  • AJ: Wants the window of opportunity for the organization to go on and on, need to have a solid long term plan. The draft is a part of that. Must have an eye to the future, for a GM that is 2-3 years in the future.
  • Is it hard not to pull the trigger on a big name FA to put us over the top?  AJ: No, more into our own players.  Deals like the David Boston deal won't be happening.
  • AJ: Draft evaluation takes three years.  Some guys step up earlier.  After three years, their role will be defined.  Some guys he is not so sure about and this is the decision year.  Some guys are on notice.

XTRA Sports 1360 : Josh and Brian interview Ron Rivera (mp3), 5/1

This interview starts at around the 11:00 mark.  Up until then it is Philip Rivers giving the usual player's "High expectations, great to be back playing football, great locker room, excited about the rookies, yada.yada.yada"

  • RR: Mini camp is exciting because you get to see all the new guys and old guys and see them work together
  • How do we get Merriman, Phillips, and English on the field at the same time?  RR: Different packages, Phillips is real flexible and has played all over in nickel and specialty packages.  Lets English and Merriman rush from the outside.  Three guys coming, who are you going to block?
  • RR: Look at the Indy playoff game to see what we are going to look like.  We are going to play to our strengths (Outside Linebacker).
  • Any diamonds in the rough? RR: Ellison (S from USC) didn't time well at the combine but has had a good minicamp.  Did some things that caught Ron's attention.
  • RR: Martin brings some versatility (DE/DT).  4th round you can gamble a bit.  Hopefully can start off quick, and even if it takes a year or so, Rivera is sure he will pan out because of his athleticism.  Can't dominate at this level just physically, must develop technique also.
  • Burnett at LB? RR: competition with Dobbins and Wilhem.  Dobbins had a good offseason.  We want to get Wilhem back to his 2007 form.  Should have good depth no matter how it works out.
  • Pressure? RR: ranked 30th on pass defense. It is partially due to the lack of pass rush.  Lots of teams throw against us.  That actually provides some opportunities to get sacks and take-a-ways if we can start pressuring the thrower.
  • Safety? Competition between Hart, Ellison, and Oliver? RR: Last year they did a lot of situational substitution to play to people's strength.  Would like to have one guy who can do it all.
  • RR: A pressure defense limits what the offenses can run against you.  Pressure takes away the spread attacks because you can hit their QB and make them bring guys in to block or get their QB killed.
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