Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
What do you think Demario Davis has brought to this Saints defense?
"Well I will tell you, it is his speed and that's what this league is really turning into is a speed league when you see a guy that can run around and make plays for them as a linebacker that can run. We've been very fortunate in my time here. We've had three guys that can really truly get after it. In terms of fast, every down playmaker guys and you're starting to see that with him as he gets more and more comfortable in what they do in the way they do things."
Is there anything that stands out in particular about the New Orleans defensive line to you?
"Oh, they're an aggressive group. I mean, they attack and I like all the guys, but you know, I've always been fond of Cameron Jordan. He's a Golden Bear, from the University of California and so I've always kind of appreciated watching him play. I really think that he helps set the tone and tempo for that front."
Is the depth something that they kind of have in spades right now?
"I think they got a lot of depth all the way across the board. When you look at what they have as far as their D-line is concerned. Heck yeah. I mean they have what you look for in my opinion and that's guys up front that set the tone and tempo. Guys up front that impact the game, influence the guys behind them and help them to be better football players. A lot of people talk about certain elements of defensive football, but I've always been one that believes it starts up front and when you feel really good about the way those guys are playing, to me it just kind of permeates throughout the rest of the unit because they feel that and the impact those guys up front make, I really do. I think they've got a good tandem of outside rushers. I think they get good push on the inside so guys can't step up and that's why they've had so much success this year."
What did you learn about Kyle Allen in that week 17 game last year?
"He doesn't know any better. He's a young guy that's still learning the game and still understanding the game. And he just went out there and winged it and it's crazy, but he's a young guy that's going to, like I said on after Sunday's game, you know, he moved us up and down the field and then a couple of crazy things happened. He tried to force a football and turned it off and those are growing pains and that's what's going to happen with the young guy. He's going to learn and he's going to have to make sure he does things the right way all the time. It's not a just wing it game out there. You're playing against some very good people and you've just to understand that and take what's there and if not, throw the ball away."
What do you think about a guys like Christian McCaffrey or Michael Thomas being named a Most Valuable Player when the award typically goes to quarterbacks?
"Well, I will tell you what, when you have guys that impact the games every game they play in, you got to consider them and especially guys like that, that are impacting the game constantly. I'll say this too, I think there are some guys that do not get enough recognition on the defensive side, for years, Luke's (Kuechly) been a tremendous player for us. But as I said, and I'm very partial to Cameron Jordan. I think that is another guy that impacts the game. I really do. So to me the league MVP's a guy that, if you take him off his team and his team becomes an average team, put them on another team and that team becomes better. That to me is an impact player. That's a league MVP type guy. Those guys that I mentioned are all guys I think are really, really good football players."
What do you remember about evaluating the 2017 running back group?
"I'm trying to figure it out, which guy we should take to be honest with you and we always felt really good about Christian, but I will say this, and I'm not just saying this because he's turned out to be a really good pro, but Alvin (Kamara) was somebody that we were paying attention to as well. I mean, he really has just become a real special player. He's done a lot of good things for the Saints. I'll tell you what, Sean (Payton) makes it hard on people because (of) the way he uses his talented players."
Can you talk about how Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara impact the game?
"I think those guys are changing the position and I will say this, when you have guys that are matchup problems and not just at the running back position, but a tight end, a receiver, it really impacts your opponents preparations and that's the thing that happens whenever you play the Saints, is that you know they're going to create matchup problems and you have to be aware of those things. As crazy as it seems and people are really taking notice, but Taysom Hill is a guy that creates matchup problems. You have to prepare for all of these types of potential things that happen and Sean knows this, because he does it on purpose and he makes it hard on defenses and that's why they're so successful."
We sit here and watch Mike Thomas every week get eight, 10, 12 catches and wonder, why don't they just double him more and do something to slow him down? Can you explain the dilemma of trying to devote extra resources to him and maybe exposing yourself elsewhere?
"Well, you answered the question for me. Once you do that you expose yourself somewhere else and plus (Drew Brees has) got too many playmakers that he will get the ball (to). He will get the ball in Alvin Kamara's hands as much as he needs to. He has got two good tight ends that you've got to pay attention to, actually three. I like all three of those guys. I think (Jared) Cook, (Josh) Hill and (Dan) Arnold are guys that you've got to be aware of, where they are. Then you've got the speed of Teddy Ginn who we all know very well. You can't take all your resources all the time and put them there all the time because not just Sean (Payton), but the quarterback will figure that out. You watch (Drew Brees) on tape and you see him checking and he knows what they're doing. He's got a feel for it. He's going to do something else and you can watch it and you can see it and sometimes you can't stop it."
What is it that makes Mike (Thomas) so difficult to guard?
"Because he goes after the ball. He does not wait for the ball to get to him. He goes and gets it. There are some receivers that run great routes that are fast and run by people, but don't go get the ball when it's in the air. Their mentality's not the same as this guy's. This guy's mentality is the ball's in the air, it's mine. As a coach, you appreciate that mentality."
Getting back to Kyle (Allen) for a second, now that there is a lot more of him on film having played so much this year, do you see opponents starting to get some idea of how they might want to defend him compared to maybe earlier in the year?
"Maybe. It's funny because we've played against all types of defenses and he's had success and he's had some failures. In some of those cases it was not necessarily how they defended him, but how they defended some other things. Then other times it was things that they did specifically for him. Again, I think it just depends on the way people want to attack and whether or not we can handle certain things as a team too. That's the thing we can't forget is that we are not putting him out there and say, 'hey, win the game by yourself.' We're putting you out there telling you, 'hey, do your job within the framework of what we gameplan and attack the opponent the way we talked about attacking them.' That's the thing that he has to remember and he has to understand. At one point, I told the guys, 'hey, there's not a 26 point plan. You have to do a one play at a time. You have to do it one at a time. If you try to get it all at once, it's not going to happen. That's the thing that a young guy in my opinion has to learn and I think he's learning and growing gradually."
Obviously, you guys were very familiar with Gerald McCoy. Can you take me through when he became available, how big of a priority he was for you guys to get and what has he brought to your defensive line unit since he's been there?
"He was a big priority because one of the things that we've always felt is that we missed was after Star Lotulelei left we lost that extra combination guy. We needed another guy to go with the combination of guys that we have with the KK (Kawaan Short) and we got Dontari Poe who's a big, stout guy that's just having a terrific year for us and is doing some good things. When you have that Kawaan Short guy, you need that third component and looking for a dynamic guy out there that became available, we felt, 'hey, this is a guy we have got to go out and get.' He's been everything we thought he would have to be for us. The unfortunate part is KK being hurt's really kind of impacted our defense a little bit. I am just thrilled that we have a guy like him on our side. I think Gerald's just a terrific football player and a heck of a young man."