New Orleans Saints Linebacker A.J. Klein
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, October 21, 2019
You guys had a stretch of outstanding defensive games like this last year, maybe six or so in a row. Do you feel like this team is better built to carry it farther?
"Honestly, I don't like to compare this team to last year's team. I think every single year every team's different, (the) identity is different, the guys in locker room are different, but you could draw some similarities between the two. Obviously, I think we're coming together as a team playing good football in all phases which obviously comes out with W's on gameday. I think for us it's just focusing on the process and what we've been doing correctly throughout the weekend, preparing for games. Obviously, that has been working for us."
You kind of brought up a couple of things like energy, but with this specific defense, what are some of the things that kind of just stand out just from a chemistry standpoint with you guys?
"I think everybody is taking responsibility. Everybody is focusing on the details and we are being highly critical of ourselves which is a great thing. Nobody is pointing fingers. Obviously, if something goes wrong, we get it ironed out on the sidelines and make the corrections. I think that's the sign of a great defense is a team that doesn't dwell on things when things go bad, but they just move on and keep pointing. I think that's one thing that we've done really well throughout the season and obviously these last few weeks as we continue to get better and better. Obviously, our play is showing that. I think there's obviously areas that we can improve on from yesterday. But, moving forward, again, like we said, we go in the film room and we just be honest with ourselves. It is obviously proving to work for us."
You guys work on forcing turnovers in practice, but it's difficult to have the same simulation as in a game. How different is that? And I guess how conscious are you guys during games of going for the turnover?
"I think sometimes the conscious effort depends on the situation of the play. But I think when it comes to forced fumbles and getting turnovers, obviously interceptions speak for themselves, but more so forced fumbles, it's more being fast to the ball. I think you can see from the two that were forced yesterday. It was a guy coming in and just topping off the ballcarrier. It wasn't necessarily, you say going for the football intentionally. I think Vonn (Bell) put his hat right around the ball. The other one, Marcus (Williams) came in and topped off on the runner and the ball popped out again. There are different situations. There are situations where you have actual true punchouts where you are focusing on the punchout. But, I think the more (you) beat the ballcarrier to the ground and try to get as many hats around the guy as possible, good things are going to happen."
What does it say about the defense that this is four games now where you've limited them to less than 300 yards and then four straight with less than 100 yards rushing?
"Again, I think that speaks to our preparation. I think it speaks to our coaching, gameplan, and obviously having a good plan going into the game and then obviously us executing it on gameday. We played a great game yesterday. Obviously, the last two drives and everything that happened towards the end skewed some of our numbers a little bit. But I think overall, the preparation of his team has been outstanding and the focus has been outstanding, and I think everybody's taken care of their bodies. I think we're just in a good place and moving forward. So we just want to keep that momentum going."
With the running game specifically, what do you think has been kind of the key to your success there as a unit? I think it's been since November or December of the 2017 season since you have allowed a hundred yard rusher.
"I think the front seven has been tremendous. The D-line, linebackers working together, working within the scheme, and obviously guys being able to beat one-on-ones, get off blocks and make plays. Yesterday, I think they only tried to run the ball seven times, so obviously they didn't commit to running the football, but I think that starts with the guys up front. First and foremost, our four-down linemen. Those are hard guys to move off the point, they take on double teams great, they keep us backers clean. I think when we do have to make plays at the backer position, like I said, I think or defense goes hand in hand. We work together really, really well and I think that's been the difference these past few years about how well we've played the run because it's starting up front. I think Coach Ryan (Neilsen) does a great job getting these guys prepared every single week and it definitely makes our job a little bit easier. The coaches put together a great plan as well for each kind of running scheme and running battle that we're going to get into every single week that puts in the best position possible."
I'm not sure how much you get a chance to work against Latavius (Murray) in practice, but what are some of the traits that you see from him that really stand out?
"I think Latavius is obviously a big back, downhill runner. I think people take it for granted because he's kind of a upright runner, people think he'd be easy to tackle, which is not the case at all. I think Latavius has got great contact balance to make people miss when he needs to and obviously he gets great yards after contact being the big back that he is. Yesterday, I was standing on the sideline like just keep handing the ball to him because he's getting four or five yards a pop every carry it seemed like. When you have a guy that's that big and physical, especially with our offensive getting the push and the movement that they did with Zach Line at fullback too, they were coming down hill and moving that defense line. I'm all for Latavius and his running style and how he's a downhill runner."
We saw C.J. Gardner-Johnson in there a lot yesterday with P.J. Williams out. I know you're not obviously in the defensive back room, but after getting the chance to look at the film, how do you think you played back there?
"He played fantastic. He played a great day. He really did. He had a great run hit, was active in pass coverage, had a big third down stop when they tried it on a stutter play against us. I feel like he was all over the field. We needed him to play big like that and he came through. I think he's been putting that time. He's been taking coaching and kind of absorbing everything. The communication, everything in between him and the rest of the backers has improved as well since training camp has started. He's continuing to improve day by day and he's continue to make big plays when we need to him to."
What do you think of the Zach Line as an option quarterback?
"Obviously, we feel like he can do it (laughter). I give a high five on the sideline when I saw it because I did not realize he pitched the option until I saw the replay. But who knows? We might see more of that show up. We might not, but, I think it is great to see Zach be a part of that too."