New Orleans Saints Linebackers Coach Michael Hodges
Video Conference with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Can you discuss the progress of Alex Anzalone?
"His shoulder's strong. He's moving really well. His confidence out there as a mike linebacker with communication is outstanding. I'm really excited to continue to see him get back into the rhythm of things and hopefully cut it loose and start making some big plays for us."
What was the vision when you guys brought Nigel Bradham in and how quickly can he get acclimated in this defense do you feel?
"The vision was that mike/sam player, kind of a flex position guy that's going to allow us to do some different things. You need to have guys ready to play multiple positions. He's an experienced football player, a Super Bowl winner at mike linebacker who's had the experience, has the confidence, really adds value to the room overall and he's done a good job. We're just fighting through learning a new language. He knows football. All of a sudden he might miss a call here and there because it's new to him but all of a sudden the offense puts him in a bind from a coverage standpoint and he makes an adjustment that we don't have to coach, because he's in position and he's able to make the play for us. He's been a good add to the room. He's right in the mix in the competition where we're trying to see where people fall in place."
What are your early impressions of Joe Bachie now that you are receiving the opportunity to work with him in person?
"I love Joe, he is so smart. He could play all three positions for us and that's without even repping at the sam linebacker. He's just such a veteran linebacker, inside linebacker, meaning this guy's been playing mike linebacker since he's been nine years old so there are a lot of things that carry over. He's been really clean with the adjustments. W've thrown him in there at will, joked about throwing him in at sam because of his intelligence and ability to execute, so (we're) really excited about him, he's evolved really well, he's precise and so we're just excited to figure out what exactly his role's going to be, but what's so encouraging is that in this environment you need people that can do out and execute for you and we have a guy that can really go out there and learn all three positions like some of our older veterans and that's an exciting deal. Hopefully he works it out on special teams and we get him on the bus."
He seemed like a pretty productive player in college for an undrafted guy. What was the process in getting after him?
"We evaluated a lot of guys that may not get drafted kind of in the back half of the draft. We have guys that may fall and have draftable grades on them. But really the credit goes to Jeff Ireland as far as it goes. I can't say I went out to target him. He was on our bubble and Jeff went out and targeted him, making sure we could secure him in our group. Jeff's great in bringing in solid guys for us with solid makeups and he didn't miss a beat with Joe."
Can you talk about the process of scouting Zack Baun and coming up with the vision of him playing in space?
"When you look at Zack, obviously the off the edge stuff, the pass rush value is all over the film, the ability to play sam on the ball, heavy hands, set an edge, run vertical with the right end…All of a sudden you start seeing him do drills, start seeing him in space, his movement ability. Then you get to see him at the Senior Bowl without any real coaching. You plug and play (him at) outside linebacker, he does really good things there. For me, the vision was very clear with this player, he's a sam linebacker, that's working to become a very good mike linebacker in the NFL."
Was that from seeing drills at Senior Bowl practices?
"You have to dig a little deeper than that. I would have said it was harder but I think we saw a lot of it on film when he was out in space. He did drop in coverage. You have to put it away with everything else and just focus on the film. Look at his movement skills and once you evaluate his movement skills, now you're going to have to diagnose what this guy can do in a different position."
Is that a challenge for you, being new in this role and working with a guy who is a little raw?
"It is a challenge. I think it would be a challenge for anybody. But what it is, it's exciting. Mike Nolan texted me right after we drafted this guy and said he's got no bad habits at inside linebacker, make him yours. It's perfect. Everything we teach him between (Michael) Wilhoite and myself, he soaks it in. There's growing pains, I expected that before, but he soaks it in and his growth already this far in camp has been really exciting and really encouraging and I think he's going to be in good shape for us."
You mentioned Demario Davis wanting to improve despite having Pro Bowl caliber seasons this spring. Have you seen the results from the work he's put in? What are some of the areas where you've seen him excel?
"I'll say this, you haven't been able to be at practice as much as much as you normally are and he's missed some reps here and there. We don't need to see him, we know who he is. But damn is he moving fast. He's moving so good right now. It's so exciting to see him move around right now. He's strong. He hasn't missed a beat. I think he'd say this for himself. He is a notch above where he was for movement. He's a little bit lighter on his feet and still is powerful. Just from an athletic standpoint, I think he's done that on his own. He really invested himself in that. But from a football standpoint, we're able to dive into even deeper questions. We're able to dive even more than before. We're at a walk through and he says 'Hodge, I fit it like this way just because I want to feel where the safety's going to run down.' That calc two kind of math that he's working on there is fun to be around and people feed off that in a room."
As a coach, how would you describe your coaching style and who are some of your influences?
"That goes back to my senior year at (Texas) A&M. Dat Nguyen was my position coach and I was the sole senior in the room. He was able to help me start learning (for example) 'This is your gap. Let's start learning the offense. Let's start learning what to predict. That helped my senior year. He was a big influence on me, him and several other guys. The strength coach at A&M had a great influence on me as well. These guys didn't have, it wasn't always barking, because all of a sudden it becomes white noise. I've mentioned this before, if I didn't do this I could legitimately find myself as a professor at a university because I just enjoy the teaching and finding a way to connect with you (Nick Underhill) as opposed to you Amos (Morale), because everyone learns differently. If I say the word trust, you may interpret it differently with your upbringing than Amos may, those types of things that challenge a teaching to each guy in the room that's out there is really important to me."