On Wednesday Jason Tarver took the time to break down the Raiders defense with the media during a bye week press conference. Tarver also discussed the Raiders Week 8 meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers as he has an extra week to prepare for their offense. Tarver also took the time to talk about rookies Sio Moore and D.J. Hayden as well as his take on the NFL’s heightened penalties for head contact this season.
Here is the transcript from the Raiders official website:
Q: Alex Smith said that he was confused at times during the game. What do you think of the job your defense did on Sunday?
Coach Tarver: Coach Allen says they’re no moral victories in the NFL. We’re about winning, and we played them well defensively in a lot of phases, especially pressuring the quarterback and making him throw incompletions. We had the three sacks early, but then we were in the backfield the whole game. We’ve got to play better situationally. We’ve got to play better down on the goal line, especially. We had a few guys that just need to be in the correct spots down on the goal line. On both runs where [Chiefs RB Jamaal] Charles ran in, we can play those better. That’s what we have to do better. When they get in the red zone we have to hold them to field goals, not touchdowns. That’s one of the biggest things we talked about with the guys all this week. We’re limiting yards, we’re getting better every week, we’re taking the football away these last three weeks. We’re knocking the ball out – of course DJ [Hayden] knocked one out. But, we need to do a better job down and around on our goal line. Doing that starts with us. It’s just simply guys doing their job in that situation. We’ve been good at times, we were good against San Diego, but we’ve got to be good all the time. You turn bad into good, good into great. You guys have heard that from me before and that’s what we’re trying to do. The last three weeks it’s turned closer to good, but we’ve got to turn it into great.
Q: Coach Allen has said that he hasn’t been satisfied with the way DJ Hayden has been coming along, but he has been encouraged. What have you seen from him?
Coach Tarver: I think that’s appropriate. I’m encouraged in that he learned from things that happened to him – he missed the tackle on a screen to start the two minute drive at the end of the second quarter. The next time he had the opportunity to tackle in space, it was a perfect tackle and he knocked the ball out. So, we just need those things to happen faster. DJ knows that and he’s continuing to work on that. He had a good week of practice and a good day today at practice. That’s the life on an NFL Rookie. It’s not easy covering these people. When you see [Dwayne] Bowe for the first time at the receiver position, and he touches his head to the ceiling when he walks into a room, that’s what you’re going against, and they’re the best in the world for a reason. So, I would agree with exactly how D.A. [Dennis Allen] worded that, but like we said, and like I’ve said in here before, the team knows what the kid has in him and everybody appreciates him and how he’s working to get better.
Q: When he [DJ Hayden] had that pass interference that ended up resulting in a touchdown that gave the momentum back to Kansas City before the half, but then he turned around and forced the fumble, are those the kinds of things you want to see from him? Not letting things get to his head?
Coach Tarver: Yeah. Well we just want this: The big up and down is that you just need to level. A real good corner in the NFL is a guy that makes about four really good or critical plays for the game and then you don’t notice him for the rest of the game because all he’s doing is his job. But, it’s things of being on the right leverage, and making sure that even if you miss a tackle once in a while that you miss it with the correct leverage if nobody else is there. That’s one of the things we’ve improved on as a defense, and DJ has too. You don’t want the big swings. The big swings are what allows things. And like you said, there’s a third-down conversion on a pass interference, so what? It’s 7-7 and we’ve got to stop them, that’s our job. So it goes right back to executing what our job is. You don’t know which way the ball is going to bounce. Execute when you get in a situation, that’s our job.
Q: What’s the next step for Sio Moore?
Coach Tarver: Sio needs to do a better job of taking his course and going as fast as he can. Obviously on the first play of the game this week, he got to the quarterback on the first play of the game and wrapped him up, that was nice, his first sack. Sio needs to be consistent in setting edges, using his hands in the game, and not overreacting too fast like he did last game. He’s very instinctive and he can move in space. That was the best game that he’s played. He’s just got to keep that arrow going up. But, he’s starting to do some things that we thought he could do – using his hands and setting edges. And that’s what he needs to do to be consistent.
Q: Can you define the overreacting in the pass game?
Coach Tarver: Oh I just mean, young players do it all the time, if you see a quarterback twitch over here, they go that way versus, ‘Hey look, that’s just a twitch. That’s not a throw. Hey, QB key, ball out, break. The ball’s not out; he didn’t take his hands off the ball, right?’ Everybody goes through that, even veterans need that coaching so it’s a big overreaction to anything. It’s just, OK, you’re a vision zone defender. I’ll give you an example, I’m all squared up, I’m the quarterback now. So if your vision is on the defender and I’m a quarterback and I twitch my shoulders and you move, well, the next time he’s going to do it again because he’s going to get you to move. But, if you’re a vision-zone defender and I twitch my shoulders and you stay right there and then the hand comes off the ball, you’re that much quicker to go make a play. It’s what everyone goes through. That would be the way I describe that.
Q: Opposing offenses, like Alex Smith said after the game, look at your defense and say that it’s something complicated and complex but when you talk to your defensive players they say it’s simple. What goes into teaching that and making that so on defense?
Coach Tarver: You’ve asked a form of that question before and these are my favorite questions because it’s this; it’s categories. We can make the look, look totally different by only switching two or three guys and what they do. ‘Hey guys, you all know this call right? Well you two guys are going to switch,’ so now, to an offense, it looks totally different because somebody is blitzing and somebody is dropping when it’s the same call to everybody else. That’s how we function, we put things in categories and that’s how we can learn them. That’s where we want to go. We’re scratching the surface of where this thing can go, and that’s being multiple but still simple for us, but it looks like a lot more than it is them. That’s one of the whole ideas that we have base this on. The guys are starting to do that. They’re starting to see, ‘Oh yeah, okay. If we do what we’re supposed to do, this is my turn I’m going to make sure I do this one right.’ And this one over here, ‘This is my turn, so I’m going to do this right.’
Q: As long as they’re where they’re supposed to be at the snap of the ball, do they have any freedom to move around back there, to do their own creativity in terms of giving a different look?
Coach Tarver: Yes. That’s my shortest answer ever. (laughter)
Q: Jason, how fine is that line between teaching and over coaching?
Coach Tarver: It’s huge, and it’s what every coach has to learn at every level. You don’t want to take the feel away from a football player. A lot of times, you ask them to set and edge and get extension and say they take it and get the block like this; a guy grabs their pad like happened to Sio [Moore] early during the game as an example. A guy grabs their pad and turns him and they got four or five yards. Sio, what did you feel? ‘Well the guy got my pad Coach.’ I said do you know why he got the pad? Because you didn’t get extension first. He has longer arms than you so you have to get extension and if you get in this position with your elbows in and thumbs up, he can’t grab your pad and you’re in command, that’s what you need to feel. The next time, he did it and I asked him, what did you feel? He said, ‘Oh Coach, I could have done whatever I wanted.’ There you go. That’s kind of an example of coaching versus over coaching. If I just tell him 100 times, you have to set the edge, you have to set the edge, you have to set the edge, you have to set the edge, but then don’t tell him how, that’s what D.A. [Dennis Allen] is hitting on. I just gave you a coaching example of what he’s working on, and it’s different for every player. It’s different for every player. It’s different at every level and we really try to go in the room and figure out what the guys need to help them make plays because that’s why we’re here-to help these guys make plays.
Q: Coach, what are you initial thoughts on the Steelers? They’ve had some change at the skill positions but the quarterback is the same. Is there anything you can take from last year’s game and apply it to this year?
Coach Tarver: Yeah, definitely. Last year’s game we didn’t challenge enough early, we started challenging later in that game and were able to make a comeback. Obviously, they know what happened as a result as well. Their wide receiver position, they can make plays. That quarterback, it’s amazing how strong he is naturally. We need to make sure that our rules are correct, our looks are correct, we activate guys and get him on the ground and make sure we continue to stop the run. They’ve gotten a little bit better running the ball the past few weeks and we need to make sure that we handle both phases, because sometimes, like you said, if you over coach a certain phase-there’s two things they can do at all times, they can run and they can pass we need to make sure our rules fit both phases for them.
Q: What has made Roethlisberger one of the better quarterbacks in the league the last several years?
Coach Tarver: His toughness, his arm, everything. Just the way he plays. He is a tough-minded, tough individual, and he just keeps so many plays alive, and of course, he can throw it the length of the field, almost. He’s a good player, and we’ll look more at him as we go here. We were focusing on ourselves – like Coach Allen said this week – getting healthy and learning what we can do better. A lot of the things that we were talking about here is how to make our looks all look the same, make sure we set edges better, here’s how you set an edge, all of the things you guys asked about is what we’ve been emphasizing this week because it’s about us more than it’s about anybody else.
Q: With all the rules about hitting players, how hard is it for defenders to execute a tackle properly and not get penalized?
Coach Tarver: The biggest thing is this – and you’ve asked me about tackling before – you have to have your hips down, your eyes up and you have to wrap. It’s not getting low because getting low could mean bending your upper body. What does that do to my neck and my head? What did I just do? (motions making an improper tackle) I don’t want to hit anything like that. I want to hit things with my eyes up and my hips down. If your eyes are up, your hips are down and you wrap up, there is less of a chance of hitting those areas that you can’t hit by the rules. So, we just continue to preach form tackling, make sure you wrap, see what you hit, keep your hips down, eyes up, and we put them in drills to practice those body positions. That’s one of the things we’ve been working on this week and showing them, ‘Look at your body position on contact, dude. Number one, you’re going to get hurt, number two, you missed the tackle.’ So, that’s double negative. Let’s not do that. Let’s get our hips down, our eyes up, step with the proper foot, wrap him up. If he’s bigger than you, hit him low, wrap him up, the cavalry will come and let’s get the ball out. So, we’re emphasizing that stuff all the time because, one, we want him safe, two, we want to get the guy on the ground, three, we don’t want anybody fined. But it’s going to happen at time, but that’s not what we want.
Q: Should there be a target zone, like a strike zone, on a player’s body so you know exactly where a legal hit is vs. an illegal hit?
Coach Tarver: I don’t know. When you’re moving that fast … I don’t know that answer. The safety committee looks at every single play. Witt the players and people that are on that board, we trust that they’ll have everybody’s best interest in their minds when they make those rules. I just think that you need to teach the proper form, one, for you players’ safety, so that we’re safe on contact. My biggest pet peeve is when a guy goes into contact and he’s in a position to hurt himself. That’s not why we are in this game or to play. We want to get the guy down, and using your hands as much as possible, with as much violence as possible within the rules of the game.
Q: The Chiefs didn’t have a scoring drive longer than  yards. Two of them were less than 30, which means that you guys are doing a good job holding long fields. What kind of a mentality to do they need to have when they are put in difficulty situations with a short field? And does your defense have it right now?
Coach Tarver: That’s what we were talking about – the execution in the red zone was the biggest thing that we need to do, and it starts with us. Some of those were the exact plays we practiced. That’s the ones we have to get right. That’s why defensive football at any level is tough, because 11 guys have to be right and go get the guy with the ball. But, here’s what we say we do and what we think when we go on the field: We’re saying watch this. We’re talking about what we do. Watch us, we’re going to go stop them, and that’s where every defense needs to improve in that area because those are the toughest situations you’re going to be in. But, we don’t care where we get the ball – our job is to stop them.