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Quotes: Jim Haslett Talks About Current State of Defense

Jim Haslett spoke to the media yesterday and gave a state of the union for where he feels the defense is currently.


On his impression of his rookie draft picks:

"I liked them all. I think they progressed and did a good job in training camp. Bacarri [Rambo] is getting better every day. I know you guys are killing him on that one play but it's hard to tackle that guy in the open space. But I think Bacarri's doing a great job. He's getting better every day. Brandon Jenkins is helping us on third down. We've got a package for him so we can use him on third down. Obviously Phillip [Thomas] being hurt, that's a setback, but I think in the long run he's going to be a really good football player. And David [Amerson] has really done a nice job in all areas - coverage, the run game - and I think the kid, with his length and speed and everything, he could be something really special."

On if the rookies have progressed faster than he expected:

"They're all smart. I think they're all kind of right on course. We'll see how they go the next couple of weeks and then we'll decide how we're going to play them for the opener."

On where the defensive unit stands at this point in the preseason:

"Obviously, we did not do a good enough job in the run last week. I was disappointed in that because I thought that's one of the areas - that's our strength. We'll clean that up. We're going to be good in the run again. I thought the guys did a nice job pass rushing last week. The first play they threw the ball we got a sack, so I was encouraged by that. Rak' [Brian Orakpo] being back obviously is a big plus for us. And I think if we can stay healthy and doing the things we're doing, we'll be all right."

On if any of his players have surprised him:

"I'm not sure if anybody has really surprised me. There's guys that I feel good about, like I thought [cornerback] Chase Minnifield really has come on. He's played well. I feel good about Chase, obviously for missing two years of football with two ACLs. Just the way he's out there. You can tell his dad played football and he's been around it his whole life. He's just kind of a natural football player. So, I think all of those things, I kind of like him because the guy missed two years and came back and he's going to get better and better every day."

On the overall depth of defense:

"Like I said, we feel good about the safety spot because we've got a lot of guys that have played. I think [linebacker] Darryl Tapp coming in, playing outside linebacker, I think he's done a good job for us. You know, obviously not having [defensive end] Jarvis [Jenkins] for the opener and [linebacker Rob] Jackson for the opener, obviously those are setbacks. That's kind of [like] guys get hurt and missing four games, so you adjust. We went through it last year. I feel good about Kedric [Golston] playing. Chris Baker has moved to end, playing a lot of end, and you know he played nose for us last year. He's done a nice job, he's athletic. [Defensive end] Phillip Merling has done a nice job for us. So we feel that we've got enough depth that if something happens we'll be in good shape."

On level of excitement in drafting linebacker Brandon Jenkins:

"The defensive staff really liked him. We brought him in for a visit and the guy had a lot of sacks. As a sophomore, he had 14.5, and 10.5 as a junior, then he got hurt and missed his senior year. We're kind of going off of what we saw back in his young days. So, I think the guy is a natural pass rusher. He has a lot of moves, a lot of skills from that area. He's in a learning program to play outside linebacker. That won't be an emphasis this year with Darryl [Tapp] and Rob Jackson and everybody. We're going to use him in nickel and sub situations, and if he can help us some in Okie we'll get him ready for that, but more in the sub stuff."

On the depth at the inside linebacker position:

"I am a Bryan Kehl fan. That is why we picked up Bryan. We didn't want to let him go last year but because of the numbers, we couldn't keep everybody. I think Bryan has done a nice job. He has played both Mike and Jack for us. He can handle both situations. He is smart. He is really athletic, can run, so we feel good about that. There is a couple young guys out there that have really stepped up and done a nice job. The other reason is we brought Nick Barnett in also. He has played in this system, played in Green Bay in the same system. He understands that we've just got to get him healthy, get him on the field and get him some playing time."

On if he can tell if this defense will be better than last year's defense:

"Well, number one, I think we were fifth in the league in rushing and third in turnovers. We've got to keep those numbers up. Obviously we wanted to create turnovers, but we've got to do better in the pass game than we did last year. We gave up too many big plays and didn't do as well as we would have liked. I think that area we will improve on and be much better and then we'll have a better pass rush also."

On how long it will take Jenkins to feel comfortable in coverage:

"It takes a while. I was around guys in Pittsburgh when we did it with guys. It takes two or three years. It took Joey Porter three years. It takes guys two or three years to learn, to be exactly what you're looking for. But in the meantime, you get them ready to play in that position and he can help you in other areas. But it takes a little bit of time."