We didn’t get your reaction to the story last night about Jonathan Vilma potentially returning. Can you talk about what that would mean to the team?
“It would be huge. It’s sort of early news and nobody really knows the validity of it, but the thought of having him back would be huge for us. He’s such a huge part of what we do and what we’ve built. He’s one of the guys who’s established what we’ve done here. Even the thought of getting him back is exciting for us and I really hope that this thing works out in his favor, because we all have his back 100 percent. We support (him).”
How much of a difference do you think he can still make?
“A huge difference. He’s the heart and soul of our defense. The sooner he can get back, the more of an impact he can make. I think obviously right now, he’s missing time as far as getting the install and the playbook (but) Jonathan Vilma’s still a great player. He’s proven that year in and year out with his performance. We’re definitely excited about the thought of having him back.”
Coach Vitt said it would still be an easy transition to get him back into the rotation. Do you agree?
“I think so too. I think it brings competition, whenever you have some depth, you can bring in Jonathan Vilma and have Curtis Lofton too, as well as the other guys competing for us at different linebacker jobs. It just makes our team better. That’s a good problem to have.”
How often do you communicate with him?
“I actually talked to him early last week. I don’t talk to him enough and as much as I need to with us being in training camp. I know he itches to get back and he’s in good spirits and anxious for everything to play out and let everything run its course.”
Are you excited for the opportunity to face Tom Brady this week?
“Yes, I think it’s going to be a really good week for our defense, just to get some different looks and you really go again to the quarterback with his talent, tight ends and receivers, I think it will be good for us because we’re still young as far as putting in a new defense and going up against Drew every day is a big challenge. To be able to get up in there in practice with them is really going to be good for us, to get some looks and go over some things including scrimmaging with them on Thursday.”
How do you feel about your progress in the new defense so far as well as what is left to continue to improve on?
“We still need to get our run fits and make sure everybody’s still in the same gap and just tackling. I think every year in the preseason, that’s the number one thing, just tackling. Everybody’s a little rusty coming off the offseason and the quicker you can get back to being a secure defense that tackles well, everything else can be corrected.”
Was your pick, the example of the new Steve Spagnuolo scheme you’re learning? Is this the 2010 Malcolm Jenkins?
“I think that was just more of a bad play on (Kevin) Kolb’s (part). I think we may be confused him a little bit with some looks. That’s not a ball you get thrown too often. The call was a defense we transitioned over from last year. Usually Roman is in that position. We’re moving some things around. We’re really excited about what Spags is doing and I’m really having some fun in that defense, getting a lot closer to the ball, getting my eyes on the football. It gives you a lot more opportunities to get interceptions, like the tipped balls and overthrows. I think right now, we’re keeping it simple. All the plays are base calls. As we get into the season, we’ll really get elaborate with it. The things we do in practice, we have a lot of fun with.
What will it be like to have your defense tested in an unusual way because of New England’s bevy of slot receivers and two tight end sets?
“Those are some of the challenging things. They challenge us with the run and to go against some dynamic tight ends that presents another problem. To practice with them is a big thing. That’s what I’m looking forward to, because I know they’re going to get some plays on us and they’re going to give us some problems that we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board to fix. You get to see where the weaknesses are in a defense and you can correct those early. It will be a good test for us now. Something that we need and we’re looking forward to competing.”
What are your impressions of Rob Gronkowski? You have a great tight end on your team. Is seems like those guys are the top two?
“When we got here two years ago with (Aaron) Hernandez and Gronknowski, our jaws were dropping, especially with Hernandez. He’s very, very shifty, his routes are good. Gronkowski there wasn’t really much about him that caught your eye, but once you turned on the tape that season and what he did especially last season, I think he presents a problem, just like Jimmy (Graham), where there are certain things you can’t cover. He’s so big and the quarterback gets him the football and there’s really nothing you can do about it. Anytime you have a quarterback like a (Drew) Brees or a Brady who puts it away from a defender, you can coach all the things in the world, but it’s hard to stop those things.”
Do you think people have trouble understanding that sometimes?
“They do it against everybody. You’re talking about guys that are bigger than everybody, guys that are not faster, but can run for their size and can catch the football. Once you add the equation of a quarterback who can put it where he needs it to be to give them the best chance, it’s a big disadvantage to the defender.”
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