Tagged in: defensive coordinator

Johnathan Abram’s goal is to play under control for Las Vegas Raiders

First, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Karl Joseph. Then they used a second-round draft pick on Trevon Moehrig. Tyree Gillespie came in the fourth round.

Surely, bringing in three new safeties had to send a message to incumbent starter Johnathan Abram, right? Meh …

“It doesn’t,” insisted Abram, a first-round draft pick in 2019, after Wednesday’s OTA practice. “Only thing it does is bring us together. As soon as those guys got drafted, as soon as Karl got signed back, I reached out to everybody. I told them, ‘It’s time to go to work.’

“Each guy’s going to push each other. We’re all going to come out every single day and just be our best. Day in and day out. Being a pro … if everybody does that, it’s going to make the room entirely better.”

And it should improve Abram’s oft-boom or bust, heat-seeking-missile style.

For one thing, Abram is settling in at a new position as a box safety in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s heavy Cover-3 scheme.

“It’s interesting going from what we went to last year, playing a lot of split-safety, playing high,” Abram said. “So this is going to be more suitable to my talents and my strengths.”

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For another, Abram realizes he needs to slow down a tad and not always go for the kill shot, lest he take out a teammate — which has happened on occasion — or himself — yeah, that’s happened, too.

Like his rookie campaign, when he played all of one half of the 2019 season opener due to a self-inflicted shoulder injury.

“Last offseason was a struggle for me coming off the shoulder injury,” he said. “So this year I stayed around the facility a lot … I’m more than 100 percent, honestly. I’m as strong as I’ve ever been.

“This year, [the goal is] just being more consistent. Playing under control. Not really taking that many wild hits, getting myself knocked out of the game [and] hurting my own body … being consistent, being disciplined and constantly just doing my job. Filling my grade sheet with ‘plusses’ every day. Then every Sunday, I think my game will blossom.”

It’s only OTAs, and they are voluntary, but 83 of the 89 players on the Raiders’ current roster were practicing on Wednesday, with running back Josh Jacobs, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, tight end Derek Carrier, cornerback Isaiah Johnson and rookie linebacker/safety Divine Deablo not participating.

But there was Abram, taking on a leadership role with the defensive backs on a far side of the field.

And as draft classmate Clelin Ferrell noted, he has seen Abram focusing on “making it a special year” for both himself and the Raiders.

“All of us, we’re tired of losing,” Ferrell said. “Seeing his discipline, he’ll bring the guys along on the back end and the way he’s trying to push the fact that we’ve really got to learn this defense, so we can just go out there and play.”

Abram had two interceptions last season. He was also criticized for his inconsistent ball skills and for being badly out of position on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 22-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Travis Kelce in the final minute of the Raiders’ loss to the Chiefs on Nov. 22.

Still, as former Raiders defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil stated last year, it is easier to get a player to slow down than to get him to speed up.

Now, Abram has a new position coach in 21-year coaching veteran Ron Milus.

And Abram also has a couple of veterans in the secondary to lean on in new cornerback Casey Hayward Jr., who has played for Bradley, and a one-time roommate in Joseph. Remember, Abram and Joseph started one match together and now Joseph is entering his sixth season.

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Chicago Bears hire former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as senior assistant

Mike Pettine did not have far to go to find his next job. The Chicago Bears hired the former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator as a senior defensive assistant Wednesday.

Pettine spent the past three years running the Packers’ defense but was not kept after he let his contract expire following the 2020 season.

The Packers ranked ninth in total defense last season under Pettine, but a defensive breakdown at the end of the first half in the NFC Championship Game on what coach Matt LaFleur called “a flat-out miscommunication” between him and Pettine on what the call should have been on Tom Brady’s 39-yard touchdown pass with one second left in the second quarter ultimately led to LaFleur’s decision to move on from Pettine.

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The Packers hired Joe Barry to substitute Pettine.

Pettine, 54, never signed a contract extension that was offered to him after last season, meaning he was in the final year of his deal, a source told ESPN after the season, making it a cleaner split.

Most coordinators and position coaches always have two years on their deals with the Packers, but Pettine preferred to go into the last year of his contract and see how things played out.

The Chicago Tribune reported last week that Bears coach Matt Nagy was leaning toward hiring a senior defensive assistant to aid new coordinator Sean Desai. In Pettine, the Bears not only will have an experienced defensive coordinator but also a former head coach (Pettine coached the Browns in 2014-15).

The Bears promoted Desai, who had been their safeties coach, to replace Chuck Pagano, who retired after the season.

The Bears on Wednesday also promoted Mike Snyder from offensive quality control coach to offensive quality control/assistant quarterbacks coach and moved Henry Burris from Bill Walsh Coaching Fellow to offensive quality control coach.

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Ex-Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn reaches deal to become Dallas Cowboys DC

The Dallas Cowboys have hired Dan Quinn to be their next defensive coordinator, the team informed Monday night.

Quinn agreed to a three-year deal, a source told ESPN, matching the length of Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s new contract. Both coordinators will be signed through the 2023 season.

Quinn takes over for Mike Nolan, who was fired last week by head coach Mike McCarthy, and inherits a defense that had one of the worst seasons in Cowboys history.

Quinn was fired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons five games into the 2020 campaign after having held the job since 2015. He posted a 43-42 record and took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in his second season.

Going with Quinn signals a return to the scheme the Cowboys employed from 2013 to 2019 under Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard.

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Quinn, 50, was the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014, before becoming Atlanta’s head coach.

He employed a 4-3 scheme that mostly used a single-high safety look and helped the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowl appearances. The Seahawks finished No. 1 in yards and points allowed in his two campaigns.

Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones was eager to move away from the scheme the Cowboys used in McCarthy’s first year because he thought it was too simplistic. Nolan brought in a hybrid defense designed to use multiple coverages and disguises to confuse offenses, but that never really happened.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Nolan and the defensive staff had to implement their new defense virtually, without any benefit of on-field work until a shortened training camp started. The early results were disastrous, with the Cowboys allowing at least 34 points in five of the first six games.

Nolan simplified the scheme early in the season, but the defense never really took hold. The Cowboys permitted the most points in franchise history (473) and concluded with the 31st-ranked run defense.

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Dallas Cowboys fire defensive coordinator Mike Nolan

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will not be returning to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2021 campaign, the team revealed Friday.

Last season, the Cowboys (6-10) allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and concluded 31st in the league in run defense. In the season-ending loss to the New York Giants, they allowed 23 points, including 20 in the first half, to an offense that had not scored more than 19 in five weeks.

The unit played better down the stretch with 12 takeaways in the final four matches after getting just 11 in the first 12 games, but that was aided in part by facing backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

“I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020,” coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement. “These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future.”

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Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas at different times during the season, owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones lamented the jarring scheme switch — from a 4-3 look to a hybrid look — made by the Cowboys during an offseason in which the coaches could only meet virtually with the players.

Unable to get hands-on experience until the start of an abbreviated training camp, the Cowboys defense struggled badly. They finished 23rd in yards per game (31st vs. the run, 11th vs. the pass) and 28th in points (29.6). The Cowboys allowed 69 plays of 20 yards or more, including 51 passes and 18 runs.

In the three other times the Cowboys allowed a franchise record in points, the organization either made a scheme modification or a coaching change.

After allowing 436 points in 2010, Jason Garrett was named the full-time head coach after taking over for Wade Phillips at midseason, and he hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. In 2013, they allowed 432 points in Monte Kiffin’s first year as coordinator, and he was replaced by Rod Marinelli. After giving up 405 points in 2004, Bill Parcells switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme but kept Mike Zimmer as his coordinator.

McCarthy and Nolan have a long background together.

In 2005, Nolan hired McCarthy as his offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, which helped propel him to earning the Green Bay Packers head job a year later.

But the defense could not find its footing. While they suffered some injuries to Leighton Vander Esch (collarbone, ankle), Trysten Hill (knee) and Trevon Diggs (foot), they were not hit as hard as the Cowboys’ offense.

Their bigger free-agent pickups were either hurt in training camp (defensive lineman Gerald McCoy), did not make the team out of camp (safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), were traded (Everson Griffen) or were released because of poor play in the middle of the season (defensive tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Daryl Worley).

If the Cowboys look in-house for a substitute, George Edwards spent the year as a senior defensive assistant. He was Zimmer’s defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2019.

But the first question that must be answered is what type of scheme the Cowboys want to use. In Green Bay, McCarthy employed a 3-4 scheme for most of his tenure. If he wants to continue with the hybrid look Nolan attempted to use, adding players to fit the scheme will be an offseason priority. In all but three years of his time in Green Bay, the Packers used a 3-4 scheme.

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