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Q&A With Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Rodgers

Editor's note: sat down with the assistant coaches to talk about their position groups before the coaches left Dove Valley for vacations in mid-June.

What kinds of things do you work on with your group during OTAs and minicamps"Real similar to offensively and defensively, there's obviously a limited amount of things you can do contact wise but knowing what to do and how we want to try and get it done can still get accomplished during this time period. I also think that a large part of the season is based on not being in pads. There's a way you practice and that's kind of setting the tone for the in season part of it. But really with the new guys we're looking at their athletic ability, how well they learn, and really some of the space, movement-type things as well as how quickly can they adapt to some of the things on the run without getting a whole lot of contact stuff. You try to marry that part of it so you don't have to re-teach that during training camp and now they can show us what they can do physically with that part of the game."

How do you work to get the rookies up to speed as quickly as possible?"I think you just throw them in there. Find out what they can do early. Obviously the veteran guys are going to be ahead of them. We try not to overload them with a lot of information. Schematically, we're going to keep things simple so that we can see them at their best, playing fast as early as we can. The reality is, none of these guys had that role in college. They're All-Conference or All-America, they're All-whatever it may be and that's where they've been throughout their entire career. Obviously, we think they're good players but there is a learning curve involved. Generally speaking, they're not going to be going as fast as the vets, who are going to pick it up. For them a lot of them are in year three of the system but you can kind of tell based on our experiences where different guys are at. Where was Nate Irving two years ago? Where was Omar Bolden a year ago? You try to make those comparisons and just see where they're headed as the season unfolds."

How do you replace leadership from a veteran like Wesley Woodyard as he spends more time playing on defense?"To be honest with you, we haven't had to replace the leadership. Wesley (Woodyard) is a guy who's still, even though his role was diminished when it comes to the kicking game last year, he still was in the meetings. His peers voted him as the captain last year. He took that pretty seriously and maintained that the entire season but as he's not on the field, a guy like David (Bruton) assumes some leadership and Nate Irving assumes some leadership and some of the rookie guys as the season went on they kind of start feeling like it's their own. That stuff grows naturally. But the thing that I think that is important with that continuity is that's one of the things that's always a constant when it comes to special teams. If one of your guys gets hurt, who's the next guy going in? If a defensive starter goes in and now one of the guys who maybe is a primary specialist has become a defensive starter, who's the next guy going in? That's why you try to develop your young guys as quickly as you can and hopefully by the time they're pressed into action they can uphold that standard that we play with across the board."

How important is David Bruton to the coverage teams"I think it's evident – I mean we're not the ones voting for our own players for the Pro Bowl so any time a guy gets votes or is an alternate or whatever it shows the respect they've got around the league. Other teams see who those impact guys are. Even though at times it's not as evident to the naked eye, David specifically is a guy who's been a really important part of what we've done. But again, we're just trying to put guys in the positions they can be most successful in and he's not going to be great if the rest of our guys aren't playing very well. And if in the games that people have tried to double team him or schematically try to take him it's opened some things for some other guys to do things. Part of the reason why we've made some other impact plays might be because they're doubling him inside and a gunner is singled up and forces a fumble or we block a punt because they're paying a little too much attention – all this stuff marries in as well as our returner, our kicker's ability and where we're directioned and all that stuff ties together."

How much more do you expect from Trindon Holliday after a full offseason to work with him?"Well, it's hard to expect four touchdowns out of one guy in ten games. But certainly that's something that goal-wise we're trying to get in the endzone in our return game. I think the offseason benefits guys. Any time a guy joins a team midseason there's something along the way that they're going to miss and you try not to have that happen as a coach but the reality is there's a reason why we have so many hours of meetings during training camp. There's a reason why we work all this stuff pre-practice, post-practice, during practice. Having a full offseason to work with a guy like him, I think you can rewind, start from ground zero: here's how we want you to do things, here's what you're looking for in certain things. And you see the skillset as a coach and you're trying to scheme things around that skill set. Well when you have eight months with a player and especially coming off last season, we know more about Trindon – some of the things he does well, some of the things that we may have to protect him from and we can adjust things as they're going in to the season not necessarily in midseason."

What was it like game planning against Trindon Holliday one week and then with him a few weeks later?"He had our attention going in to that Houston game. You get in the endzone three times in the preseason, you get everybody's attention. That's a different type of deal where you play against a guy and they all of a sudden he's playing for you but it's the way the NFL is. That obviously worked out for us. He made an immediate impact for us in the season and in the playoff game."

Were you happy with the overal play of the special teams groups last year?"Yeah, I think our goal always going into the season – regardless of if we're talking individual goals, team goals or unit goals – is to be consistently good all the time. We don't want to have great play and have four disaster plays, that doesn't work in this business. You're trying to be consistently good and if you can do that and you've got good specialists then youre going to make some dramatically great plays – whether its scoring or downing a punt at the five or whatever. I'd say that we performed at a pretty decent level for most of the season. There were some lulls and that's what we're trying to keep from happening. We're trying to play 16 games consistently and not have the one or two games we may struggle in a certain area. We're just trying to uphold that standard as long as we can."

Were you happy with Aaron Brewer's first year?"We identified him in the spring and we were fortunate nobody drafted him. We had to be competitive in order to sign him in free agency but I think any time you get a rookie snapper and he's able to stay out of the limelight that's a good thing. Nobody really wants to know what the snapper's name is, and if they do its usually not good. That's a position where anonymity is good and I would say for a rookie, an undrafted guy and a guy coming to a new team when the kicker sets a franchise reco­­rd for points and the punter shatters the net punting record, he probably played pretty decent."

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