Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians met with the media to talk about Sunday's matchup with the New Orleans Saints.
Two former Tigers, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, have been major contributors to the Cardinals this season and the coach expects them to only get better as the season goes on.
Here's a transcript of Arians press conference:
What are your impressions of the Saints defense?
"I think (Rob Ryan) has done a good job with them. They are very young, very athletic and very physical, which I wouldn't expect anything else from one of his defenses. They play extremely hard and I'm very impressed with them."
What impresses you about them specifically?
"Probably the defensive line right now. They're fast, they're big, they're powerful. They're very well coached and I think they look like they have great instincts as far as ball awareness. Obviously Roman (Harper) has been there for a while. They have some veterans helping the young guys and they look coordinated very well."
Usually the Saints offense is the big story. Are you maybe a little surprised that they have relied more on defense through the first two games?
"I think that's smoke and mirrors. That offense is always high octane. Anytime you play Drew (Brees), especially at home, he's one of the best there is at a home stadium (with) the energy of the crowd. Offensively they're just a play or two away."
How does Tyrann Mathieu fit in with you guys?
"He's playing extremely well. As a person, you couldn't ask for a better guy. He has been a great teammate. He comes to work early and leaves late. He never stops asking questions. He gets mad if he doesn't get every rep in practice."
How has your impression of Mathieu evolved over the past four months since you drafted him?
"I think everybody else put him as a risk. Patrick Peterson came in my office and said, ‘Hey coach, I'll stand on the table for this guy. Give him a chance.' We brought him in and we sat (him) down. We talked twice and I was more than impressed that this kid just wanted an opportunity. He knew he messed up; we all mess up in life. It's time to give him an opportunity and he's doing everything he can to make sure he does great with it."
In terms of football, has he surprised you with his ability?
"No, because when you saw him on tape you knew that he was a great football player. I don't give a crap about height, weight and speed. He's just a heck of a football player. I don't know any college player that dominated on defense like he did over the years. He has some unbelievable instincts of getting the ball out and getting his hands on balls. He does it every day in practice here and he's done it in the games."
Could you talk a little bit about the challenge week to week of roster limitations? Rob Ryan's defense has had a lot of injuries and I'm sure you have had your share over the years. How critical is that in being successful in this league because of the limitations and what the front office has to do and the coaching staff week to week to overcome that?
"Yes, it's amazing. You have to have great pro personnel directors that you trust as a coach. They have their ‘ready list'. Last year in Indianapolis I think we had 13 guys on IR. (We were) bringing guys in on Tuesday and playing them on Sunday, and still winning. If your team believes that ‘next man up' is not a mantra, it's real. We gave Kerry Taylor a game ball this week because he was on the practice squad Friday (and) caught three critical balls in the game Sunday to win the game. That's your MVPs. It's not the high-profile, five star guys. They're just earning their paychecks. The MVP of your football team is the guy that gets put in and the standard doesn't drop. You have to preach that to your team and make sure that they really believe that."
What kind of challenge does that present to your staff to get those guys ready to play?
"You coach your young guys as hard as you coach your veterans. Our practice squad guys are sitting in meetings just waiting for an opportunity, and you coach them as if they're getting every rep. You're coaching them on the field to make sure they're getting better, not just running card O and card D, so that when they're chance comes, fundamentally they're ready and mentally they know the game plan. If it happens on Friday, freaky injuries have happened on Friday, and all of the sudden he's got to play on Sunday. You can't say, ‘Woe is me.' They're going to play the game anyway, so you embrace it. You say, ‘Hey man, you ever heard of Wally Pipp? Here you go.'"
So when is Patrick Peterson going to kick a field goal? He's done just about everything else. How valuable is he to your team?
"We're working on that. He just can't beat out Jay (Feely) yet. I just saw him the first day of OTAs intercept a ball one-handed, tipped it to his other hand, and run down the field. Nobody could touch him. It was like, "Whoa. This guy could be a top five receiver in the National Football League.' He has that skill set. I have to watch on the offensive side of the ball when we're installing that that's enough for Patrick this week. He's got to play Calvin Johnson, or he's got to defend Marques Colston or somebody else. He's got another job. Our offensive coaches will always say, ‘Get Patrick over here. This would be a great play for Patrick.' You have to really watch yourself that you don't overload him."
As an offensive coach, you've watched him for the last two years. When you get him on your side, what goes through your mind when you first came over?
"I knew he was good, but I didn't know that he was that unbelievable of an athlete. What really sold me, is when I saw him play golf. He taught himself in his basement and he shoots 75. He took all of my money; I know he did. He taught himself on a simulator in his basement and he smashes the ball about 290 (yards) in the air."
Did you say he took some money off of you?
"Yes he did. We played with a bunch of the guys; we went up to Flagstaff last spring. He and Carson (Palmer) got the best of a couple of us. It was a great time."
How rare of an athlete is he? I'm sure you've coached a lot of great athletes over the years.
"Yes. I recruited Bo Jackson out of high school and saw Bo at Auburn, who I thought was probably the greatest athlete I've ever seen. We played against Deion (Sanders) and watched him do some of the things. Deion had the speed, but Patrick has his speed (and) is 6-2, 215, closer to Bo in size playing corner, he's a very rare athlete."
Have you prepared your team at all yet about coming into the noise of the Superdome and the challenge it presents?
"We just had our first team meeting and talked about the energy in that stadium. It's very unique. It's Halloween every night in the dome when you play there. The fans are just fantastic. You have to match that energy because Sean (Payton) has done a great job over the years as a play-caller and leading the league or close to leading the league in scoring on the first drive. We have to match that energy and don't be surprised by it."
I know your time as a coach was limited in New Orleans, but how special is it to come back to a place where you have coached before?
"It always is. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to be a head coach, and to be able to go back to the places that I was an assistant is always very special."
How is Larry Fitzgerald doing the best you can tell us? What are the implications if he can't go on Sunday and what do you lose there?
"You lose an unbelievable player, first of all, and also a great leader. Someone who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played: full-tilt. Larry is also a great blocker, not just a great receiver. You can't take your best player and ask someone to play at that level. You ask them to play the best they can play, and other guys need to step up around him."
Are you surprised that maybe the Saints are only one for seven in the red zone? Are you maybe afraid that they are going to break out soon?
"Yes. You're always afraid of that. It's one of those things that have happened. The ball bounces funny, but I know what they're capable of. What we're getting ready for is what I think they're capable of."