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Extremeskins.com: An interview with Coach Robert Nunn, Defensive Line


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This is the 4th interview I've had the pleasure of doing since Extremeskins.com partnered with The Coaches Corner. The thing that is impressing me with the players and coaches so far is how excited they are about the team and how approachable they all have been.

Coach Nunn is a very unassuming guy, who did a great interview with Andy and Bob where many of Extremeskins.com member's questions were asked. Once again, props to the members for some great questions. For those that weren't asked on air, Coach Nunn was very generous with his time, and gave some excellent, detailed replies:

UtahRedskins: Can you explain the difference between attacking gaps and controling gaps and what will this year's defense be more likely to do between the two?

(asked on air)

Ax: Are the D-linemen allowed to call their own stunts on a play, or are these scripted by the playbook?

We allow them some times on passing situations to make line calls but run calls 1 & 2 down calls are all handled by the sidelines and I handle all the 3 down calls but on the same hand, when you have guys like Bruce and Regan that may see something that may change, and as long as its coordinated, and they KNOW its coordinated then its ok… but if they do something that is not coordinated, then I’ll take it back over and call everything. But its kinda controlled on the sideline, where I’ll just give them a signal to call something and they handle what they call.


How did you get into coaching?

When I was playing at Oklahoma State, I wanted to get into coaching. One of the guys I played with, his dad was a junior college coach. We were talking about it at dinner one day and he said, ‘you have a job.’ I went up there and loved it. And then I was a graduate assistanat at Tennessee for two years and then he hired me back for another year…I stayed there for nine years. I loved it.

What coaches have had the greatest influence on you?

I would say, it’s a combination of Jim Bates, defensive coordinator at Miami…a big influence on me…, and Larry Laceful (?), defensive coordinator at Tennessee, who left and went on to be the director of pro-scouting of the Dallas Cowboys…another big influence on me. Rex Norris, who coached the defensive line with me until last year. It was a combination of all those guys, and also Jimmy Johnson, who coached for one year.

What circumstances brought you to the Redskins?

(asked on air)

What does George Edwards expect from his coaching staff?

(asked on air)

What are your game day responsibilities… Are you going to be up in the booth or down on the field?

(asked on air)

What qualities do you look for when scouting defensive lineman?

Speed, strength…speed(laughs)…someone who can move, and be athletic enough. The bigger they are in the middle -- the better, and the faster they are on the end -- the better.

What players have impressed you the most during the off season?

Renaldo Wynn has been very professional…Big Daddy has done a good job this off season. I understand he’s had some challenges in off season’s before, but he’s done a good job and he’s ready to go. Bruce comes in, and he’s very professional. Regan Upshaw and Peppi Zellner…I really think are going to add something to our defense that is going to be different than what they had. These two guys like to mix it up and are very competitive. We’re going to be a tougher team because of these two.

Who is the true leader of our defense?

Well, I think Lavaar is one of those guys. Jesse Armstead is one of those guys…Quietly Dan does a good job. Quietly, Renaldo does a good job. The combination of these guys…but Lavaar certainly is someone that is very disruptive and is an impact player.

What is the biggest challenge for you, as the defensive line coach, heading into training camp?

I think it’s to maintain the chemistry that they ended up with last year. You don’t end up number five in this league by accident. At the very end their chemistry was sound and they were good playing together. I’m certainly not going to come in and teach Bruce Smith new pass rushing techniques. But, if I can help him keep his skills sharp or keep his stance sharp… we talk about working on stance just like you work on your golf swing. Sometimes that can change before you know it. And it’s my job to watch and help those guys in that capacity and keep the chemistry there…and keep them believing in what we’re doing.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a pro football coach?

Get lucky! (laughs)… You know, it’s just keep working at whatever level you’re at. I went from junior college to the pros and that’s almost unheard of. Just keep studying the game and working hard. You never know what breaks going to come. Obviously those guys that have played at a higher level have a chance to coach at a higher level. But, the other thing is, don’t always think that the grass is always greener just because you are at a certain level. If you don’t enjoy coaching at junior college, you probably won’t enjoy coaching at the NFL level and making a lot of money. It sound crazy that 90 million dollars can’t buy you happiness (referring to LaBron James). But there’s a lot of truth to that. I was coaching in junior college and I didn’t think I could be any happier. Now I’m coaching at the NFL, and I don’t think I can be any happier…so when I get fired here, I’ll go back to junior college (laughs)…and be happy there.


Who is "our" Jayson Taylor on the DL?

That’s a tough question because Jason Taylor is a special talent. He’s got some quickness and strength that are very deceiving and almost unmatched. He had 18.5 sacks last year and he’s still underrated. But, we also have some guys that are flashing some good things. Ladarius Jackson, for example, is a young guy that is coming along. And, he’s got a chance. He’s going to have to work his butt off to make the team. Dan Wilkinson can be a difference maker -- if he keeps his weight where it’s at and he comes in here at great shape. I really believe Regan Upshaw…has just had a few things that have kept him from being one of the elite. I think he can make a step up to the next level…if he stays healthy. He’s fought injuries, but I think we can help him by moving him around a little bit and doing some different things that we did with Jason…maybe line him up a little wider on the offensive tackle.

How does this DL compare to Miami's?

They compare very closely as far as the run. The difference with Miami’s defense is they didn’t have to send an extra guy to get pressure on the quarterback. Jason was a big part of that. But, we also had guys the first year like Trace Armstrong, Rob Burnett… We had several guys who could rush the passer. Now, we have some unproven pass-rushers who have to prove that they can rush the passer at this level.

DrunkenBoxer: If you could have any defensive tackle in the history of the NFL play for the redskins next year, who would it be?

There was a guy who played in Tampa Bay by the name of Leroy Selmon who was pretty good…he was as dominant as anybody I’d ever seen. Howie Long was fun to watch, technique-wise. Reggie White, he played defensive end and could have made a great defensive tackle.

WallyG3: Do you foresee any major DTs being cut by other teams after June 1st that the Skins might be interested in?

There are some guys that have some challenges with their weight (I’m not going to mention any names) that head coaches get down on. And the next thing you know, is that they’re on the street. I don’t know who it will be but I bet there’s two or three or four that would be interesting for a lot of teams.

jimster: Will there be significant rotation of D-line personel through-out games or will it be strictly on 3rd down?

(answered by Coach Nunn's reply to other questions)

AzSkinsFan63: From what you've seen so far how is this D-line compared to last season's?

I like where we’re at mentally. I like where we’re at physically. Our strength coach has been doing a good job. There’s know one on our defensive line that is way out of wack as far as conditioning. The only thing is that our training staff has some challenges. The thing I have to help with is when to pull back cause Regan is a guy who won’t pull back. If we get a few things handled medically…I like where we’re at.

dchogs: Last year we had Gardner step up and have an outstanding year; who do you feel will be the DL to get consistent pressure?

Darryl Gardener was a freakish talent. I’ve never someone with that size; with that quickness. I feel we’ve got some guys lie Dan Wilkinson, if he continues with the things he’s doing. He can be an impact player. When he straps it up and gets it going, he can play with anybody. He’s got a great attitude right now and wants to do better than he did last year. Big Daddy comes in and does the things we ask him to do…he’s got a chance.


Do you expect our defensive scheme to put more pressure on the QB from the DL or the LB's?

Our primary goal on first and second down is to stop the run. When it comes to passing situations, then that’s when we have to shift modes and get our pass-rush people in there. If people can run the football on us, then we’ve got trouble. Stopping the run is our number one goal. And if we can get to the passer without having to bring a linebacker, that can make a huge difference coverage-wise…so that becomes our second priority.

Can you comment on Brandon Noble's work ethic?

Unbelievable. The guy is a true professional. Just a solid person on and off the field…a solid techinician, a solid work ethic, a great chemistry guy, sharp, the guys listen to him…I can’t say enough about him. Now, he’s not 6’5” and runs like a linebacker or anything like that but you always know what you’re going to get out of Brandon Noble. His locker room attitude and in the meeting rooms, is going to give us a better chance to win ball games.

How do you think Noble and BDWilkenson's play will differ from Gardener and BDW in terms of style/pass rushing/run stopping ability?

Well, there’s no question that Wilkenson and Hailey don’t rush the passer like Gardener. They will be the first to tell you that. Although I still think that we didn’t use Jermaine Hailey as much as we should for the pass-rush. He’s got some quickness….but they don’t have the size of a typical pass-rusher…. I think it’s going to be more of a one-two punch with him and Big Daddy and then using the other guys in a three-man rotation. So it’s kind of a little different attack, but I think we can be very effective with those three guys.

Blade: Did you play a role in bringing Haley here?

Yes, I did. They had mentioned him and I said this guy’s a good character, has always done what we’ve asked him to do…has a lot of explosiveness. He’s going to be a solid technician.


We've read all the media and cowboy fan reports on Pepe Zellner, but what can you tell us about him and the role you expect him to fulfill?

I can promise you this much…our defense will be a tougher defense with him on our team. He’s had some issues, some of it in my opinion was not all his fault…some of it was guilt by association, and I don’t personally have a concern about Pepe. There are two different kinds of character, and he’s good one… He’s played for me in college. He’s guilty of hanging around with the some guys when certain things happened. I’ve stayed extremely close with Pepe over the years, and I really believe he’s going to increase our odds of winning football games.

What kind of impact can Jermaine Haley have on this dline rotation?

(answered in a reply to another question)

poidog22: How concerning is Regan Upshaw's most recent knee surgery....will he be ready for camp?

He won’t be ready for mini-camp. We’re going to hold him back…he’s one of those horses that if you let run, will run himself to death (laughs). I spoke to Regan Thursday and he’s walking on crutches, and he doesn’t want the crutches…I’m begging him to keep doing what they ask him to do all the way until they quit asking him to do it. He felt like after the surgery, he pushed it a little too hard and they just needed to clean it up and now he feel great.

DG-Skinsmann: How is Gregg Scott developing?

He’s doing well, but he tweaked his ankle a little bit, unfortunately during an off-season workout. I think this next mini-camp will help him. This training camp is his time…he’s got to grow up and come to the front and show to us that he can be a part of it.

Dickens: How is Ladarius Jackson coming along?

(asked on air)


What are your goals for the DL in terms of sacks and rushing yards allowed?

(asked on air)

Long n Left: Many fans are concerned that we don’ have a young and upcoming pass-rushing DE... Is there someone on the roster that can take over this role once Bruce Smith retires?

You know, if you left Bruce out of the picture…Now understand I certainly don’t want to leave him out of the picture… but you’ve got a good solid three-man rotation on first and second down with Peppi, Renaldo and Regan. And then, the Ladarius Jackson would be that third down rusher who would come in and get after the quarterback. Not to say that Bruce won’t help us on first and second down, but we have to be smart. He’s 40 years old and it takes a little longer for a 40 year old to recover compared to a 21 year old. When we get in the playoffs, you’ve got to have a guy like Bruce ready to roll.

rskin24: Is Bruce Smith expected to be a starter this year, or a 3rd-down pass rusher?

Our goal is to use him wisely…sometimes it might be first and second downs. But, obviously third down you want to lean in that direction because he’s such a proven pass-rusher. Things may change…it’s a long season, but that’s our goal… To not have him over in the trainer’s room after the tenth game or so and not have ready to go. That’s what we did last year with Rob Burnett… We did it two years ago with Trace Armstrong, and he ended up with 16.5 sacks. And come playoff time we had him fresh and ready to go. We see Bruce getting 55-60% of the snaps so that when it comes to playoff time, he’s ready to roll.

Shawn: Do you think Bruce Smith is going to retire this year?

I think Bruce is going to play at least one more year. He’s got to do what he feels is right. I really believe that he will be a Redskin next year and possibly consider retiring next year.

Blade: Are there any coaches that can give Steve Spurrier a close game of golf?

Steve Spurrier Jr. (laughs).
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thanks for the trascript! coach nunn sounds like a great guy, very typical of our organization.

good to hear some news about LaDarius, we are gonna need him to step up this season!!

thanks again for getting my questions answered. much appreciated:cheers:

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