Q&A: Defensive Coordinator Johnnie Lynn

Interview Conducted by BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter WalterB

BBI: William Joseph just told me that the system run in Miami is similar to the one run up here. He said the difference is the tilt nose. Can you explain the tilt nose?

Johnnie Lynn: Sometimes guys are square they can play nose to nose, or they can play on a shade side of him. But we choose to play our guys like this: (Johnnie Lynn demonstrates an angle that comes at me at a 45 degree angle from my left, somewhere between my left shoulder and the bridge of my nose).

BBI: What is the advantage of the tilt? Is it easier to attack an offensive lineman with?

Johnnie Lynn: No, it makes people have to block in certain ways. And you can see certain things better at the angle.

BBI: And, do you always run the tilt nose angle? Or, do you use it on and off?

Johnnie Lynn: All the time. This is our scheme. We just don’t play a two gap. A majority of the time we want an angle on the edge.

BBI: Tell me about two deep coverage and 4 deep coverage. With the two deep coverage that you run, are you running variations off of it? For example, press coverage versus looser coverage? And how is this different from the 4 deep? Can the defense break off of 2 deep and play 4 deep? Please explain the combinations.

Johnnie Lynn: 2 deep has two men responsible for the back half of the field, and then you have five players who can drop underneath. Two guys can take care of the flats, two guys who take care of the curls, and a guy in the middle taking care of the hook, or the inside hook. So that is 2 deep with five underneath. With Cover 4 you have four guys who play deep, and then three guys who play underneath. They are two different schemes. And it is not a matter of players playing off.

BBI: With 2 deep can you then pull your corners off of the press and give the team several different looks?

Johnnie Lynn: There are different forms of cover 2. OK you have what Tampa and some other teams play. You have what we play. You can also play cover 2 on one side and cover 4 on the other side. And you can mix that around the other way. For example, if one time a team comes out with a tight end and a flanker, you can play cover 4 on that side and cover 2 away from him. Then you can come back and turn it around and play cover two with the flanker and 4 on the other side. But with just straight 2 and 4 it is two different schemes.

BBI: I want to know what and how your linebackers play most in cover 2. Are they dropping into zones?

Johnnie Lynn: It all depends on the scheme you are using. In a Tampa 2 scheme it is different from what we do. There are different responsibilities. Our defense relates to the number of people and not the areas on the field.

BBI: But you can have a spot for them on the field and…….

Johnnie Lynn: No, no. Wrong term. We do not have spots. Whenever you disperse your receivers that is where we go to. We do not go to a spot. Some teams do play 2 like that, but we don’t.

BBI: But can your coverage guys pass off receivers to other players, by covering a guy for so many yards and then passing him off?

Johnnie Lynn: The spot style of play will do that. But we are not of that persuasion. Sometimes we will have a call that is read type stuff – where they pass things off. But usually we will play relationships on the field based on how receivers line up. But it is not always clean where you will have two guys deep and five under – and where you have spot, spot, spot. Some teams play it that way. Some teams take their linebacker and play him in the deep middle. That is a Tampa-type defense. And some people play a cover 2 where they relate to the people on the field and how they line up, and that is how we play it. So there are three examples of how you can play cover two.

BBI: So, just how many variations can you have on different coverages?

Johnnie Lynn: (Can’t stop laughing)

BBI: Is that the funniest question you have ever heard?

Johnnie Lynn: No, I don’t know how many we have. And the variations are really endless. So if you can count to six you can play for us.

BBI: So what you are saying is that you will sort out a handful of coverages during the week leading up to a game.

Johnnie Lynn: We’ll do all of them. We may have certain coverages that we play better than others. Your base coverages are base. You can play them against anybody.

BBI: To what extent do you exchange yardage for time? That is to say defensive calls where you are giving up yards. And in terms of running a defense under such a scenario, how many types of defenses can you call?

Johnnie Lynn: It is all up to the coordinator. You really do not want to give up yards for time. You are calling something because of a situation. The situation is the key. For example, you can say to yourself – we are winning, we are up by 20 points, and there are two minutes left on the clock – and we could say we’ll sit back and play. Some teams could come after you. It all depends on what that person’s attitude is. So, if you think the other team can not score 21 points that could factor in. But the situation can also change. Lets say the other team scores two quick touchdowns. You are not going to play with the same attitude with a minute to go as you did with two or three minutes to go.

BBI: Will you play percentages and look at a lot of stats that tell you what the best thing to do is?

Johnnie Lynn: No, you are looking at the score. That is telling you what you are going to do. You may be ahead by 20 and say now is the time to blitz. That tells you what you are going to do. With some people it depends on their attitude. It is up to the coordinator who is making the call – and it depends on what the coordinator wants to do. Is he playing it safe and conservative? Do you want to go after the other team? You can go after them and get beat, and you can play it conservative and get beat. You can choose your poison. So, sometimes I like to die slowly. (Big smile).

BBI: When Shaun Williams first came into the league and once during a game against San Francisco you used him as a linebacker. Is that the type of role you have in mind for him this camp?

Johnnie Lynn: When Shaun came in we had two safeties at the time. Then he became our free safety for two years. Now he is back home playing strong safety, which is a lot different. So he is in the box a majority of the time playing like a linebacker. So in the nickel situation when he is in the game he can play both linebacker and the middle position. Generally, our free safety is out of the box, and generally our strong safety is in the box and plays forward like a linebacker.

BBI: Can the repositioning of Shaun help you in the future to run down quick quarterbacks or running quarterbacks?

Johnnie Lynn: He is basically at linebacker for coverage. Yeah, it will put him closer to the quarterback because he is down low, but he is there to cover receivers or the tight end. We don’t use him to watch the quarterback. We want to have him cover and that is the asset we have with his ability.

BBI: Is the major reason the league is moving toward quicker linebackers now based on a larger need for them to cover?

Johnnie Lynn: I still like the big corners and the big linebackers that can run like the smaller guys do. You have to just pick them first. Then after that what you have left is what you have left. I think everybody tries to pick the big guy first and what fits your scheme. We are not all that big ourselves. What is big now-a-days I do not really know. What is small depends on whether a guy can play. That is what you are looking for. I think Coakley from Dallas can play. Sam Mills has been small playing in the middle.

BBI: Last year you were simplifying your defense, and this year it looks like you may be adding more things. Is the reason for it based on what you saw last year, or is it based on having more experience players?

Johnnie Lynn: When we first simplified things it was based on the fact that we were not using certain things in the past couple of seasons. So, I decided that we were not going to practice them. I was not going to bring those things back into the package. But as far as making our defense more complicated I think that it is about the same as it has been the last five or six seasons.

BBI: Do you change defenses now quicker than before? Can offenses spot your trends and work them real heavy forcing you to make adjustments quicker than ever?

Johnnie Lynn: That is football. It has always been that way. It is their ball they can do whatever they want to do with it. They can put as many receivers out their as they want. You have to be able to make transitions. Sometimes a situation says pass and they line up with pass personnel to run the ball. They can put three wide receivers out their on first down and run the ball. They have their MO, and we have to adjust. You have to be proactive.

BBI: What type of pressure does a two tight end offense put on you?

Johnnie Lynn: It is all the same. We treat the two tight end sets and the two back sets as the same. They are the same animal.