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Webster Addresses Reporters at NFL Scouting Combine

Posted Feb 23, 2012

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on his first combine as a general manager)

I feel like it’s just like every other time, really. I’ve been involved in this process for a long time.  From my standpoint, not too much changes that way.  We’ll be going through the interviews and the workouts the same way.  (I) may have a few other things I have to deal with, but other than that it’s going to be pretty close to the same.

(on what led to the success of the team’s 2011 draft class)

The thing I like about that group, and the thing we’ll always try to do, is have guys with the right makeup.  I’m not just talking about off-field stuff.  I’m talking about the way they deal with themselves on the field in practice and then having instincts and a feel for playing the game.  I think those guys we drafted this past year all had that.  If you look at the two defensive linemen, (Jurrell) Casey and (Karl) Klug, they’re not the most physically imposing players, but they’ve got a natural feel for playing the game of football.  We’ll always look for those kind of guys.

(on the importance of the combine versus what they see on tape)

The most important thing is what we see on tape.  To me, this is just part of the puzzle. It’s like the Senior Bowl and East-West game and all that, this just adds to the evaluation.  But the most important thing is how they play when you turn on the tape.  We’ll leave here, we’ll go back, and we’ll just grind tape pretty much up to the draft.  We’ll take into consideration what happened here, but the most important thing will be how they play.

(on this year’s crop of defensive ends)

I think it’s a really good crop.  Defensive line in general I think’s good.  Typically, those guys are going to be in the first round because everybody needs them.  They’re rare birds.  Really, probably outside of quarterback, the one position that’s the toughest to build, and the one position where you have to be really strong in order to win consistently, is up front on the defensive line and the offensive line. 

(on what one consistent rush end would do to help the other 10 players on defense)

It could help immensely.  A special player, like say, when the Titans drafted Jevon Kearse, he was a special player. He changed things. When I was in Tampa, we had Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp.  They made everybody else around them better.  Those type of special rushers really can affect your defense.  They help the guys on the back end, and if you can get a lead on people and rush the passer, you’ve got a great chance to win.

(on how many “special” rushers are out there)

It’s hard to say.  Special rushers, there’s usually only a handful.  I think what you have to do is look for players with traits.  (They) might be a little undersized, but they have rush traits.  They may not be the 6-5, long, athletic-looking type of guy, but you’ve got the Trent Coles, who they don’t necessarily look like your typical pass-rushing defensive end, but they have the explosiveness to affect a passer.  So you have to look for the right traits. 

(on how hard it is to find a pass rusher through the draft versus through free agency)

I would think it’s easier here because those guys usually don’t get to the free agent market.  Typically, that doesn’t happen.  You have to look for those guys in the draft, and I think they’re all along the draft, top to bottom.

(on how this year’s draft fits the needs the Titans have at different positions)

Some are better than others.  There are some spots where it’s really deep, and then there are others where maybe there’s one top guy and then it falls off a little bit. 

(on if the Titans would be willing to overpay for a top pass rusher in free agency)

I don’t really want to overpay for anybody, but the one position probably that can happen with the most is pass-rushing defensive linemen.

(on how they avoid taking somebody who is not worthy of the 20th pick but plays a position of need)

I think you have to go with your grades.  When people say “best available player,” that’s why they say that.  You have to be very careful to get so tied in to need that you take a solid guy.  He’s going to be a good player.  Nobody’s going to think he’s as good a player as he is because he doesn’t have the special, game-changing traits.  So there are times you’re going to look at taking a position that’s not a position of need because there’s such a difference in the ability of the two players. 

(on how they balanced need and wanting the best available player last year when they drafted Jake Locker)

We had Jake rated high.  One thing we’re always going to do is trust our scouts and our own grades.  We feel like we put a lot of work into whether it’s the quarterback, defensive line, offensive line, whatever, we’re going to trust our own grades and just kind of go with what we think. 

(on how an injury that prevents a player from participating in the combine could hurt how highly the player is drafted)

Could it?  It probably depends on where they are at draft time and what their doctors say, where they’re going to be for training camp and all of that.  But typically, I don’t think it does because people are going to draft off what they see on film and go off the grades their scouts and their coaches have.  So I would say no.

(on his impression of Alabama safety Mark Barron)

My impression of Mark Barron is a big, tough, instinctive safety.  He’s got size, he can play in the box, and he can play deep.

(on if the team’s offensive blueprint needs to change to a more pass-oriented offense)

I think the blueprint is, in my mind, typically the same.  You have to be strong on defense.  You’ve got to be able to throw the ball in the NFL now.  It’s not all about just running the ball, and the rules do help the offense.  The key is to be strong on defense and then have enough of a running game that you can put the game away at the end.  You really have to build a team, in my mind, for the playoffs.  When you get in the playoffs, you’re playing in cold weather, and you’ve got to be able to run the ball as well. 

(on if he expects Cortland Finnegan to be on the roster next season)

Right now we’re working through all of that, with not only Cortland but several of our other guys.  At this point, I expect them to all be on the roster next year, but we’re still working through all of that.

(on how Matt Hasselbeck played last season and how his prior relationship with Hasselbeck helped get him to Tennessee)

I thought he played really well, and I thought he made a difference for us, just in his ability to run the team.  He had some great games, especially early.  When we lost Kenny Britt, had we not had him, I think it would have been difficult.  He did an outstanding job.  I think as far as not only my relationship, (but) Mike Reinfeldt’s relationship and Lake Dawson’s relationship, we all had those Seattle ties everybody’s talked about and had a good relationship with Matt.  I think that definitely helped.  I also think once he met Munch and realized and got a feel for him, that was a help as well.

(on how to bridge the gap in contract talks with Cortland Finnegan)

You just keep working at it and hope something breaks.  You work hard at it and then see what happens.

(on the consideration of the price of the franchise tag and the attitude of the player who receives the tag)

You have to consider both those things, but I also think you have to, in the end, do what’s best for the club.  Whatever that is, you have to do it.

(on if Kenny Britt’s injury makes them more consider drafting a receiver in the first round)

I would say if we consider a receiver in the first round of the draft, it’s going to be because it’s a special player.  It won’t have anything to do with Kenny Britt. 

(on how Jason Jones moving to defensive end last year has affected contract talks with him)

No, with everything from that standpoint, he’s in the same boat as the rest of our guys.  We’re working through it, and it really hasn’t impacted it at all.

(on what triggers the change at starting quarterback from Hasselbeck to Locker)

Munch has said they’re going to compete in camp, and we’ll play the best player, whoever that is.

(on the interior offensive linemen in the draft)

I think it’s a good group.  I think it’s a solid group.  There are some good players, center-guard type of guys and some guys that can do both, some tackles that might move into guard.  You always have to take that into consideration, too.

(on if Hasselbeck is “the guy” right now but Locker has a chance to start)

As we speak right now, yes, and they’re competing for the job though.  I think Munch has pretty much said it’s going to be an open competition, and that’s his call.

(on if teams are more willing now to move cornerbacks to safety)

Yeah.  Sometimes it might be a corner who’s a really good, instinctive football player, but maybe he lacks a little speed.  So he gets moved inside to safety and becomes a good safety.  Antrel Rolle was a corner in college.  Those type of guys are really good players, but maybe they’re not quite fast enough.  More often you’re going to see a guy move from corner to safety than safety to corner though.

(on what Hasselbeck had to do to help the team after Britt was injured)

One, he’s the leader of the team.  His ability to work with our receivers and really his ability to command an offense, manage a game and get the ball to the right people without zeroing in on one guy, I think was huge.  As you know, he’s the master at the line of scrimmage, changing plays and doing all those kinds of things.  He, I felt like, gave us a chance even without really our top playmaker.  And we were able to work Jared Cook in, too, who gives us some similar playmaking ability and another big guy, which also helped.

(on if the team has more defensive needs despite having a strong defensive draft in 2011)

I’ve said before that we wanted to try to improve ourselves on every level of the defense.  That’s part of the focus, but if there’s a really talented offensive player there?  We have to surround our quarterbacks with playmakers and make sure our offensive line is solid, too.  So we have plenty of work to do.

(on if teams eliminated Karl Klug and other players like him based on his smaller size)

Maybe some teams have size parameters, and so they put those guys lower on their draft board.  But I think everybody saw that he was a good football player.  It’s just when do you take that guy that’s a little bit undersized, and how do you play him?  Depending on the scheme you run, he might be a defensive end.  There are those issues with that type of guy, but I would say everybody saw him as being a good football player.  He went to the East-West (game), he did well.  His tape was good.  He stood out on a very good college defensive line, made a lot of plays for them.  I would say everybody liked him, it’s just where do you take that guy?

(on how difficult it was to draft Klug when they were trying to get larger on the defensive line)

It’s not difficult at that point in the draft.  It becomes difficult if you’re doing it a little earlier, yeah.

(on position groups where they need more leadership)

What you’d like to have is a leader in every room, you know, a guy that takes charge in every room.  So if you’re talking about the defense, you’d like a leader at defensive line, linebacker and defensive back, somebody to kind of help the coach run the room.  That’s the goal.  That’s easier said than done because a lot of times you think guys are leaders; you don’t know until you get them. 

(on Wisconsin offensive lineman Peter Konz)

He’s impressive.  Munch and I were sitting there looking at him today.  As big as he is, as athletic as he is, and the things they ask him to do, pulling him and getting him in space, he’s very effective that way.  Very good player. 

(on Wisconsin offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler)

Tough guy.  Strong and tough.  Physical.  Brings that demeanor to the field.  Another typical, good, solid Wisconsin lineman.  There are certain schools that are really good that way—Wisconsin, Iowa—you kind of look to them and know what you’re getting.

(on if it is tough to tell whether or not South Carolina prospect Melvin Ingram should play in the NFL standing up or with his hand on the ground)

It just depends on what defense you run, what scheme you have.  For 3-4 teams, he’s going to be on his feet; 4-3 teams have to figure out what to do with him.  Whatever it is, he’s good.  He’s a good player.

(on teams putting more of a premium on safeties or linebackers that can cover big, athletic tight ends)

I don’t know that.  That’s really kind of hard to say.  You always want athletic safeties, and you want a WILL linebacker that can cover.  If you’ve got that though, you really have something because they’re not that easy to find.  Normally safeties are missing cover skills, and finding a linebacker that can cover a big tight end that can really run, that’s a special guy. 

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