Here is the final part of our two-part interview with safeties coach David Merritt.
Q: How big was the Quintin Demps acquisition?
A: When you’re talking about a guy like Quintin Demps, a guy who is very valuable—he was valuable before, but he’s even more valuable now because once we go to our three-safety package, he’s the guy. As you all know, we’ve been running that three-safety package around here now for years, so now having Stevie, having Antrel, having Quintin Demps is going to be very important for all three of those guys to work together and to get chemistry developed like what Deon (Grant), Kenny (Phillips) and Antrel had before.
Q: You mention building chemistry. How does that take place?
A: I’ve probably said this before, but with my wife, if I don’t communicate what I want to eat for dinner early in the morning—okay, we get up early in the morning and we go to work, and we’re generally not thinking about dinner. She wants to know at eight o’clock, ‘What do you want to eat?’
It’s the same thing with the guys. It starts in the morning, communicating in the locker room and the meeting room before we hit the field. Therefore once you communicate on what we’re going to do, once it comes time to actually go out there and do it, you’ve already communicated and now you’re just going through it again and again. So it starts early in the morning and it lasts throughout the day.
Q: You’ve also mentioned Antrel. We all know he’s now on the wrong side of 30, yet he’s been able to keep his game at a high level. How do you approach reinventing his game so it stays at a high level?
A: I asked Antrel the other day, how many years do you want to play? I think you can play this amount of years, but how many years do you want to play?’ He said ‘Coach, however long you want me to play.’ I said ‘Antrel, to be honest with you, I think you can play another four years.
Antrel is now starting to understand and develop as a safety. He was a corner as we all know, drafted out of Miami. Then all of a sudden he’s now a safety. He’s now starting to understand the position more than ever. Before, he didn’t see formations, he didn’t see the concepts as far as being back there as far as route concepts.
Q: Was this recently?
A: I’m saying when I first got him the first two or three years. And now the last two years, it’s all coming together for him and he’s feeling more comfortable.
With Antrel’s ability to continue to learn and grow, he hasn’t, in my opinion, hasn’t scratched his ability as a safety yet. Last year was a glimpse of what Antrel can actually become. Just imagine if he had started that maybe eight years before at the position.
So again, the first couple of years we played him at nickel, we played him as bison, we played him at corner, we played him at safety. Now he’s able to just play strictly safety and it’s coming together for him well.