Q&A with Falcons linebacker Kaden Elliss

Credit: Courtesy of the New Orleans Saints

Credit: Courtesy of the New Orleans Saints

New Falcons linebacker Kaden Elliss, who was signed in free agency to help improve the defense and pass rush, met virtually with Atlanta media members Thursday.

Here’s what the former standout at Idaho had to say:

On the free-agency process: “The tampering period started on Monday. It actually started kind of slow. My agent didn’t give us a call for a while and then come to find out it was just because he was on the phone all day. So, we weren’t able to talk for a while, and then all of a sudden, he basically told us how Atlanta came out and how in his opinion, it was the spot for us to go. It was already kind of where I wanted to go. I was excited as soon as the deal, the time frame and just everything came together. I was really excited.”

On whether his familiarity with new Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen was a factor: “Yes, it was a factor. Scheme was big for me because of the versatility I’ve put on tape. I didn’t really want to go somewhere, where I’d be put into a box. Where I don’t get to do the multiple things that I think allow me to impact the game in a more dominant way. So, knowing that I was going to get to go with coach Nielsen and knowing how he coaches defense, how he has coached me personally, also, these last four years was a huge factor. As long as the contract worked out, and as long as Atlanta showed that they were serious about pursuing me. I’m very excited to go and to pair up with him again.”

On what he learned from his dad (former NFL player Luther Elliss) from a football perspective: “Football-wise, he’s taught me work ethic. How to push. How to strive. All of that. But also, just how to have fun and compete. Growing up with him, for him sports was a job. But he never made it like that with me or any of my siblings. I don’t feel like, they may say differently, but he allowed it just to be fun. ... I had to go wake him up at four or five in the morning to go work out before school. He wouldn’t do it for me. Like he wasn’t going to come force me to do it. He know that I had to want it. You know what I’m saying? So just kind of taught me everything about it. The love of competition. The fact that it’s a kid’s game, and it’s got to be fun. The fact that you got to work hard, and you got to know that there’s always someone out there trying to outwork you or get to the spot that you’re trying to get. Now, that’s trying to take the spot that I’ve earned. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. It’s a kid’s game. Play to the best of your ability at all times for the glory above.”

On his dad being the team chaplain for the Lions: “It was fun. You know, I think for me, obviously I got to watch him play. So, there wasn’t too much ‘awe’ factor when it came to players, NFL facilities, none of that because I was in Pontiac Stadium, the Silverdome, with him. So, maybe not necessarily that factor, but then just getting to see his relationship with the men that he got to work with. Getting to see him pushing himself spiritually so that he could help those around him was really awesome to get to watch and inspirational to me. … I’m here for anybody if you have any questions about spirituality or faith. I hope that I can impart some wisdom on you and also learn from others around me, because it’s kind of awesome how God places people together for certain and specific reasons.”

On his role and position on the defense: “I can’t say exactly for sure how the coaches are going to use me here, just yet. I’ve only gotten to talk to them briefly and it was more of a ‘Hi, I’m really excited to be here. And then, ‘Hi, we’re glad you’re here.’ But in New Orleans, I was able to play on the edge. I played a game at (defensive) end. It would have been more if I hadn’t gotten a little (hamstring injury). I was able to pass rush on third downs. I was also able to drop on third downs. I was able to backup Demario (Davis) and Pete (Werner) at (middle linebacker) and (weakside linebacker). When my opportunity came to start at (weakside linebacker), I was able to go out and put together a couple really good streaming games. Made some big plays and help impact those games, big-time for our team. So, I’m someone (who) can play on the line. Play outside linebacker, inside linebacker. I know I got things that I need to work on and sharpen, but I have some pretty strong traits. My hand usage, block destruction and pass rusher, I’m excited to come in and use that however, Nielsen and the staff want to use it.”

On his development over four years with the Saints: “You know, I remember my dad asked me after my first OTA practice. I was like honestly dad, I felt like the best athlete out there. I felt great. He was like, ‘just so you know, vets don’t take OTAs very seriously. It’s going to ramp up. I’m going to tell you, it’s going to ramp up.’ But honestly from my first practice, OTAs, my training camp, my (exhibition) games, like I knew the type of player I (could) be and the type of player I was. What needed to happen was some personal development in some areas that yeah, I was really great at certain areas already coming in as a rookie. But there’s some things that I had to develop and grow. For example, I played on-ball. My senior year I played defensive end at Idaho. Shifting to (middle linebacker) when I got to New Orleans as a rookie, my eyes, it was hard to see the plays happening especially when all of a sudden you haven’t played this position and it’s a way faster speed than you’ve ever been in before. These guards are pulling and these tight ends are swapping faster than you’ve ever seen. So, having to develop my eyes, my off-ball linebacker skills and then continue to sharpen in coverage. Man coverage. Zone coverage. Things like that was something that I had to work on. Honestly, I tore my ACL in my rookie year and that kind of put a damper on my progression, but by God’s grace, I was able to bounce back and continue to sharpen. When the opportunity came, I was able to take advantage. Thankful to the King for that.”

On how much of his pressure (seven sacks, 10 QB hits) came from defensive end and how much from linebacker last season: “Pass rush-wise, (Saints coach Dennis Allen) and Nielsen, the way they put together their third-down package was unique in that we all kind of got up on the line. Three linemen, two linebackers and two defensive ends at the same time, with all of us up there. At the end of the day, the offense didn’t know where we were going to line up that week, and it changed play by play. Some of the snaps may have logged me at defensive end and some of them I may have been at a linebacker mugged up in the B-gap. A few, I was probably off-ball. So, at the end of the day, I kind of came from multiple positions. That’s one of the things that I liked about coach Nielsen is how he has that history in his background and how he helped put together a third-down plan over there and kind of orchestrated a lot of that. So, I was excited to follow him and work with him in this.”

On if he’s going to get (former Falcons running back) Jamal Anderson (his dad’s college roommate at Utah) to teach him the “Dirty Bird”: Yes, he’s told me he’s had a few college roommates because you know, you start moving around and stuff and I’ve met a few, I believe. Are you referring to the honest author of that Dirty Bird dance? ... I am going to have to ask my dad to call him up for me to teach me because I’m not the best dancer. So, I’m going to get some personal lessons from him though.”

On what his contract means to him: “I was thankful for the contract and the opportunity to make that money and set up my family. ... What I want to do with it is. ... I love my people, the people that are around me, my wife, my two kiddos. I just want to spend some good time with them. You know what I mean? I want to get down here to Georgia find a good little spot. ... We rented in New Orleans because we bounced back and forth with a family and whatnot. I’m just excited to kind of settle down with them. Get a place that we can truly call home. ... So excited to do that. ... Something I’d like to do is probably help my siblings achieve their dreams because at the end of the day, I was the oldest. My parents were able to probably invest a lot more financially in me than maybe some of the others because of you’re the first one going through it all. So, I’d love to you know, kind of help them do that as well.”

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