NFL teams have had to try and learn about Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates on the fly this year.
Since Yates stepped into Houston's starting lineup back in early December, opposing teams have tried to work off whatever information they can get on the 24-year-old. College game tape, NFL footage ... it's all valuable information for scouts and coaches, who craft their gameplans based on all that stuff.
Interestingly enough, the Ravens' defensive coaches have another means of generating some information on Yates: they can have Chuck Pagano pick the brain of ... Chuck Pagano.
The Ravens' defensive coordinator spent a year with Yates down at the University of North Carolina back in 2007, when Pagano was UNC's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach and Yates was a redshirt freshman signal-caller. The two men will face off yet again this Sunday, except this time they'll be matching wits in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, not on a practice field in Chapel Hill.
"He was in a pro-style offense (at UNC), so he was trained to do what he's doing now," Pagano said today. "It doesn't surprise me that he's having the success that he's having. Again, he's surrounded with a ton of talent. They can run the football, which takes a ton of pressure off him. He's always got backs and tight ends to check it down (to). He's doing a really good job."
Yates ended up winning North Carolina's starting quarterback job in 2007 despite his redshirt freshman label. He started every game that season, so Pagano got a good look at the youngster during that stretch.
Pagano, who is known for his ability to build relationships with players, regardless of their position, was asked how much interaction he had with Yates during their overlapping tenure at UNC.
"Other than blitzing him down there in the offseason?" Pagano said with a laugh. "No, we had a lot. He was just a young guy in a new system making his way. Watching him from afar after (I left) after a year and watching his maturation process and seeing how far he's come, he's done really good for himself. I'm proud of the kid."
Even though that 2007 season was a few years ago, one might think that Pagano's knowledge of Yates' game will be able to help him as he draws up his defensive schemes this week.
Pagano admits that he might have somewhat of an edge just based on those experiences at North Carolina, but downplayed how much that will make an impact on Sunday.
"Maybe understanding his strengths and weaknesses maybe a little more, but what we see on tape is what we're going to get," Pagano said. "Six in one (hand), half dozen in the other."
Pagano is complimentary of the way Yates has come on and led the Texans with previous starting quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart going down to injuries, but said that Houston's offense is set up so that Yates doesn't need to carry the load by himself.
"Their whole idea is to get in third-and-manageable," Pagano said. "They're in a lot of third-and-(fives and less). Then it puts the pressure back on the defense because you're a little bit leery of coming after them in those situations because of the run and the pass. So if we do a great job on first-and-10 and second down and get them into third-and-long, then we'll be able to dial up the pass rush."