Adam Gase – October 21, 2016 Download PDF version

Friday, October 21, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(Where is your offense, in your mind, after six games? Is it ahead of where you thought it would be? Is it on schedule?) – “I think from what I thought in training camp and where we are right now, I thought we were ahead of where I had been in the past. And then I think we took a little bit (of a) step back when we had some guys, some influx and DeVante (Parker) missing as much time as he did and then shuffling around the o-line. I think we kind of slid back a little bit. That was earlier, those first two or three weeks. I think now we’re starting to really come together and guys are really understanding the why of why we do everything. Each game plan is different. We’re going to change throughout the year. I think guys have really taken to it. They understand that it’s not an easy offense as far as if you don’t put in the time outside the building, it makes it tough on yourself. I think the guys have figured it out. Last week was a good example of what we could be as far as the balance using both the run game, pass game, screens – things like that – moving the quarterback. That’s really what we want to try to be. Obviously, every week is going to be a little different, but I think we’re catching up to where I thought we were going to be.”

(Any one or two things that came along faster than you expected? Any aspect?) – “Nothing I can really think of. I will say the running game really seems to have taken off for us here, especially the last three weeks, as far as assignments and guys doing the right thing.”

(With Bills RB LeSean McCoy supposedly being a game-time decision, does that change in any way shape or you’re your preparation?)  –  “I think whoever they have back there, we’re going to have to do a great job of stopping the run. Obviously, that’s what they want to do, and they’re really good at it. That’s like an understatement. But I know they can throw it too. I’ve seen what they’ve done in past as far as when (Bills QB Tyrod Taylor gets hot, and he starts hitting some deep shots off those play actions, it makes it tough. I know if (McCoy) doesn’t play, the fact (is) that he is one of the best backs in the league, anytime you got a guy like that, you get him out there, (and) it’s going to be a difference maker.”

(Do you put any credence into revenge games?) – “I haven’t personally, but every guy is different. Some guys, that doesn’t bother them. They’re good. It’s just another NFL game for them. Some guys, it might mean a little more to. I know everybody keeps asking me that about Mario (Williams), but he hasn’t said anything to me that makes me feel like he has some revenge factor going into this game.”

(I saw you talking to S Reshad Jones before practice today. I don’t know if it was the first time since he got put on IR, but what were his spirits like?) – “I hadn’t seen him in a couple of days. Obviously, it’s tough for him going through this. He was playing really well, and he was one of our top leaders. Losing him, I feel terrible for him, because he wants to be out there. He wants to help. He wants to try to figure out a way to get us flipped here on our record and have our best guys out there. It’s just unfortunate – for both him and us – that he’s not going to be out there. My biggest thing with him is we both keep talking about once he gets this done, we want him around. We need him around the guys. We want him to be involved, because he has a lot of information to offer guys that don’t have a lot of experience.”

(Obviously everybody, the next man has to step up, but how do you change – or how are you forced to change – in terms of the way you play considering Reshad was so good in the box?) – “We’re just going to have to do a great job as far as, it has to be team tackling. It has to be gang tackling. He saved us a lot of times. When we were leaking early in some of our run fits, and he was the last man there and making those plays to prevent the explosive runs or the touchdowns. We’re going to have to do a great job as far as we do have three guys that we know right now have played for us, know what they’re doing, have the skill set that we need. It’s just now we need them to step up in that role and understand you’re going to be a vital piece there on the field, make the plays that we need you to make.”

(Where is S Walt Aikens in his development?) – “He has really come a long way since at least we started. I know he wasn’t healthy early, especially in training camp. I know he was pushing through some things. He has done a great job. He knows what to do. He’s reacting quicker, as far as his breaks go, especially when he’s in the middle of the field. But I think him having that special teams background and as vital as he is to us on special teams, he is a good tackler. Hopefully that translates to defense, which everything that we’ve seen tells us yes. So we feel like we have a good group back there as far as trying to do … you’re never going to match what Reshad (Jones) brought, but just try to get as close as possible.”

(What’s your opinion on the play that the Steelers sent to the league with DT Ndamukong Suh?)  – “Yes, I guess I didn’t notice it when I watched it after the game and then going back and just watching it again, I mean I see a guy who’s just trying to play hard. He’s trying to figure out a way to get to the quarterback. I don’t know if I can comment on it past that. I just know how I’ve watched him play. He just goes as hard as he can and he does everything he can to try to sack the quarterback.”

(Have you guys been in touch with the league?) – “I haven’t.”

(This may come out left field a little bit but DT Kyle Williams is one of their best defensive players. What, if anything, do you remember from your one year together at LSU?) – “I remember a guy that was very intense right from the get go. Just seeing him – I feel like I’ve played him quite a bit since he has been in the league – he just hasn’t changed. He’s just full go, 60 minutes. He’s just a guy that shows you what you should be as a pro. He just gives everything he has. He sells out every week for his team and he’s disruptive. He’s a tough guy to block. When you (have to) deal with him, you know it’s going to be the full gamut. There’s not going to be one play off.”

(How big of a role did you have in his recruitment way back then? Do you recall?) – “I don’t even remember. I don’t think I had any.”

(Weren’t a big recruiter?) – “No. I was a G.A. recruiting intern or something like that. I don’t even know what my title was.”

(When you think of a Rex Ryan coached team, what are some of the characteristics of the team?) – “I think of speed, attitude, swagger. I think those are the things that I think of most. Creative is something that comes to mind right away. Any time I’ve been on the other sideline against him, I’ve always come out of the game going, ‘I never thought that was coming.’ I know in 2014, he threw some stuff at us that we hadn’t seen and he had a really good game plan for us. I know he had a lot of injuries that year. He made it tough. That was probably the toughest 24 points that I’ve ever been a part of as far as being with that Denver crew. Every yard we got we really had to earn.”

(RB Jay Ajayi seems in a pretty good mindset as far as humble and not getting too big headed after his 200-yard game. Just curious from a coaching staff’s perspective, what’s your expectations of him in these final 10 games?) – “I think we’re just worried about this week. It’s hard to look that far ahead. I just know every day that we’ve had meetings, walkthrough, practice, I’m seeing the same effort. I’m seeing the same intensity in meetings. When I stand up there and I’m going through installs, he’s taking notes. He’s doing … it’s the same. Everything looks the same to me as it did the last three weeks. So I don’t know. I think he has got that mindset of, ‘What I did last week is irrelevant once we hit Sunday.’ So he’s going to build off that as far as confidence goes, understanding the scheme we’re doing, playing in a game versus a good team having success. But I think when we hit Sunday, it starts over for him again. As long as our whole group, we keep that mindset of, ‘We got something to prove this Sunday,’ because no one’s going to care what we did the last week.”

Adam Gase – October 20, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(Adam, Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen said one of the reasons you guys had success offensively this last week is because you huddled more, there was better communication between QB Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the team. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?) – “I think huddling for us has helped us a little bit. We took a little bit more of a step back and doing less on the line of scrimmage, it just makes … when you’re used to doing it, guys are more comfortable. They know what they have going in the line of scrimmage sometimes whereas when you’re in a no-huddle situation, a lot of communication is going on. When you’re the quarterback, you’re burning a lot of mental credits there before you even take a look at what the defense is doing. It’s a lot on the quarterback when you do things at the line of scrimmage. When you huddle, kind of everybody already knows what’s going on. Then you (Tannehill) has got to go from there. He’s got certain tools that he can use to really kind of save the play call and he did a good job this week of getting us in the right play.”

(Adam, it’s hard to see in the numbers but how would you gauge DT Ndamukong Suh’s play this season and also how would you explain his specific role in the defense) – “I think he’s done a good job as far as he’s consistent every week. He seems to always be a guy that causes disruption. He knows his defense in and out, so he knows how to play it. He knows where he can take his shots. He knows when he’s kind of got to play team defense. That is something where, when you’re a younger player sometimes you feel like, ‘I’m going to make a play here,’ and you don’t do it at the right time. He knows when it’s the right time. When you have the experience he has with the talent he has, obviously that’s a very effective combination to have.”

(How hard is it to not get frustrated with the amount of double teams, to just kind of keep playing through?) – “It’d probably be a better question for him. It can’t be fun by any means to constantly be going against two guys and just getting pounded on throughout the game – getting double teamed. But he does such a good job of fighting through a lot of those things. He understands leverage so well that he uses his body position correctly. He eats up a lot of blockers. Statistically, sometimes you might come out of the game and not know how well he’s played. He does a good job of just kind of sticking with his process. He understands why teams have to do that. If they go one-on-one against them, there’s a good chance that he’s going to win, whether it’s in the run game or the pass game.”

(You didn’t know DT Ndamukong Suh before you got here, did you?) – “No, I didn’t.”

(What have you experienced with DT Ndamukong Suh’s personality since you’ve been here?) – “We’ve always had good dialogue. He asks really good questions. He thinks outside the box. I haven’t been around a whole bunch of defensive interior linemen that have really … some of the discussions that we’ve had have been productive, as far as what we’re doing as a team, especially with what his experiences are as far as taking care of his body (and) aking sure that he’s available every week at the highest level he can possibly be available at. A lot of guys you see they miss games, they miss practices. He’s one of those guys that consistently is ready to go on Sunday. I’m sure he doesn’t feel great all the time on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but you would never know it.”

(Does DT Ndamukong Suh speak up a lot in the locker room?) – “You’d probably have to ask a lot of the other guys. He doesn’t talk a whole bunch. If he has something to say, he’ll say it; but he hasn’t been somebody that’s really going to say anything out of turn for him. If he feels like he need to say something, he’ll speak up.”

(Even though you lost TE Dion Sims in that game, you utilized the tight ends pretty consistently against Pittsburgh. Was that a matchup thing or is that just what you felt comfortable with, even though TE Dominique Jones had only been here two weeks?) – “Yes, we kind of stuck with what our plan was for that game, and that was mixing personal groupings and trying to do the best we could as far as making them play base (defense) and sub (packages). That’s what we wanted to do for that game and I guess I’m comfortable with ‘D.J’ (Dominique Jones) because I’ve had him before. I know what his skill set is. He did a really good job filling in because he did something really well that I haven’t seen him have a lot of opportunity to do and that was run blocking. Those two guys did a great job of stepping up and having that next-man-up mentality. We didn’t lose anything at those positions because those guys really, they sold out. They did everything they could just to make sure that they did their job.”

(Now, how do they build off of that?) – “I think they just keep doing what they’re doing right now. They’re going to practice, they’ve started the week over, they’re trying to make sure that they know their jobs inside and out. It’s a tougher assignment for both of them really, because it’s more of a role. I know with ‘Q,’ (MarQueis Gray) it’s tough on him because now you go from primarily a special teams guy and our third tight end to start. And now all of a sudden, you’re vaulted into the starting position, plus we can’t completely take him off of all the special teams because he’s one of our impact players. He’s a guy that we rely on so much, as far as doing the right thing, such as in punt. He’s a big part of that.”

(Even last week, red zone offense I think was 2-for-6 in red zone efficiency. What needs to get better there?) – “I think we’ve just got to finish a couple of plays. We had a penalty when we scored a touchdown; we had a dropped pass when we have a touchdown. We don’t have the third-and-1 conversion, which probably wasn’t the best call. We’ve got a couple of things to clean up there, but a lot of times we’re looking at, ‘Well, we were in the red zone six times.’ So as long as you’re getting points – which we didn’t on the one drive – if you’re getting points, it tallies up there at the end. If you keep getting in the red zone, you might not score touchdowns, but it’s kind of that, ‘you get three, you get three, and then you score and then all of a sudden you get another score and you look up,’ now you’ve got 20 points. So if we can score two more touchdowns somehow, whether we finish the play, we make the right read, we get the conversion on third down. Now, that’s when you really become impactful as far as getting a score up there to where now the defense can do their thing.”

(What’s a good touchdown percentage for you [in the red zone]? I know you want 100 percent but is it 50, 40?) – “Yes, you want to try to be really two out of three. You want to try to be in that 60 to 70 percent. That would put you in the top five.”

(Adam, I think you said that you looked at the AFC East games before you met with the team, back in April. What is the one thing that really stood out against Buffalo that this team struggled with?) – “I mean, it’s hard for me to pinpoint one thing. You know that first game … nothing went right for them. It’s hard to rely too much on those games, because there are so many different guys on both sides of the ball. Last year was last year and we’re moving forward. We got through that first part of our schedule so far, just six games in. Now we’re going to play a tough team that’s hot right now. Is there a little bit of a past there where they’ve kind of come in here and bullied us a little bit? Yes. But, we need to figure out a way to go in there and play the same level we played last week, where we were aggressive, we attacked and we didn’t hold anything back. Guys were emotional and they played hard for 60 minutes.”

(The math of division games are pretty clear, if you win those, you make up a lot of ground; but emotionally, if you start to dominate your division, what can that do for this team?) – “Any time you win a game, it’s a confidence booster. That’s the whole key to this sport, ‘How many wins in a row can you get?’ We’ve won one game (in a row right now). Really, at the end of the day, I’ve said it before, no one cares next Sunday if you won last week. What are you going to do this Sunday? That’s why we’ve got to put last week behind us and make sure we do everything we can to prepare for this game Sunday and then bring the same intensity.”

Arian Foster – October 20, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Running Back Arian Foster

(Last week’s performance, how much was that a boost for this locker room?) – “We needed that win, for sure. One win like that can turn around your season if you do the right thing, so hopefully we build off of it.”

(What did you see from RB Jay Ajayi’s performance and how he was out there?) – “He played a good game. The line … Running the ball is an 11-man game and everybody did their job, so it was a good team performance.”

(Head Coach Adam Gase said that you wanted to practice yesterday on your own initially. Normally, he was going to give you Wednesdays off. I was curious why you wanted to do that when he said that you’re still not 100 percent. So, what was the thinking going into that?) – “It’s more of a mental thing at this point with this injury. It’s still a little physically limited, but in order to gain confidence it’s something you have to do. You have to be repetitive on it. You have to keep getting reps on it in order to build that strength back at football speed, because you can do anything you want in the training room, but it’s not going to emulate football speed.”

(So you feel like you just kind of work through it?) – “You have to.”

(Is that one of those things where you’re playing hurt, not injured, or you just kind of suck it up and play through some of the pain? How does that work? ) – “No, this is different. This is not like a knee or … I’ve played through meniscus tears, collarbones broken. I’ve played through so many injuries, but soft tissues, you can’t really play through necessarily, because one wrong move, and it’ll set you back another two weeks. It’s just something you can’t control.”

(Are you concerned about that?) – “Not really.”

(Because that would seem like a good reason not to jump in full speed.) – “That’s why I said at this point it’s more about getting the mental reps and getting that hesitation gone. It’s still a little physically limited as far as strength-wise, but how you build that strength is through repetition.”

(How did you feel during the game? I know you didn’t get that many plays.) – “I just didn’t have the burst that I usually have.”

Ja’Wuan James – October 20, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tackle Ja’Wuan James

(Where are you from a fundamental technique standpoint?) – “A work in progress. (I) come in with (Offensive Line) Coach (Chris) Foerster trying to work every day, doing what he’s teaching and transitioning to that style of technique.”

(What’s the difference?) – “His is a lot more … I don’t know if you all know, but it’s going at different angles and stuff instead of getting back vertical. So, you have to be good with your hands, because you close the distance – so fast going at that angle. You just have to do a better job of getting reps of it. We’ve been doing it at practice a lot. These walkthroughs, I’ve been doing a lot. So, (I have) just (been) working with him.”

(Ja’Wuan, is the Chris Foerster technique dramatically different from the John Benton technique?) – “I wouldn’t say dramatically different, but it’s just different, and you have to be able to do it. We want to do it their way. (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase says it all the time, that he wants it done his way.”

(Has the transition been maybe more challenging than you thought it would be?) – “Yes, it has had its ups and downs. During camp, I feel like I caught my rhythm for a little bit and then I lost some towards the beginning of the season. Now I feel like I’m getting back in the groove of it. So, I have to just maintain it and keep working and grinding every day.”

(What do you need to do to clean up? Is it just a technique aspect?) – “That’s exactly what it is, because the effort is there. Like he keeps saying, everything else is there. I’m not messing up mentally, but it’s the technique.”

(Now how do you guys replicate the running performance that you had last week?) – “Consistency. Whatever they call this week, we have to go out there and grind. We were really physical this past week, so we have to bring that same physicality to the Bills.”

Jarvis Landry – October 20, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wide Receiver Jarvis Landry

(With the impressive win last week – in the NFL one game a week – is there such a thing as momentum carrying from one week to the next?) – “Absolutely. For us, there is such thing as confidence. I think that not closing in on a couple of games that we had an opportunity to – not finishing those games and – (and) having an opportunity to beat a team like Pittsburgh here at home definitely gave us the confidence to carry the momentum.”

(Have you looked at your schedule, and do you know that you only play two teams with a winning record the rest of the way?) – “Did not. I did not. All the time you hear (Offensive Coordinator) Coach Clyde (Christensen) talk about, ‘The most important game is the next game, not to look ahead or look back. Just look forward to the next game.’ For us, that’s kind of where our focus has been.”

(How do you build on the success that you had against Pittsburgh?) – “Continue to execute. I think I said it the same day of the game. (It is about) every guy just doing their job, not going out of the ordinary or going off the reservation, do your job and counting that the other guys are going to do theirs.”

(How much do you take responsibility as far as keeping things steady around here?) – “What do you mean?”

(Just keeping the mood kind of steady in the locker room, everybody on the same beat.) – “This is our job. You got to come to work loving what you do. I think for us with the win and how things have been going for us lately, we’re going to want to try to continue to build off it. Day in and day out, we try to put together good days – good days, good practices, good plays – and hopefully that translates to Sunday.”

(You talked a little bit about the changes in practice and how coaches were chasing RB Jay Ajayi. What else was going on?)  – “Just pretty much that. It was something that we’ve always done, but (Head) Coach (Gase), he demanded more. As a receiver group, we took it upon ourselves to try to set the tone for the team, and hopefully other guys can follow along and there’d be 11 guys in the end zone when the guys runs to end zone. For us, that’s one thing we’re trying to build on here.”

(You’ve always played with a physicality, a tenacity. How do you get the rest of the locker room to bottle that?) – “I think guys have different skill sets; guys have different mentalities. I think looking at it – and looking at what we have – I think, for me, as long as every guy does their skill set whatever they do great or better than the next guy or better than the guy that they are facing, I have no doubt that they can win. As far as physicality, that’s something that (has) always been part of my game.”

(RB Jay Ajayi brought that physicality. What’s it like as a receiver on the field when you’re seeing Jay finish the runs the way he did on Sunday?) – “It’s amazing. It makes me want to try to run over somebody and block for him. I talked to him about it. Even on that last run, he broke a tackle through the safety and through the corner on that play (with) his effort and his will to get those extra yards for us.”

(When you saw on film the onside kick that Pittsburgh did at the end of the game that you caught, did you realize how badly you’d been – you’d been taken out – at that point until you’d seen it?) – “No, I didn’t. I didn’t, honestly. Obviously, you trust those guys to get their block, and they did their best. A guy got through and the whole thing of that play was as long as we come down regardless of what happened or who got hit, it’s a win for us. So, for me, I wasn’t even thinking about it.”

(You line up for that with no regard for your own safety at all?) – “None. I want the win. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

(What challenges do you see with the Buffalo defense?) – “They’re fast. Obviously, they have … They do a lot of different things on their defensive side of the ball as far as the packages that they have, the exotic blitzes – things like that. I think their d-end (Lorenzo Alexander) is leading the league in sacks right now. We have to find a way to execute at a high level. Again, just everybody has to do their job.”

(Are you in the wedding party for Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s marriage to the kicking net?) – “I’m the best man. (laughter) I got the ring and everything. I can’t show you all right now, but you all will get some invites, too. You all are getting invited. We’ll have media there” (laughter).

(Have you thought of that whole story line that Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. has going?) – “I just want him to be happy. I want him to have as much fun as he possibly can have. If he’s doing that, I’m happy for him.”

Darren Rizzi – October 20, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi

(Rizzi, where is your confidence in K Andrew Franks as a field goal kicker and his protection up front?) – “There are a lot of facets to that answer. Here’s where I’ll start off: I have a lot of confidence in Andrew. I don’t think he’d be here if we didn’t have a lot of confidence in him. (With) Andrew, I think people have to keep things in perspective. Andrew is, if not the youngest kicker in the league, I think he’s the first or second youngest guy in the league, and we’ve got to remember this is his second year in the league and his experience factors (in). We didn’t have a lot of opportunities last year. We only had 16 field goals attempts, so he’s still an inexperienced guy. I think when you look at that and keep things in perspective, right now through six weeks in the NFL season, there have been 22 missed PATs and 57 missed field goals. That’s a lot. So, there have been 79 missed kicks so far this season. When you look at it overall in the NFL, there are only five kickers right now that have not missed either a PAT or a field goal. So, 27 guys out of 32 have either a missed PAT or missed a field goal. At this rate right now in the NFL, you’re looking at three to four missed PATs per week. At this rate right now, you’re going to talk about at the end of the season – if we keep on this pace – you’re going to be talking about 50 missed PATs for the year. Why and I giving you all these stats? My point is that we believe a lot in our guy. The bottom line is I’m his biggest critic, and he knows that he has got to make those shorter field goals. He has got to fix the problem, and he has got to elevate the ball more on those shorter field goals. With that said, it’s not an issue that’s only happening here, it’s an issue that’s happening league-wide. Andrew is a talented guy. There are many things he does very, very well. I think one of the things that may go by the wayside from the last week is we had to kick off from the 20-yard line after a penalty, and he kicks the ball 82 yards on the kickoff and drives the ball 2 yards deep into their end zone. He’s obviously a talented guy. He’s an inexperienced guy. Two years ago, he was getting ready to play against Alfred University, if you will. Now he’s getting ready to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. The mindset – and again, that’s no knock on good ole’ Alfred University up there, you’ve got to love upstate New York – but you know what I’m saying. Again, keeping things in perspective, you look back and you look at a lot of the young kickers throughout the league, and there’s going to be growing pains. I think you know that. We took an undrafted free agent kicker from a Division III school last year, and I’d be silly to think there wasn’t going to be any growing pains along the way. He had a couple of short field goals. Again, that’s not Andrew Franks; that’s every young kicker. You look throughout the history of the league, and even this year you look at a guy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo) across the state over here (that) got drafted in the second round, and he’s having growing pains as well. You look at his success – you look at Aguayo’s success in college – and the transfer to the NFL, it’s not an automatic transfer. I think some people sometimes lose that in translation. And we’ve had some great kickers here. Look at Dan Carpenter, who we’re going to play this week. I think one year here – one of the years I was with him – he missed 11 or 12 or 13 field goals in one season as well, and he has had a great NFL career. I know that’s a long answer to a short question, but there are really a lot of ways you can go with that and look at it. I think keeping things in perspective with a young, talented player, we’re going to have some growing pains. He has got to get that corrected. The second part of your question was about the protection. The two field goal blocks we’ve had this year were not the protection. When you really go back and dissect those plays, they were short field goals. The ball has to get elevated better. Even the 50-yard field goal that we missed the other day if you look at the elevation on the ball, he actually got better elevation on the 50 yarder than he did on the short one. So, it was not a protection issue. Our protection certainly hasn’t been 100 percent, but that wasn’t a protection issue the other day. That was really just he has got to … I think what happens with young kickers sometimes is you get in close and sometimes those guys tend to relax. It’s like the golfer with the three-foot putt. If you relax a little bit, you’re going to lip it out; you’re going to miss that putt. If you don’t concentrate and focus in and block all the noise out, sometimes you kind of lose your technique. It’s just like a young golfer. Kickers and golfers are very, very similar in that way. Again, I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guy. We’re going to continue to get better. We’re going to continue to try and improve like every other player on the team. Do we want to be 7-for-10 right now in field goals? No. But he has had 23 kicks. And now with the PAT, you kind of look at every PAT like a field goal. In the old days, you separated PATs and field goals. Now, a PAT is a 33-yard field goal. It’s really what it is. The PAT we grew up with is not the PAT these days. So, we’ve had 23 chances; we’ve made 20 of them. We want that percentage to be higher. We’ve got to make those shorter kicks. Again, you can tell I’ve thought about this a little bit. (laughter) But again, seriously, there are a lot of different perspectives on it, a lot of different facets.”

(How did you assess the onside kick that really didn’t happen and how many do you have in your bag, because you’ve shown one now and it didn’t count?) – “There are multiple kicks you always have going in. I’ve got to say this the right way without … I know I’m not allowed to criticize the officials, so I won’t, but what happened on that play was – and again, this is just a fact, I’m not criticizing the officials, this is what happened – the officials were set up, the main referee blew the whistle to start the play and there was one official that wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in position, and that’s why they blew the play dead. That’s the explanation that we got on the sideline from the official. Again, I’m not criticizing them, I’m just saying that’s exactly what happened there. The head ref blew the whistle, our guys (are) ready to play – we’re ready to go – and the one official – I think it was the back judge over on the side watching the line – he wasn’t in position, yet. So, there was a mechanical issue there, and that’s why the play got blown dead. Initially, I thought they called timeout. They didn’t. The one official wasn’t in position. That’s the explanation that we got on the sideline. The second part of the question is there are always going to be (kicks) you have. It’s just a matter of time when you think it’s the right time to play it and the opportunity. Again, we’re going to have an aggressive mentality in all these games. Again, all those things can happen week to week.”

(Going back to the K Andrew Franks kickoff on the 20-yard line, have you seen anybody be able to reach the goal line from the 20 like that? How crazy was that?) – “Again, I think it goes to show his talent, his leg strength. I have seen it a couple times. There was one earlier in the year I think in that very first game – Denver and Carolina in Denver. But again (in) Denver, the ball travels differently. At sea level – not to get too technical – but at sea level … In regular conditions, it’s rare. There were actually a few more this week in the NFL – I just watched them – (with) some really good kickers kicking them without naming them and they weren’t getting the ball down there. It just goes to show you he has got a lot of different things he can do. You’ve seen us kick the ball short; you’ve seen us kick the ball deep. Again, he’s a talented guy. That ball traveled 82 yards off the tee. That’s a pretty impressive thing. That’s why we’re confident in his ability. Again, we’ve got to fix some of the technique stuff, but it was pretty impressive.”

(What’s the far end of K Andrew Franks’ range? If it’s the last play of the game, can you kick a 65 yarder?) – “He has in practice. I think last year, he kicked a 66- or 67-yarder in practice with room to spare. It depends on the conditions and all that. Again, conditions and all that stuff. I’ve seen him in warmups kick 64-yarders in the middle of the net. Again, he does have a strong leg. We actually tried a 64-yarder in practice yesterday and had about 5 or 6 yards left on it. We’re always going to … Again, depending on the situation and depending on the conditions and all that stuff – last play of the half, last play of the game, things like that.”

(How much have injuries particularly at the tight end position, safety position and now corner position – guys that sometimes get involved in punt and kickoff coverage – how much change has there been or will there be?) – “The special teams coach is always the guy that gets affected the most, right? It’s all trickle down. No matter where the injury takes place – whether it’s during the game or during the week or during the season – it’s the next-man-up mentality. That’s always going to trickle down to special teams, no doubt – Especially if it’s not in the o-line, d-line or the quarterback. If it’s outside of those positons, the obviously it’s going to affect us. No matter what happens with the (game day) actives, we’ve got to have the guys – the 44, 45, 46 guys or 46 men, rather – ready to play at every position – like you said – whether it’s tight end, DB (defensive back), safety, linebacker, whatever – that’s always going to affect us. All it means for us is we’ve got to have a special teams staff, we’ve got to have everybody ready to go, because a bunch of different scenarios could play out with the actives. That really happens week to week. We always have a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D if you will in terms of if guys are active and guys are injured or they’re going to get more playing time on offense or defense. It definitely affects us, for sure. It affects every special teams coach throughout the league. That’s one of our challenges is to make sure that the playing time doesn’t get lopsided with O, D (offense, defense) and special teams. It’s making sure those reserve guys – whether they were inactive, or against practice squad or whatever – those guys that are in the building, when they get called up upon and are ready to play, for sure.”

(Rizzi, small sample size, but have you noticed that the canopy has affected kickoffs, punts or catching kickoffs or punts?) – “It is a small sample size, but … It’s funny, the wind in our stadium is tricky, because like the other day, we go out at like 11:15 (a.m.) – I go out with Matt Darr to warm up – and the wind at 11:15 and the wind at 1:15 (p.m.) were completely different. We kind of had some storms blowing through, so the wind was blowing one way. So, for two hours before the game when the kickers were warming up – they’re always trying to get a beat on the wind – it’s still a little breezy, because the way the canopy is, underneath there’s still some openings, I have noticed that the wind in the corners with the big screens is a little bit different, but it was still pretty breezy. There wasn’t a consistent wind the other day. It was kind of five minutes it was blowing one way and five minutes (later) it was blowing the other. It was kind of a breezy deal. I think at the end of the day down here in South Florida, we’re going to get trade winds, we’re going to get windy days in our stadium. At the end of the day, there’s going to be openings, so there’s going to be some … Week to week it’ll be different. Some stadiums you go to there’s a consistent wind (in) one direction. From what I’ve found in my eight years here is that you can go to our stadium on any given day – you can go Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – you might have four different directions where the wind is going.”

(Heinz Field is consistent, right? Kicking one direction kickers are problems.) – “Yes. There are a lot of stadiums where, again, the more experience you get, you go in there … It kind of feels like the way the stadium is built whether it comes in one way and swirls the other way. New England, for example, is really open on that one end, and then usually it comes in and goes one direction or the other. Every stadium is different. Our stadium – and because of the geographical location that we’re in – it seems to swirl a lot of times coming from a bunch of different directions naturally with where we’re located.”

Vance Joseph – October 20, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph

(Vance, your run defense last week allowed 128 [yards]. You take out the 60-yard run, 68 [yards] but it’s still 4.5 yards a carry. I just wanted to ask did you like that total? I mean I know 4.5 isn’t pretty but did you like that and did you see improvement as far as gap assignments and tackling?) – “Yes, I mean the total was okay. Now obviously the 60-yard reverse was four missed tackles and a bad angle on the backside. That can’t happen; but overall the gap integrity was fine. Guys played hard. Guys ran to the ball. So, I was pleased enough with the run game.”

(Vance, how did ‘Cam’ [Cameron Wake] respond to the increased playing time?) – “Yes. I thought ‘Cam’ (Cameron Wake) was fine. It was obviously, going into the game, a passing game. We thought that it would definitely fit Cam’s, his skill set, being able to play more snaps in that game.”

(Vance, what changes with this scheme with S Reshad Jones out for the season?) – “Well, that’s hard to say. I think every game you play is, you play weekly differently. Reshad, he’s obviously a great blitzer. He’s a great cover guy. He’s a great guy in the middle third. It depends. But the overall scheme should not change much. Some matchups may change – according to who’s covering who, who’s the blitzer? – from time to time, but the overall scheme won’t change much. But obviously not having Reshad (Jones), that’s a huge loss for us.”

(You have a lot of corners now, particularly with CB Chris Culliver coming along. Is there any thought to moving any of them to safety) – “Well, not really. (Jordan) Lucas plays safety, nickel and corner. So I mean, that’s already taken place. Michael Thomas, he’s playing nickel, corner, safety also. The corners – no, they’re corners. We won’t move anybody else to safety. I think we’re fine with Michael (Thomas). We’re fine with Isa (Abdul-Quddus). We’ve got Walt Aikens there. So we’ve got three guys who played it in an NFL game, so I’m comfortable there.”

(When you’re playing a physical team like the Bills who like to run football, does that really change what you’re doing as opposed to last week where you played more of a passing team.) – “Yes, again every week it’s a different challenge. Obviously this week, ‘Shady’ (LeSean McCoy), he’s averaging 5.6 a carry – that’s the most in the NFL by a whole yard – so obviously the mindset changes. It’s going to be a run-first, offense-first (game). So in turn, it’s going to be a run-stop defense first for us, and pass second. Every game’s different, but we always focus on what they do best, and that’s run the football this week.”

(Vance, some guys get really jacked up about facing their former team. With that in mind, have you noticed an extra jump in Mario’s step this week) – “No. I think personally, he wants to play well and help us win. That’s every week. Obviously when you’re playing your ex-team, you want to win; but I’m hoping as a pro he wants to win every game as bad as this game. I haven’t seen anything, but I think personally he wants to play well.”

(How has DE Mario Williams handled the decreased role that he had last week?) – “He’s been fine. I mean he understands that he has to play better when he’s in there. Last week, he played about 15 snaps and he was productive. He could have been more productive, but I think Mario’s (Williams) fine. He wants to earn his way back into a starting role, so he understands that.”

(What have you seen that’s a little bit different from the Buffalo Bills earlier in the season to what they’ve been doing now, kind of having a little bit more success?) – “I think they’ve simplified things. They’re running the football well, but their execution is really, really good right now. Up front, they’re blocking their guys, ‘Shady’s’ (LeSean McCoy) special with the ball. They’re doing some things with him in the backfield as far as direct snaps that can kind of cause confusion for a defense. They’re blocking their guys, he’s finding the holes and the quarterback is playing really well. He’s an elusive guy in the pass game so if the rush breaks down, he can run for first down on third downs. They’re playing well. It’s a great combination of obviously defense turning the ball over, their quarterback not turning the ball over and ‘Shady’ having a hell of a year.”

(How would you assess CB Byron Maxwell’s performance last week?) – “He played really well. He played well. Obviously you can see as a big corner versus a smaller receiver, he can get his hands on them; he can have success. But he played a smart game last week. He didn’t have any plays where you said, ‘What was that?’ He was solid. He was into it. He was focused and sharp. That was the key to that game last week.”

(Vance, we like to slap labels on teams and Buffalo, we like to call them physical – their offensive is physical. Do you agree with that? And if so, why would you agree with that and especially upfront?) – “It starts upfront. They’ve got a collection of guys who will block you, who will push you, who will hold you. And the back (LeSean McCoy), obviously, makes them special … He can find a crease. That offensive line is a physical group. They’re going to do whatever it takes to block their guy and that’s a nice trait to have as an offensive line.”

(If the starting safeties are S Isa Abdul-Quddus and S Michael Thomas, how could that affect how Isa is utilized in comparison to when he was paired with S Reshad Jones?) – “When you make a change like that, you’re hoping to keep the guy who’s played in the same role and the guy who replaces ‘20’ (Reshad Jones) out there in ‘20’s’ role. That’s sometimes tough to do. So we’re going to have different packages where Isa’s playing ‘20’s’ role and then Michael’s playing ‘20’s’ role. We’ll kind of play to both guys strengths, so it will be a little bit different than what you’ve seen with ‘20’ out there.”

(How did you react when you heard the news about S Reshad Jones?) – “Not good, but it’s the NFL. Everyone’s going through injuries. Again, if guys do their job, the best teams win. Obviously he’s a big part of what we’ve done in the past here and going forward, hopefully. But the best teams win. Just come in and do your job. We’re all paid professionals. I’m not overly concerned. It definitely hurts losing Reshad, but we can’t worry about that.”

(How helpful is it when you have a guy playing safety in S Michael Thomas that does have some pattern-matching ability?) – “It helps. Michael (Thomas) is a smart, tough, fully engaged football player. I have no concerns about Michael (Thomas) being a starter. He’s not Reshad (Jones). Reshad’s not Michael (Thomas), but I think Michael will do a fine job.”

(How concerning is CB Tony Lippett’s injury and if for some reason he couldn’t go, who is next in?) – “He’s fine. He practiced today full speed, so he’s fine. No issues there.”

(Vance, I think QB Tyrod Taylor has been sacked 13 times if I’m not mistaken in 84 pass attempts or whatever it is, it’s a good percentage. What’s going on there? Where do we see his legs being used? Is he not able to use them in those situations? Is there an opportunity for him?) – “Well, he’s using them. I think the Baltimore game, they had a bunch of sacks on the guy; but outside of the Baltimore game, he’s been pretty good as far as escaping the pocket. Like most scrambling quarterbacks, we’ve got to have a good rush plan and keep him in the pocket. He’s popped on a bunch of third-and-longs and he’s run for first downs. We can’t have that. It’s too hard to get into third down with this team. So once we get into third down, we have to keep him in the pocket and force him to be a passer from the pocket. So that’s a must that we do this week.”

(What did DE Andre Branch do much better at last week?) – “I think Andre played fast and played physical. That’s the position and that’s what’s being taught upfront. He played with a different edge. He played physical, he played fast and he played smart. That’s what we want from those guys – to be disruptors. That’s what he did.”

Clyde Christensen – October 20, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen

(What is the verdict on the offensive line and having them intact? You guys rushed for 200 and didn’t have any sacks … all due to the offensive line being intact?) – “It sure helps. Continuity is huge. Those guys are tied together so it sure helps. I don’t know that you can ever predict a 200-yard rushing game in this league but it sure came at a good time for us and we’d sure love to see more of them. The more those guys play together, the more that’s going to happen. I do think just getting those guys together and the shower mats in the team hotel helped. (laughter) All those things contributed, I think a lot of those things contributed to it.”

(T Branden Albert said he really liked what he saw but he doesn’t think the team really found an identity just yet up front) – “I do think it’s an ongoing process. I think he’s probably right. I do think we’re moving towards one. I do think even for (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) as the play caller, you just see what guys do more. Again, we’ve talked 100 times about reps and the more reps you see guys and you see what does Jay Ajayi do well, what does our line do well, what can we be, what are we? It’s always fluid just because of injuries. This week, again, we’ll go in and probably be shorthanded at tight end. You have to adjust, but I do think systematically that you do just keep getting a feel for what guys can do and what you can be good at. How does it complement your defense? How does it tie in with everything? I do think he’s probably right on that but … We’ve committed to being an outside-zone team, so it’s good to see some of that pay off. Some of the things we’re trying to be, some we’re tweaking and some are improving. The continuity goes for the plays as well as the players. The more times you do it with the same guys over and over and they learn what Adam (Gase) wants, etc., what Coach Gase wants, etc., then the better it gets. Hopefully that’s a step forward in the right direction towards all of the above right there.”

(Speaking about T Branden Albert, how well has he been able to bounce back from the illness?) – “He’s been really good. He’s been excellent. I haven’t seen … I think once that was gone, unlike some of these other injuries, once it was gone, it was gone. I haven’t seen any residual effects of that, so that’s been good.”

(You mentioned RB Jay Ajayi, how helpful is it to have a running back that … things aren’t necessarily blocked up according to plan but he’s still able to generate yards and get positive yards) – “Absolutely. It’s a must, because in this league, it would be nice to say, ‘Hey, double teams are going to knock guys back 5 yards and you’re going to have a body on a body.’ That just doesn’t happen in this league and even when it does happen, there’s an extra guy in the box usually. You can’t play running back in here if you can’t create a little something on your own, whether it’s running over somebody, spinning off somebody or putting a move on somebody. Even if you get them all blocked, these guys are so good that they have an extra guy in the box anyway. So yes, you just have to have the ability. You can’t play running back in this league – that would be one of the quick disqualifications – if you can’t make that extra guy miss, then you’re going to have trouble playing running back in this league.”

(Can you talk about the difficulties of playing a Rex Ryan defense, especially considering they have the guy leading the league in sacks right now) – “That’s a good question. In our introduction to the team, it’s really unbelievably similar to last week. It’s a really hot team. It’s a really hot defense. It’s an established defense that has been doing the same thing for a long, long time. They’re statistically very, very good. It’s going to be the same thing. This team is playing extremely good defense. They’re in the top five in about every single category. They have good players. They have a scheme that they know. It’s the same scheme that they’re familiar with. They’ve been in it for a long time. They’ve drafted to it; they’ve signed to it. They’re always a problem. It’s an aggressive defense. They’re going to give you some different looks. They’re a little bit like Pittsburgh and New England in that you’re always going to get something that you didn’t bargain for so the system has to kick in. You have to be able to handle things on the run and see what kind of game it becomes. They’re very, very good.”

(One of the big topics of conversation around here has been QB Ryan Tannehill at the line of scrimmage. How much of Sunday was him at the line of scrimmage getting them into where they needed to be) – “(It’s the) same thing. I’d kind of tell you that we’re evolving into a little mix – that he has some flexibility and (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase gives him some parameters. But he has some freedom. It’s not complete. What percentage was it this week? I don’t know how I’d say that other than just that he does have a lot of freedom and that he did a couple of good things at the line of scrimmage that kind of helped us out of some bad plays. We have tried to clean the thing up to where there’s less communication at the line of scrimmage and that guys know what they’re going to do. I think we’ve benefitted from that a little bit too. The huddle – that takes a little bit of stress off of him not having to communicate to everybody everything. We’re going to just keep working between them and mix in the tempo stuff. He’s done a good job with it and I know Coach Gase is trying to be really smart with how much of what and when. But it is a quarterback-driven offense and it’s an advantage-based offense. You’re looking where can we get an advantage and we’re going to always have the freedom for the quarterback to get us an advantage on a play.”

(Can you give one example where QB Ryan Tannehill got you into something that really worked?) – “He took a couple of those runs. One thing with Pittsburgh and these guys is that they come off the perimeter and there are some things you have to get an extra blocker to the perimeter; there’s some things you have to run away from it. There were a couple of times where he got us away from a perimeter pressure. There were a couple of times where he got us into a perimeter pressure but with something that we had a chance to block the extra guy with. That would be an example. It’ll be the same thing this week, when they do bring the extra guy – Pittsburgh loves to bring their strong safety and an extra edge player – that’s going to fall on the quarterback, picking his times where we run into it and what we run into it with and picking his times to run away from it and what to run away from it with. That did happen in the game and he handled it well.”

(Last week after the game, QB Ryan Tannehill said he saw a couple of their linebackers puking on the field – his words – and there is a video of Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons down on one knee and he’s throwing up. Was that weather or was that tempo?) – “I don’t know about that. I’d hate to speculate. It actually was on the film. It’s kind of an interesting league that it’s family television at its best. (laughter)”

(Can you guys take advantage with tempo?) – “Who knows what it was. A lot of guys play through some flu symptoms and these guys are tough guys. The Steelers obviously are tough guys too. I don’t know what was going on with him but one of the things we’ve tried to sell is that it has to be our advantage playing in this weather – being used to it, and then getting teams down here early when it’s really hot, the tempo and then playing at that tempo is hard to replicate and then playing at that tempo at humid, high temperatures is extremely hard to duplicate and simulate, especially coming from Pittsburgh or Buffalo. Those things have to be an advantage for us. I don’t think we’re fully ready to exploit them yet, just with us; but we have to. That’s what we’d like to get to. That’s what we’d love to be able to get to and gosh, you have to dread when you come down here because you know how many snaps you’re going to have to play – you’re going to have to play 90 snaps and it is hot and humid and these guys are on their stuff. That’s where we’re headed hopefully, but we’re not there yet. But it does need to be an advantage, sure.”

(Did [the heat and humidity] get a couple of your linemen last week? G/T Laremy Tunsil? T Ja’Wuan James?) – “Yes. I think more of ours is just some guys have missed some practice time and then all of a sudden, that same thing. Sometimes it can get you too. The humidity is … the cold in Green Bay gets them too. There is some of that; but you do hope there is an advantage that you’re more used to it than anybody else. For us, all of a sudden our snaps went up 30, so they weren’t used to that. That’s our own fault for us to cramp because we’ve only been playing 50 snaps a game and it jumped up to 70 so I’ll put that in the self-inflicted category. We haven’t trained enough in long-snap games.”

(Can you talk about WR DeVante Parker and how you would assess him after six games?) – “I really think he’s coming on. I have the advantage that I see him in practice and he’s just getting better and better and better. He looks like a pro. He’s really a smooth, good athlete. I just get more and more impressed with him every single week and he’s a guy who can tip these games and can give you a big play – same as the run game. Sometimes everybody is covered and you have to have somebody jump up and make a play. He certainly has the ability to do that. I think he’s going to have some big moments down the road through this thing. You never know how games are going to go or when it’s going to happen, but I’ve really been impressed. He’s working. He’s bought in. He’s really been excellent, especially this last month. I think he’s just coming into his stride and I think some of these guys are just learning it. It’s just starting to get second nature. It’s hard to play fast if you are tentative and you’re not 100 percent sure what you’ve got. I’ve said all along, we’ve been throwing a lot of volume at them and I would hope that every week you see us play faster and faster and faster, and it’s not that we’re getting faster, it’s just that we know what we’re doing more. We can run faster without thinking about it. As soon as you start thinking, everything starts to slow down and people slow down. I think he’s a case of that, but he’s getting more comfortable with what we’re doing. He’s been healthier; he’s getting a chance to practice more. He’s been really, really impressive the last month.”

(It seems like G/T Laremy Tunsil lived in the second level of the Steelers defense last week. Was that kind of by design or was some of that because of the alignment of the Steelers?) – “I think probably both of those and then I’d add a third one, he’s getting more comfortable each week playing guard. Both those two guards, I thought it was the best week we’ve had of them just pulling and getting up to second levels and getting on to second-level players and just doing it more and more. Those are two guys who are tackles by trade. They haven’t played inside a bunch so they’re getting more and more comfortable, plus the two things you identified. But just playing guard more, I think we did see some benefit of it that hopefully there’s some momentum that we are getting better at some of these things just by doing it more.”

(Where is TE Thomas Duarte in his development?) – “He’s rolling right along. We knew when we drafted him that he was a developmental player and he needed it both physically and mentally. He needed to put on some pounds, he needed to put on some strength, he needed to get the technique of playing in-line, which he didn’t get at UCLA much. He’s developing. We’re pleased with his development. Is he ready to go block the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers? I’m not sure quite yet he is, but he’s coming. I said I don’t know when that time will be yet but maybe we’re an injury away from it. It might be this afternoon but I sure hope it … Our plan would be that it will be down the road, it’s next year. Our plan in drafting him was that, ‘Hey, this guy is going to need to get into the weight room. He’s going to need to put on some girth and some size and get some experience inside there. The ideal thing would be for him to have a full redshirt year. Sometimes it doesn’t work out quite like that but I think the ideal, the optimal would be for him to get his full redshirt year in.”

(Is this willingness there for TE Thomas Duarte as far as a blocker?) – “Absolutely. That was the No. 1 question, because you hadn’t seen him – it was all a projection – we hadn’t seen him inside. Probably the biggest –not surprising thing because we didn’t know – but the thing that was really good for us was that he’s willing (to block). That was evident right from the get go. He’s willing to get in there and mix it up. He goes against our three defensive ends every day and he’s gotten thrown out of the bar so to speak – a couple times – physically. You see him go in and then you see him come out head first, which is perfect for him. That’s what he needs. All of a sudden I said to him the other day, you look up and (Ndamukong) Suh, (and) ‘Cam,’ (Cameron Wake) threw him out of the bar, so to speak. I told him to just go right back through the door and you keep going and then all of a sudden, you stay. That’s really the case with him. That’s part of it. Hopefully he gets this whole year. Hopefully we can just keep going. He’s on kind of an extra weight, extra eating, extra calories (plan). We’ve got a good plan for him. They’ve got a good plan for him. Everyone has a good plan for him throughout the building. The plan is good and hopefully we don’t have to do something premature with him but this is football and we all know how that can change really, really fast. But yes, he is (willing to block). Going against these ends … That’s what I keep telling him, if all of a sudden you find yourself locked up with these guys and you’re holding your own, you can play. There’s nobody in the league who is bigger, stronger, more explosive than these three guys he goes against – or four – all of those guys – (Andre) Branch and all of them. Those are big, physical guys.”

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