Adam Gase – December 2, 2016 Download PDF version

Friday, December 2, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(It looks like T Branden Albert has practiced every day this week. Are you still feeling good about his chances for Sunday?) – “Things look good. We’ll keep going through the next two days and see how he feels. I haven’t really talked to him as far as, ‘You’re a definite yes,’ yet, but I’ll have a conversation with him tomorrow and have a better idea.”

(G/T Laremy Tunsil says he’s playing. Is that accurate?) – “It’s good that he’s feeling comfortable enough to where he feels like he’s going to be able to go. Unless we have some kind of setback, we have a great opportunity for him to play Sunday.”

(How much is that going to help you as far as play calling against this defensive line knowing that you’ve got potentially T Branden Albert and G/T Laremy Tunsil on that left side?) – “We have a big challenge. Obviously, this is one of the top defenses in the league. Anytime you can get your starters out there and competing against these guys, that’s critical for us as far as having success. When we were moving the ball pretty good, we had all five of those guys out there, and it makes life fairly simple. You’ve got veterans and talented players, and when you start shuffling everybody around, that chemistry kind of goes away, and you’re trying to get that going as quick as possible. This will be nice. The more guys we can get back, the better.”

(I can’t recall a team that has gone this late into the season without playing a cold-weather game. It’s going to be 50 degrees on Sunday – which isn’t that cold – but Buffalo, New York is probably going to be colder. Any thoughts on that as far as … I know you guys use the heat as an advantage here early in the year, but flipping that in December …) – “The one thing that we’ve talked about at least – as far as our strength staff and sport science and nutrition – is you get a little lackadaisical as far as your hydration, nutrition, things like that, thinking you’re going to colder weather (and) it’s not important. But we’ve made a big emphasis that even though we’re not playing in the heat, it is important still as far as what you need to do to get ready for the game. You never really worry about the temperature, because it is what it is, no matter if you’re playing down here or you’re playing up north. It’s one game for three-and-a-half, four hours. With all of the things that they have to allow you to stay warm during the game, it’s really – for the players – it’s really not as bad as what you would think.”

(What you’ve gotten from your defensive backfield in light of S Reshad Jones’ injury and CB Xavien Howard has been hurt, how pleased have you been with the whole group?) – “I think the guys have done a good job of working together and playing off each other. The communication has been outstanding. It could’ve easily gone the other way, but guys stepped up. We added some – a couple – new faces there that came in and contributed right away. I think (Defensive Coordinator) Vance (Joseph) and (Defensive Backs Coach) Lou (Anarumo) and (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Daronte (Jones) have done a great job as far as getting those guys prepared – up to speed – as fast as possible. They’ve put them in some good positions, too. He has called some great defenses at the right time, and those guys have executed.

(K Justin Tucker made 34 straight field goals, obviously he’s perfect this year. Is there anything you can do to get pressure on him on Sunday?) – “It’s tough when you have a guy that has such a great rhythm, and he’s not fazed by anything. At least my experience has been, when you play a team that does have a kicker that’s outstanding, it’s hard to throw those guys off. You try to rush as hard as you can and try to penetrate, but it’s almost like any other phase of the game – kickoff return, punt return – when you feel like you have a special guy there, things amp up a little bit. I’m sure those guys up front know, let’s not give any leakage up, because we know this guy’s going to split the uprights. That point of emphasis for them probably kicks in big time when that guy is back there kicking.”

(What would have to change, what would have to happen in order for WR DeVante Parker to play?) – “Just how he feels. Today, him running was a big step. He’s really pushing himself. I’ve been really impressed at how he’s not letting anybody else control whether or not he’s going to play or not. He’s really taken this, taken this injury … You can tell there’s something different about him. He’s really trying to get back. He doesn’t want to let his teammates down, for sure. I think that’s the biggest thing. He doesn’t want Jarvis (Landry) and Kenny (Stills) to have to go out there without him. I think he’s taking a lot of pride in that. He’s been up here a lot trying to figure out a way to be able to play on Sunday. Obviously, we’ll be smart as far as what we’ll do. I’ll have to make that final decision. He might even tell me ‘I’m ready to go,’ and I might say no. We’ve got to be really smart with this.”

(WR Jarvis Landry wasn’t wearing the red jersey this week. Is that a sign that he’s progressing with his shoulder?) – “I think he feels better than he did last week, for sure. It’s still … The way he plays, he’s always kind of going to banged up. He sells out and he gives everything he has and he sacrifices his body. I’m sure he doesn’t feel good on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He’s just trying to get himself as close to where he can feel good for Sunday.”

(With LB Jelani Jenkins, it’s been off and on, sometimes practice. How difficult of a season is that for a guy like that, when you are trying to be out there contributing, but you’ve got one thing, and it just continues to progress?) – “I’m sure it’s frustrating. I love the fact that he keeps coming back and he keeps working. I know that’s not the easiest thing to do. It has to get somewhat annoying that something is breaking down, but he keeps fighting. He keeps trying to find ways to get back on the field. Obviously he wants to contribute; he wants to be a part of what the defense is doing. We’ve tried to manage the situation a little differently. Neville (Hewitt) stepping up has been huge for us; (Donald) Butler developing a role for himself; Spencer (Paysinger) coming in when he has to come in, he’s done a great job. We’ve had a lot of guys step up, which if we can get into a situation where he’s playing less plays just so we can have him on game day, that helps us so much, because it’s one more player that we feel like is an impact player on our defense. If we can just keep getting him to where he feels better, that’s going to be beneficial to us.”

(LB Jelani Jenkins played right after having his knee scoped. Do you guys feel like that was the right decision to make in hindsight? I know you can’t play what if.) – “We felt really good about when it happened. It feels like five years ago. It feels like a long time ago, but when that went down, he was pushing us. We would try to hold him back (and) he was like, ‘I’m good. Let’s go. Let’s get this thing progressing.’ He was aggressive in what he did rehab-wise. We went through our normal procedure. The timing was right as far as what we thought it was going to be and he did a good job and just kept pushing himself to try to get as strong as he possibly could. But we felt really good about it, at the time of him going out there.”

(C/G Anthony Steen kind of got throw into the fire right away, Week 1. In what ways is he a better player now in Week 13 than he was during his first stint?) – “Any time you get a handle of the offense, that helps you play faster. That is as obvious as you can be. He really has a great grasp of what we’re doing and it makes it easier on the quarterback. He becomes more comfortable with what the center does and then when he has to get plugged in there, the rest of those guys feel good about it because they played with him. They know what he’s going to do. They understand the tempo of how he’s going to make calls and how he’s going to snap the ball as far as when you’re on the road and things like that. It’s never easy to replace a player like Mike (Pouncey), because you’re talking about one of the best centers in football, and he’s done a good job as far as stepping in and doing everything he can to fill that role and be a guy that can help us move the ball.”

(With C Mike Pouncey, we haven’t seen him all week. We know it’s a situation that you guys are monitoring but how much of this has to be concern about the long-term ramifications of this hip issue?) – “It’s hard for me to answer that because I haven’t dug deep enough as far as what this injury could be as far as long term goes. Knowing him and how he battles and how he tries to take care of his body and figure out what went wrong to where we can make some adjustments, he’s really invested himself into figuring out, ‘How can I get in a situation where I’m out there for 16 weeks.’ I think that’s really his mindset right now. One: how do I get back so I can be a part of this at the end of the season? And then when we finish – whenever this finishes for us – it’s probably going to be, go back and reevaluate more of how can we help him to where we can get a full season out of him, because he’s extremely valuable to not only the offense but the entire team. He’s one of our best leaders. He’s one of our best vocal leaders for sure. He’s one of those guys that when young guys see him operate, if you follow him, good things will happen, because I don’t know if I’ve been around too many guys that work as hard as him on the field, off the field. The amount of time he spends doing what he does is very impressive and we need him. We need him here. Obviously, we want him here. So we need to figure out a way to make sure that we can get him on the field for 16 games.”

(Do you have any early indication about practice next week? How are you listing C Mike Pouncey?) —   “I’m way not even close to that.”

Jarvis Landry – December 1, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wide Receiver Jarvis Landry

(What do you see? They are not just a great rush defense, they’re a great defense overall. What do you see on film when you watch the Ravens defense?) – “Obviously they’re a great defense, like you said, and they have been for a long time. They take pride in that. But for us, we understand that there’s going to be a challenge to run the football, to protect; but I have faith in the guys up front that they’re going to get the job done like we have every week so far.”

(If you get T Branden Albert and G/T Laremy Tunsil back, nothing against the backups, but what kind of shot in the arm would that be for the offense?) – “Obviously, having those two guys on the field helps us out; but I think that those guys that have stepped in and filled those positions as well have really stepped in and filled the role as much as they could, and we’ve won. Obviously, we want them out there; but if not, we’re going to continue to move forward.”

(S Michael Thomas does a lot for you guys on special teams, does he deserve a spot in the Pro Bowl?) – “Absolutely. Mike T is one of those guys that every year deserves a spot. He kind of is what (Matthew) Slater is for New England; he’s kind of that for us. Around this league, he’s well known, not only for his defense playing safety, but also for special teams.”

(How meaningful will it be for to be wearing those cleats on Sunday?) – “Very meaningful. Just having personal ties with (Cystic Fibrosis), and having the opportunity to share and raise awareness about it. It’s something that is really unique, and I thank the NFL for giving me the opportunity – the NFL for giving the players the opportunity period, to stand behind something.”

(Some of your teammates have echoed that they respect Head Coach Adam Gase because he treats all of you like grown men. There’s also an aspect that he has a cool factor. Does he have that cool factor because of his age and he can relate to players?) – “I think there’s a way that he wants things done and it’s a standard level. When changing the culture, sometimes it’s not going to be as pretty or as easy to make decisions; but sometimes those decisions have to be made. It’s his job and his position to make those decisions. How people judge him or how I judge him, how you judge him, it doesn’t matter as long as he’s doing the right thing for this organization. That’s the direction we need to be headed in.”

(What have you seen out of WR Leonte Carroo from the beginning of his rookie year until now?) – “Just constant growth. He’s been a guy who, along with Jakeem Grant, has come in and each day, each week, they’re just trying to learn more and more. To see him finally get in the end zone this past week means everything – I know to him – but just to the receivers’ room as a whole. If a guy goes down, you step up and we don’t miss a beat. For him to come in and do it like he did, it says a lot about him.”

Jay Ajayi – December 1, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Running Back Jay Ajayi

(When you faced the Jets they were the No. 1 rush defense and you did quite well. You’re facing the Ravens. What do you see? Is there a difference between the two? What do you see on film with the Ravens rush defense?) – “They have a front – a lot of good players up there. (Terrell) Suggs, he’s been doing it for a long time. Their linebackers, as well, are good. I know we’re going to have a good challenge again this week. They’re playing well right now; we’re playing well, so it will be fun.”

(You went last, you went more to the right then you have in the past. More rush plays were called to the right. If you get T Branden Albert and G/T Laremy Tunsil back, how much would a shot in the arm will that be to the offense?) – “I don’t really know like which direction I’m running, but it will be good to get those guys back. Those are our starting guys and we’re confident in those guys and what they bring to our o-line when they’re in there. It will be good for them to get in there. We’re excited to see how it will turn out on Sunday.”

(Is the word playoffs even being mentioned right now in this locker room?) – “No. Not really, because to be honest, we’re still just working on finding ways to win each week. It’s kind of been where we want to win games outright and we’re playing in a lot of four-quarter games so it’s kind of been to where we really have to focus on each opponent, each week, and just find a way win every time.”

(Are you aware of your opponents, their run defense rankings, and do you make notes of that like Baltimore’s No. 1? The Jets were No. 1? San Diego was No. 5? Are you aware? Do you care?) – “They tell us when we go through our weekly meetings that we do. When we go over the overview and all that, we learn what the team rankings are, defensive stats and all that. It’s been interesting the past couple of weeks. We’ve definitely had to play like a lot of good rush defenses. It’s been cool taking that challenge and at the end of the day, whoever’s out there we’re going to go out there with our mentality that we want to run the ball downhill and make plays.”

(Do you take pride in knowing you’ve gone up against the best?) – “It’s a good feeling to know we’re going against top defenses and we’re having success. At the same time though, we just want to keep proving a point every time we step out there.”

(But the faith that Head Coach Adam Gase has in the run offense. For instance, against the Jets, you got I think 26 first-half yards and you end up with 111 – half of them in the fourth quarter. They were the No. 1 rush defense and you kept pounding the ball and pounding the ball. What does it say about his faith the run offense?) – “I think just over this win streak, our run game has been a key factor and the reason why our offense has done well. I don’t think there would be any reason to stray away from it. We’ve shown production and we’ve shown what we can do when we’re rolling, and so I don’t really think there’s a reason to stray away from it and it’s been good, because even with our run game doing well, now our passing game is opening up and making a lot of plays on the perimeter. Everyone basically eats on offense and so that’s what we want to have.”

(Even if you have 20 more rushes, do you feel stronger in the fourth quarter than you do, say in the first quarter?) – “I feel good. Like I said, I always feel like I get stronger as the game goes on and get more of a feel of how the holes and runs are looking. It’s good. In the fourth quarter, when defenses are tired, that’s when you want to attack.”

(You’re going to be wearing special cleats on Sunday. Tell us what that’s all about and why you chose the cause you did?) – “Yes, so I’m going to be wearing some red cleats. I’m getting them actually painted today in support of MENs Disease (multiple endocrine neoplasia). I lost an aunt to it, my dad’s sister, and actually my cousin who lived with me growing up (has it). I just found out this year that he has it as well. So just through communication with him and my whole family, I wanted to bring awareness to the disease and hopefully start getting a conversation out there, because there are people that go through it.”

(Going back to wearing out defenses for a second, can you tell by looking at guys that you’re grating on them, you’re wearing them down, they’re bumped and bruised as the end of the game nears?) – “I think there’s a point where you start to see that guys are kind of tired out there in the fourth (quarter), or guys kind of maybe don’t bring the same physicalness that they were in the first quarter or the first half. It’s all about just myself and just having that mentality that I’m not going to stop and just going to keep pounding all game.”

(T Branden Albert said yesterday that he respects Head Coach Adam Gase because he treats all of you like grown men. He also said there’s like a cool aspect to him. Is there a cool aspect to your head coach?) – “Yes, I think because he’s younger, he relates a lot more to us. He’s very player friendly. He allows a lot of dialogue between himself and us and so I think that kind of helps us just feel a lot more cool in the building. Everyone just feels a little more relaxed, where different head coaches might not be as open to conversing with the players like that.”

Adam Gase – December 1, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(What adjustments would the offense have to make if WR DeVante Parker isn’t ready by Sunday?) – “I don’t see there being too much, because we are pretty flexible as far as what we can do. A lot of times, the things that we do are based off of what the defense does as far as our game planning goes. We’re able to move pieces around pretty easy.”

(Where are the young guys – Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant and Rashawn Scott – as far as ready to step in and contribute?) – “We’ve made some big strides, especially since Kenny (Stills) and Jarvis (Landry) have been banged up the last month or so. Those guys have been able to take a lot of reps, which when you’re a young player, that’s critical, because you can look at everything on a piece of paper – you can look at everything on a board – but at the end of the day, until you really do it, that’s when you can make some strides. I think that’s what has happened with those guys.”

(And why WR Rashawn Scott called up to the 53-[man roster]?) – “We feel like what he has shown us since the first day we put him on practice squad, he has made improvement. At the same time, he does have something about him as far as his attitude and his intensity and his confidence in himself. I think there is some trust there with the knowledge of the offense and the same time with his ability.”

(With all the guys cross training at multiple wide receiver spots, how clutch is that at this point in the season now that you are facing some injuries?) – “It makes it a lot easier. I think the thing that with this offense that helps us is it’s easy to move guys around. Nobody is really assigned a letter or anything like that. We’re able to keep our offense pretty close to what it has always been. With those guys being able to play multiple positions, that makes it even that much easier.”

(What are some things that WR Leonte Carroo has really worked hard to refine since his arrival?) – “I think the thing that has been very impressive as far as … He stays with it. He stays with the fact that early he was struggling a little bit with the volume and what he had to do and knowing multiple positions. The longer we’ve gone, the better he has got a grasp of our offense. You can see he’s a lot more comfortable right now. (The first) game was a good example where last time he went in there, he struggled a little bit as far as doing the right thing a lot of the time. Last game, he was on point. He did exactly everything right that we needed him to do.”

(Do you feel like WR Leonte Carroo is playing faster also as a result of knowing what to do?) – “That touchdown tells you everything you need to know right there as far as he was able to run that route crisp, be exactly where he was supposed to be and then catch the ball and make a play. A lot of times you call that play not thinking that’s going to happen, and he did a good job finishing that one.”

(How would you describe CB Bobby McCain’s personality?) – “I don’t know if I have a good description of it. He seems to be a little bit of a jokester. I know that. He’s always messing with me. I really like the attitude that Bobby has. I know a lot of people were down on him early in the season, and he has really stuck with it. He has always remained confident. The longer the season has gone on, the better he has got.”

(What do you see on film from Ravens DT Brandon Williams?) – “It’s always hard to point out one guy with this defense, because they play so well together and guys do benefit from having so many good players up front in that front seven. It’s a very disruptive bunch. They’re very sound in their scheme. That’s the one thing: besides being good players, they play well together. They do their job. When guys do get singled up, somebody makes a play. Whether it’s him or one of those other guys, they make it very tough for the offense.”

(Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi explained to us earlier today about game circumstances dictated not trying a 50-plus yard field goal with K Andrew Franks. In general, not pertaining to that situation, do you think his range can get to the mid-50s with as strong as his leg is, depending on weather and wind?) – “Yes, we watch him bomb kicks all the time in practice. He does a god job and that situation there, probably a lot of the times I would probably just kick it. I think it was more, I was mad at myself for the third down call. That was probably the decision. That was kind of the thought process where we put ourselves in a bad spot, and we felt confident as far as we needed to keep them backed up and (Matt) Darr has been so good as far as pinning guys back. We had a chance to make a play there, we just didn’t make it. It really had nothing to do with Franks. He’s done exactly what we’ve talked about since the beginning of the year. We sputter out once we cross the 50, we have a lot of confidence in him getting us three points.”

(With G/T Laremy Tunsil and T Branden Albert potentially back into the lineup, how critical are those guys to being able to execute, balance things out and execute some of the front side and back side runs. Being able to execute on both sides?) – “Any time you have your starting lineup out there, obviously it’s going to be more consistent as far as they’ve been together for most of the year. When we lose a guy here and there and we have to plug somebody else in there, that goes back to their chemistry thing we’ve talked about before where sometimes guys can step in and play well together. Sometimes it takes a few games and it’s nice to have a chance that if those guys end up being out there, they have very good chemistry with just those two. It is nice that you can lean on a side if that’s what you want to be your point of attack, and protection-wise, you feel really good with those two guys out there.”

(I know the status of G/T Laremy Tunsil and T Branden Albert still remains up in the air, but how do you go about who’s working where at left tackle since both of them have to kind of be prepared to play left tackle?) – “That’s a nice thing about having Sam Young being able to take some reps at left tackle. I don’t have a lot of concerns if Tunsil has to play left tackle. That’s what he does and that’s an easy move for him, and he knows what we’re doing. Once again, when we had those … We’ve kept him on the left side for a reason because we felt like that was an easier transition for him – all the calls, nothing changes for him. So we feel confident that if we have to bump him out to left tackle, that’s not a problem.”

(With little practice?) –  “Absolutely.”

(So he’s primarily working as a left guard now?) – “Yes.”

(How does T Branden Albert seem to be doing with whatever apparatus they’ve tried for him?) – “He’s doing good. I think he has a lot of confidence in what they have for him. If he didn’t feel like he could function, he wouldn’t go. He’s not going to put the team in any kind of jeopardy as far as he can’t function at the level he needs to function at. When he says, ‘I’m ready to go and I’m good to go,’ I’m going to have a lot of confidence in that.”

Vance Joseph – December 1, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph

(DT Ndamukong Suh spoke very happily yesterday about being able to change positions. How often do you think this year you’ve played him at a spot other than his natural spot, and why have you given him that autonomy, obviously with your approval, to change positions?) – “Every week, we try to do one thing different for him just to get him off the double teams. It’s a weekly thing. It’s usually on pass rush downs. He enjoys it, obviously, and it helps us win.”

(How often might you say he’s lined up in positions other than his natural spot this year, be it occasional end, be it occasionally middle linebacker in rare instances?) – “Last week, probably four or five times. We went to a spy in the fourth quarter. He was kind of the middle, second spy on (Colin) Kaepernick. Probably twice a game. Maybe four times max.”

(What one thing about him might have surprised you in your first year working with DT Ndamukong Suh?) – “He is very, very bright. He understands the game. He understands protections. He’s a guy that does things right. He’s never late. He’s on time. He’s engaged every day. He’s a consummate pro. That wasn’t a shocker, but it’s a good thing.”

(The ramifications of his matchup against Ravens G/T Marshal Yanda, which seems pretty big – two All Pros?) – “Yanda is playing at left guard now. He has been a right guard in the past. Suh is out of the left – our left inside guy – so it may not happen. Obviously, on third downs, with our three-down package and it could happen. But obviously, he has been one of the top guards in the league for the last four or five years. Suh enjoys going against him, so he was kind of sad that he’s not playing the right guard again. He enjoys those challenges – he should – playing against the best.”

(How much does your familiarity with the Ravens help this week?) – “We played them four times, obviously, in two years in Cincy. It helps. Obviously, (Joe) Flacco is a special quarterback. He’s in the same category as a Peyton Manning or a Philip Rivers. He’s a special player. Obviously, adding Mike Wallace, that’s different. Steve (Smith Sr.) was there last year. (Kamar) Aiken was there last year. The (Breshad) Perriman kid is healthy now, so that makes it different. Obviously, add in Mike Wallace … (Dennis) Pitta was hurt all last year. It’s a group that’s explosive. They’ve got four receivers that can all run, all explosive. Joe has got one of the best arms in the league – if not the best arm – especially on deep balls. It’s a challenge, because they’ve got four guys who can run, they’ve got a tight end who can run, and they’re very good up front. It’s a major challenge this week.”

(How is CB Xavien Howard coming along in practice and any early indication on what his role will be when he’s ready?) – “He’s coming along fine. He practiced for the first time in team drills last week. Yesterday he did more scout team stuff. We’re taking it slow with him. He’s not quite ready yet, but he’s close. Hopefully in a week or two he’s ready to go. When he comes back, we’ve got to figure out how we play those guys, because ‘Lipp’ (Tony Lippett) is playing really well and ‘Max’ (Byron Maxwell) is playing really well. ‘X’ (Xavien Howard) hadn’t played nickel at all. It’s going to be a challenge to figure out how to get him back involved, but it can be done, obviously.”

(I was going to ask about the nickel role in terms of CB Tony Lippett and CB Xavien Howard. Can either guy…) – “No, because nickel is a specialty position. It takes time to learn how to play nickel. It’s a linebacker sometimes. It’s a corner sometimes. It’s a safety sometimes. It’s a blitzer. It’s a lot of assignments and some guys just … If you’re not working there it’s hard to put a guy there without time and work at it, because it’s a mental challenge. ‘X’ (Xavien Howard) hadn’t done that. ‘Lipp’ (Tony Lippett) hadn’t done that, so Bobby’s (McCain) our nickel. Michael Thomas is our backup nickel. For ‘X’ (Xavien Howard) to play, it’s going to be at corner.”

(Would you rotate them?) – “Once he’s healthy, we’ll figure that out. Right now, he’s not healthy, so it doesn’t matter. But when he’s healthy, that’s fair. We can rotate by series, maybe’ but until he’s healthy, that’s a hard question to answer.”

(I guess the question is who do you take off the field? Because they’re all playing at a relatively high level right now.) – “I’m not sure. I’m not sure. When he’s healthy, I’ll figure it out. Right now, it’s not my concern.”

(CB Tony Lippett has raised his level of play. CB Byron Maxwell has raised his level of play. How do you get CB Bobby McCain to get to that next level?) – “I think Bobby has been solid. It’s tough when you’re a nickel. Bobby played solid last week. He missed one tackle that led to a big play. I’m not down on Bobby. Bobby also made two or three plays last week. It’s a tough position to be a nickel, because you’re playing leverage on a slot receiver who can go vertical inside or outside. It’s a hard job. I haven’t coached a perfect nickel. It’s a tough position, but Bobby has got the mindset. He has got the quickness to be a great nickel. I’m fine with Bobby. He’s playing winning football the last six weeks.”

(With this secondary, you guys began the season one of the bottom five as far as [opposing] quarterback passer rating. Now you’re a top seven unit. What went into that consistent improvement?) – “I think with Bobby (McCain) and (Tony) Lippett, it was experience in the system and obviously playing experience. I think with (Byron) Maxwell, it was experience in the system. Now he’s playing to the system. Again, we’re a multiple coverage unit. We don’t play just Cover 3. Now he understands how to play Cover 2, how to play Cover 4, Cover 8. It helps his game. He’s playing to the system. ‘Lipp’ is (Tony Lippett) playing very well with experience, and Bobby has been solid. I think it’s a combination of playing time and having time in the system and having time to play as a group.”

(Sometimes we like to characterize a defense with a phrase – run stuffing, bend, but don’t break, big play. What have you guys been this season you think?) – “Inconsistent. (laughter) I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Obviously, our front four has to play well for us to win, along with Kiko (Alonso). That’s where our strength lies – with those four guys up front and with Kiko in the middle. Our back end has been solid. They’re playing smart. They’re playing to the system. They’re doing their job. I don’t have one term for us, but obviously, our front has to play well for us to win, along with Kiko. That’s where it starts and the back end doing their job, we can play with anybody in the league.”

(The issues with the coverage of the read option is kind of unique, because of 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s speed, but 475 yards of offense, 200 in the fourth quarter. Was that just a function of playing catch up, or were there some breakdowns there?) – “I’ll start with this: our rush plan was bad, and that’s my fault. The rush plan didn’t work. That being said, ‘Kaep’ (Colin Kaepernick) played well. But when your rush plan is not working, it trickles down to me as a play caller. Now I’m not sure what to call. It becomes a guessing game. If I play match coverage – and everyone’s back is turned, and he’s up our backs scrambling – it’s tough. If you blitz the guy, everyone’s back is turned, he’s scrambling. It’s tough. Once the rush plan failed, I was scrambling for calls to contain the quarterback and give us tight coverage. It started there. Our rush plan wasn’t very good, and from there, it trickled down to our coverage package. And the zone read is always tough. In the NFL, you see it twice a year. It’s like playing Navy in college. You don’t see it but twice a year and all of a sudden it’s on you. You practice it all week, and you get in the game, it’s different. Guys are being cut on the back side, the ball is being flashed. The first two plays, we couldn’t find the football. The ball is here, and everyone is over here for us. It’s tough.

(You can’t help a fake.)  — “Absolutely. It’s tough. A win is a win, but that’s a tough team to prepare for, especially when it’s (Colin) Kaepernick. If it’s an average runner, you don’t worry about it. But he’s a 4.5 guy behind a center. That’s tough.”

(Unrelated, but you spoke a few weeks ago how close you and Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson are. Have you talked to him recently? Is he okay?) – “Yes, I did yesterday. It’s a struggle, because he wants to win. They’ve got a plan in place there. He understands that, but still, it’s tough to lose that much. He’s used to winning a lot. He’s being patient, but it’s still tough.”

(Any advice for Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson how to handle this type of losing?) – “He’s an experienced coach. He understands it’s a plan in place there. I don’t know their plan, but obviously going forward they have a plan in place that he’s playing to. He’s a confident guy, even with those losses. In his heart, (he) believes they can win the rest of the games. That’s huge. It’s tough, obviously, to lose that much.”

(This is your first year as a play caller, defensive coordinator. What are the lessons that you have learned and taken from this season?) – “I would think this: you have to do what your players do best. It’s never about you as a play caller or what you know. It’s what your players know and what they play well. Sometimes as the play caller, you want to get more creative than you have to be, and you have to call what your players do best. That’s a lesson as a coach we all should learn – players first and scheme second. Other than that, every week it’s different, and you learn every week. You have four or five calls a game that you don’t want – you would take back – and that’s just part of it. Last week I had four calls I didn’t like. It’s over. We won the game. You just learn from them.”

(How much is DT Earl Mitchell pushing DT Jordan Phillips? And is there a chance that at some point, Jordan could actually be overtaken?) – “Earl is an experienced player and he plays so hard, but Jordan has played well. He had a couple of plays last week that I didn’t like in the rush plan but having Earl, having (Ndamukong) Suh and having Jordan inside, it’s three starters. So whoever starts the game, it doesn’t matter much. The play count is always going to be the same with those guys. Jordan is going to play his 40 snaps, Earl plays his 35 snaps and Suh plays how much he wants to play. That won’t change with whoever is the starter.”

(With DE Dion Jordan, what have you seen from him in his first couple weeks of practice?) – “He’s a big, pretty athlete. He’s got a great first step. He’s obviously not healthy enough to play in games now, but going forward in the future, he’s a guy that should be a player for us. He is gifted. You can see it in practice. Even with a 5-yard drill, you can see how explosive he is and how big he is. Going forward, I’m excited about him.”

(When you have a player who is really good but also versatile enough to play multiple positions like DT Ndamukong Suh, what’s the upside that you’ve found to use such a player at different spots. Does it usually work in terms of catching other teams off guard? What’s your experience…) – “Especially for him, because when you’re doing your work with protections all week, obviously the film shows you one thing but with Suh, it changes every week. Everyone turns their center (of attention) to Suh. So we understand that now. Our rush plan and our blitz plan is really based on Suh. He’s a decoy half the time, so we put him there and we blitz over here. That helps that he can learn the nose to end, even the standup ‘X’ ‘backer position, so it helps us to game plan weekly so we can attack the protections properly.”

Clyde Christensen – December 1, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen

(The way that QB Ryan Tannehill has played on this streak – I think nine touchdowns, one interception – what has he done well during this streak?) – “By far what he has done well is protected the football and given us a chance. The chance we’ve had has been that we haven’t turned the ball over. We’ve been very, very good with the football as far as protecting it and giving ourselves a chance and not putting the defense in bad situations, not giving them extra possessions. The thing he has done by far, him and that running back room have done a great job of protecting that football and giving us a mentality of taking care of the football.”

(Last week is the first time we saw defenses sell out against the run to the degree that they did. Do you expect that going forward?) – “Yes, I think so. I think I always laughed at every time you have a staff meeting and no matter who you’re playing, that the defensive coordinator always starts with the same exact line, ‘We’ve got to stop the run.’ It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Brett Favre or who it is. They always start with that. I do think that’s just the mentality to start with, that you get a lot of … Very seldom do you get double safeties stuff and coverage stuff on first and second down any more. You’re getting the run stopped. I think the same with us, maybe even more so, because we came off those strings. The thing that kind of got us jump started was the run game. So, I do think that people still want to make you prove you can throw the ball on first and second down. You can’t let the run get started. You can’t let Jay Ajayi get started. All of a sudden, you got your hands full. Sure, I think that it’s going to be important. It’s going to be important we’re efficient on first and second down passing, which (Ryan Tannehill) has been. It’s important to make big plays on first and second down when you’ve got extra guys in the box. Ryan has done a really good job of that – of hitting the shots when we get them.”

(You seem to every week face the No. 1 rush defense in the league.) – “I was teasing. It’s our ninth top five defense. I thought top five meant there’s only five of them. (laughter) There have been nine top five rush defenses, so I don’t know if that’s (Director of Football Communication) Matt’s (Taylor) fault, or if they just feel like that motivates us or something, so they make every team a top five (defense). It was our ninth in a row top five, so I don’t know how those numbers figure out. We’ll just keep trucking. (laughter)”

(Quick follow up to that: some think that they’re actually even better than their numbers say. What do you see when you actually look at the tape about that run defense?) – “That it’d be hard to be better than the number one rush defense in the league.”

(Historically.) – “Historically, we’ve had some awful, great battles with them through the years. I think the thing that people don’t realize is how much power there is in continuity. For them, they’ve had the same GM. They’ve had the same defensive scheme. They keep replacing people. Now, it’s not Ray Lewis, it’s … They keep replacing. It’s not (Tony) Siragusa, and it’s not (Haloti) Ngata. They keep replacing them, but they look the same, and they play the same, and that’s really a compliment. That’s a compliment that, that defense is proven. They know it inside out. They know what they’re doing, and every year they’re formidable. They keep plugging people in. They keep drafting to it. They know what they want to be. They know what they want to do. It’s (Eric) Weddle, and it’s always a safety that gives you some problems and is out of the box and all over the place, and you can’t get a handle on exactly where he’s going to be and what he’s going to do. It’s not by accident; it’s by design. I think that’s a great compliment that they do look the same. For over a decade now, they’ve looked exactly the same. To me, they’re a really good red zone defense. They do the same things. They’re still a problem, and they just know what they’re doing. They know what they’re doing. I just watched 2-minute. They know what they want to be on 2-minute. They know what they want to be on last play of the game, and it’s the same as it was 10 years ago. That’s why they’re so good at it, because they keep doing it over and over and over again. They’ve promoted from within on their defensive coordinator situation. So, it’s one guy after another. I always have admired what they’ve done defensively and how they do it. Some years it may fluctuate a little bit on how good they are or what players get hurt, et cetera, like all of us, but they know what they want to be.”

(How did T Sam Young play while T Branden Albert was hurt?) – “He played pretty darn good. He functioned well. He functioned efficiently. He drew some tough guys, starting in Los Angeles. He drew some tough guys. I think the biggest compliment I can give him was we never … It wasn’t a factor. It wasn’t a factor that … Watching that game the other night, and guys are coming off the edge and no one could stop anybody. The quarterbacks were getting maimed in there, and that didn’t happen. So, that’s the best compliment, that he came in and stepped up, and he wasn’t a huge factor in the game – plus or minus, and that’s the best compliment I could give him.”

(How would you evaluate C/G Anthony Steen the last two weeks?) – “Steen has improved. I think Steen has improved the last couple weeks. He played steady. Same thing – we’ve put him in some tough situations. He’ll have a tough, tough one this one on the road in a hostile environment. He keeps improving. It’s really gradual, but it’s exactly what we want out of him, that we want him to keep improving and get better and better and better, and he has functioned pretty darn well against some darned good defenses.”

(This offensive staff obviously has helped maximize QB Ryan Tannehill – you, Quarterbacks Coach Bo Hardegree, Head Coach Adam Gase. Where do you think Adam has been the best for Ryan? Where has Ryan benefitted most from Adam’s presence?) – “I think in a funny way, (Adam Gase) wants to see (Ryan Tannehill) turn into him and get to … Ryan is kind of the humble guy, and then you got the young guy who’s (the) head coach with swagger. But I do think that (Adam Gase) has injected some confidence in (Ryan Tannehill) and some swashbuckler a little bit, if you will. I think he also has called games that really complemented him. On a more serious note, he has done a good job finding and reducing this thing to A to B to C and get the ball out. It’s not all Ryan. It’s also, ‘What are we up front? What are we in the run game?’ and some of those things. I think the movements of … Ryan is a really, really good out-of-the-pocket guy. He has been high percentage. It has given us a big lift. I think the thing I’ve seen Adam do is adjust. He’s had pocket guys the last couple times and then now all of a sudden we’re kind of a movement and an outside-zone team – a couple things that he hasn’t been. He does a great job of adapting extremely quickly and doing things that Ryan can do. I do think that he has got him believing in what he’s going to dial up. The more those guys get on the same page, the better we’re going to be. I’ve said it to you guys 100 times, but that play caller and the quarterback have to be attached at the hip. That’s really, really important. When you are, you’ve got something special, because now we know what we’re trying to do. We know what we want to get done, and the quarterback understands that. That’s extremely hard to do. It’s really hard to do, and it’s really hard to do in your first year. I think it has really been neat. It’s a compliment to both Coach Gase and to Ryan that they’re able to do that. A lot of quarterbacks don’t want to … A lot of quarterbacks are rebellious – for lack of a better term – and they’re going to do their own deal. Ryan is compliant. He wants to learn. He has been unbelievable that way. Coach Gase – not a huge ego that, ‘It has to be my way.’ So, it has been really a good mesh. I think they’ve really come out where they see the thing; they see how we’re going to win a football game the same. That’s rare. That’s rare in this league. It’s still hard to win them, but you have a lot better chance if your play caller and head coach and your quarterback are on the same page and thinking the same.”

(What have you seen from WR Rashawn Scott in practice?) – “Rashawn, we’ve been kind of … You don’t anyone to get hurt but he’s a guy that we’ve really been impressed with in practice and just kind of kept selling to him that, ‘Hey, your chance is going to come.’ He’s earned it. He’s earned his chance and we’ve said all along that these guys are going to have to make some plays. We’re going to need probably all 75 guys. Some guys who don’t even know that they’re going to be needed, and he’s one of those guys who we’ve kind of known that at some point his time was going to come. Again, you don’t want it to be through an injury, but it happens. He’ll step in and do a really good job. He’s been extremely impressive in practice. He’s been extremely impressive since he got here. The thing isn’t too big for him. He’s got some talent and I think he’ll jump in and function really, really well. He learns. He’s stayed up with stuff, which is really critical. All of a sudden your time comes and you go, ‘Oh crap, now I better start learning it.’ He’s stayed up with it which is going to give him a chance to jump in and function and do some big things for us. I think those young guys – (Leonte) Carroo, him, Jakeem (Grant) – they’re going to have to be some bad boys down the stretch for us to get where we want to go. They’re going to be critical. We’re going to need them. Kenyan (Drake), left guard (Laremy Tunsil) – those rookies, there’s no such thing. There are no rookies anymore. Those guys are young guys who are going to have to really make some big plays, and they have throughout the thing. Kenyan again, right? (He made) two huge plays in this one (last week vs. San Francisco) – a tackle on special teams (and) a (kickoff) return. There’s going to be a third down, down the road. It’s going to be a big run. It’s going to be … Who knows what it’ll be? But those guys, it just keeps coming up and that’s how the ones who can handle it, the teams that those guys show up and make those plays, have a chance in the fourth quarter of the season.”

(What physical trait do you like about WR Rashawn Scott?) – “I like everything. He catches the ball well. He’s got some quickness and he can run. He’s a smart guy. He catches the ball well. I like everything about him. We just haven’t … HHe’s just been taking practice exams, so I haven’t seen him take a real exam yet. Everything we’ve seen in practice we’ve liked. Everything when he came in as a free agent we liked. So now let’s see how it happens under pressure, but I’d be shocked if … Some guys you just kind of can tell. They just go function and do their deal. It doesn’t matter if it’s college or pros, whatever – who’s the opponent, if it’s on the road, if it’s raining, if it’s snowing, if it’s hot – they just do it. And I think he’ll be that guy. I really would be shocked if he’s not that guy. But it’ll be his first real live quiz. I’m excited to watch him play. We were looking for a way to get him up. We wanted to get him up, but it’s just hard to do with the limited roster.”

(Reading the tea leaves then between the roster move and your comments, are you not planning to have WR DeVante Parker on Sunday?) – “No, we’re hoping so; but right now, this moment, we have to make sure we have a plan in place if he doesn’t make it. It’s going to be … If he does make it, it’s going to be in the last hour and that would be awesome. We’re hoping so, but we’re planning for the worst. How’s that? If he shows up, it’s going to be … If he comes running out there on Sunday, then that’s a bonus. But we’ll have a plan in case he doesn’t.”

(If G/T Laremy Tunsil and T Branden Albert are out there, and it looks like they will be, what difference will we see in the offense? What does that allow you to do this week that you maybe couldn’t do last week?) – “We haven’t looked at it that way. I think (Head Coach Adam Gase) has just called his game and we’ve game-planned it up the same. We haven’t overcompensated, and that’s where it’s so impressive that those guys have come in and done a good job, and same thing with the center. We haven’t changed a whole bunch. The game plan will be the game plan and we’ll go see if we can execute it well on the road in a hostile environment against a really, really good defense. Like I tell you every week, if we do that, if we play well, we’ll have a heck of a chance to win this thing. If we don’t, it’ll be a hard day at the office. Wewe really haven’t looked at it that way. We have not looked at it that way.”

(With the talent that you guys have, when the starting five, or close to having the starting five, on the offensive line, how important is it to be able to have those guys healthy and keep everything balanced so that you guys can do some of the front side and back side runs?) – “Yes, it’s kind of a bonus. If you keep everyone healthy, then you’re in the exception in this league. It’s hard to do. We had one little minor stretch and it was a lot of fun because we had everyone. It kind of got us jump started. It kind of did turn the season around when those five guys were intact and rolling. But it was short lived, right? It was short lived, and there haven’t been many games where we’ve had everybody in there together. So I think the norm is putting people in different spots and just surviving and keep going. The exception is when everyone’s healthy and everyone feels good and we’re rolling and everyone’s intact and you have everyone healthy. That hasn’t … That’s been very, very few Sundays for us. I think the norm is not having that.”

(To be able to execute front side and back side though?) – “We really don’t look at it quite as much like that as you guys do. If there’s eight guys over here, we’re going left and it doesn’t matter who lines up at the left side. If there are seven guys over here and three over here, we have to go the right so it doesn’t work quite like you sometimes think it does. You just kind of got to go and everyone’s got to do their job. If linemen are down, you say we’re going to throw the ball. When people are dropping, you have to run the ball. So it really is dictated a lot by both combinations of … What are we? What can we do well? We can’t get away from that. And what are they doing? We’ve got to react and then once you start reacting to what they do, you can only be so concerned with who the different people are and you can’t do it.”

(Your receivers had a lot of potential coming into the season. Have they fulfilled their potential or are they still on their way? They seem like they’ve been factors, especially lately.)  – “They’ve been factors. They have to be factors, and I think probably the thing we would say is just the same thing. You’d love to just get a consistent level of play. We’ve been a little bit up and down, but they’ve shown up when they’ve needed to in the stretch and done a good job, and it’s been different guys in different ways. Some of those receivers have shown up on special teams and given us a lift there. I think they have shown up and made their plays. I think passing game-wise, we’re still looking for a higher level of consistency – a little higher level and a little more consistency – that we’ve been a little bit more on and off in stretches and streaks and some of those things. I think for us to get to where we want to go, this fourth quarter as we head into December here, the good teams are going to show up and improve now. Half the teams are going to start packing their cars and making their offseason plans (and) eople are going to be on their mess. The good teams get better. They’ve been doing it now for quite a while and the stuff gets really, really sharp mentally, sharp timing-wise, sharp with precision and that’s what the good teams will do now. So let’s see if we do it. We’ve challenged them. We need to do that. We have to be a little sharper. The margins are going to get tighter. Stakes are going to get a little higher and we’ve got to be able to do it under pressure.”

Darren Rizzi – December 1, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi

(WR Jakeem Grant – he will remain as the punt returner? And if so, are there bigger picture concerns with him?) – “He definitely will be back there again. We’ll be treating that situation like we have all year – situationally. I know that there is certainly cause for concern with the ball being on the ground. No one is concerned about it more than me, but I think that one of the things we kind of lose sight of in the big picture is that position for a guy that’s never done it before. It’s ironic, the guy we are playing this week (Devin Hester Sr.) is probably considered one of the best returners of all-time – a potential Hall of Famer. You go back and look at his rookie year and most people don’t realize he fumbled the ball eight times. Devin Hester (Sr.) fumbled the ball eight times as a rookie. Jarvis Landry lost three fumbles as a rookie. It’s one of those things where it’s a learning process. It’s one of the hardest things to do in football, to go back there and return a punt and judge it and field it and make good decisions. Again, we’re going to keep working with him. We know it’s obvious what he can do with the ball in his hands. He’s already proven that to everybody. I don’t think there is anybody that would deny the fact that when he’s gotten the ball in his hands, he’s an electric guy. He can make people miss and make big plays. To Jakeem’s credit, and I’ve said this many times before, there’s no one that works harder at it. You guys have probably seen him out there catching a million balls off the JUGS (machine) and when Matt (Darr) is punting live. Listen, it’s a work in progress. Some of the best returners in the history of the game have been guys that have put a couple on the ground, and we just have to keep working at it. We have to get him better. We have to improve on it, but he will be back there. There’s no doubt about that.”

(So punts are the ones that WR Jakeem Grant has trouble locating and not the kickoffs?) – “Yes. Generally speaking, kickoffs are – knock on wood here – usually kickoffs are easier balls to field, just because of the rotation on the ball. I think there’s a lot of technical stuff with the punt return stuff (like) getting your feet set, judging the ball, if it turns over as opposed to if it doesn’t turn over and things like that. The ball can come out a little funky sometimes. Kickoffs are more end over end and listen, there are some decisions with those too, and we haven’t been perfect there either. But the punts are the ones that, to this point at least, where (Grant) has had some trouble. Again, it’s a thing where it’s like any other craft. It’s like punting, kicking, blocking, receiving – if you get into a rhythm there and getting the confidence back, that’s what we’ve got to get.”

(As a special teams coach, how do you defend against Ravens K Justin Tucker?) – “(He’s a) great player. Right now, if you look at the last couple years, probably the best kicker in the league. (He has a) very, very strong leg. I like our field goal block unit. It has been a unit that’s been good. We’re going to continue doing the same things we do. There are always a couple of wrinkles you have here and there with game plans, but here is a guy that not only has done real well on his field goals but also has been an outstanding kickoff guy. He locates the ball in different areas of the field. We’ve got to be ready to field a million different balls, whether they’re short (or) long. So he presents some challenges. He’s got a lot of confidence going right now. He made three 50-plus yarders last week. It’s going to be our job to maybe get him out of rhythm a little bit. I can’t say enough positives about him. He’s a super player. We can just play our game and try to get him out of rhythm and throw in a couple of new looks at him and that’s all you really can do.”

(What can you do to get Ravens K Justin Tucker off his game since he’s been perfect all year?) – “From a field goal standpoint, all you can do is just try to disrupt him back there with your rush. They’ve done a hell of a job. They have a good operation. Sometimes that goes unnoticed – the snapper (and) holder. That combination has been together – Morgan Cox, Sam Koch, Justin Tucker – for a few years. They get into a rhythm. They’ve got very good special teams coaches, obviously. (Head) Coach (John) Harbaugh, (Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head) Coach (Jerry) Rosburg – they do an unbelievable job (and) Coach Harbaugh with his special teams background. They’ve been real good. They’re clean. There have been a couple though – if you look back on film – there have been a couple of times where there has been some pressure on them that they’ve been fortunate with the way the ball has come out. We can just try to get as much pressure on them as we can, try to disrupt his rhythm a little bit and throw a couple of new wrinkles at him with our rush. Other than that, it’s hard to do. There’s really not a whole lot you can do other than that.”

(What went into the decision to not let K Andrew Franks try a 53-yard field goal and have P Matt Darr punt instead?) – “That’s a decision that really is a game-management thing. Really, when you look at that, we’re really just playing the percentages. You have to look at the score of the game. That’s got a lot to do with where we are at that point. That was a 3-point game and it was late in the third quarter and a couple of things. No. 1: 53-plus yard field goals this year in the NFL are just slightly over 50 percent. With where we are, Matt Darr has been an exceptional guy in dropping the ball inside the 10. Now, he didn’t do it on that particular one. And the San Francisco 49ers had been – I think, if I’m not mistaken, you can look back and correct me on the numbers – but, I think they had 41 drives of 80 yards or more and they had only scored on six of those drives. So at that point, we were playing the percentages. It’s like just taking the safe bet. Let me say this, if the game was tied, we try a field goal there. If we can make it a two-score game, we try a field goal there. It’s really a game-management decision on what we think the best option is in that particular game at that particular time (and) the score of the game. It’s got zero indictment on Andrew Franks. There is plenty of confidence that he is going to make that field goal if it was the right situation. Again, if it’s to take the lead or make it a two-score game, it’s really not a decision. He’s going to go out there and he’s going to be kicking a field goal. Because we had a 3-point lead, because San Francisco had struggled on long drives and because Matt Darr has been exceptional at dropping the ball inside the 10, all of those factors kind of played in. That’s a weekly thing. It’s going to be depending on the opponent, the wind conditions, the weather, all of those things. Again, a 53-yard field goal – I think the ball was on the 35 ½-yard line so you’re looking at about a 53- to 54-yard field goal. This year, I think in the NFL, kickers are 53 percent on 53-yard (field goals) or more. Again, it was really just more of the safer bet. You look at how it played out, they got the ball at the 20. They went backwards. We got the ball back at the minus-40 and scored a touchdown. So you can’t really argue with how it played out. It played out the way we wanted it to. We got good field position again, went down and scored and made it a 10-point game.”

(Is that something where you have to talk to K Andrew Franks and explain to him…) – “Andrew Franks went to RPI. He’s a lot smarter than me. (laughter) I think he understands statistically and percentages. But that’s something that we talk about with those guys, game-plan wise. He knows my confidence level in him. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, so I don’t think that he has any doubt that I know he can go out there and make a 53-yard field goal. Again, that decision had zero to do with Andrew Franks and much more to do with what we felt the best thing to do was to win the football game.”

(Your kickoff return team is statistically among the best in the league. What are those 11 guys doing right?) – “Both (our kickoff and kickoff return team) have done well, fortunately for us. Kickoff return, again, that starts with the guys blocking. I think one of the things that goes unnoticed, I think all of the credit goes to the guy with the ball in his hands. If you look at that particular (78-yard kickoff return by Kenyan Drake) on Sunday, we had nine guys or 10 – including Jakeem (Grant), Jakeem got a block – we had 10 guys working their tail off. If you pause that – as a coach, it made me proud – when you pause that play at the point of attack, every single guy is working their tail off to keep their guy blocked. No slight to Kenyan Drake because he’s a hell of a player, but he comes through there and that’s a pretty big seam he runs through. Jakeem is leading him through, gets a good block, and he’s able to spring him out into the open field. I think there’s a belief right now that if we can get a hat on a hat, that those guys can make a play. Jakeem, Jarvis (Landry), Kenyan Drake, we have some options. Obviously whoever ends up with the ball in their hands, I think there’s a belief right now that those guys – and we call them 1/11th – if they do their part, their 1/11th, and if they get their guy blocked, we can make a play. Unfortunately, we didn’t capitalize and get points off that particular play; but I think now that we have both guys back there, whatever side teams decide to kick it to, I think we have a lot of good choices there. The guys are … there is a belief. And it starts with that, the confidence level.”

(Has there been much turnover with that kickoff return group from Week 1 to now?) – “There was a little bit. Week to week, it depends on the actives sometimes. There have been different guys through there. But for the most part, the nine guys blocking are pretty much the same. There might be a couple guys that have rotated through. But if you look through it – Walt Aikens, Mike Thomas, Spencer Paysinger, Neville Hewitt, Mike Hull – those are all guys that have been pretty much on that unit. This past week we had MarQueis Gray and Zach Vigil on there. (Lafayette) Pitts was on there this past week. All of those guys – if you look at that one that busted out –  everybody was on their man.”

(I think you have two players in the top two or three in special teams tackles, including S Michael Thomas. What can you say about the way he has played this year?) – “I could sit here for a long time and talk about Michael Thomas in terms of special teams value. He’s not only been great this year, he’s been great for a few years. He may be one of the players in the league that gets overlooked, in my opinion, in terms of maybe some awards or some accolades down the road because he’s put together three or four special teams years in a row here where he has been extremely productive. He’s a guy that was elected captain by his peers. They feel very strongly about him. He’s productive at everything we ask him to do. I could sit here and go phase by phase, but he’s a very, very valuable guy. He’s very productive when he goes out there, no matter what the phase is, either blocking or tackling or making plays or getting to the ball. He’s a very intellectual guy with great football IQ. (He’s a) great person and he works at it. Here’s a guy that when the whistle blows here, whatever time these guys are allowed to leave, he’ll grab guys and get special teams meetings going on his own. I wish we had 10 of him. Not that the other guys are doing bad, don’t get me wrong.”

(Is there a place in the Pro Bowl for a guy like S Michael Thomas?) – “I’m his coach, so I’d be the one to say (so). I’m probably a little biased there, but I think he probably should have been considered the last couple years, too. So what do I know? But yes. If you look at the players throughout the league … One of the best compliments he ever got, quite frankly, is from Matt Slater. Every time we play the Patriots, Matt Slater finds his way over to me and tells me what he thinks of Mike Thomas, and here’s a guy that’s been to the Pro Bowl I don’t know how many years in a row. You guys know better than me. But the guy gets elected every year in the AFC, or at least the last four or five years, has a lot of respect for that guy. That goes to show you a lot right there.”

(What’s the best quality S Michael Thomas has on special teams?) – “We laugh about it because we say it’s one of those things where no one’s ever got it. We use that term ‘got it.’ Mike, as smart as he is, as good of a football IQ as he has, he stays humble and he never thinks he’s got it. To me, in this game, at this level, as soon as you think you’ve got it, you don’t got anything. You’re out. You’re probably going to be one foot out the door. Mike Thomas is one of those guys that week to week takes a beginner’s mentality with whatever the game plan is, and he’s not one of those guys walking around here like, ‘Yes, I’ve got this covered.’ Not at all. He’s very, very humble. He really works at his particular craft on a weekly basis. Not only that, but he’s become a leader. Now he’s bringing other guys with him. You look at a guy like (Lafayette) Pitts. Walt Aikens he’s kind of mentored the last couple of years. A guy like Pitts has come up. Guys like Neville Hewitt, Mike Hull. When Mike Hull makes a tackle, Mike Thomas is the first guy over to congratulate him. He’s not over there sulking because he didn’t make the tackle. Now they bust chops about it afterwards, but he’s over there patting him on the back. So again, he’s just a great, great team guy.”

Adam Gase – November 30, 2016 Download PDF version

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(We saw a story that DT Leon Orr had been arrested. Is that accurate? Is he still a member of team or what is his status?) – “It is accurate and we released him during practice.”

(Did you learn about it during practice?) – “Yes.”

(What does it say that as soon as you found out a guy’s been arrested, you cut him? Is that a message you want to send to the rest of the team?) – “No. I just think that’s just … what it is. We’re in the middle of the season. We have priorities and this is the No. 1 priority. If guys have other priorities, then they can go about their business somewhere else.”

(He was out there during practice at one point?) – “Yes.”

(You guys this week face another run defense that’s number one in the league. The Jets were number one in the league [when you played them]. How much of an issue is that from the standpoint you guys kind of know what you can do right now, right? Is that a big issue? As big an obstacle as it was against the Jets maybe?) – “I think it’s a great challenge for us because we’re going against a team that does have experience. They play their scheme very well and they have very good players. It’s not surprising because this is their history of being a great defense, especially versus the run. They’re able to stop the run with a lighter box because they’re really good upfront and their linebackers do a great job being able to run and tackle and being efficient. Everybody plays their scheme exactly the way that coaching staff wants them to play it. You have a lot of reliable guys on that defense. Some of the names have changed over the years but that coaching staff has stuck together here for quite a while. When you establish what your scheme is and then you start bringing in different guys and guys retire and move out, you’ve established that culture that you want to where the next guy steps up and carries the torch for that group.”

(One quick thing about DT Leon Orr. Overall, your team has stayed out of a lot of legal trouble this year. What’s your overall message to the team and players, especially with you guys at 7-4 and in the thick of things?) – “For us, the one thing that we do talk about quite a bit is being invested to each other. That’s what it’s really about. There are a lot of people putting in a lot of work – players, coaches, staff members – to where everybody’s counting on everybody else to do the right thing. That’s really the only way that you have a chance to be successful. If we have people pulling in different directions and this isn’t their top priority, we’d rather not be around those type of people. That’s what our goal is to get as many guys in our building – whether it be players, coaches or staff members – that are invested in what we want to do, and that’s try to give ourselves a chance to be doing what we’re doing right now, which is competing in December and playing meaningful games and building for the future.”

(I assume it’s too early to say what will happen with that roster spot?) – “We’ll figure it out here. We have a good idea of what we want do. We’ve just kind of got to double check a few things.”

(What about the challenge you’re facing guys like OLB Elvis Dumervil and OLB Terrell Suggs? Year after year they just keep doing their thing.) – “It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen those guys. Elvis, I was with in Denver, which was a guy that I always loved being around and enjoyed watching him rush the passer the way he did. He was the ultimate team player. He was with us there in 2011 when we went through that little run when Tim (Tebow) was the quarterback. He was unbelievable as far as keeping that defense together. We didn’t always start off … We never started off hot, but we would come around in the fourth quarter. He was kind of that guy that held that group together. They kept getting after it and I’d always remember him swinging by me towards the end of the fourth, the middle of the fourth quarter, and be like, ‘Alright, it’s about time for you guys to get going here.’ He was a guy that I did learn quite a bit from because we’d talk football every once in while, just how he went, as far as what he would do and how he would approach playing defense. Suggs is … He looks as good as I ever can remember. The way he’s playing right now is, for a guy that I feel like has been around a long time. I remember I was very young in this league when he got drafted and he’s playing lights out right now. He’s so effective and he’s so disruptive. Just watching him play, you want those type of guys.”

(What can you tell us about your offensive line? Maybe starting to get back intact a little bit?) – “Well, we were able to have (Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil) out there today, as far as getting them into individual and kind of seeing where we’re at as far as how they feel. It looks better for us than it did last week. Last week, we never had either one of those two guys even be able to take a rep in real practice. ‘B.A.’ (Branden Albert) didn’t even suit up for individuals. Just getting those two guys out there, at least it gives us an opportunity that we could have some guys back; but it’s still … It’s Wednesday. We’ve just got to kind of see how our process goes.

(With WR DeVante Parker, is it just too close to the game to put him out there every day?)  – “I think we just need to kind of keep going through how he feels. He’s just stiff right now and we’ve just got to see if he can loosen up a little bit as we go through the week. (We’ll) see if it gets better. Obviously we would not put him out there unless we felt like he could contribute or be effective. It has to be a little bit on him, as far as we can say one thing of, ‘We think you should go,’ but at the end of the day, he has to be in the right mindset. He has to feel like he can be effective in the way he wants to be. That’s kind of going to be our checklist. Obviously he’s going to have a say in this. If for some reason, somebody is off-kilter as far as what we should do – if somebody says ‘Ah, it’s probably not a good idea to play him this week’ – then we’re going to listen to that. We’ll do the right thing; we’ll make the right decision.”

(We talked a lot about earlier in the season, him playing through pain, practicing through pain, all of that. Is this kind of a test to see how far he has come in that regard?) – “I would say that, he’s already past that test for me. Just seeing what he has done, especially in the last three weeks. I’m sure he’s been banged up a little bit and doesn’t really say anything and has gone out there. He’s probably practiced more than anybody, obviously Kenny (Stills), and Jarvis (Landry) hasn’t missed anything. We’ve had to be smart with those guys a couple of times, just because through a season like this, as many physical defenses that we’ve played – whether it be the fronts or the secondary – eventually those guys are going to get a little banged up, and we have to be smart in practice. He’s been able to take more reps in the last three weeks. He’s really developed a good routine for himself to get himself ready for Sunday.”

(It’s kind of under the radar, but your kickoff return group has been one of the best in the league for several weeks now. What are those 11 guys doing right to get the most out of those returns?) – “I think there’s a little bit of that sense of if we can create a crease, one of those two guys (Jakeem Grant or Kenyan Drake) will hit it. I think back to watching how Devin Hester used to be, where that group would always feel like ‘If we just give him a chance, maybe he’ll make something happen.’ Those two guys aren’t quite there as far as (Hester’s) level. He’s probably the best that has ever done it. But at least our guys are back there knowing that, ‘If I can just get my block and hold my block, and do a good job of working our scheme correctly and give these two guys a chance, there’s a chance that they could pop out of there and create an explosive play and change field position or even score a touchdown.’ I think our guys are taking a lot of pride in it. It’s good to see. Last week, you watch the end zone shot of that return, that hole was impressive. Drake didn’t have to do much. He just hit the hole and it’s a shame we didn’t get any points out of that, because it was a great return. It was well blocked.”

(LB Jelani Jenkins, DT Earl Mitchell and RB Kenyan Drake, can you update us on them?) – “Jelani, we’re just … obviously he has like nine things on the injury report. We’re just trying to be smart with him. We’re trying to get him a little more healthy than what he was. He went out there, he sold out, and he did everything he could, but when you’re playing with your hand casted up, your knee is messed up, it’s hard to move. And then you’re playing the team we were playing, where you had, between the quarterback and the running back, you had some shifty guys out there. It’s hard to change direction. We’re trying to get him a little healthier. Drake is more of a precautionary thing for us. He’s been grinding pretty hard. Earl, he battled so hard in that game. We probably just need a little more time before we put him back out in practice.”

(Do you have optimism with CB Xavien Howard?) – “There’s absolutely a chance (for him to play this week), but once again, we’re going to be smart. He hasn’t played in a while. We’re getting him out at practice and we’re able to do some competitive things with him. I’m excited to see when we can get him in a real game; but at the same time, we’re going to be smart.”

(DT Earl Mitchell was calf or ankle?) – “Back.”

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