Cameron Wake – December 30, 2016 Download PDF version

Friday, December 30, 2016

Defensive End Cameron Wake

(Obviously you’re still in the middle of this so it’s hard to appreciate stuff. But have you taken a moment at all this week to say ‘You know, it’s nice to be in the playoffs the first time?’) – “No.”

(So no joy at all?) – “No.”

(Do you look forward to playing against New England and QB Tom Brady knowing the challenge that they present?) – “I look forward to every game. I look forward to last week; I look forward to next week. Any time we get an opportunity to get out there and play together and improve upon some things that maybe need to improve on, I look forward to that. Obviously, week in and week out is going to be a different challenge, and this team presents another one. I think everybody in here is ready to except that challenge.”

(Has it been nice to have a lot of success at home this year and be more consistent, because it seems like it is a louder place to play in.) – “We’ve had a lot of fun, for sure, playing.  This year, a home win or on the road, it is two different kinds of environments. When you’re the villain or when you’re the hero, either way, you kind of bask in that. Obviously being the home field, and the home team, they’ve been very supportive – the greatest fans in the NFL. I’m definitely looking forward to Sunday.”

(What’s been the difference this year, where you guys have played some of your better football in December? In the previous years, things kind of fell apart.) – “I’ve been saying it all year, just complementary football. And it’s come obviously late in the season, late in games, situations where we’ve needed plays and guys have made them. It’s come from guys all over the place – special teams, offense, defense, second string, third string, guys who were practice squad – I mean all of the above. I think it’s just the mentality. Listen, the next man up, whenever the play needs to be made, you be the guy. Don’t wait for somebody else. I think it’s bad for the blood pressure, but it’s good for the win column.”

(How fresh do you feel at this point, obviously you haven’t had to play 65 snaps?) – “Terrible, as everybody else should feel by week … What week is this?”

(Week 17.) – “You all don’t count camp, I count camp. What’s that?”

(Week 30?) – “There you go. Week 30, if anybody feels fresh, you are not playing football – maybe basketball, or tennis, or golf, or something like that. Week 20, nobody feels fresh. We all feel beat like you’ve been hit by a truck, and a car and a train. You’ve just got to go out on Sundays and strap it up and make sure you do the best you can. That’s just the way it is.”

Adam Gase – December 30, 2016 Download PDF version

Friday, December 30, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(I saw on social media TE MarQueis Gray mentioned he was happy for his two year extension. I hadn’t seen anything official. Can you confirm and if so what went behind that?) – “Yes. It was something that we’ve been working on some of our current guys that had a possibility of being up and he was one of the guys that we were able to get done. We’re happy that we got him to begin with. Over and over he’s proven exactly what we thought he was and who he was and the kind of person he was and player. He’s done a great job as far as being a leader in that room and really for the offense.”

(The one other guy this week it was learned had a contract extension was T Sam Young. Can you talk about what he’s brought in those six offensive linemen packages?) – “Sam’s done a good job coming in after being here before. (It was) probably a little surprising that he was still out there when we were able to get him. I feel like any time we can keep the guys that we have currently in the building, that’s really what we’re looking to do.”

(Has anybody in the last couple of games focused on stopping the passing game as opposed to the eight man fronts stopping RB Jay Ajayi?) – “Not really.”

(Would you expect to see that on Sunday or it’s definitely RB Jay Ajayi because of what he’s done?) – “I’ve learned playing these guys don’t try to guess what they’re going to do. They’re going to do what’s best for them for this game. They’re going to try to take away what we do well. The game is going to have changes within it. They’ll adjust as they need to throughout the game. That’s why they’re a very good coaching staff – both sides of the ball and special teams. That’s what they’ve made a living on for over a decade is being the type of staff that can affect the game.”

(I know you can’t enter a game quite thinking like this but how important is leaving this game healthy going into the postseason?) – “We’re worried about winning this game. I’m not going to try to guess what could possibly happen. We’re playing football.”

(In your first year working with T Branden Albert, what’s the biggest thing that was stood out to you both on the field and off the field?) – “I think with the way that he’s really tried to help that group as a leader has been something that’s really stood out to me. The way he plays through just those little bumps and bruises. He (dislocated his wrist) and came back in that game and every week he kept telling me, ‘I’m going to be back this week I’m going to be back.’ We’re trying to be smart thinking we’ve got a lot of football left and he kept trying to come back and then when he did come back, he did everything he could going against a very good pass rusher (Terrell Suggs) and was able to keep him at bay as long as possible, and the way he’s been there for (Laremy) Tunsil. We lose Mike (Pouncey) and he really has stepped up as being a leader of that room. And just the way that he works. When you see a guy that’s been around for a minute and practices hard and goes out and plays hard and gives everything he has for these guys, it’s been very impressive.”

(You guys are near the bottom of the league in terms of yardage allowed defensively, but you’re, I think 14th in points allowed. There’s a big discrepancy there. How would you explain what your defense has done to hold down the scoring while the yardage is not what you…?) – “Yards don’t mean anything. You can get yards. We could average a ton of yards on offense if we wanted to, but when you don’t turn the ball over and you’re getting turnovers and you can stop them on third down and score in the red zone or you can prevent the scores in the red zone, that’s all that matters. Winning games is all that matters. The yards don’t mean anything.”

(You’ve sent out the message that you guys are going to try to win this week as opposed to resting players. Do you have a general philosophy on resting healthy players once you’ve clinched or is it always a case by case?) – “I’ve never been a part of resting players in my career. (We were) 13-3 two years in Denver and 12-4 (one year). I never rested anybody. Peyton (Manning) was playing the last game of the year every year.”

Adam Gase – December 29, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(What is the value of the big plays you’ve gotten this year and is it something … Have we seen enough after 15 games that it’s clearly sustainable?) – “Every game takes a little bit of life of its own when explosive plays are available, throws down the field, you try to take them. But every game is different. Every team plays different coverages, so sometimes it’s not available to push the ball down the field. The run game is really about effort and attitude and guys doing a good job of finishing blocks and letting our runners get to that second level.”

(How is QB Ryan Tannehill helping his teammates? We saw him out there today?) – “He’s doing a good job as far as using his information that his experience in the offense, when you’re a quarterback, you’re usually ahead of the curve on most things. He’s got a lot of opportunity to watch probably more film than what he normally has. He’s doing a good job of coaching those guys on the field any time somebody makes a mistake. He can help them and just having basically another coach on the field.”

(How much has he thrown the ball?) – “He throws it a little bit but he doesn’t really … He can’t … He’s not moving, so he’s just out there keeping his arm loose.”

(Any update on timetable? Anything?) – “I haven’t asked.”

(What factors … I really want to get it right. What factors will go into the decision about if and when Tannehill plays again this season?) – “When I feel comfortable with what the doctors are telling me that we’re not going to have any kind of injury that could prevent him from hurting his career or hurting his chances to play next year. So we’re going to be very, very smart.”

(Can you help me explain your team’s defensive statistics? I asked Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph about this, yards allowed, yards rushing per play, some of those things I’m sure you’re not happy with and yet bottom line numbers: points allowed is really good and 10 wins is really good. What’s your explanation on what’s happening?) – “The things I look at on both sides of the ball, this has been are discussion is points, red area efficiency and third down efficiency, and that’s really what we’ve been focusing on. We’re not worried about … Every game is so different and there are different ways to win games and you play for that week. I’ve been on teams where we’re No. 1 in every category and we came in second. Nobody cared.”

(So do you think you’ve made up the difference in some ways in the red zone and on third down?) – “Usually that’s where it happens and the thing is, somebody is making a play when we need it most. We were having a rough week last week and guys made a play at the right time. We held them to a field goal attempt. We got a negative play at the right time, made it a little harder, missed a field goal then we had a chance to go win the game. There have been a lot of games … The L.A. game is a prime example. We were awful for 54 minutes. You guys don’t have to shake your head confirming that. (laughter) We were bad and we clicked at the right time and our defense did a great job just keeping us in the game and fighting and we score and then they just kept doing what they were doing the whole game. We stop them again; we score again. It’s whatever you need to do to win that game.”

(I know when you’ve been asked elsewhere about the influence Nick Saban has had in the seven years you spent with him. You mentioned, obviously, to stick with the process, do it right often enough and you’ll get the results you want. Can you think of any other examples where what you learned from him has specifically impacted how you do your job?) – “I think his organizational skills, as far as keeping people on track and making sure everybody’s doing their job, he was really good with that. When you’re a GA in college, sometimes you don’t think the head coach knows what you do and he knew what everybody did. He knew everybody’s role and if you got off track, he reminded you of what you needed to be doing. That’s something I always found very impressive because you don’t think a guy in that position who’s really running a major program would know every little detail (about) what everybody does but he found a way to know what everybody’s doing, what their job was and if they got out of line, he made sure you got back in line real quick.”

(That seems how you are too in terms of knowing every detail just from our impressions of you.) – “I think he was special in that area. I’ve got a ways to go on a lot of things. When you’re learning on the fly on some things, where you’ve never experienced it before, and you do everything you can and try to follow the lead of the guys that you’ve been around. I’ve been lucky enough to be around some veteran head coaches, some young head coaches to where you see mistakes or you see things where guys have to correct things and you just try to take from all those learning experiences. And then you have to go through some things and learn the hard way sometimes.”

(One last thing. Have you guys talked this year? Both of you are busy obviously.) – “No. I never bother him. If he needs something from me, he’ll call me, and it’s vice versa; but during the season it’s hard to communicate to anybody.”

(What’s the most difficult thing about being a head coach that you didn’t expect?) – “I don’t know if I didn’t expect it, but just time management – making sure you’re efficient. There are so many unexpected things that will come up when you’re just … Doing this every day for 15 minutes. The time adds up every week because it’s just 15 minutes that you’re not used to dealing with and you just have to get into the flow of what you do and try to maintain your schedule as much as possible. You’re always going to have some bump in the road every day. Something’s going to come up that you weren’t expecting. You have to adjust. It’s just that everybody is kind of waiting on you to do your part, so they can do their part and you don’t want to hold everybody up because you had to do something that kind of was off schedule.”

(Are you good at time management or are you learning how to be good?) – “Sometimes. Some days I’m better than others. It’s the consistent battle of trying to stay on track and then being able to adjust and regroup and get things done at an efficient rate.”

(If LB Spencer Paysinger cannot play, what do you do in the nickel package? I mean what are your options there considering the linebacker unit’s relatively thin?) – “If something like that happened, we would always have those contingency plans and we’ve got to mix them up as far as who goes in there. We’re consistently working on different guys in those spots because … I mean we’re always one snap away. We always have to have a plan. It’s just one of those things until that really kind of appears, I’d rather not talk about it. But we’re always … it’s the same thing with the offensive line. We rep so many guys at so many different positions that if something happened, we have a plan to at least to go to. Is it ideal? No. But you have to be ready for it.”

(With the Bills WR Sammy Watkins game last week. What do you think the secondary learned from that experience?) – “That when a guy’s really fast, get back. (laughter) That would be the biggest thing. You have to understand who you’re going against and every week’s different. You’re going to play different styles of receivers. You have to be able to adjust. Every week, it’s not going to be the same. Going against a guy like Brandon Marshall, it’s going to be different when you go against Sammy (Watkins). You have to know that. That’s why the film study is so important. That’s why when the coaches are telling you how to do certain things, you have to listen to what they’re saying. And then when you get out there on game day, you can’t be surprised when all of a sudden the guy is running sub 4.3 (second 40-yard dash), maybe under. That’s one of the things sometimes when we’re young and we do things that you all think why would you do that? That’s part of the learning process. We have to learn quick.”

(With some of those plays that you guys were in zone, he got behind the zone. How does that happen?) – “Every coverage has different rules and sometimes you get caught in a certain coverage where you kind of have multiple responsibilities. You always hear people say, ‘Well he took the cheese on that, why would he do that? That’s what happens sometimes. When you get the right call versus the right coverage, sometimes it’s tough on the players and it really becomes a schematic thing and guys are doing what they’re supposed to do and they have a good play call.”

(Was CB Xavien Howard supposed to match that pattern on the 53-yard play there?) – “Yes, I think he would have been better … It would have been better off for him if he would have just kept back a little more than what he did.”

(What is the long-term prognosis for S Isa Abdul-Quddus health?) – “We haven’t really gotten into all that quite yet. The first move was put him onto IR and then sometimes it takes a little bit for all the little details to come out of timetables and those types of things. Once a guy goes on IR, we have a little more … They have a little more time to bring me things like that because they know there’s nothing I can do about it right now. They’re going through their process down there right now in the training room and the doctors will get with me probably at the end of the week and let me know where everybody is at.”

(You’ve had QB Dan Marino in your meeting rooms and everything. What does he bring? What’s his role?) – “He’s there; he’s a good sounding board, especially for the quarterbacks. I’ve always enjoyed talking to him because he has a great perspective of anything we’ve ever discussed. I’ve always liked watching film with him and getting his two cents on things. It’s interesting how football has evolved so much since he’s played and he kind of explained to me how guys used to play compared to how they play it now. He’s seen so much football over his time and he always gives the quarterbacks a piece of advice that seems so small at the time. It’s a big deal because it’s the way he saw it, and the way he saw things was special. He’s always trying to help those guys and he doesn’t … You almost have to ask him though. You have to ask him what he would think or how he would see it because he won’t just … He’s not overbearing in that way. He’s almost reserved and he waits for you to come to him.”

(Anything specific, an example of something he said?) “Well I know if that seam route is even close to being open, he’ll just say bang that in there. (laughter) As a coach, you’re always kind of like, ‘Ah, Dan. You could do that…’” (laughter)

(The year that DT Ndamukong Suh has had, could you talk about that please?) – “I haven’t been around any defensive tackles that have had the kind of impact he’s had. Being able to do a lot of things with controlling the front and stunts that they do and the rush games and how impactful he is. He’s really sacrificed himself to help other guys pop free and get sacks. When that fourth quarter hits, you know he’s going to make a play somewhere and the consistency every week is probably as rare as it can get. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a player that just always is the same but at a high level. Every week we win, I feel like every week he gets a game ball. It’s really been impressive to watch a player that plays the position he does and how impactful he is and how disruptive he is. He changes the way you have to do protections. He changes the way you have to block the running game. When he gets a one-on-one block – it’s rare now – he’s going to win.”

(You’re in an unusual situation this weekend in that, you could play New England in two weeks again. Does the mean anything? Does that impact anything?) – “I think for us we need to focus on this game. We have to do everything we can to compete in this game and get to that fourth quarter and keep it tight and then try to do what we’ve been doing all year. The guys have done a good job of battling and then the fourth quarter, just try to find a way to put ourselves in position and whether it be score a touchdown at the end or kick a field goal or stop them on defense, we’re looking to find a way to win one game.”

(How does the speed of LB Neville Hewitt, how has that impacted the defense?) – “I think his improvement throughout the season, the opportunities that he’s had, he’s made the most of them. He seems to make that negative play at the right time. Most of his plays are very impactful. He’s very disruptive. He plays at one speed and it is 100 miles per hour all the time. When he makes a mistake, it’s full speed, and that’s all you ask your players to do. Go as hard and fast as you can and if you screw up, then we’ll fix it later. But he gives you everything he has from the time we step into that stadium until the time we leave.”

(How many War Daddy shirts do you give out per week?) – “It’s different every week. It’s after a win and it just depends. Each phase is able to handle them out. It’s something that (Head) Coach (John) Fox did when I was in Denver and Chicago and something that we brought down here. I always thought it was a great thing that he did for the players and players like it; but we had to do to different tiers because Cam (Wake) was getting too many of the same shirts, so we felt like there needs to be separation of when you get so many.”

(So is there a different level higher than War Daddy?) – “No, it’s the same thing. It’s just different color shirts. Now we have hoodies. Our fashion expert, Cam Wake, is in charge of that.”

(So there’s a War Daddy hoodie now?) – “Yes.”

(That’s the highest level of fashion?) – “That’s what they told me, the highest level right now.”

(Had you met former Dolphins WR Paul Warfield before?) – “I had not. I had not. That was my first time. I had heard a lot. (Senior Vice President, Special Projects and Alumni Relations) Nat (Moore) would always tell me stories…”

(Before your time right?) – “A little bit. (laughter) Nat (Moore) always, he educates me about so many things that’s happened in the past and it’s a neat thing for me when I get to meet so many of these guys. When he introduced me to Larry Csonka, I remember seeing a lot of those NFL Films things growing up, so a lot of these guys … It’s been great to meet these guys and how much passion they have for the organization. It’s pretty cool to see those guys still pay attention to what we’re doing. They want us to win.”

(Did former Dolphins WR Paul Warfield talk to the players?) – “He stopped by the individual groups. He hit a couple of groups.  I remember when he was talking to the DBs, which was good. I know he was over there talking to the wide outs. So he was kind of moving around and talking to individual guys too.”

Vance Joseph – December 29, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph

(Some of your statistics, the yardage, the rankings, I’m sure not what you ideally want but the bottom line is 10 wins, maybe 11 this week. Can we just throw all the stats out the window with this unit?) – “No you don’t have to. You can keep them. (laughter) You can keep them all. You know, I think this: I would hope for better numbers; but obviously it’s not the case. We track four or five major stats and we’re pretty good at those – yards per pass play, takeaways, sacks. Those things we track – red zone. Obviously the yardage stats, it can come from a lot of different things as far as plays played. We played 94 snaps on Sunday. But again, we care about winning and the stats are the stats. I’ve been on a team where my last year in Houston we were 2-14, but we were No. 1 in defensive stats. So I’ll take this.”

(Where does the big make up come, you think? Turnovers have been very good since the 1-4 start I noticed. Is that the biggest thing you think, the takeaways?) — “I think takeaways, third downs have been pretty good. Our sacks been pretty good since the 1-4 start. Those are the major stats that I can identify that has helped us turn it a little bit.”

(You guys have obviously struggled against mobile quarterbacks this year. Is there a sigh of relief there’s none of them left on your schedule?) – “Absolutely. We’ve had real struggles with obviously the kid in San Francisco (Colin Kaepernick) and Tyrod (Taylor) and the kid at Tennessee (Marcus Mariota). That has been a major issue for us, containing those guys in the pressure game and in four-man rushes. It has been impossible. Obviously, we’ve got to do better there. We’ve got to get to the spring here and reboot it and make it better.”

(Losing S Isa Abdul-Quddus, what is the impact of that on the defense do you think?) – “Well, we are kind of used to losing players. As far as the impact, I mean he’s been a guy that’s been a great leader for us in the back end. He’s been a guy who’s made the calls for us the last two months without Reshad (Jones) being back there. But again, Michael (Thomas) has played. He’s a veteran player. He’s a smart player. It’s been that way all year, so I expect Michael to fill in and play well. Michael played his best game of the year, in my opinion, on Saturday. So I think Michael will play well. (Bacarri) Rambo will play more base (packages) now and we’ll move on.”

(S Michael Thomas had 11 tackles at Buffalo? Is that right?) – “Yes.”

(Where they the kind of tackles from S Michael Thomas you want to see? I think I remember at least one behind the line, or were they down the field, thank goodness he was there type tackles?) – “Yes. He made impact tackles in the pressure game and in run-fits being the down safety. Michael played his best game Saturday, so that’s a good sign. Obviously he’s going to be a full-time thudder now, so we need Michael to play well.”

(The back seven has just been crushed with injuries. I know you’re not going to use it as an excuse, but you are going to have some tight ends you’re going to have to cover in the postseason and the middle of the field has been kind of open. How do you fix that?) – “Well, you fix it with different coverage – answers basically. We can’t be in one coverage where we expose someone to an awful matchup. So we have to have some coverage variations so we can help guys with those big tight ends down the seam.”

(Along those lines, we know Patriots QB Tom Brady gets the ball out very quickly. What do you say to your pass rushers here? Is it be smart or is it keep attacking? What do you tell them?) – “Well, keep rushing. Keep rushing because it starts with the coverage. If the coverage is tight, you can make him hold the ball. If the coverage is soft, the ball’s going to be out, it’s going to be a catch, it’s going to be a ball for a first down or for a positive gain. So keep rushing up front. It starts with the coverage, but we’ve got to have tight coverage to make him hold it, and then eventually once he holds it, we can get there. But it’s frustrating for those guys when the ball is out so fast. That’s the new trend in the NFL. It’s shotgun. It’s catch-and-throw. It’s been that way all year, so just keep rushing.”

(What is your level of concern as far as lack of depth now in the defensive backfield with CB Byron Maxwell not practicing yet obviously, two starting safeties down? How worried are you and also second part is S Walt Aikens equipped to play defense if he needs to?) – “Well, we’ve got some young guys that are going to be backups this week obviously. Concern? I wouldn’t say it’s a concern. Obviously when you lose starters and you’re playing with backup players, you’ve got your young guys that are backups now and it’s a concern but it’s the next guy up. Everyone’s in the same meetings. Everyone’s practicing the same system, so we expect guys to fill in and do their job. So is it a concern? Absolutely. But is it a big, big worry? It can’t be. That’s who we’ve got. Walt Aikens is a guy who’s been here three years now. So if Walt has to play, I’m comfortable with Walt playing. He’s been a valuable (special) teams player for us, obviously. He’s a big athlete, so physically he has no problems. It’s just experience. If Walt’s playing, I’m fine with Walt.”

(How do you feel about CB Byron Maxwell and LB Jelani Jenkins playing this week?) – Byron’s probably not going to play. He’s still very sore. The same with Jelani. He’s still very sore. Hopefully those guys kind of heal up this weekend and get ready for the playoffs in a week here. But they’re not going to play this week, those two.”

(When it comes to playing assignment football with some of these more mobile quarterbacks, what are some of the things that need to be done to tighten that up and kind of make sure that the yardage is minimized there?) – “Most of it is really physical. As an outside blitzer, you’re coached to stay outside and he circles you. ‘I’m outside coach. But he circled me.’ So it’s not a mental thing. It’s not a compliance thing. It’s a physical thing. Most quarterbacks don’t run like that, so when you’re even with the quarterback … If it’s Tom Brady, it’s not a concern, but if it’s Tyrod Taylor, if we’re even he’s leaving. It’s no different than ‘Shady’ (LeSean McCoy) playing quarterback. So it’s not a mental thing, it’s a physical ability thing. That’s the issue.”

(I saw LB Neville Hewitt, he took a dive, you know make the play on Bills QB Tyrod Taylor there. What are you seeing from him and his progression and are you liking some of the things you see?) – “Neville’s had a great season in my opinion. As a backup Will ‘backer, he’s played at a high level. He’s been our base starter for about a month and a half now. He’s played really well. I can’t name a game where Neville hadn’t been productive, even last week. But Neville’s (Hewitt) a young player who can run, so as a Will ‘backer, if you’ve got speed and you can tackle, you can play in this system and Neville’s (Hewitt) done well.”

(In what area of the game have you seen the most growth from LB Neville Hewitt?) – “Probably the mental part. He’s, again, a second year player in the spring who struggled with his assignments but now he’s doing things right. Again physically he has no problem but mentally he’s grown a lot.”

(Do you have a general philosophy about playing players who might be a little sore in a game like this? Playoffs looming and has experience taught you that one way is better than the other?) – “We’re playing to win. If a guy’s ready to play, he’s going to play. Obviously if a guy can’t play this week, he’s not going to play. We’re not sitting guys who are borderline healthy enough to play this week. If you’re healthy enough to play, you’re going to play. If you’re not, you’re not going to play. This is a big game for us. Now obviously and going forward obviously, it’s an in-division opponent who’s won a division for numerous years, so for us it’s a big game going forward. If you’re a player and you’re healthy you’re going to play this game. We’re playing to win.”

(And the risks of that?) – “I think the risks of it are football. Every game is a risk. But again, it’s a bigger picture for us here than one week. It’s moving forward with this football team versus a division opponent who’s dominated this division over the years, so it’s a big picture issue for us.”

(A specific play question. There was a 53-yard completion to Sammy Watkins in the last game. I think it was the third quarter. It looks like it involved at least CB Xavien Howard and S Bacarri Rambo? What could have been done better there?) – “Well, first of all, there was a four-strong pressure and we had Kiko (Alonso) free inside and Bobby (McCain) was the edge blitzer and Bobby (McCain) ducked inside and Tyrod (Taylor) circled it, so it started there with the pressure. The coverage is a zone-man coverage, so when Sammy went vertical, ‘X’ (Xavien Howard) should have been on Sammy but he squatted and kind of let Sammy run behind him. So as the play … It broke down. He got behind ‘X’ and Rambo’s on two, so he kind of saved us by overlapping back towards Sammy. So it was a pressure issue and a coverage issue on that play.”

(I know that snaps always don’t come out exactly as you would envision because of the length of drive, etc. That said, did the fact that DE Terrence Fede and DE Nick Williams played more than DE Mario Williams, was that a reflection of they were better at practice recently?) – “Well Mario has not been healthy and Fede’s played well, so he’s earned a right to play more reps. So going forward, until Mario gets totally healthy, I think Terrence has earned a right to play in that role, so to speak. If he’s playing well and he’s playing hard for us, he’s going to play. Until Mario gets healthy, it won’t change.”

(The way you played in overtime, where does that come from? Is that the veteran leadership mostly or what would you?) – “Well I think the entire team believes. We didn’t think one second on Saturday that the game was going to be not won. So I think it comes from our total team culture. And obviously having guys who can rush and make plays on the ball always helps in overtime. If you make two or three plays, it’s probably good enough in overtime. We had a belief that someone was going to make a play eventually and we did.”

Clyde Christensen – December 29, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen

(I asked Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph about this team statistically. Some of the numbers, the rankings – yardage numbers and things, point differential – are not that impressive. The bottom line is 10-5, could be 11-5 this week. What’s your take on that?) – “Talking about their numbers or our numbers?”

(Comparative. The fact that you’ve barely outscored the opposition, some of the defensive rankings are not very high in the league, some of the offensive numbers are middle of the pack, and yet you’re 10-5.) – “It’s interesting to look at our numbers. You really don’t see an explanation. Probably if you took our numbers after Week 5, then they would be more in line with how we’ve played and (the) winning. It has kind of been funny. I don’t know. We’ve done it the hard way. (Head Coach Adam) Gase is always wanting me to wear the Renegade shirt. I think I’m probably joining the Renegades. I don’t know how we do it. We keep throwing blows and seeing what’s happening. That has been our deal. It hasn’t been the conventional way. It hasn’t been the way any of us have been used to. We have his personality. We go in there and take chances and go and play hard and see what happens at the end of 60 minutes, look up and see what the scoreboard is. I don’t think the numbers do … I do think, probably, we have protected the ball really well during this streak. I’ve said it to you: we were 32nd after Week 5 and now we’ve climbed up. So, we haven’t given away the ball. We have not given away the ball. Jay (Ajayi) has been consistent. We’ve been consistently been able to hammer the ball up in there, and then we’ve also made the big plays. As far as the consistent, top-ranked something, we really aren’t that, which is interesting. These guys (New England) continue to be impressive. Same thing – they do the critical things really, really well plus they have a prolific quarterback who’s on fire this season. Same thing – sometimes a lot of years you look at theirs and go, ‘15th in this, 16th,’ but then all of a sudden they win football games. They do the important things really well.”

(One aspect of the game Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick – we talked yesterday – praised was he said you might be the most explosive team in the league. You guys always seem to get those big plays. It’s WR DeVante Parker breaking a tackle, WR Jarvis Landry running past people, WR Kenny Stills and RB Jay Ajayi. Is that something you can count?) – “Yes and no. Yes, you can count on it in the sense that it keeps happening week after week after week, but they’re not by design. You don’t design it with No. 14 (Jarvis Landry) all of a sudden breaks six tackles and runs for another 20 yards. No. 32 (Kenyan Drake) – we don’t get the point-of-attack blocked and he turns and runs around the end for 45 yards. They’re kind of weird. The same thing, I don’t have an understanding of exactly how we do things other than we keep playing hard; but I think you can count on it in the sense that they keep doing it. They keep breaking tackles. DeVante – that was great to see. To go do that … We’re getting those run after the catches. All of a sudden, Kenny gets behind somebody. They’ve been consistently inconsistent, if you will. I don’t have an explanation for them, but I do count on them, because that’s the way we play and all of a sudden, those things happen. Jay Ajayi is going to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. It might be a couple games and then all of a sudden he’s going to go for 200 (rushing yards) and pop a couple runs. That has kind of been the story. Even the tight ends. The tight ends all of a sudden … They haven’t had big numbers and then all of a sudden they catch a 50-yarder or so. It really has been one of those seasons.”

(How advantageous is it to not only have three quality wide receivers with WR DeVante Parker, WR Jarvis Landry and WR Kenny Stills, but to have three guys who have different skill sets?) – “It’s good. It’s really good. I still don’t think we’ve hit on all cylinders with all three of those guys. We’ve been consistent. Or when they’re consistent, all of a sudden, we haven’t protected well or something. That’s the encouraging thing that we’ve gone on this streak, but I still think our margin … Usually when you’re doing something you say, ‘Our improvement at this point in the season is going to be really minimal, because you’ve been going for 15 weeks, 16 weeks.’ But I still feel like we haven’t come close to playing as well as we can. We haven’t done everything on the same Sunday. I think there’s still huge room for improvement instead of … Usually at this time you’re saying, ‘Let’s go make two to five percent improvement each week.’ I said I think this group can still make some gigantic improvements health-wise and big-play wise. Those three guys give you … They all do it different ways, and it is all different weeks. Probably the one consistent thing has been Jarvis. Jarvis is going to give us some juice just by his energy and how he does things and running into people. Even when he has a 1-yard gain, sometimes it’s an energy producer, because he puts his helmet underneath the defensive lineman’s facemask or something. He has been the really consistent guy as far as that tempo that he brings and I think does ignite the whole unit. I still think we can be more consistent. I think all three … The neat thing is those three guys all can make big plays. That’s unusual to have three … Usually you don’t have three receivers who can make 50-yard plays. You usually have one, maybe two, one-and-a-half and then you have a couple guys who wallow around in there and make their catches. These three guys can go 50 at any time. They can go 50 with a diagonal. They can go 50 with a hook, break three tackles and go 50. They can run by you for 50. It’s unique how they can get their 50-yard plays. A lot of … There are certain speed burners; they’re going to get theirs all by running by you. These guys do it a different way every single week. DeVante catches a 3-yard gain play and runs for 50-plus yards. Where you’d say, ‘He’s your long strider. He’s going to go down and catch balls.’ That’s good stuff. That is good. I don’t know how you calculate the benefit, but it’s just good. You just have to hang tough and then one of those guys does that and then off we go. We’re kind of streaky that way.”

(When it comes to RB Kenyan Drake, he’s a playmaker. But have you guys adjusted to the idea that he’s not going to always make plays within the construct of the play design itself?) – “Yes, but he’s really gotten more consistent. I’ve really been impressed with him. His consistency is really good. That ball was going to hit right where it should. That thing was going to open up and we just didn’t finish on a block, so it sent him back the other direction; but he was right where he should be, which is what you look for as a coach. You don’t want him, all of a sudden, just anticipating and doing stuff just randomly. But that thing just kind of happened. He was exactly where he should have been. That thing should have been … we should have turned the tackle out and the thing was going to rip through for a 5-10 yard gain, right where it should, and we lost a block late. He ends up spinning out of that thing and just going. I think he’s doing, from a coaching standpoint, he’s really dependable. He’s where he should be. He’s worked hard on his discipline and his steps and all of those things – his kickoff returns, his ball protection, his receiving skills. The hard thing is just getting him in more. We keep coming out of games and he has seven reps on offense or he has nine reps on offense. But when do you pull (Jay) Ajayi? When do you not put ‘26’ (Damien Williams) in there? It’s kind of a good problem to have. He probably warrants more in the game plan, but there is a bunch of them that do. So does Damien. Every time he goes in there, he’s like Jarvis; he’s an instant big play. He just shows up. The big thing would be getting him in there more, but he’s really developing as a disciplined, good football player. He obviously has some great ability to make some plays when they’re not there, but he pounded up in there. In 4-minute, Jay gets banged up a little bit and he goes in there for some really critical carries and just rams the thing up the A-gap for a key first down up there in the fourth quarter of the Buffalo game. I think he’s really developing into a good football player and, certainly from a coaching standpoint, a disciplined one, which is important. He’s not just randomly bouncing all over the place. We’ve been really pleased with him.”

(In your estimation, just how versatile is RB Kenyan Drake?) – “He’s real versatile. I think we probably haven’t seen how good he can be as a receiver. He’s a gifted receiver. He’s really fast. I was teasing him, I got home that night and I thought he was maybe the fastest human being alive and then I watched that Kansas City game and watched that kid (Tyreek Hill) go run. I said, ‘You look slow compared to the guy on TV there.’ (laughter) But he can run, he really can run. The same thing, I don’t think we’ve come close to tapping our potential on what these guys can do, how to use them, when to use them. We just continue to learn about them and they continue to take their role and make their big play. The same thing with him, he ends up with seven plays but two of them are big plays. That’s a great characteristic to have. That big play per snap is huge. That’s a huge ratio and he’s cut out the critical errors and he’s been really good.”

(Your philosophy on playing players this week when you have clinched a playoff berth? Especially those who might be a little banged up?) – “I got a text from (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase the night before and he said we’re going to go play this thing to win. As soon as he said that, then it’s just a one-game season and let’s go try to win this one game like we’ve done all season. It doesn’t matter what my philosophy is. We’re going to go and the guys who can go are going to go and the guys who can’t are not. The next guys will step up and go. It is just like Game 1. It’s just a one-game season like every other game has been. A nameless, faceless opponent, let’s go just try to win one football game.”

(The offensive line seemed to really run block better than they have in weeks. Is that a fair assessment on our part?) – “Yes, I think it is. I think we kind of came out of the thing and said we made an emphasis on getting back to what we did those first weeks and really get running off the ball. (Let’s) take it to them on their side of the line of scrimmage. It just looked different. (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase made a comment in the team meeting that it just looked different. It did. We kind of got some energy. I do think we got healed up a little bit. I also think some adrenaline kicks in at this point in the season and you get your second wind, if you will, at the end of December here, because you are playing some big games. Whatever reason, I think it did look different. It looked like there was an improvement. We felt like we came off the football a lot more like we were doing the first half of a season. So it was a point of emphasis and they responded. I do think that what you saw is true. We did come off the ball the best we had in several weeks.”

(We saw RB Jay Ajayi get a couple 200-yard games going back to Weeks 6 and 7. And then his totals kind of went down steadily for several weeks even though he was still running hard. And then against Buffalo, obviously back to 200 yards. So what changed and what happened in that Buffalo game that you can use going forward?) – “Yes, I don’t know. I do think we were coming off. I do think that nothing’s changed that way. It’s kind of, if you will, you kind of mind, that you just keep digging. You don’t hit gold every single day. There are a couple days where you just keep tunneling, you keep tunneling. Then there are some days where you have a great day and you strike some gold. But it’s not one of those jobs that it happens every time you get the football. You just kind of got to have that mentality that ‘I’m going to tunnel, tunnel, tunnel. I don’t know when I’m going to see the light. I don’t know when the thing is going to pop out. I don’t know when I’m going to hit on something.’ And that’s what he’s done a great job of … Like I mentioned to you last week, I don’t think he’s been up and down. I think he’s been really, really consistent – unbelievably consistent on his run reads, on his effort, on his pounding in there physically. And that’s a great characteristic to have because there are a lot of times there are certain positions – like a receiver – you run 15 times as fast as you can and then a ball comes. But you don’t know when that’s coming. You just have to keep running. That’s the same with running backs. You keep tunneling. You keep going, you keep going and you don’t know when you’re going to see light. You don’t know when you’re going to strike, and he’s done a great job of that. That’s what you look for. A lot of guys can’t do that. They get discouraged or start trying to make something happen on every single run. He has not done that. Why at Buffalo? I don’t know. Maybe percentages. We were due, right? He had been pounding and pounding and pounding and all of a sudden, bang. It hits, right in the nick of time there, right when we needed one. So that was good. That was great for us.”

(How critical is it for you to have that level of production the playoffs to get to where you want to go? – “Really critical. We’re at our best when he’s running hard and we can play action off of it and we’re protecting the ball and keeping the third downs manageable. We’re not in those third and really longs. I think it’s really critical. It’s not fatal for us. We’ve proven that there are days where we can’t run the ball and we can throw the ball and win football games. So I think that’s one of the good things about us. Those three wide outs, they go into Buffalo and they do a great job going down there and rooting out safeties, and it’s kind of grimy day, if you will, to be a wide out – to go to Buffalo and have all those runs. It was kind of a grimy outing for them, if you will – forearm pads, neck roll and the whole deal. But the Jets game, it was opposite. It was kind of fast-break offense, if you will. So I think that’s a good characteristic to have. We’ve proven we can play either kind of game and they’ve kind of just fallen. I couldn’t tell you how it’s going to fall this week. This isn’t one of those teams that you can predict. ‘Hey, we’re going to run it twice, third down we’re going to convert it…’ It’s not one of those things. It can be a … I don’t know who’s going to go off. I hope all of them at the same time but it’s kind of been different people, different ways each week. So we can’t be too predictable because I don’t know what’s going to happen so that’s a good … We don’t have any tendencies that way. If we do, I’ve missed them.”

(The Bills added another linebacker in at safety and they still couldn’t stop you guys. How good does that feel?) – “It’s a good feeling when you run the ball and they got their 4-4, the four down (linemen) and four linebackers in there and they said, ‘Hey, you’re not running the ball,’ and then you run the ball. That’s a great feeling. That’s a great feeling. They’re a good run defense. They’re a good, physical, big bunch. So they’re a good football team. That was really big. You just don’t know. That’s the kind of … What I’m trying to get across is it’s weird. You just keep pounding. The time you don’t have a chance is when you don’t keep pounding and you don’t take care of business then it doesn’t have chance because that extra guy is in there. That was big. That’s a good feeling. It’s a good feeling to go into Buffalo and win a tough, hard-nosed, grimy game like that. That’s going to pay dividends to do that in December on the road, inclement (weather) sort of. Those are good deposits to put in the bank because you’re going to need them somewhere if you’re going to go very far.”

(After RB Lamar Miller left, obviously there were discussions with veteran backs and the question for the front office and Head Coach Adam Gase for a couple of months was, ‘Do we need a veteran back?’ RB Arian Foster came and retired. Has what you gotten from the three young backs wildly exceeded all your expectations on what you could have thought when you were sitting in May saying, ‘If we just go with RB Jay Ajayi, RB Damien Williams and RB Kenyan Drake, is that good enough?’) – “Yes. I think the answer is yes. It would wildly exceed … I wasn’t sure. I think we all made an effort to keep Lamar here. He’s really, really a good football player. A guy didn’t … Being new, a new staff. He’s one of the few home run hitters in this league that can go (the distance). So I do think that no one really knew. No one knew what … I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted what Jay has done this year and the seasons that he’s had. Damien was a little bit like Matt. His film was really good. His film was really, really good. But you had (Isaiah) Pead. You almost had too many. Then you add Arian (Foster) to the mix and what does he do well? We probably, by elimination, it got clearer. That kind of ended up being a positive. I think we came out of the preseason and offseason and OTAs kind of going, ‘Gosh. We have six guys and all six guys had a different profile, if you will.’ That’s a hard way to play. So I do think that … I was looking at this game when we went up there last time, Jay wasn’t even really the starter. Jay wasn’t the starter. Jay came in he had the fumble, and so, even in this season, at that point, we still kind of were like, ‘What’s Arian? Is he going to be healthy? What’s Jay?’ We had a couple of guys suspended at that point. All of those things. It really feels like three years ago we played these guys, and a lot has happened, but I do think that the reduction has made it clearer and giving those guys a chance. And it’s still hard to get them reps. Kenyan’s a good example. It’s hard to get them into 20 rep-wise in a game. His ability and production would warrant it, but those guys in front of him have done a great job too, and then he’s picked it up on the special teams. Him and Damien have been, that’s where they’re so valuable. They’re a two and a three (on the depth chart), but they give us big plays on offense; they give us a toughness on offense – running the ball, protecting, and they give us consistency in the special teams and they’ve given us big plays in the special teams. So that’s exactly what you need out of that two and three slot out of the running back. It’s hard to get. You kind of have someone who doesn’t play special teams and then it gets all out of whack. Those guys have contributed. You’d have to watch all the film and say, ‘Man, oh man. What a year Kenyan Drake’s had. What a year Damien Williams has had.’ Every week we give out a ‘War Daddy’ t-shirt. Damien is getting it on offense, on special teams and that’s great stuff. That’s why you do go on a little streak and win some games, because you have guys like that who keep doing what you give them to do. It’s all different things. It’s holding up on punts. It’s getting a third-and-1 and scoring a touchdown. It’s taking a third down and running over the corner, spinning and going 50 (yards) with it. There are not that many guys who do that many different things like Damien does. So that’s really, really … He won’t get the credit for what kind of year he’s really had. It’s been magnificent. He’s really had a great year and you’d have to dig deep to find out everything he’s contributed. It’s good stuff. Good stuff.”

(What can be taken away from the interception that occurred shortly before halftime?) – “What can be taken away? We don’t want to do that ever again. (laughter) We don’t want to do that ever again. That was a bad interception. That took three (points) off the board. I was sitting there thinking we’ve put such a stress on it, and then Matt (Moore) knew it as soon as it left his hands. The thing you do take away is you’ve got to stay aggressive and that stuff is going to … This isn’t a game of perfect. He’s going to, he’s going to … He was being aggressive and we’d rather not do that. All of a sudden I’m looking at that game and all of a sudden we’re going to lose that game by three points and that’s the three that we left on the field at the end of the half. Those are the things that bite you in the rear. So it’s no small thing, but again, you have to overcome some of those. I think he’d be the first to tell you ‘Gosh, I made a big mistake.’ We threw it to the guy we really were reading. We don’t want to do that ever again. We want to just not do that ever again.”

(What does a player have to do to win a War Daddy t-shirt?) – “Yes, that’s … I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s just kind of subjective, but what we look for is just an effort and a level of playing for the whole game that is above and beyond, that he plays physical, that he really is a guy who just sold out at whatever role we gave them – kind of how I just described Damien (Williams) The reason for it is this: you might be the left guard and you come out of the game and you have no touches, you’ve got no carries, you’ve got no interceptions, and no tackles; but you laid it on the line for 75 snaps in there. That’s a way to honor those guys that maybe the numbers don’t show up on the stat sheet – (Jermon) Bushrod didn’t show up on the stat sheet this week for anything – but really played really good football, and was really physical in there. It would be a way to honor those guys. It’s easy for the quarterback to show up and get his accolades and stuff. But some of those guys who are holding up the center on punt return, and doubling up the gunner on punt return, those kind of guys, it’s a way that we honor them and just put a premium on team football. That’s kind of what that is for us.”

(Are you sure you don’t want to do those interceptions again?) – “No, no. That was our last one. We got it out of our system.”

Jay Ajayi – December 28, 2016 (Conference Call) Download PDF version

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Running Back Jay Ajayi Conference Call with New England Media

(I was wondering about your journey through coming up through the draft and being a fifth-round selection and now putting up the season you’ve had. Is it especially gratifying knowing that you had to come from that point and prove some people wrong?) – “When I got drafted, it was disappointing from the standpoint that I believed I was a higher choice than where I went. I believe it was like 14 guys that got picked ahead of me or something like that, so it was definitely motivating for me. I was grateful to be on the Miami Dolphins and then since that moment, it was about proving to myself how great I can be in this league and showcasing to everyone else about the mistakes they made picking the guys in front of me.”

(I know that one of the concerns that seemed to make you drop in the draft was over your knee and a possible micro-fracture surgery. When you were going through that – and you’re hearing all those things – how frustrating was it to not have any control of those type of rumors?) – “It was frustrating because there were a lot of rumors, basically, and a lot of stuff that wasn’t factually supported, and I couldn’t really say anything. All I had was my play and film and everything I did up to the draft to speak for itself. It was tough sitting back and watching everything unfold. I think everything happens for a reason, and I’m glad I ended up on the Dolphins, because this is where I’ve actually been able to have my opportunity to play. This is where my career is, and I’m grateful.”

(One of the things a lot of the guys here are talking about is how much better you get as the game goes along. You have, I think, the highest yards per carry for somebody that has had at least 10 rushes in the fourth quarter and overtime in the league. Is that something you’ve been able to pride yourself on is your ability to finish games?) – “I think all throughout my career I’ve done a good job of being the workhorse throughout the games – through all four quarters – understanding the fourth quarter is usually the most important quarter to finish the game off, and I think it has been a great job. Our o-line, they’ve been doing a great job finishing games, staying physical throughout the game. I know if I run hard the first three quarters, by the fourth quarter, most defenses usually wear down, and they don’t want to keep having to tackle and wrap up. It’s just a mindset, a mentality with our team and myself that you’re going to have to see us all four quarters, and it’s not going to stop.”

(I know you didn’t get that much of a chance to play the first time this season when you guys faced the Patriots. What is it like being able to go up against them knowing that you’re going to be one of the guys?) – “It’s exciting to play this game. We know what’s at stake for us. It’s the next game, but we’re excited for the opportunity to have them come play us at home. For me, personally, I didn’t play as much that first go-around, so it’ll be exciting this next time. We understand what’s at stake. It’s still a big game. We’re not looking ahead. We’re looking to this weekend.”

(You talked about getting stronger as the game goes on. Dave Puloka, the strength and conditioning coach, can you maybe talk about the work you’ve done with him and how that has translated to your ability to get better as the game goes on?) – “I do a lot of stuff not just with ‘Coach P’ – Coach Puloka – but also with the sports science staff, (Director of Sports Performance) Wayne Diesel, and the trainers and making sure that my body always is at tip-top shape for the game. Working with Wayne and ‘Coach P’ during the week, I try to prepare myself to be able to withstand all the hits and punishment of the game, so that I can stay in all four quarters, still feel fresh, still feel good and staying on my routine to make sure that I can handle a full workload.”

(I’m asking specifically about Head Stength and Conditioning Coach Dave Puloka, because he has some local ties up here to the area. Is there anything maybe he has challenged you with in a different way or brought something new to the table that you’re unfamiliar with, but now you’ve tried it and reaped the benefits of it?) – “I would say with ‘Coach P’ this offseason, it was good to work with him. It was his first time, I think, being the head trainer – head strength coach – so his program, it was pretty intense. Working with him, I definitely felt like it helped me get ready for the season.”

(Your production obviously spiked once the Pittsburgh game came along. Was that something that coincided with the offensive line gelling a little bit better or was that something that you felt you were more energized at that point of the season? What do you think was the difference there?) – “Week 6 – the Pittsburgh game – it was a culmination of a lot of things. As a team, we changed the whole mindset, mentality. We made some personnel decisions here and there, our o-line got healthy, we were running confident, we were being physical. I was able to get a big opportunity to carry the ball more than the usual 10 times. It was about running hard that day, and we were able to have a good game. We were able to see what we can do when we run hard and hit our landmarks and read our keys. For me, I always have the confidence that I know what I can do. It was about staying with it since that week and trying to continue to have great games like that.”

(Do you still keep in touch with former Boise State Head Coach Chris Peterson?) – “No.”

Adam Gase – December 28, 2016 Download PDF version

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(Can you give us a little more insight on the decision to put S Isa Abdul-Quddus on IR?) – “He wasn’t going to be able to play the rest of the season. So we just felt like we needed to get another guy up and right now we’re still figuring out what the time table is going to be, but it wasn’t going to be close to being able to go any time soon.”

(Last time you had to put S Michael Thomas into a starting role, it paid a price on special teams. What do you guys need to do to address that and how prepared is he to start at safety?) – “He’s prepared to start. I have no doubt in my mind on that. The special teams aspect, we’re going to need some guys to step up. We’re going to have to limit his role. Obviously there are certain things we still need him do; but we’re going to need some of these guys that have either been added to the roster or haven’t done a whole bunch in that area to really be the next man up.”

(How much has S Michael Thomas played safety? I know he’s in that nickel package but how much has he actually played safety?) – “Quite a bit. Usually it’s a little more than half the snaps during the game. There have been a few games where it’s been heavy base (package), but we’re getting 14-18 snaps on third down and then a lot of teams play those sub-packages on offense to where he’s getting enough action.”

(Both you and the Patriots obviously have lost key players, injuries, suspension with QB Tom Brady in there, TE Rob Gronkowski, C Mike Pouncey, S Reshad Jones. How have you both overcome it? Do you think quality depth? What factors do you think go into being able to still win despite that?) – “Some of it has to do … I think we probably have similar styles of practice to where it’s competitive, which helps guys develop, especially younger players. Just my time with (Patriots Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach) Josh (McDaniels), I can’t say it was exactly the way they did it, but it was very similar to what we do as far as how competitive it is. That’s how you get younger players to get better, and then at the same time, you do need some guys that are in backup positions that have experience playing. A lot of times when their number’s called, they make the most of it and play well enough for you to win. I’m sure they feel the same way. They’ve had a lot of guys step up in roles where at the beginning of the year, they probably didn’t think they were going to have to do that, and the same with us. Guys have done a good job of filling in for guys that we thought were going to be starters for the entire year.”

(The Patriots have 452 rushing attempts, which seems like a lot for a QB Tom Brady led team. Just curious what you’ve seen on tape, particularly with their power run game.) – “I don’t think it’s anything different then what they’ve really done in the past. I think it’s really what’s best for that game. I know last year they didn’t have the success they wanted to running the football, but this year they seem to have found a good groove. When you get leads in a game, that’s when your rushing attempts go up because they can finish the game the way they want to and account for everybody in the box with some of the personnel groupings that they’re going with, and the physical mindset that they’ve had and the way that they’ve been running the ball. They’ve done a good job. They’ve implemented a power run game and they’ve been successful with it.”

(We saw RB Jay Ajayi out there today doing individual stuff. Does it seem like he’s okay from the shoulder injury?) – “Yes.”

(Are you expecting him to play?) – “We’ll see. But I mean I don’t see why we’d have … unless we have a setback.”

(How difficult is it to prepare for their backs? I mean they all seem to be doing a different sort of thing?) – “You have to be very aware of who’s in the game and understand what each guy brings to the table – how they’ll do enough to where they’ll change it up to where it’s not always one thing. But you do need to be aware of the differences in those backs because they’re different sizes, they have different strengths. One guy comes at you with some power. One guy’s got a little more quickness. So ‘V.J.’ (Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph) has got to do a good job, and the defensive staff has to do a good job, of communicating to (Joseph) so he can communicate to our guys who are in the game. That makes it difficult. It’s almost like receiver. When you’ve got different types of guys, you have to defend a lot of things.”

(What type of difference to the Patriots offense do you think that TE Martellus Bennett has made for that team?) – “I know when they had both those guys (Bennett and TE Rob Gronkowski), that was a scary combination and ‘Marty’ (Martellus Bennett) is a tough guy to defend, because he’s a big body. He understands coverage. He’s very smart and when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a very physical runner. He has the ability to make guys miss. You always forget how big he is until you get right next to him. I’ve seen him play a lot of games last year where he catches the ball and a guy tries to square him up, he can either make you miss or he can go through you. He’s a very, very hard player to bring down.”

(How much work did CB Byron Maxwell do in practice today?) – “We’re trying to work him through and moving him around more. We’ll kind of see how this goes through the week. I’m just not sure where we’re going to end up on Sunday.”

(What would you say is the toughest challenge about playing a Bill Belichick coached team?) – “They’re going to know … They’re going to know your tendencies. They’re going to understand what you’re trying to accomplish in the games they watch. They can get multiple. They can give you some different looks. You just never really know what you’re exactly going to get going into the game. It can change very quickly. They’re very sound; they’re very disciplined. They tackle about as good as anybody in the league. It makes it very difficult, because you’re not really sure … Are you going to be able to get the explosive plays? Are you going to be able to catch them in the right coverage? It makes it very difficult to predict what they’re going to be in.”

(How difficult do you think it is to sustain this type of level of success for this many years?) – “I don’t know how many guys have actually done it. It just seems like they consistently restart every year, and it’s a new year. And whatever their roster is, they get the most out of every guy on that roster. It’s just that consistency. I think the way they go about their business is probably what every team is trying to do the same thing, trying to mimic that, and trying to figure out a way to maintain that long term success, which is tough. We all see it every year where three, four, six, seven coaches go down and you can’t maintain it. They’ve done a great job of consistently, no matter who’s been in the game, getting the best out of all of their players.”

(Have they told you any new information about QB Ryan Tannehill?) – “I haven’t asked.”

(Are you certain that you’re going forward with QB Matt Moore on Sunday?) – “Unless somebody tells me different.”

(With your running game, what was the difference in Buffalo that you hadn’t seen for the previous month?) – “I think it helped that we were a little healthier than what we’ve been. I think that ‘B.A.’ (Branden Albert) and (Laremy) Tunsil felt better this game. Those guys were out there playing pretty banged up, and pushing through some injuries. We had the change in center. I thought that some of the teams we were playing, they were loading up the box. That’s why we had success in the passing game and basically teams were saying ‘You’re not going to run it on us.’ Fine. We have to throw it and we feel pretty good about the three wide receivers that we have. We feel pretty good about what our tight ends are bringing to the package. We feel good about what our quarterbacks do. If teams want to take that away, we’ll just throw it and win a different way.”

(With your receivers, each of them sort of have a different strength, and bring something different to the table. How much do they help balance each other out, and balance the offense out?) – “We’ve been talking about this since the spring. They really complement each other very well. They all have different strengths, and they bring a different element to our passing game and it works well when all three are together. Take one guy away, it changes a lot, and you guys have seen it where we’ve lost DeVante (Parker); Kenny (Stills) started a game and then he goes out of a game. It becomes hard on the play caller because you’re trying to figure out a way, ‘Well how do I fix this? Or how do I get us back in rhythm?’ When all three of those guys are out there, you don’t think about anything. They all know they’re all going to do what exactly they’re supposed to do. They’ll be in the right spot, they’re going to make plays, you have no worries of what they’re going to do. There is something about that group, they’re very tight, and they play off of each other very well.”

(You guys have had a great deal of success – going back to the run game – in the zone-blocking scheme, also in the gap scheme. What does it say about this offensive line and this unit to be able to execute both the way that they’ve been able to?) – “They’re very flexible. They’re an intelligent group. They work very hard. It’s hard to get all the reps you want and looks you want in practice. So you have to get some of those looks, whether it be off of tape or walkthrough, and those guys take those walkthrough periods very serious. They get their techniques down and they make sure they’re on the right guy. They’re trying to get Jay (Ajayi) and the other back the right look, even though it’s not full speed, of what it should look like in a game, which helps them, because now they know exactly what they should expect when we get in the game. Those guys have taken a lot of pride. I know they were frustrated because we didn’t have the numbers they were hoping for a lot of times; but I think we got a little spoiled when you have back-to-back 200-yard games. They really should take a lot of pride in the games that we really didn’t have all the numbers. Yards per carry were great, they were doing a great job as far as assignment-wise and trying to play physical. Even though we were banged up a little bit, we got everything that they had. Last week was a great indication that you can get back to it. They were putting a linebacker in at safety last week, and we still figured out a way to run the ball. It was good to see our guys really embrace that challenge of going on the road. We knew they were going to try to stop the run, and it didn’t matter to them.”

(Two games in, do you feel like you have a good enough play calling feel for QB Matt Moore now, and how is that process coming along?) – “Every game that we go we learn something different about each other, as far as what either I need to remind him, or his communication to me of something he didn’t like or he does like. The good thing about having a guy that’s been around for some time is that he’s not going to be shy about anything. He’s going to tell you exactly what he thinks and he’s always going to be prepared. I never have to worry about anything with the game plan. If he doesn’t like something, he’s going to tell me quickly, which he never says he doesn’t like anything. (laughter) He’s exactly what you hope guys will try to become at all positions – just that professionalism, always being ready to go. You go four-and-a-half, five years without playing, and then jump in a game and go and win it, and then come and start two other games on the road in the division, it’s been impressive.”

Jay Ajayi – December 28, 2016 Download PDF version

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Running Back Jay Ajayi

(You’ve had 270 touches now this season, 32 carries on Saturday. How’s the body holding up?) – “It’s feeling good. I was sore right after the game. Now, I got back into my routine of the week, so it’s starting to feel a little better.”

(I know you had a big workload at Boise State, but I assume it’s a little different in the NFL. What have you learned about that part the job description?) – “You have to be a professional. Here, it’s a lot different. At Boise, I had to go to class. (I) do a lot more different stuff here, either doing the work or getting my body right. So, I have more than enough time to do the things I need to do to make sure I stay on the field.”

(Do you take a lot of pride in being able to handle it?) – “I take pride in being able to withstand a lot of hits and being able to stick with the run game all throughout all four quarters.”

(You’ve been the type of back that gets stronger as the game goes on even since your days at Boise State. Who do you attribute that to and how are you able to bust your biggest runs towards the end of the game?) – “I think it’s a – first of all – credit to the o-line, them sticking with it all game long, us having that mindset that we want to be able to create big runs on the ground and sticking with it. For me, my mentality is running hard all throughout the game, not stopping and eventually wearing down the defense. We understand a lot of teams can’t really stick with us all four quarters. Eventually, they’ll wear down. You just have to stay diligent with it and continue to find ways to break through.”

(Congrats on the [AFC Offensive Player of the Week] award – third time you’ve done this. Do you pinch yourself now, or is it starting to sink in what you’ve been able to accomplish, now for the third time?) – “I don’t really think it’s settling in right now. Probably after the season when I get to sit back and see what I was able to accomplish, it’ll probably hit me more. Right now, we’re still in everything, so my mind is on New England and wanting to do it again and keep running hard and keep making plays for this team. I feel very grateful to be able to get the awards like that and understand that it’s not just me out there doing it. I’m getting a lot of help from my teammates. You don’t get these awards unless we win. That’s the most important thing: we’re winning the games, and we have the opportunity to reach our goal.”

(In Buffalo when their defense is on the field, they like to play a train noise. Did you hear that at all when you were playing? I thought it was weird. That’s your “Jay-Train” and they were playing it when you guys were on offense. I’m not sure if you noticed that.) – “It was actually funny. I heard it before our drive, and I thought it was kind of funny, because over here – in Miami – they always play the horn. I thought it was kind of cool. I didn’t know if they were doing it to send a message or if that’s just what they do up there, but it was interesting. I heard the horn a couple times while I was playing.”

(Did it hype you up at all or no?) – “It was kind of like a funny thing. I laughed to myself. It was just an interesting thing.”

(Did you have an idea early on, on Saturday, that you’d have that kind of game?) – “From the beginning of the game, I was very confident going in from the work that our o-line put in this past week, how they were feeling (and) my confidence level. From that first couple series, we knew we were going to be able to have a good day on the ground. It was about sticking with our game plan and getting what we needed to get done.”

(A 57-yard run in overtime – 55 yards or whatever it was. I think you had 55 yards against the Jets in the fourth quarter. What does that say about you, your offensive line, the whole offense?) – “I think it shows that our run game can be explosive. At the same time, we can do things where we can continue to pick up yards and be consistent. I think we’ve shown that we can do different things. If we stick with it – if we’re diligent with it, and we’re on our game – that we can really control the way the game goes.”

(Is there a feeling that the run game will always come through, “Give us enough carries, we’ll wear them down and break a big play,” or is it something different from that?) – “That’s my mentality. I don’t think it would be different for the o-line. I think we believe that we can run the ball on anyone. For sure, I believe that. When we get out there, we have to make sure that we’re on our keys and at the same time, creating lanes coming off the football and making it happen.”

(Were you disappointed that you weren’t first-team Pro Bowl or whatever it was? Was that a statement to the rest of the league that they missed you?) – “There’s not really anything I can do about it. You want to be one of those guys that’s considered the best at your position, obviously, and that’s what I’m striving to do. It’s just a little bit more added motivation to keep working and keep striving to be the best.”

(Do you consider yourself the best at your position) – “I consider myself one of the best. Yes, I do.”

(Do you expect the Patriots to key on you differently considering the first time you faced them, and what have you been able to do since that?) – “I think that they’ll respect what we’ve been able to do in the run game. They have a great defense up there. We understand that we’re going to get a great challenge out of them. We understand that we’re going to have to be on our keys, make sure that we are very disciplined out there and that we put ourselves in a great position to win.”

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