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.”

Ryan Tannehill – November 30, 2016 Download PDF version

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill

(Six wins in a row. How good is this team? Is that something maybe you’re wondering a little yourself?) – “We’re on the right track right now. We have to keep progressing, keep working, taking advantage of each and every day and keep working to get better. Obviously, (there is) still a lot of room to improve. (We are) doing some good things, but (there is) a lot of room to improve. If we keep doing that, we’ll be in a good spot.”

(What kind of potential do you see here?) – “I don’t know. Right now, (we are) taking it one game at a time and (have) a big one this week up in Baltimore.”

(You mentioned about improvement. The 1-4 start … Of course you want to win – not win every game after that – but are you surprised how the improvement has come rapidly the way it has?) – “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, but I’m proud of the way the guys have banded together. Times were tough early on in this year; things weren’t going well. We really stuck together, kept pressing forward and came together as a team. We found a way to win in a bunch of games. This team knows how to win now. I feel like no matter what happens going forward, we can always try to find a way to win, because we’ve done it before.”

(We talked to Ravens WR Mike Wallace on the conference call today. He said he recalled his time here fondly, said he wishes the team could’ve made the playoffs. How do you recall his time here and your relationship with him?) – “Mike was good. He did some good things as a weapon down the field for us, got some big touchdowns for us. Especially his second year here, I think he really caught more touchdowns and made some bigger plays for us. (I have) good memories of Mike being here and wish him the best – except not this week, but other than this week.” (laughter)

(I think you guys had a conversation after the 2014 season. How did that go? I know that WR Mike Wallace was traded a couple of months after that or whatever, but how did that meeting go, and what do you recall from it?) – “We wanted to end it on a good note and wish each other the best moving forward. Obviously, this business is tough sometimes. People move on, and that’s obviously what happened. (I) wished him the best as he continued on his career.”

(Obviously, you guys might get some key pieces back along the offensive line potentially, but how big has it been for the offensive line and the run game to be able to have success on frontside and backside runs?) – “It’s huge. It takes all of them. You never know when one is going to cut back, or whether it’s an outside zone or inside zone. It takes all those guys working together as a team. Usually, it’s one guy that really has to crease the defense to give the running back a lane. It takes them all. I think no matter who has been in there the past month or two, we’ve found a way to have good, positive runs, and it has really had a positive impact on the game.”

(Nice to get T Branden Albert back out there? He’s all wrapped up. You can’t keep him off the field, can you?) – “’B.A.’ (Branden Albert) is a tough guy. He wants to be out there. He’s doing everything he can to get himself ready to play. You appreciate his toughness, his willingness to be out there, play through pain, play hurt. That example – that leadership – is huge for this team.”

(I know the mentality is, “Do what it takes to win,” but just from a pure enjoyment standpoint of a running role, is it fun for you? Some announcers will wince when it happens saying, “Oh my God, they’re putting their quarterback at risk even though Ryan does it well.” Is it fun for you? Are you always aware of being hit when you do scramble or zone reads?) – “I think it’s a weapon for us. I think it opens up some things in the run game. It keeps them accountable on the backside, (and) obviously, in the pass game, if I’m able to scramble and create yardage there. It keeps them honest up front when they have to stay in their run lanes and it keeps them accountable. It’s definitely a weapon for us. Obviously, you have to be smart and not put yourself in harm’s way too much and leave yourself out there for potential injury.”

(Does the threat of you running with the football actually open up passing windows as well?) – “I’m not sure. I don’t really know if that matters, but it keeps them accountable, so it could help with the play-action game.”

(How important is the game this week?) – “They’re all important. We’re getting into December football. It’s really crunch time across the NFL. Right now, you’ll see where the good teams can finish out strong and make a run into the postseason or fall to the wayside. We’re going to see what we’re about here in the next month or two.”

(Can you talk about the Ravens defense and what they bring to the table?) – “They’re a really good defense. You see a talented defense, tops in all types of categories. (I have) a ton of respect for what they do. They do a great job in the run game shedding blocks, getting to the ball carrier, swarming, tackling well. In the pass game, they rush the passer well. They do some exotic stuff to create pressure on the QB. They can get pressure (with a) four-man rush. They really have it all. It’s just a matter of what they want to do. They try to mix it up a lot. (I have a) ton of respect for what they do, and it’s going to be a challenge for us.”

(Statistically, this is probably the best stretch of your career. Nine touchdowns, one interception during these six games. How do you feel about the way you’ve played, and is this definitely the best stretch of your career you think?) – “I don’t know. I feel like I’m progressing, and that’s what I want to do right now is keep getting better, keep working every day in practice and putting our team in a situation to win.”

(What are you doing better – you personally, right now – do you think?) – “I think I’m really comfortable with what we’re doing in the offense, really kind of settled in. The offensive line has done a great job protecting, giving me time to make throws, and the receivers are getting open down the field. It takes all 11 guys to have success.”

(Do you allow yourself any time to feel proud of yourself – or not until the season ends – in terms of your growth?) – “No. I’m excited about the growth that has been there, but (I am) hungry to keep getting better.”

Ndamukong Suh – November 30, 2016 Download PDF version

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh

(Nice to see T Branden Albert back out there on the offensive side?) – “I don’t get to see ‘B.A.’ (Branden Albert). We’re split up offense and defense, but it’s always a pleasure having your teammates out there at practice with you.”

(What kind of a leader is T Branden Albert? He’s been dying to be back out there. Finally, he gets to be out on the field again.) – “’B.A.’ (Branden Albert) is a great leader. He’s one of the guys that speaks with his actions, not so much with his words. When he does speak with his words, it goes pretty far and pretty deep, especially with the young guys and even guys like myself. I’ve admired him since he was in ‘K.C.’ and it’s a pleasure to obviously be a teammate with him the last two years.”

(How many of those guys are there around here? Because this team has made a turnaround here that would’ve been tough without guys like that.) – “I think at the end of the day, it’s all about guys coming together – wherever you’re from, whatever you’ve been through. At the end of the day, we’ve found a groove and became a unit – offensively, defensively and special teams. It’s all about putting that together and I think we’re finding a way to do that. (We) pick each other up in tough times and in good times.”

(This Baltimore team is a team that scraps. They may not score a lot of points but they scrap. What do they do on offense that’s…?) – “I think overall Baltimore is an organization that’s found ways to win. It hasn’t always been the prettiest way of doing it when they’ve won championships or been in playoff games or things of that nature. So at the end of the day, from their coaching staff to their players, I’ve got a lot of respect for them in the ways that they’ve found ways to win games. So we’re going to go out there, we know we’re going to be in a dog fight and we’re looking forward to it.”

(They’ve got a field goal kicker that kicks them from 57. He had like four from 50 last game.) – “Yes, unfortunately it’s not my first come around with him. I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth from ‘14 when we were … actually ‘13 when we played against them in the playoffs, or not in the playoffs, but they knocked us out of the playoff contention. At the end of the day, we have to go out there. We have a great field goal block team. We have to go out there and put pressure on him.”

(There was a play in the 49ers game, I think it was in the third quarter, when you tackled their running back for loss. Before you made the tackle, you put the center on his knees. You physically overpowered him. The question is: when you do that to another player, what does it feel like?) – “Honestly, I don’t really pay attention to those things. I understand who’s trying to block me and who’s trying to be in my way of finding the ball carrier or the passer being the quarterback, if it happens to be a center then I need to get them out of my way any way and how, I’m going to do that, and obviously get after the running back or the quarterback.”

(You played right end on the final series against San Francisco? Right defensive end?) – “The final series, I was all over the field.” (laughter)

(You played like three different places. Is that your call or how does that work?) – “I think (Defensive Coordinator) Vance (Joseph) is one of those great coaches that, I’ve said many times before, he allows his players to find ways to be successful. He gives us freedom within the scheme and understanding what we need to get done. We have conversations on the sideline. If you’re speaking about the time that I rushed against (49ers T Joe) Staley, there was a conversation on the sideline that I was allowed to go and do that. So I picked my opportunity to do that.”

(Would you say you picked the right spot and now is the time?) – “Within the scheme, within the situation, we find the right time to switch. I don’t really want to give you the ins and outs of why I go out there and do it. But yes, I have opportunities where I can call and put myself in a particular place just like (Andre) Branch can put himself in a particular place. ‘Cam’ (Cameron Wake) can do the same thing, Jordan (Phillips) can do the same thing, all of the guys can do it. We’ve just got to go out there and communicate. The great thing about our d-line is we’re all interchangeable so we can play all four positions on the D-line.”

(When Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph comes over, I saw him come over a couple of times and you guys hashed things out right away. How much do you see eye to eye with him?) – “We have a great communication, really tunnel and vision between us, especially when we come off the field. And unfortunately, this is the NFL. We’re going to have bad times. We’re going to give up plays. We’re an organization and defense that wants to be able to squash it and get an answer to that problem very quickly. Communication is key and obviously, it’s up to us as players to go out there and implement.”

(When I was at the Rams game, I had a conversation with a guy named Jackie Slater, who was a Hall of Fame offensive tackle. He’s a broadcaster. He said that when he watched you at defensive end, he saw Reggie White. Have you ever thought about Reggie White…?) – “I’ve admired Reggie White since I was first getting into the league. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve always been able to play at a high level when I go to Philly. Honestly, he must be looking down on me or something of that nature; but, he’s a great player and I’d wish to play anywhere near his capabilities. At the end of the day, I’m going out there whether I’m playing defensive tackle or defensive end, playing with my best ability. I’ve always looked at myself as a knock … Everybody had a knock on me when I was coming out of the draft that really I don’t have a patent move. The reason why is because I feel like I can adapt and adjust to any type of player that I’m going against, whether I need to be a power rusher, speed rusher or whatever it may be. And I think he’s an example of that. To have the ability to go out and play end or play interior and just rush and beat people when he wants to.”

(You know the Dolphins have four [offensive] linemen who have played tackle, starting sometimes at the same time. They’ll talk about how it’s a grown man’s game to [move inside] … How the interior of the offensive line is a different game. How does the experience when you’re in the interior line compare to the outside?) – “I’ll just say this, we give our defensive ends a hard time when they have to go and play inside, when we have certain games and different things of that nature. But at the end of the day, they’re capable of doing it. It is a grind being in between tackles, (going against) primarily guards and centers and whatnot.”

(Do you feel you’re at top of your game right now?) – “Do I think I’m at the top of my game? No. Not by any means. I’m a long way from being at the top of my game. I just got to hone into my technique. We have five weeks to get to … (inaudible)”

(Is there some areas you want improvement in?) – “I just say all areas. Never be satisfied. I’m never going to be a satisfied person unless I’m breaking records and if I’m breaking records, I want to set new records, going from there. At the end of the day, I have a lot of work ahead of myself.”

(They triple-teamed you on some plays, but on that last play they single blocked you. Were you surprised? You flushed him out of the pocket and then you chased him down. How much…?) – “Yes, during the drive, the last drive, the majority of the time, their back was opposite of me, which means I was getting double-teamed. So that was their protection. I understood their protection. I realized it really the last second or two, on that last play of the game, when we had that quick breather, that I had the back behind the guard. So I anticipated the one-on-one and had an inside move to try to get to the quarterback. He obviously is an athletic quarterback. He moved out of the pocket and I had to find a way to get him down before he got into the end zone.”

(Is there an optimistic sense right now of what this team can do considering the 1-4 start and now you’re trying to win seven straight for the first time since 1985, of just what could be ahead?) – “I think at the end of the day, and I’ve said this before, when you look at the situation that we put ourselves earlier in the year when we were 1-3, we put ourselves in a tough position and we found a way to fight out of it and it’s been at the helm of our head coach understanding that we need to go out there and focus on what we need to do each and every week, and take each week one piece at a time. We’ve done that and we want to continue on that same path and go from there.”

(The flexibility you now have to be able to change spots on the defensive line after talking to Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph and Defensive Line Coach Terrell Williams, is that something you had in Detroit? Did you have it here last year being able to make that move pretty much on your own after talking about it with your defensive coaches?) – “There’s no question I’ve had flexibility to move around, especially in Detroit. I think it comes at the helm of the trust and confidence that your coaches have within you. At the same time, them agreeing and seeing the things that you can do. I’m going to continue to say it, we’re a very talented group in the defensive line room. With that being said, we’re interchangeable, across the board. So when we move into different positions outside of our – as you would say – normal positions, it shouldn’t be any different of the expectations.”

Jay Ajayi – November 30, 2016 (Conference Call) Download PDF version

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Running Back Jay Ajayi Conference Call with Baltimore Media

(Can you talk about your success this year? Has this been a surprise to you, or is there a reason why you’ve been successful this year?) – “No surprise. I’ve always had belief and confidence in myself and waited on an opportunity. Now, it’s all about being consistent.”

(Do you look at this week as a big test for you going up against a Ravens team that has the best ranked run defense in the league?) – “For me, personally, I think we’ve had the opportunity to go against a lot of great run defenses over the past couple of weeks, and it has been a great challenge to go out there and try and succeed in the run game. We know this week is another good defense we’re going against, and we want to be up to the challenge, have our offensive line play well and be physical on Sunday.”

(After having those 200-yard games, what have you seen from how defenses are approaching you? More eight-man fronts, nine-man fronts? What are you seeing?) – “(There) have been a lot of different things that teams have started to do. You definitely see a lot more teams are stacking the box, respecting the run game and kind of daring us to pass, and we’ve been able to do that as well. It has been fun showcasing our balance over these couple of weeks, showcasing what we can do, and we want to keep executing on offense.”

(How has Head Coach Adam Gase changed the culture down there?) – “He makes it fun for us to come to work. At the same time, he stresses a lot of accountability for us. It’s a one-day-at-a-time mentality as well as one week at a time. You can definitely see around the building no one is really looking too far ahead. We’re all focused on what we’re trying to achieve right now.”

(You mentioned accountability. Was that something you guys needed?) – “I definitely think that it’s a huge part of why we’re doing better. A lot more people are accountable. Everyone is playing for each other. I think we’re playing as a complete team, whereas maybe in the past, we were not playing together.”

(Was that really the change – because that’s what Head Coach Adam Gase said – after you guys started 1-4, this six-game run he attributed to the fact that everyone seemed to buy in to showing up on time and being disciplined a little bit more.) – “I think over this win streak, fines are down and player accountability is definitely up. I think to be successful, you need to be accountable to each other, and it has bled over to the field. We’re trusting each other on the field. We trust our defense to get us out of situations. Special teams – they’ve got us out. On offense, we always want to help the team put ourselves in great situations to win. We’re definitely working on playing as a full team out there on the field each game.”

(Along that same thing, when Head Coach Adam Gase left you at home for the road trip to Seattle, how much of a shock was that to your system, and do you look at what has happened since then? What does that mean to you and the success you’ve had?) – “No one wants to get left home. No one wants to be a healthy scratch. It’s tough. I’m a competitor, so I wanted to help my team win. Moving past Week 1, it was all about refocusing, being more consistent and focusing on myself, really, and blocking all the outside noise and going and grinding each week.”

(Has Head Coach Adam Gase made any other changes besides the mental or cultural aspect in the locker room?) – “Not that I know of, personally. I know I feel like our team this year is a completely different team than we were during our losing streak. I think now that we’ve been winning, we understand what it takes. I think he has done a great job in showing us what it’s going to take. But at the same time, we still are scratching the surface. We still have a lot of room to grow. It’s comforting because if we can figure those little things out and hone in on those details now at this time and really get rolling, then December is going to be huge for us.”

Adam Gase – November 30, 2016 (Conference Call) Download PDF version

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase Conference Call with Baltimore Media

(When you look back on the six-game winning streak, is there anything you can put your finger on as to why you guys have been so successful?) – “It starts really with we’ve eliminated all of the type of nonsense that most of the teams around the NFL doesn’t have during the week – guys being late, guys getting fined, having practices that really are not energetic and you’re not getting things done the way you need to. We’ve really turned around as far as a maturity standpoint of our younger guys doing things right (and) our veterans doing a good job of showing these guys the right way to do things day in and day out. I think that’s been our biggest turnaround as far as just doing all of the things leading up to the game and then on Sunday, that’s at least giving us our best chance to know what to do and to execute our game plan.”

(Was that an issue prior to this six-game winning streak? How did it change? Was it a landmark moment or just a gradual shift?) – “I think it’s been mostly a gradual (shift) through the progression of the season. We would have one or two things a week. It wouldn’t be always these huge (things), like this guy isn’t playing because of this. It wasn’t things like that all the time, just little tiny irritant things for a coach where, ‘Why can’t we just be on time?’ Some of those things happen every once in a while and it happens in every organization and it’s frustrating when it does because this is your job. It would be like any of us not being where we’re supposed to be and just kind of shrugging your shoulders, not really caring. That was something we felt like we needed to get changed fast and we needed to make sure we were doing the right things because it does matter on Sunday. It all adds up at the end of the day.”

(Was that a result maybe of guys trying to take advantage of a rookie coach?) – “No. I think that’s how it has been here for the last how many whatever years. That’s just what it was.”

(You’ve directed some good offenses. What goes into a decision whether to go no huddle, and when you use it, and what are some of the drawbacks maybe? There has been a lot of talk around here about the Ravens using it, and how much they should.) – “You have to be built for it, for one. If your terminology is not really built for it, it’s hard. Our system’s built for it, because that’s what it was when we created it in 2013. It was hard for us to do in 2012, because really we had a huddle terminology, but then we started going no huddle. So we kind of were changing things mid-season. In 2013, we switched everything, and we created it for no huddle. That’s the starting point, because if the quarterback’s back there and he has to tell everybody what to do by guy, it makes it tough. You have to have signals, and buzzwords. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. It’s not as easy as you think. I know, especially the way TV is now, where they pick everything up, it makes it really tough, because now all of a sudden, you say one word twice, then you use it the next game, and every player on the defense starts saying ‘it’s going left, it’s going left.’ That can be somewhat frustrating for your players, because they feel like they know what all your code words are.”

(Are you guys using it much less since the start of the season, and if so, why?)  – “I think a little bit of it had to deal with the fact that we were never really together as a full group through spring and training camp. We’ve had guys in and out. It makes it tough when the quarterback’s trying to get everyone lined up and some guys didn’t know what to do. There was a lot put on his plate, to where it is things that he shouldn’t have to worry about. We kind of had to reel it in a little bit, as far as we got DeVante (Parker) back. We wanted to make sure that everyone was good with what we were doing. So we started huddling. We had our linemen back. We just didn’t have enough experience practicing it because we were never together as a group. We lost so much practice time, because (Mike) Pouncey goes down in the second preseason game, a couple of other guys go down (and) we didn’t get to work on it as much as you need to in order to be really, really good at that.”

(What do you remember from your time when you interviewed here [in Baltimore] for the offensive coordinator position?) – “It was a great experience for me. I really enjoyed being able to talk football with Coach (John) Harbaugh. It was a late night, I know that. I really appreciate the fact that he didn’t have to squeeze me in when he did. We were up there from … I think I got into his office at 10 o’clock at night, we talked until one in the morning and he drove me back to the hotel I was staying at. He really did me a favor by just not making me wait. I was kind of getting pressured as far as making decisions on some other places. The fact that he did that to at least give me an opportunity to come interview there, that was something I’ll always be appreciative of.”

(The game this weekend, the Ravens, very good against the run as you know. Does that present an extra challenge for you and will it put a little more pressure on QB Ryan Tannehill?) – “I think any time you play a defense that has the players that they have and then the coaching staff that they have – it’s a very good coaching staff to where those guys will be in great position. They’ll obviously be dialed in to our scheme. And it’s really going to be about who executes their scheme better at the end of the day. Our guys have to do a great job of getting on their blocks, just staying on their blocks, finishing every play. They’re going to be trying to do the opposite. They’re going to be trying to get off blocks, and making sure they’re in the right gap and making solid tackles. It’s going to be really, at the end of the day, it’s going to be about which side of the ball executes their scheme and finishes plays better.”

(Not a whole lot of people naturally talk about DT Brandon Williams of the Ravens. What kind of force is he against the run and how do you have to account for him?) – “I hate to single out one guy because there are so many guys that are impactful on that defense. It’s consistently … These guys do such a good job at executing their scheme. When you have a group that does it the way that they do it, that’s why they have success. You never feel like there’s any lanes. Like if you see a clip of film where you felt like a guy had a lane and he rips off a 9-yard run, those are very rare to see. They do such a good job as far as doing their assignments in the front, but then the linebackers are doing a great job of making sure any time a guy gets loose, they get him down. They’re tackling well. The whole front seven just causes so much … so many problems for what you want to do on offense.”

(Is it a case where you look and see what the Cowboys did against the Ravens being that they had the most rushing success because in large part they kind of stuck with it … Is that something that you look at and say, ‘Even if we don’t have success early on the ground, it’s something that we need to stick with?’)- “Yes, you try to talk yourself into it. It’s really kind of the flow of the game. You’re trying to do what’s best for your team for that game, and sometimes it changes mid-game. I was a little surprised last week as far as how consistent San Francisco was as far as sticking with the coverage that they stuck with and they did a great job as far as executing their scheme. Their guys played well and made it really tough for us in the run game. We made a couple of plays in the passing game to kind of open a couple things up that allowed us to move the ball. It’s a tough thing to kind of keep your mind wrapped around as far as, ‘Stay with the run. Stay with the run.’ But, having the running back that we have makes me feel good as far as consistently staying with Jay (Ajayi), knowing he’s a big man that plays for four quarters and does a great job as far as wearing a defense down and trying to consistently get positive yards. It doesn’t always work out that way, but there is some comfort with me being able to stay with the run because you do feel like your guys get better as the game goes on.”

(I knew you were missing three offensive lineman last week. What’s the status of those guys?) – “I’ll find out more today as far as we’re going to be able to take a look at them in practice today and get them in individual and possible get them into some of our practice reps. We’re so early in the evaluation stage as far as actually seeing these guys take reps in practice. It’s still kind of up in the air for me.”

(This is a hypothetical, but if you had become the offensive coordinator here, do you think it would’ve been probably a short stay, because you would’ve been a head coach very soon after?) – “It’s hard to predict anything ever, because you never know what’s going to happen. You never know how the health of your team is going to be. You never know the results of anything. It’s one of those things … There’s no point in thinking about it.”

(Do you feel like you have the culture of the locker room where you want it right now?) – “I think there’s always room for improvement. There’s always room to get better in certain things. I know there are a couple things where some of our veteran players would like to straighten out a few things occasionally with some of our younger guys, because we are very young, and guys still make mistakes. That’s what happens when you got a bunch of 22-, 23-, 24-year olds. They’re going to mess up here every once in a while. Thankfully, we got enough veteran guys that have really stepped forward – especially as the year has gone on – to take control of that locker room. I rarely have to deal with anything, because those guys handle it.”

Adam Gase – November 28, 2016 Download PDF version

Monday, November 28, 2016

Head Coach Adam Gase

(How are December games different?) – “I think the later you get in the season, every game is very … the importance increases because you’re getting down to the end and everybody’s fighting to win their next game. The stakes go up. Everything starts feeling … It feels different in December.”

(A lot of your guys do not have experience with this. Is that a problem in any way?) – “Not from my experience. I’ve been on a couple of teams where it’s the first time going through this process and they’ve handled well. Guys just focus on … It’s a small focus for most guys. They’re worried about that week. As long as the guys aren’t looking ahead to the next week or the week after that, usually you can be in good shape.”

(Is it a good thing that you’re so young because these guys can probably give you a lot of stress with these nail-biting games? Obviously you’re going to keep playing 60 minutes but it seems like every game is coming down to the end.) – “For myself, it was just more about us being in that situation. There were a few things that we wish we would have done a little different; but sometimes it’s good to be in those situations because as the season goes on, it’s going to keep happening. The better teams you play, the harder the games get, and it usually comes down to the last drive, one side or the other. We’ve been in quite a few of those situations. Last night, just watching the Denver/Kansas City game and seeing Andy Reid after the game talking about that was a little stressful; but, like he said, that’s why you love this game, because those type of situations, when you get into those, that’s why you work and go through those situations you go through in practice, because when it comes up in a game and you execute them and you complete the play, that’s the fun part of this game.”

(Did you know to root for the Chiefs?) – “No, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was watching a good game and I have a lot of relationships still in Denver, and there’s some good one’s in Kansas City as well. So it was a great game to watch.”

(After the game they put up a graphic that showed the projected bracket with the Dolphins in playoff position. Did you notice that? Will you think about the fact that you are currently in the playoffs?) – “I wasn’t really paying attention. I was working on … I was watching our game from yesterday. I was here. I was listening kind of more with the press conference, Andy’s (Reid) press conference and then I wasn’t really … like some things I hear, and some things I don’t.”

(What did the tape show you on the last play of the game on DT Ndamukong Suh’s [stop]?) – “I thought it was a really good job of him doing his job and then making a play. It just shows his relentless pursuit. It’s something that I’ve heard him say a lot and I hear it a lot in that room as far as running with a purpose. I’ve heard him say it a lot, when guys run with a purpose and understand why you’re pursuing with that effort. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to get in the clip or are you trying to make a play? You always see him. He goes to make a play. For that to happen on that last play of the game, that just shows his conditioning level, his ability to fight through a lot. When you get double-teamed all game, I’m sure that’s got to be frustrating, and he never wavers. He keeps playing hard and he had an opportunity to make a play and did a great job, and the rest of those guys did a great job of just attacking and they finished the play.”

(Is there an advantage to knowing you control your own destiny or is it too early?) – “It’s too early for me. You just keep playing right now. You don’t worry about all that stuff.”

(Talking to the guys, they have nothing but high praises for the way you coach, your cheerleading, the way you go about every day business, but how much pride you take in being so relatable with the guys to the locker room?) – “I think the thing that we try to do as a coaching staff is we try to shoot our guys straight. That’s the biggest thing for us. We want to make sure that we’re honest. If we feel like either somebody’s not doing something right or they are doing something right, we let them know. My experience being in this league, I’ve been around some good coaches, some good mentors, and the good ones I’ve been around have always done the same thing: they shoot their players straight. They don’t tell them something just to try to gain favor with them or pick sides or anything like that. Being around (Chicago Bears Head) Coach (John) Fox was good for me because I really saw a head coach who was very upfront, very honest. (He) didn’t B.S. (He) shot his players straight and they always knew where they stood. I thought that was a great experience for me to have over those four years I was with him. I watched guys really respect him because of the way that he handled certain situations. I think that was a great learning experience for myself.”

(I think they appreciate the fact, a lot have mentioned the fact that you’re just a little bit older than them as well, and you can relate to them on whatever aspect, whether it’s social media … you treat them like men.) – “I think that’s another thing that I’ve learned over the last four years being with (Chicago Bears Head) Coach (John) Fox is that’s how he always treated all of his players. He gave them some leeway on a few things, but if you abused it or you tried to take advantage of that or did something wrong, then it would get it reigned in pretty quick. Once again, that was great for me to see because it was different than anything I had experienced before.”

(When did you learn that G/T Laremy Tunsil would be unavailable and how far away do you think he is now?) – “The night before, we felt like we were probably going to be without him. We held until the next morning to just … I mean he could have walked in and been like, ‘I’m good. I can go.’ He took enough reps to where we felt comfortable. Like we talked about last week, ‘B.A.’ (Branden Albert) could just legitimately not do anything the entire week and walk in there. Laremy, I would want him to at least go through the walkthroughs or just at least have an idea of seeing things from the position he was going to play. So we had enough in there where if he would have said I was good to go, we would have been okay with it. We didn’t feel great about it going into Sunday and we had our mind set that Sam (Young) was going to be the left tackle.”

(What are you hearing or seeing from your players on the sidelines late in games that tells you they have this belief that somehow they’ll find a way to pull out the game?) – “I think there’s just good chatter through the game. If something bad happens, which it does in every game, right? I mean every game in the NFL, it just seems like there are these momentum shifts and you feel like you’re okay and then all of a sudden, something crazy happens and there’s a swing. I just hear that constant positive reinforcement from a lot of the guys on the sideline – whether it’s offense, defense or some of the special teams guys – but there’s always good dialogue and good encouragement on the sideline.”

(Has that increased through the course of the season?) – “I think it’s been pretty consistent. Once (Mike) Pouncey started playing again and we kind of had a lot of our guys back – our captains were all healthy – that’s when it really picked up. It really has been pretty steady as we’ve gone on. We’ve seen some guys kind of emerge as far as being a little more vocal. It’s some different guys that maybe we didn’t expect to hear from. I think a lot of guys have – whether they’ve become a starter and feel as though they can say something; or just some guys that have been veteran players that have been through a lot of this before, to where they feel comfortable saying something.”

(Who would be some of those guys?) – “I think (Andre) Branch is a guy that I’ve noticed. I think Cam (Wake) has been a lot more vocal than probably what I thought. When I first met him, I thought he was quiet. He worked as hard as anybody I’d ever been around and was consistent, but I’ve noticed that especially over the last, when things weren’t going so good, he was really stepping up. He was being vocal and really trying to be an impactful leader.”

(When QB Ryan Tannehill talks about playing with fast feet, can you explain that in layman’s terms and do you guys have like a buzz word that you use to remind him of that during games?) – “The thing that I always just remind him every once in a while is if I feel like he’s getting a little stagnant at the back where you see him kind of sitting in the back of the pocket and his feet aren’t moving or he’s not sliding around, I’ll just say something like, ‘Keep moving,’ or ‘Push up in the pocket.’ Just things like that, just little reminders. I don’t want to overdo it because there are a lot of things going on there. You have a lot of things on your mind as far as hot side adjusts (and) run checks. He’s got a lot of things going on out there. I just try to hit him up with that every once in a while but we try to get him back (in the pocket) quick, get him up quick, keep his feet moving and then, if something breaks down, just be ready to move and run. We’ve encouraged him to get outside the pocket. ‘Don’t wait.’ It’s nice when he can stand in there and throw it. Every once in a while he will and he’ll take a hit, but we’d rather him not get hit.”

(How are you going to grade the improvement on that then?) – “I think he’s done a great job. He’s really bought into the fact that we’re okay with him making, kind of ad-libbing plays. I have no problem with it. He makes good decisions. He’s aggressive, I know that. When I see him roll to the left and throw it 40 yards down the field, I’m sure I’m going, ‘No!’ and then he completes it and I’m like, ‘That was a great play.’”

(Along those lines, nine touchdowns by QB Ryan Tannehill and just one pick during this win streak. He’s accurate on throws when he knows he’s not going to see the completion because he’s going to be on the ground. Is there one or two aspects of his game that just impress you more than others?) – “I think there is a lot of trust there for him with the wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, as far as those guys being in the right spots. I think a lot of it comes from the way that we’ve been practicing. Guys are practicing fast; it’s competitive. I love the way our scout team is practicing right now as far as going against our offense. It’s very competitive, and I think that’s what makes the games at least feel normal for our guys. It’s not a different speed. He’s impressed me as far as his faith in where guys were going to be. I’ve seen him make a couple throws where he doesn’t see it and he puts it in the spot that we had talked about during the week and, whether it’s a receiver, tight end or running back, they’re where they are supposed to be.”

(TE Dion Sims really flashed yesterday, at least in the receiving end. How would you assess the way he played? Also, what did we not see that he had…) – “He’s been pretty consistent as far as when he’s out there, whether it’s blocking, pass protection, route running; he catches the ball well. He has good hands. He’s just one of those guys that you don’t expect it from because he’s a big guy. He looks like he should just be your prototypical leave him protection, don’t release him on the routes, good run blocker (tight end). But for a guy his size, he does have good hands and he can run after the catch. He looks for that, like that one he had yesterday when he got that check down, he was ready to go and he wasn’t going to be brought down. I don’t think he ended up going to the ground that play, because even when he went out of bounds, they tried to take a shot at him and the guy just bounced off of him.”

(You guys are really wide receiver heavy in your offense. Do you think if you get X number of catches from your tight ends, it’s a good day? Do you even go into it like that?) – “I don’t even think about who’s getting the ball, for the most part. It’s about finding the open guy. It doesn’t matter who it is, we just want guys that can catch the ball and then turn up the field and try to make a play.”

(How is WR DeVante Parker?) – “We’re still kind of in the process right now as far as our evaluation. I’ll know more when we hit Wednesday. It’s going to take the rest of today … I was very brief with the trainers today so I don’t have all the details yet.”

(What does it say about WR Leonte Carroo for him to be able to step in and make the play that he was able to make when WR DeVante Parker got injured?) – “Well, the experience that he had probably coming out of – I can’t remember what game it is but when Kenny (Stills) went down – I think that was valuable because we had a few things that he didn’t quite do his job as well as I know he wanted to do and we had a few mental errors there. I think it was a good thing that it happened because we started getting him more reps in practice because we felt like we did him a little bit of an injustice by not preparing him better than what we had. We can … (Wide Receivers Coach) Shawn (Jefferson) and (Assistant Wide Receivers Coach) Ben (Johnson) can do a great job in the classroom, but really, at the end of the day, it’s about getting reps, especially for a young player. They’ve done a great job as far as moving those guys around more in practice. When he got in there, I felt really good. When he went in there in this game, I knew he was going to know what to do, it was just going to be will he get an opportunity to make a play? When I saw (Tannehill) throw it to him, it was kind of one of those things you could sense the way that he turned up that he was not going to be tackled. That was good to see. You saw an aggressive runner. It was basically what we had seen coming out of college.”

(RB Kenyan Drake is making more plays in November than he was in September. What’s lead to him coming around?) – “I think it’s just the development of a young player. That’s part of … you want your rookies to be able to contribute as much as possible. With his skill set, we obviously have a lot of confidence in him. It’s just about assignment, making sure that we’re going as many places we can without doing the wrong thing, which he’s getting better and better at. I know sometimes it’s hard when you don’t get a ton of reps because Jay (Ajayi) takes a lot of our reps in practice. Jay likes to practice and he practices fast. You try to get somebody in there for him and he doesn’t want to be taken out because he wants those reps. Kenyan and Damien (Williams) have to do a good job of watching and listening in meetings, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do when you’re not the one doing it. He’s done a good job of learning what we’re doing and being accountable to what he’s doing. He’s been impactful when we’ve put him in there. We’d always love to get him in there more, all three of those guys. I really like watching those three guys play. They always seem to make something happen. Whenever we give them the chance to touch the ball, they make something happen.”

(Is there an update on C Mike Pouncey?) – “I think we’re still … it’s such a week-to-week thing. I’m going to have to really look into it as far as what are our chances this week; but just in my mind, we’re probably not ready yet. We’re probably not ready.”

(How did C/G Anthony Steen perform?) – “He did a good job. He had a tough one, the way that they were playing. We had some things going on as far as what he had to control in the run game and in pass protection. They gave us some tougher looks there when they did go into some of their smaller personnel groupings and trying to figure out who we were supposed to block up front compared to the back and our hots, stuff like that. They really gave us some tough looks. He did a good job as far as his communication goes. He had a tough matchup, and he did a good job of trying to get his guy covered up as much as possible. Sometimes when you play a 3-4 style defense, you’re on your own at center. It’s not as easy as you think, trying to read some of those shades; it’s not always easy. You try to do the best you can as far as not allowing penetration and sometimes he won and sometimes he lost.”  

(We asked some of your guys what they thought of the standings, if they knew about the standings and that sort of thing, and they professed that they don’t pay any attention. Is that what you want to hear?) – “I think it’s hard for us to really worry about anything else. Our focus is so small, as far as we’re worried about what we’re going to do this week. I think guys are still looking at yesterday as far as, what do we have to fix? What do we need to do better? I love the fact that our guys are thinking that way. A lot of the times, that’s how coaches think. It’s hard to look down the road because you have so much focus on what’s going on that week, there’s so much work that goes on just to win that one game. I know it sounds easy to do to just say, ‘Well we’ve got this team after this, and this team after this,’ but you can’t look past anybody. You can’t think too far ahead, because that’s when you get in trouble for the week that you’re preparing for. All of your focus needs to go on that one week.”

(Does it get more important week to week? Do you rely more on veterans that may have playoff experience or been down this road before?) – “I think that we’re going to rely on the guys that are on the field. I think veteran players are great to have. I don’t know if you checked out our roster lately. (Laughter)”

(I meant having someone in the locker room getting the message across to players that haven’t been through this?) – “I don’t know how many guys that we actually have had that have been through this. I think we have more coaches than players, really. I think a lot of our players that have had experience where December is a little interesting is minimal.”

(Going back to TE Dion Sims, in the last three games he’s played all but two of the offensive snaps. What does that say about A) his durability and B) his value to the offense?) – “For a guy his size, he’s in tremendous shape, and that’s why he has the ability to stay on the field. I do think he has the type of mentality to where he takes a lot of pride being on the field as much as possible. I know when he has been hurt with us in the past, if it’s been something that he can play with; we rarely hear about it. He just keeps going. Obviously, the only thing that has really side tracked him is when he had to go through … He went through a tough deal when he had his concussion. That was a tough thing for him to go through because it was not the first one. We had to be very cautious. We had to retool kind of how we prepare him, as far as once he did get healthy and he was cleared, we took one more week. We felt like that was the right thing to do. Our strength and conditioning and sports science guys getting with him and trying to find ways as far as strengthening certain muscles in his body, and the equipment guys just going out of their way to make sure we are completely protecting him. (We were) doing all of these little tiny things to make sure that he’s going to be safe every game and if he does take a shot, are we going to be ok? It’s something that … It’s uncontrollable for him, really. That’s the toughest part. I think that everything else he plays through, but when you kind of get into that concussion protocol, that’s something we have to take a step back and do the right thing.”

(What can you say about his value to the offense? You want to keep him out there.) – “Yes, I think for a guy that has that kind of size and his skill set is just, it’s unusual. You don’t find a lot of guys that can do everything. When you have a guy that can block and pass protect, and obviously he has a valuable role in our passing game, it makes it harder for teams to defend.”

(The running figures yesterday were not what we thought they might be considering San Francisco was last in run defense. Was that a matter of just having eight or nine guys up there, or was it the offensive line?) – “I think they played well, I mean they did a lot of things really well. We … Sam (Young), and (Kraig) Urbik were … (they) really haven’t had a lot of playing time together. Some of the combination blocks, weren’t as good as I’m sure they wanted, and it was just kind of a different feel for us as far as, I kept running to the right and a lot of times that was unusual. We had been probably more to the left coming into this game, the last couple of games. Usually they were backside and they were kind of … I think it was almost like a hash deal. That’s just how it played out. It was just kind of a perfect storm as far as they played well, they have a good scheme, which makes it tough against our running game, and they did a good job as far as challenging us in the passing game, and saying ‘Hey, beat us in the air.’ Their players played well, and I think they had less plays than they’ve had in a long time as far as I think … What did we have, like 53 plays? They were averaging 70 something. Sometimes when you have a lot of plays and you’re on defense, all of a sudden the numbers can look bad. When you get caught in a game like that where you get 53 plays, now all of a sudden it looks different.”

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