Head Coach Brian Daboll
Q: When you interviewed for the job in Chicago with the Bears, just wondering if you could share what intrigued you about that opportunity and what maybe you remember telling them made you a possible good fit for their organization?
A: That's a long time ago. I've interviewed at a lot of different places. (I have a) tremendous amount of respect for Mr. McCaskey (Chicago Bears owner George) and the people that were on that call. Each interview is always a little bit different. Again, you're honored, you're privileged, you're humbled when you get those opportunities with any one of the teams. I certainly was. I know Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears head coach) well. I've worked with him, and I think he's done a fabulous job. He's an excellent coach.
Q: Did you talk to Ken Dorsey (Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator) since Sunday? Or did you see his outburst, and what did you think of that?
A: I have seen it. I do talk to a lot of guys, a lot of coaches around the league. I don't really have any thought on it. Ken's a great friend; I think he's a great coach, and I'd leave it at that.
Q: Coming up to the end of a four-game stretch, do you break the season down in quadrants even though it's now a 17-game season? Do you evaluate by games or stretches? Just curious of your philosophy in that regard.
A: Yeah, that's a good question. I'd say we look at ourselves after every game, figure out some of the things we do well and some of the things we're not doing as well. When you have three games in, you have more sample size to that. But historically we've looked at it in, here's the first quarter of the season, second quarter; obviously, there's an extra game, so we're ending up here on the fourth game here on the first quarter of the season. I think you learn a lot about yourself when you play, when you coach, and like I said, we're a work in progress. We're still working to improve in a lot of different areas. I think we've done some things well; we've done some things we can improve on, all of us. This is our fourth game, really the most important game obviously because it's the next one. And we try to take things from the past, the previous games, and make sure we tighten those things up whether they're good or they're not as good as you want them to be and use them when you're preparing for the team you're about to play.
Q: I know you're a fan and a lot of people are fans of Daniel's (quarterback Daniel Jones) toughness. I'm wondering if you keep track of the hits that he takes. If there's a number in your head where you'd like to see him, talking about running with the ball and in the pocket. Or, how much of concern is building up considering he hasn't finished a season in his career?
A: Well, you never want your quarterback to take any hits. But I'd say Daniel has a unique skillset too in terms of his athleticism. I think he's done a good job of taking care of himself when he does run with it. I would say there's not a lot of design runs in there, there was a couple; there's not a lot of design runs. There's a fair amount of scrambles, and he's got a couple of different choices (with) what he can do when he scrambles. One is, obviously, throw it down the field if people uncover. Two is try to throw it away, and three is to make yards. If he has an opportunity to make yards, you can tell a quarterback, 'Don't take this hit' or 'Do this'. And then they start thinking about things. I think Daniel's making good decisions, when to take off. He's tried to protect himself. Is that always going to happen? No. But certainly you want to eliminate or limit the amount of hits. Guys that can scramble and make loose plays cause problems for the defense in that regard of keeping chains moving or making some loose plays. I'll never take that away from him.
Q: With (outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) and (outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux), first of all, there are no ill effects of them playing in the first game, I would imagine. Along that with those two guys, do you look at that and say, 'Okay, this is where they should've been a month ago, but they couldn't play. So, this is where they are now,'? Do you kind of judge them on a curve in that game because of the rust factor and things like that?
A: No. When they're out there and they're ready to play, they're ready to play. Every player – whether it's an outside linebacker, an inside linebacker – they have roles to do (with) how we want to play the game. I think those guys are two young good players and knowing that it is there first game, they've been out a little bit. That happens with a lot of guys when they're coming off injury, getting back in the flow of things. But they're two good players. (I) have a lot of confidence in those guys and looking forward to seeing them play this week.
Q: You would expect their workload to increase appropriately as we move forward here?
A: Yeah. As we get going throughout the week, that's conversations I'll have with the training staff. And if there's a target number or we need to limit them, we kind of have those conversations throughout the week. So, then when we have our final meeting on Friday evening, we're lockstep in what we want to do.
Q: You said yesterday the (Dallas) Cowboys did a good job blocking you, which obviously is a one game thing. But here as we go towards the Bears, we know Wink's (defensive coordinator Wink Martindale) thing is blitzing, but I look at the Cowboys, and they got 10 pressures on you guys with just four-man rushes. How much does your pass rush need to 'get home' besides the defensive backs coming? How much do your core pass rushers need to 'get home' to disrupt the quarterback moving forward?
A: I'd just say whatever play call or defense that we call, that Wink calls, we expect them to perform what their responsibility is and do what's asked of them. Whether that's rush, whether that's cover, whether that's fit a gap. That's team defense.
Q: One more here, changing gears. What kind of opportunity could be here? I know they don't necessarily play the same X, Y, F position in receiver, but Shep's (wide receiver Sterling Shepard) out, Wan'Dale's (wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson) out. What kind of opportunity could it be for (wide receiver) Darius Slayton, and how has he handled his diminished role so far?
A: Slay's been a pro. All those guys will be out there working this week, and we'll try to put them in the best positions we can. But he's been a pro, and he'll be ready to go.
Q: Just curious, where are you guys at health-wise at cornerback? Is that a position that you think you'll need to add some reinforcements at this week?
A: I would say, looking at it here, we could.
Q: Any new injuries from Monday that are to be concerned about there?
A: No. Nope. We're pretty much status quo. I'd say that guys that are going to be limited today are, again we're doing a little bit of a walkthrough more than we are a practice relative to the short week. But (cornerback Nick) McCloud, (wide receiver Wan'Dale) Robinson, obviously Shep (wide receiver Sterling Shepard), (wide receiver Kadarius) Toney, (defensive lineman Leonard) Williams, and (defensive back Cor'Dale) Flott are the guys. We'll see with (cornerback Justin) Layne and (cornerback Aaron) Robinson. I think they're trending up. We'll see where they're at by the end of the week.
Q: With (tackle) Evan Neal, obviously it was an emotional game the other night. But he seemed to take it pretty hard. The last couple of months, various people have talked about how introspective he is, and he takes the criticism internally and is very focused on making sure he can improve the things that he's getting wrong. As a staff or even as the head coach, I know you look at every player and you treat your relationships with your players. Is he the kind of player, as a rookie at his age, that you want to pay close attention to this week when you have a kind of game like that on Monday night and make sure that he's improving and moving forward the right way rather than maybe taking it too hard on himself?
A: Yeah. I think you go back to the evaluation process of the reason why we selected the players we selected. Obviously, we thought they were good players with a skillset, but they also were good people that had really good intangibles and character. I think you talk to all your players, whether it's a rookie, whether it's a veteran, whether they play great or they probably didn't play as well as they wanted to play. There's a lot of good things that Evan's done. I have a lot of faith and confidence in him, and we'll just keep on working and improving just like all the rest of the guys.
Q: You talked about evaluating different things obviously through a quarter of the season, and maybe you'll have a better answer for us on this next week. But I was curious what you've learned about yourself as a head coach through these first three games.
A: That's a good question. I haven't (thought about it). You try to be as consistent as you can be when you're in this leadership role. There's going to be ups. There's going to be downs. I think you try to be honest with the players and the staff. I think you build relationships – trusting relationships – because again the foundation of any good organization, regardless of what it is, is the ability to build trust with a group. And I've tried to do that. I've leaned on a lot of people. I've leaned on a lot of staff members. I've leaned on the players. The one thing is I don't have all the answers. I know that, and I lean on people that I work with. You know it's easy in the first few weeks or the first few months to ride a roller coaster, and I've really tried hard not to do that and be a consistent presence for the people in our building and our organization. Again, though, the relationships, whether it be with (general manager) Joe (Schoen), whether it be with staff members, whether it be with players, whether it be people in the organization, that matters. Building that trust matters because I think you earn some respect, and it's a two-way street. And if you have the respect, regardless of if you're in my role or another role, you learn to be accountable to somebody. And try to work as hard as you can. Improve on really everything you can improve on. There's a lot of things that come across my desk every day that you're not expecting them to come across. But I'd say that the leaning on the people that I work with is very important. And I've learned a lot from them – from the players, the trainers. I'll single out LY, Laura Young (Director of Coaching Operations); she's been fantastic. She's very, very helpful in a lot of areas. Ashley Lynn (Director of Player Engagement), (Director of Wellness and Clinical Services, Player Engagement) Dr. Lani (Lawrence) – our psychologist, Jessie Armstead (Special Assistant to the General Manager), strength staff, people that work down in the cafeteria. You try to build a team atmosphere where everybody's accountable. That starts with me. But I really appreciate the people in the building, our ownership group, Joe with all the different things that come up, which are numerous. And you guys know that; you think you know that until you're actually sitting in that seat. And you have a tremendous amount of respect for the people you worked for before, not knowing all the things that go along with it. But again, the culture in our building is what I'm most thankful for – the people that come to work every day that try to be consistent and that give everything they have to build a winning culture.
Q: You were just talking about accountability. I don't know if you look at what guys say to the media or whatever, but to a man pretty much after that loss, you had a lot of guys pointing fingers directly at themselves for what had happened, starting with Evan. Not just him. Even Daniel was talking about, 'I can do a lot of things better,' after what looked like a pretty good game. Do you look at that stuff, and when you see what they're saying, do you think that what you're trying to build is getting through?
A: Yeah. I think that's something that when you get here and you talk to guys – and look, everything starts with me – but you appreciate whether it's the coaches, whether it's the players, whether it's support staff, we're all in this thing together. And we have good, high character people in our building. And I appreciate that very much.
Q: Obviously it's been a tough start to the season for Kadarius. I'm wondering how confident are you that you're going to be able to get something out of him this season and soon? And how much is his mental state something you have to monitor consistently? Because we see he's always making comments on social media, not exactly sure what they're about, but it seems like they're directed at the doubters and people that are talking about him.
A: I'd say this, I don't look too far down the road. I just concentrate on this week and trying to get him as healthy as we can this week. And I know he'll do everything that he can. In terms of the social media and stuff, you'd have to ask him. I don't want to speak for Kadarius. He's doing everything he can rehab-wise, and he'll be out there as soon as he can.
Q: And also, just for this week, I know it's a weird schedule, how are you handling this week? And then even next week because I know you have the London logistics to kind of deal with?
A: So today we'll do a walkthrough. It'll be a fairly lengthy walkthrough. And tomorrow will be a normal Thursday, and Friday will be a normal Friday. The stuff going forward, I'll deal with that when it comes. Obviously, I've had discussions. You have to in terms of planning and preparation, but that's really not – that's kind of the offseason before this thing starts. I'll let the people that take care of those logistics and scheduling do their job right now, and I'll try to focus on this week.
Quarterback Daniel Jones
Q: As far as your running is concerned, you're running extremely well, you're picking up a lot of yardage. Do you try to temper that with worrying a little bit about your durability a little bit going forward the rest of the season? Or do you just continue to pick up yardage and use that as a vehicle?
A: I think those are opportunities that you kind of feel throughout the game and try to take advantage of. I've got to be smart and get down when I can and avoid big hits. I've tried to do that; I think I can do that better at times. That's an opportunity that I'll continue to look for.
Q: As you work with different receivers and different types of receivers, do you have to be a little bit of a psychologist with some of these guys and work them through different phases of how they're being used in the gameplan?
A: I don't really think that's my job. I've got great relationships with guys, and I'll continue to be as good of a teammate as I can and communicate with them and get on the same page and try to help everybody be there best and bring what they do best to each gameplan. So, that's my focus. I don't think I can get outside of that. I've got great relationships with those guys; they've been locked in and ready to go. So, we'll continue to do that, and as we see opportunities for each one of them to make plays, we'll try to get them the ball and get them out there making plays.
Q: Given what's gone on the first three weeks, you've won two of the games, not having a dynamic passing attack but leaning on the run more. Do you think this might be what his offense or what this team evolves to this year where maybe you have to play some low-scoring games? Muck it up a little, play good defense? Does that take a toll on a quarterback mentally or are you saying as long as we win it's okay?
A: I think we're still improving. We're working to get better at all aspects of our offense, our attack, and the passing game is certainly part of that. We're capable of producing a lot more in the passing game and using that to our advantage, but we've also got (Running Back) Saquon Barkley and a good running attack. So, we'll use that as well. We'll continue to improve in all aspects of our offense.
Q: With Saquon, is there still some uncharted territory with him? Obviously, everyone knows he can catch the ball but is there still more that maybe you guys are waiting to do with him to exploit some matchups if you get the chance in the pocket to do that?
A: Yeah, his skillset gives us those opportunities to get him in space and allow him to make plays, make guys miss. He's shown a lot of ability to do that, so we'll continue to work through it and use him in those situations as best as we can.
Q: How do you feel you've played through three games? Ratings have never been friendly to you, but do you feel like what you do with your legs is kind of an underrated thing when it comes to those kinds of things?
A: I don't know. I think there's some things I wish I could've done better. I think there's some things I've done well overall, but I'll continue to look at that and see how I can improve. (I) Try to put this team, put this offense in a position to win the game down the stretch. I think I've played alright but certainly things to work to improve on.
Q: What do you feel like you need to improve on most when you look at the first three games as a whole?
A: I think we can find ways to execute better, finish off drives in the endzone. We can be better at the beginning of games and making sure we're getting off to a faster start. So, those are a couple areas we're looking to improve.
Q: (Offensive Tackle) Evan Neal, what'd you say to him? How did he bounce back from a really tough outing? Does it remind you at all of maybe what (Offensive Tackle) Andrew Thomas went through and maybe getting some hope from where Andrew Thomas is right now.
A: We all have a lot of faith in Evan. We know he's a great player. He's going to be an even better player. He went up against a tough front. They've got some good pass rushers on the other side, and it's on all of us to help that out, to get chips and jams when we can. Then, me for stepping up in the pocket and getting the ball out of my hands quickly. We've got a lot of trust and faith in Evan, and he knows that.
Q: Have you talked to (Wide Receiver Sterling) Shep (Shepard)? As I look to who can replace Shep, are you a little mystified but (Wide Receiver) Darius Slayton's reduced role? He led the team in receiving the first two years, you seem to have great chemistry. Have you talked to Shep? And are you expecting a little more from Slayton?
A: Yeah, I've spoken with Shep and obviously heartbroken for him. Tough to see him go down after he's fought so much to get back. Feel for him immensely. Darius is a guy I have a lot of trust in, a lot of faith in, and I know he's working hard. As far as the game plan going forward, we'll see how it works out, but I have a lot of faith and confidence in him.
Q: You said after the game you might be a little bit sore tomorrow, just a few days later. Do you feel anymore sore or differently coming off a game where you took a lot of hits?
A: I feel good. I had a chance to rest up and recover a little bit. So, I'm feeling good and ready to get after it this week at practice and get back out there on Sunday.
Q: When you have a game like Monday where you face so much pressure and you guys don't win the game. But it seemed at least from my vantage point that you did everything you could. Do you think you should be evaluated from your play in the game separate from the result of the game? Or do wins and losses ultimately define maybe the evaluation of you as a quarterback?
A: It's not really my concern how I'm evaluated by external people. I'm obviously looking for feedback and criticism from the coaches, and from teammates in ways I can improve. But as far as an evaluation, I think that's dependent on if we win or lose. That's how this team's evaluated and we're thinking about it collectively as a group.
Defensive Lineman Dexter Lawrence
Q: We know sacks aren't the end all be all, we've talked about that quite a bit, by my very unofficial count you only moved (Dallas Quarterback) Cooper Rush off his spot maybe six out of 31 times. I'm assuming that's not a good enough pass rush for you?
A: Definitely not. We talked yesterday and today about how we didn't get enough pressure on the QB. I feel like that starts with the guys up front. Me, mostly. I put a lot on me to get him off his spot, to get him moving, throwing off his back leg and things like that. Just got to be better.
Q: How do you go about that? Do you just toss that up as one bad game? Are there things that you guys weren't doing that you need to do more of? If you can be a little more specific – how do you go about making sure that it's on you to turn it around?
A: Like I said, just pushing the pocket back, making him uncomfortable. As a d-line that's what you have to do. That's the plan every week and that's how you've got to attack it.
Q: I don't know how much you've looked at the Bears yet and (Chicago Quarterback) Justin Fields but he's thrown 45 times in three games. Have you guys talked about how even if you have a good pass rush there might not be very many opportunities to rush him as a passer this week? Has that been talked about at all?
A: For sure. We know that they like running the ball a lot. On third and long, they like running the ball. It's just a game that we've got to bring our lunch pales and go to work. Put our hard hats on and stop the run. It's just going to have to be the ultimate goal.
Q: Were you not happy with the way you stopped the run either on Monday night?
A: Yeah, that was unacceptable from all of us up front. They schemed us up well, got good leverage. We've just got to play harder and more disciplined with our techniques.
Q: When you see that number on Justin Fields, 45 throws through three games, in this league does that number amaze you at this point? You see quarterbacks throw that many times in a game.
A: Right, it's definitely different, but that's their gameplan, that's their scheme. Each week, you've got to stop the offensive schemes.
Q: I believe it was you that said they had a lot of success the other day running to the edges. I'm wondering what you saw when you went back and looked at it as to why they were able to have success that way and what you as an interior guy can do on those plays to do your part and help stuff the run on those plays?
A: Honestly, they were just out-leveraging us on the edge. That's kind of what you saw on film. We've just got to do a better job of knocking the guys back as a unit and pressing the running back hips just to get him down. They just did a really good job scheming us and it was a good team.
Q: How confident are you that you can improve the pass rush and you can improve the run defense in a short time as a unit?
A: We feel like there's a lot of things on us as players that – we were out-leveraged or not tuned in on our techniques in the run game. In pass, a lot of guys throw quick against us, and we've got to learn how to put our hands up and effect quarterbacks in different ways.
Q: Does it talk about the value of (Defensive Lineman) Leo (Williams) when he's not out there too?
A: I feel like the guys behind Leo like (Defensive Lineman) Nick (Williams) and (Defensive Lineman Justin Ellis) Jelly were able to hold it down. Just little things that we got out-leveraged and that's how—or max protection looks. Different things to slow the guys up front to be able to protect the quarterback.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Leo and how he's dealing with this? This is a whole new deal for him, missing games due to injuries. What have you seen from him on the sideline? I know he's been around the team. How's he handling this?
A: He was bringing good energy this weekend and this week. Last week, bringing good energy every day. Obviously, it sucked that he couldn't be out there and he kind of felt that. He just stayed positive, brought some energy, let us know what he was seeing and trying to help us out— still be the leader that he is.
Q: He's always such a positive guy, has this taken a little bit of a toll on that?
A: I wouldn't say that. He always says he has tiger blood or something like that. I just think he's trying to use it as a positive to keep working harder to come back.
Q: (Safety) Xavier McKinney said after the game that forcing turnovers is something you guys knew you needed to do, and it didn't happen. What do you have to do better as a defense to make that happen like you did in Week 2 against Carolina?
A: I would say we've just got to keep attacking the ball. As a whole, be better at attacking the ball and securing tackles. A little extra film study maybe just to jump a couple things or guys up front stripping the ball out. Just little things that you can work on throughout the week that makes you confident enough to get it before the game.
Q: I'm wondering if last year's game with the Bears still sits with you guys at all? It was late in the season, like Week 16 out there and if my memory serves me right – they jumped out like 24-0 pretty early.
A: No, it doesn't. It's a new team, new time, new coaches, new year. We don't really think about that last year, just come and play this week.
Offensive Tackle Andrew Thomas
Q: Wondering if you could tell us what your approach was with (Tackle) Evan Neal the last couple days. As we talked about in the preseason, you've been there, you struggled as a rookie. So, did you seek him out? Did he seek you out? Have you guys not even talked about elephant in the room? Did you say, 'Hey I've been there,"? What have your conversations with Neal been like since Monday night?
A: Yeah, I've definitely talked to Evan. It's a short week, so we kind of had to put it to bed quickly. We're already moved on to game planning for the Bears and stuff like that. But not just Evan, I think that the whole offensive line – we understand that we didn't play to the caliber that we want to. Obviously too much pressure, and there are some plays in the run game that we definitely could've had some more explosive runs if we got better movement. Just encouraging him to keep working and to have a short-term memory, but just a reminder that the stuff that you put on film, the rushers next week, they're watching that. Just a reminder to clean that up and keep working the technique. He's a talented kid, has all the tools in the world. He's mature, so I'm confident in him.
Q: How hard is that to do? Is it easier said than done? Because I feel like I was asking rushers about you that question in 2020 (and they were saying) like, 'Oh, he's just got to move on.' But do you internalize it when you struggle like that? You've obviously been in the shoes.
A: It's definitely not easy, especially coming from college where you dominate – you're really good. It's frustrating but I think he has a good attitude about it. He's always asking me about different pointers and asking questions in the meeting room, just trying to get better every day. I think he has the right mindset.
Q: What do you think it is about this line that your struggles – if you've had them – have been more toward the pass protection side than the run blocking?
A: I think we do a good job of getting a hat for a hat in the run game. Our communication, I think our technique is a little bit better in the run game, and I think that's why you see it. Then obviously, (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) is very explosive, so we give him a seam, he makes something happen. In the pass game right now, there's not really a lot of different pressures that we're seeing. It's just more so gains up front, and that's what we're having the most difficulties with is just passing off gains, protecting the depth and the width of the pocket. That's something we've got to do better to allow DJ (Quarterback Daniel Jones) to throw the ball.
Q: The natural question off that is, when you see games and stuff, how much is that is just line hasn't been together? It's just, 'Okay, this is going to take time for this group to get better at that'?
A: As an offensive line, you definitely want comradery. But we don't really have time for that, the season is already here. Can't really make excuses about not playing together. We've just got to do whatever we can to get better as fast as we can because like I said earlier, if we put it on tape, it's coming the next week.
Q: Along the lines of what (a previous question) was asking you about your game from rookie year to now, was it almost a dual journey that you had to figure out what you were doing technique-wise at this level but also the psychological part of it and how that can weigh on a player when you're really left out on an island the way you were as a rookie? How have you developed? What advice did you use to develop that part of your game where you could just shake it off psychologically?
A: The first thing is the approach. Coach Daboll always talks about being process-oriented and not worrying about the results. Sometimes you're trying to do something a certain way or do something a coach teaches and it doesn't work, you're quick to do whatever. You just have to stay focused on the process and getting better. I would say the second thing mentally just blocking out the noise. It's easy to say in this day and age, we all have social media and stuff like that. Just doing your best to focus on what you can control. You can't control what people say about you. All you can control is what you put on film, and that has to be your main focus.
Q: Now you are a captain. You wanted to take on more of a leadership role. It seems like you're playing at a really high level even if the offensive line as a whole is having the difficulties that we've already addressed. How has your perspective gone from, changing from looking at one position to now sort of looking at all five?
A: We all have to play as a unit. That's the beauty of an offensive line. Four guys could be doing their job perfectly, and one guy doesn't and it's a bad play. My focus is not just on myself but like you said the whole O-line group to perform better. That starts with me. It's not just in a leadership role as far as talking to guys, but how I play there are things on film – some things I wish I had back. Some things I wish I could do a little bit better to help out my teammates and just work on that every day to get better.
Q: Is that new for you? In years past when you went back and watched film, did you just focus on yourself? Or were you watching the whole line?
A: I would say especially my rookie year, I was more so focused on myself. Just trying to fix my issues. As an offensive line, we all have to play well together. That's what I'm working on now.
Q: Just individually, you've talked in the past about running your own race and developing at your own pace. Is it gratifying for you now just individually to be where you are – to be talked about now as one of the better offensive linemen in the league and be talked about as a leader instead of the kind of questions you were being asked a couple of years ago?
A: Honestly, not really. It's kind of the same mentality. I remember JG (Former Giants Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett) told me this when I was a rookie. He was like, 'When people say it's bad, it's probably not as bad as it is. And if they say it's good, it's probably not as good as it is.' My approach is really the same. Obviously, I want to play well and I want to be a dominant left tackle. But my focus is on getting better. Like I said, some plays on film that I wish I had back – some things that I could do better with my technique just to be more consistent and just never being satisfied with the results.