Q: How has Dallas' defense changed under Rob Ryan?A: It's a different approach. It's just different. Everybody in the league has a different philosophy, a different approach. Theirs is just different than the other one. They have some great players and they like to mix up their schemes and throw a lot of different fronts, do a lot of different coverages. They try to do everything they can to confuse you and cause you to be uncertain and hesitant. If they can do that, then they buy enough time for those outstanding players to get to the quarterback.
Q: What did you see out of your offensive line this past Sunday, and did the shuffle of linemen change anything?A: I don't know if it's changed anything except I was very proud of the way the new guys played. To see Kevin Boothe slide over to the center position and play as well as he did almost seamlessly was outstanding and Mitch came from not even knowing if he was going to dress to go out and play. He's just a feisty, combative, competitive guy. He was very physical and I'm very proud that he stepped in there and did as well as he did.
Q: I thought I saw more physicality, more energy. Was it because of those guys' personalities?A: I think it was a combination of a lot of things. I certainly think that Mitch adds to that. That's his nature. That's his personality. I think getting Ahmad back, the significance of the game, the energy of the crowd, the way we were playing offensively, all of those I think rolled into one, collates into one thing – all contributing factors.
Q: How has Eli been able to maintain continuity, even going back to the preseason?A: I think the fact that you have a guy that's been playing and hearing what we do for eight years now. He can echo what we say to him and he's heard us say it. They're all in the same ear, so they hear me saying something over and over again and he's heard it longer than any of them. He can truly be an extension of us out on the field and I think he does a great job, certainly as a catalyst in that means. I think some of the coaches, I've mentioned Sean Ryan and Jerald Ingram and Mike Pope and Pat Flaherty, some of the jobs they've done has been outstanding with some young guys, new guys that nobody wanted, quite frankly. We brought them in here and they've just gotten better and better. So I think it's a combination of having a quarterback that's playing at a very high level and some of those coaches have done a great job with bringing those guys along and collectively we've been able to be competitive.
Q: Talking about a guy that nobody wanted, has Victor Cruz surprised you?A: I've wanted him all along. I had hopes that he was going to be a good player last year. The coaches have been very consistent on trying to keep him. So I thought we had a good player. Who knew how it was going to pan out? And our o-line as well, we can say we envisioned this. But I thought you had a guy that was physically quick enough, strong enough to take the hits that you have to take inside and looked like he caught the ball well enough that he'd be somebody that you like to work with and see what happens. Hopefully you see enough potential that you can bring it out of him. I think he's still a raw player that has a lot of growth left. He's making plays for us so hopefully so we're happy to have him.
Q: He's done more than just the slot.A: That was what we were excited about. You had a guy before who was an outstanding route runner, Steve Smith, and was basically uncoverable so people would double-team him all of the time. He hasn't faced that at all yet, but he continues to run as well as he does after the catch. That's a dimension that we weren't as effective at as we are now. I think he does a better job in that and hopefully he'll continue to grow as a pass receiver and his route running and decision making, those types of things. Maybe he'll get to the point where he warrants the double-coverage and then we'll think of some things outside.
Q: What did Victor do to become this elite player? Is it talent, is it work ethic…?A: I think it's all of those things. We saw a guy that was raw, but had some skills that we thought we could develop into a slot. As always, it never happens quite as quickly as you want and he was making too many mistakes and what have you. But what he did was he continued to listen, he's been able to grow, continue to grow and little by little he's gotten better and better. We always say the potential with a guy that, again, could run after the catch, I thought was physically quick enough that he could be difficult to matchup with for some people and I thought he was going to be courageous enough to catch the ball inside. Those are all ingredients that you have to have to play in there. Again, it's just a matter of getting better and better. Again, he's still, trust me, got a ways to go on some things. You guys see some great plays, which are tremendous plays, but we sometimes see the other side of that coin too. As I've said before, he giveth and he taketh away. Sometimes it's play after play. But he's a great kid. I think he works hard. The nice thing is you see a guy that was here and he's come so far. Again, I give Sean Ryan a lot of credit. He's done a great job, like all of our coaches.
Q: You're facing Dallas twice in the last two weeks and the Jets as well. How much blitzing do you think this offense is going to see?A: A lot, but we've seen it the last two weeks. Somebody asked early, 'Is it a different role?' It's hard to compare them, but you go from a few weeks ago, Philly, who we thought was going to blitz us – didn't do much at all – to New Orleans, who four out of every five plays and Green Bay was probably three out of every five plays. We expect to see the same. Is it the same? No, it's not the same. It's a different blitz package, a different approach, but it's definitely a commitment to that defensive approach.
Q: Does Dallas blitz differently?A: They're committed to it and they have some good players. Dallas has some great pass-rushers, a phenomenal DeMarcus Ware, who's outstanding. We've always had our share of troubles with Spencer in that way. He's been outstanding. And now [Jason] Hatcher looks like he's evolving into a premier pass-rusher. So they have some terrific football players. Whether they blitz or didn't blitz, they're going to be a handful for us. What they try to do is they try to hide, disguise, cause some hesitation on your part, which just accentuates the ability of those guys.
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