Q: How much are looking to get a shot at Dallas after the result of the first game?
A: It’s always a great opportunity to try and get a win in your division, whether it’s Dallas, the Redskins or the Eagles. They got us the first time, we get a shot at them again, not only to try and get a win but to try to get things rolling as a team.
Q: Does it bother you or give you extra motivation that you haven’t beaten Dallas since you have been here?
A: I’m not really big into rivalry games, I don’t care too much for it. I treat every team the same, I treat every game the same. Obviously, there is different levels, everyone knows that. I just want to continue to go out there and win every game possible.
Q: How different is the offense than when you left Dallas, you have Daniel, Golden Tate is out there, there is a chance Shep is out there too?
A: Definitely different, hopefully we’ll have all our pieces for this game. Obviously with DJ at quarterback now, I think you see how different we have been since the beginning of the year. I personally feel like we have been very successful, especially on the offensive side of the ball, putting points up. At the end of the day, we haven’t figured out how to win more games, that’s the thing we have to get better at.
Q: What makes you most excited about having all those pieces?
A: You get to go out there and play with your brothers. Obviously, Tate is new, not the league, but to the team. I train with Shep, I train with Evan, we put in a lot of hard work and time here, not just the four of us but the offense as a whole. To finally have us all go out there, hopefully we can go out there and compete at a high level. That’s the team that we put together, so it’s exciting.
Q: What can it do to make you better, how can you be better with everyone out there?
A: I don’t think it’s just that that’s going to make us better. I don’t think we’re bad, we just have to figure out how to win games, we just have to figure that part out. I know it sounds like it’s easy to do but obviously if it was easy to do a lot more teams would have a winning record. I think we can be better because we’re all there and we’re all talented individuals, yes, I do agree with that. At the end of the day where we need to be better at is figuring out how to win. That’s not just offensively, defensively or special teams, that’s all of us together. It’s not individually, we just have to find ways to score more points whether you need 13 points to win a game, 28 points to win a game or you need three, you just have to find a way to win games.
Q: I wanted to see if you thought it would take eyes off of you? Do you think that’s the case?
A: Yeah, it’s the NFL it’s not like college. Yes, do I demand attention, yes, I’ve noticed that while I have been playing, defenses have taken their attention to me. It’s not like it’s college where they are only focused on one guy, it’s not like they are over there saying you have to stop this one person, you have to respect everyone in the NFL. You’re in the NFL for a reason, you’re on the roster for a reason. When you have everyone there it’s more opportunity for guys to make spectacular plays or plays needed. Sometimes a spectacular play is not a 50-yard touchdown run, it’s converting that third and three or having a wide receiver helping on a perimeter block in the run game and making that block to spring a run. Those are the little things even the things that may go unnoticed that are spectacular plays. I guess having all that core back together, you have more opportunity for that to happen because you have talented people.
Q: In your short career, this is the fourth time playing the Cowboys. Do you feel you have more of a sense of what they are about because you have a little bit of a history with them?
A: You get familiar with them a little more than other teams. You just get familiar with your division more than other teams because you play them twice a year and other teams you may only see them once and you may not see them for another four years. I guess you could understand them a lot, you know a lot of those guys personally pretty well. I respect all their games, I respect all their talent on the defensive side of the ball. I’ve already been quoted saying how good they are on defense and how good they are as a team, how I respect Jaylon (Smith), I respect Sean Lee, Lawrence and all those guys. I guess you could say you get a better feel, but at the end of the day your game plan doesn’t change, the extra work you put in doesn’t change, it’s just another game that that you have to go out there and try to find a way to win.
Q: How much does this group need a lift?
A: I think any week it’s big to get a win. After losing four in a row, I feel like we have been very close in a lot of those games, to be able to get a win not only against Dallas who is a division opponent but at home, anytime you want to spark something. I feel like we have been real close, we’ve been there, it just hasn’t been falling the way we would like to. Hopefully, it can this week.
Q: You were pretty adamant in the locker room after the game Sunday that you need to see things, starting with yourself but also from everybody else, kind of look in the mirror and pay attention to detail. Have you seen that this week, have you seen what you wanted to see to believe this team is ready to take that step?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s believe that the team is ready to take the step I want to or we need to. The point was never to say I didn’t believe, the point was just saying we lost four games in a row and we lost some really close games, we just have to figure out how to flip that script. Yes, I have seen that from myself and the team. I think practice has been going really well, we’ve been practicing at a really high level but we have been doing that in the past weeks too. It’s not just only in practice, in the film room, in the weight room. I do think we have been doing a great job, we have to continue to have that recipe and now go out there on Sundays and figure out a way to switch it around and flip the script for us.
Q: Is the division still wide open, can a win this Monday send you on a path to winning the NFC East?
A: Can it? Yes it probably can, but is that our focus? No. Everything we want is still out there, our goal and every team’s goal is to go to the playoffs and compete for a super bowl. Is that still out there for us, yes, it is, and even though everyone wants to say what they want to say about our team, we understand everything that we want is still there. We’re not focused to have this game, win, and then go compete for the NFC East. You can’t go compete for the NFC East if you don’t just focus on tomorrow and that’s another day to practice, get better and prepare yourself for Sunday.
Q: Do you think people expect too much from you based on last year?
A: Do I think people expect too much out of me? I think the best way to answer that is the same way I have answered it when I first got here, and people expected it or told me I had to do this or that. I don’t care about other people’s opinion, I don’t care about you guys’ opinion to be honest. The only people’s opinion I care about are the people in this locker room and the people in this facility and my loved ones at home.
Q: Where do you think the running game is at since you have been back, Mike Shula used the word close?
A: Since I came back, yes, close. I think the line is doing a good job of getting movement, creating movement up front, stopping penetration. I think we ran the ball a lot better in the first half than in the second half last week. Playing from behind doesn’t help the running game, you have to take notice of that. You have to take it one day at time, play by play, when the opportunities come, make them pay for it.
Q: Do you keep track of what Elliott’s doing in Dallas?
A: He’s a great back, do I keep track, not really. I’m too focused over here, if there’s times when I can catch him on film or catch a game, he’s always putting on a show, he’s one of my favorite backs in the league, you guys already know that. Not only do I play in the NFL, but I am a fan of the NFL and he’s a guy I am a real big fan of him and I respect his game. Every time you face that guy you know he is going to be a tough challenge.
Q: Remember back in Week 1 you were well aware of how fast their defender ran to catch you on that run in Dallas, do you let plays like that motivate you the next time you see a team?
A: No, my thing is you have to find a way to score on that play. I was running 21.9 (mph) or 21 something and he was running 22 something. Credit to him, he made a good play but that the end of the day we still scored on that drive. My focus in a situation like that is try to find a way to go and eliminate the next play because you never know what can happen. It could be a turnover, it could be this it could be that. The next play could be a touchdown, that’s up in the air, when you have an opportunity to hit those, try to find a way to hit it. He made a good play on that I guess.
Q: The only reason I ask is because I remember you remembering the exact details of that play and I know you are a detailed oriented guy? I just figured it was one of those plays that sticks with you .
A: The next time it happens if you want to look at that play and what I could do differently, press and set his angle a different way, use a stiff arm there. Those are two ways you could use to help in that situation. I was moving, he was moving, and he made a play.
Q: You like the stiff arm you used in Detroit?
A: It was a good play, but I don’t think we scored on that drive. I don’t think we put it in the box on that drive, so the play doesn’t really matter.
Q: When you are out and about and talk to fans, do they tell you a lot about the Cowboys? Do they say please beat the Cowboys?
A: Not just the Cowboys but whoever we are playing that week, the Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins. Whatever team they dislike the most I guess, that’s what you hear.
Q: Do you get a sense on who they dislike the most?
A: You really can’t tell. You hear Redskins, you hear Eagles, you hear Cowboys, you hear all those guys. You hear the Jets, you hear teams like that, who we only play in the preseason that we happen to play this year.
Q: You will hear the Jets next week?
A: Yeah, hopefully we can please all those guys.
Q: Does Monday Night Football do anything for you?
A: It’s special because that’s the thing you grew up watching. Watching Monday Night football and just NFL football, but there is no extra motivation because it’s Monday night, prime-time or this and that. It doesn’t really matter, that doesn’t factor into the work that I put in. My mindset is to try and go out there and win a game whether it’s Sunday, Monday or Thursday.
Q: The rest of the league is watching, do you like that part of it?
A: We’re not doing it for them, so it doesn’t really matter.
OC Mike Shula
Q: Do you envision having (Sterling) Shep back?
A: Well, we hope so, yeah. He’s been out of practice the last few weeks getting better. Coach (Shurmur) will make that decision on whether or not he’s ready to go. If he’s ready, we’ll get him in there and hopefully pick up where he left off.
Q: What makes (Darius) Slayton so good at winning those jump ball, 50-50 balls? You threw him basically a screen at the end zone and he went over a guy for a touchdown.
A: The one thing I’ll say about that, and the first thing I want to say is that he played just like he practiced last week. All week long, he was doing the same thing. He just got into the game and did a really good job. He’s been impressive. He still has a long way to go. He’s a young guy. He’s learning on adjustments, on releases, on making contested catches. But he does a really good job of, like you said, going up and having strong hands. I think he learned from the New England game, where he had, against a really good corner, a very similar opportunity and their corner did a good job and made a play. Like everybody else and everything else, just kind of looking for when he has those opportunities again, be consistent and do those same things.
Q: If Shepard does play, what makes you excited about the possibility of having all of those guys for the first time together on the field?
A: I think you have guys, and I think I said this earlier, that are interchangeable. Play inside, play outside, they’re good with the football in their hands once we get it into their hands. Just talent wise, I think they’ve got good change of direction, quickness and things like that. Hopefully, that will be the case. We have a lot of young pieces on our offense. We think we’re really close, too. It’s a tough time for us right now as we know going through this, but I think the players are still seeing through some of the tough times. They’re seeing a lot of the good things and knowing that we’re really close. We just need to put it together.
Q: How much more of a challenge, though, when a defense looks out there and they have to deal with Saquon (Barkley), (Sterling) Shepard, (Evan) Engram. They all haven’t been healthy. (Golden) Tate.
A: Hopefully that presents a challenge for…we can’t just have one guy that we’re going to try to lean on on any down and not be predictable. I think that sometimes, maybe we’ve got guys where, ‘Hey, they’re a little bit nervous, they might have to cheat the coverage that way,’ and all of a sudden, that opens up for Saquon or for Golden or for, as we said, Slayton is emerging in some one-on-one situations. So, whether or not it’s zone and they kind of cheat the coverage, or man-to-man and maybe they spend a little more time in the man area with either a matchup or getting, if a guy who’s not in man kind of playing in that hole zone position helping out, it opens up for other guys.
Q: Does a handful of snaps late in a losing game in the opener help Daniel (Jones) at all? This is the first time he’s going against a team for the second time. He certainly prepared for them the first time. The familiarity, anything there?
A: Maybe a little bit. More so than anything else, just getting his feet wet. But also, just recognizing the speed in person. These guys are really fast across the board. Upfront, with the pass rush, with the guys, even if it’s man coverage, or their linebackers or their safeties, who are getting to the football fast. You see it on tape, but like you said, those few snaps, especially in that situation where we’re in throwing situations unfortunately for us, that might kind of help him recognize how fast they really are.
Q: Where do you think the running game is? Since Barkley has returned, it seems like just a few good runs here and there.
A: Yeah, like everything else, we feel like we’re close. Even though we’ve had some good runs, we’re close where we haven’t been good enough in some other areas. I think it’s like everything else where it’s a team thing where maybe one guy here or one guy there, not necessarily anything in particular. But guys are working hard. The guys upfront have been really good leading us in that area. We just have to put it all together.
Q: What do you think is the best quality Daniel has?
A: I know Coach has talked about this, too, but I think he’s very resilient. For a young guy, he really does a good job of moving on to the next play, moving on to the next series. If it’s a negative play, he gets mad but he doesn’t let it affect him. In fact, you kind of see even more determination. For a young guy to keep… We’re not good enough. What we’ve been doing at that position still hasn’t been good enough, because the scoreboard is our judge. But I think he’s been a good, quiet leader along the way, and he has gotten better. Again, he’s kind of like the rest of the team. Just have to put it all together.
Q: How do you coach your offensive tackles when they’re veterans and they’re struggling, and you’re trying to improve the pass protection? But obviously, they’ve done it for a long time. Is it different than coaching a rookie?
A: Yes and no. I think there’s probably a little more dialogue, communication with guys. I’ve never coached the offensive line, but I kind of relate it to coaching quarterbacks and some of the other positions I’ve coached. I think you just make sure you still say, ‘Hey, this is when it’s good enough, and look here, this is why. And this is when it’s not, and look here, this is why. And then this is what we have to work on.’ And just keep building on the good, correcting the bad and moving on, because we have good players upfront or whatever position it is. If there’s anybody that’s maybe not playing at the highest level of his game, then you just kind of block everything else out and attack the thing specifically.
Q: How much do you look at DeMarcus Lawrence as the guy you point to in that defense and say, ‘This is the guy. We really have to watch out for this guy’?
A: They have a lot of good players, but he’s one of the first guys you talk about and say…And it’s easier to say than it is to do, say ‘Hey, we can’t let this guy beat us.’ But they know that, too. They do a really good job in their scheme and trying to help things where you can’t just go double guys. They also do a really good job letting him do what he does best, and that’s a lot of things. Yeah, I mean that’s why they’re good. He’s one of many good players, and he’s one of the best, if not the best, on their defense. It’s going to be a collective effort with everybody being on point in the run game, staying out of long yardage situations, getting the ball out on time in the passing game, and then mixing up our protections and help and all of that kind of stuff.
DC James Bettcher
Opening Statement: I know it’s repetitive, but it’s the truth, the thing I love about the group is when we come in after a game, our guys are aware. Sometimes it’s hard to overcome adversity when you look at things and you don’t see the facts in them, the truth in them, and the areas that you need individually to get better. I love that about this group because they’re aware. They’re working on the things individually and we’re being very intentional on improving those things. These guys continue to work extremely hard, they continue to run to things instead of running away from it and pointing fingers. I love that about the group, and we’ve had two really good days of practice and I think all of us are excited to get to Monday and have a chance to play in front of our home crowd.
Q: What happened last week on the (Marvin) Hall 49-yard touchdown? Was there a miscommunication on the back end?
A: There was no miscommunication on the back end. We need to play better. We need to execute better in the back end, and that’s one of the things we talked about in the room, we have to play more complementary. When something happens in the back end with a guy not doing what he needs to do, there’s guys up front that need to beat someone, and we need to win in one-on-one, and we need to create some pass rush, and I think you see that on Sundays sometimes where someone in the back might not be perfect, but someone up front makes them right. Or vice-versa, someone up front’s not right and someone behind them makes them better. So, there was not poor communication, we just did not execute correctly to that side of the coverage, but also up front I didn’t see anybody’s hands near the quarterback and I didn’t see the quarterback on the ground, so it goes hand in hand.
Q: What do you like about the accountability and emotion that you’ve seen in Jabrill Peppers? He was as upset as anybody in that locker room with the defense.
A: I love that about him. If you come in our defensive meeting room and you sat with us, you’d feel the same from all of our guys. I think if you’re discouraged, you end up running away from things. I think if you’re upset, if you’re angry, if you’re mad, those are good emotions to have. We just channel them in the right direction. We have to channel them toward the solution, not the problem. I love all those things about him, he plays extremely hard, he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s all those things. Just collectively as a group, we’ve just got to keep working and we’ve got to make the plays that are there to be made for us and not allow one mistake by one person to turn into a 49-yard play. Then, like I said before, on the flip side of it is we have to play complementary. The rush has got to work for the coverage and the coverage has got to work for the rush, and vice-versa.
Q: In the opener, that was DeAndre’s (Baker) first game as an NFL DB and there were a lot of big plays down the field. This is his second time for the first time ever against the same opponent—do you think that will help him? Is he more ready to compete at a higher level than he was in that opener?
A: Yes, I believe so. I think he has played progressively better through the course of the year. I think technique, fundamentals, awareness of splits and spacing on the field, the things in this league that you have to have to be able to not just win the down but to be able to compete on the down, I think he’s doing a better job at all those. I anticipate him playing better, just like the rest of our guys.
Q: And there’s a familiarity with the receivers—he’s run with these guys now--
A: Sure, I think absolutely, all that goes into play.
Q: What do you like about Leonard Williams, and how quickly can he fit in?
A: I think long, explosive, a guy who’s tough, very versatile. Over the last two years he’s played in two different schemes with the Jets and played nose, played three technique, played five, played on the outside, played over the tight end, so you see the versatility of the player, and he plays hard. He plays hard. He’s gotten here and you can see he’s an extremely hard worker. He gets in here at the beginning of the week, and here I guess we’re three quarters of the way through the week and he’s not making mistakes, he’s locked in on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and he’s working his tail off. So, we’re excited to have him, we’re excited to have an opportunity to work with him.
Q: How much does your scheme fit him? You like to get guys up the field. He wasn’t able to get the sack numbers with the Jets, but he’ll have an opportunity to get the quarterback.
A: I do believe that this will be a good fit for him. I think that he’s a guy that when you just keep watching more, obviously we watched quite a bit of his tape from the Jets, and I think I said this a couple weeks ago, sometimes there’s more to rushing the passer than just—we all want the sack number, we all want the quarterback hit number, but there’s something to getting a guy off the spot on the inside and making the quarterback lower his vision and have to move left or right. Whether that counts as a pressure or a quarterback hit or not, you see him doing that on tape. I’m excited for him to do that with us, and I think our interior D-linemen are excited to have him with them, too, and those guys have been working well and have been having a lot of great conversations together. It hasn’t at all been an environment where he’s come in and any of our guys have shied away. I think it’s been just the opposite. I think you see guys, they’re circling around each other and having conversations about whether it’s rush or run fits or those kinds of things. So, you can see that from an impact standpoint.
Q: How much carryover is there from Todd Bowles’ system? How similar are your systems?
A: I can’t speak for what they did in New York, how he called stuff, but I think there are certainly similarities. I think it’s a 3-4 system and a 3-4 type system that both of us still run and I think that does matter in terms of carryover. I know there is some language that’s the same that he remembers. But I think, to me, when it’s those kinds of transitions for a player, it’s about the player’s work, and his work has been outstanding.
Q: You know the stats and the numbers and the rankings. Where are you most disappointed in the defense to this point?
A: The explosive plays, for sure. The explosive plays because you change two explosive plays a game or one explosive play a game and then all those things that you’re talking about, whatever those numbers are ranked, they all change. And it changes field position, and in close games, which we’ve played some close games, field position is points. Those have to continue to get erased. We all know that and there’s no hiding that, there’s no hiding the emphasis we’re putting on it, there’s no hiding the emphasis. We’re trying as a coaching staff to take the ownership of what those things are and why they’re happening. Again, I can’t tell you how much I love the players and their responsiveness to that.
Q: Do the plays where the receiver is wide open just bother the heck out of you?
A: I think any time there’s an explosive play, no matter whether we get beat or a guy is wide open, whatever it is, I think all those don’t make you happy.
Q: How much of an increased role do you think (Deone) Bucannon can play this week?
A: I think he’ll continue to get more snaps as he re-familiarizes himself with some of the stuff that we’re doing, then as the situations kind of reveal themselves on game day for him.
Q: Leonard Williams, do you feel that he can play a major role right away in his first game, especially since he just saw the Cowboys?
A: Yeah, he’s definitely going to play.
Q: Outside the building, the perception is the trade deadline comes and a team that’s 6-2 might add a piece, a team that’s 2-6 might subtract. You guys added a piece at 2-6 to your defense, and I think it’s, as you said, a well-regarded piece. What was your line of thinking when you first heard that this was being considered, and what does that mean, what can it do to this defense with a player of that caliber coming in here?
A: First thing is you’re excited as hell. You love it. We have a commitment to keep working to get better in every way we can as a defense, whether that’s coaching, playing, the roster, whatever it is. That just shows you the commitment all the way through to make us a better defense. I think kind of what he brings, I think that was part of your question, what he brings I think is a guy that’s long and tough and physical and plays hard, and some of those traits are similar to the guys that we have in the room. Tough, physical, plays hard, I think he brings a length aspect, I think he brings an inside quickness aspect for us. I’ll obviously be excited to watch him play on Monday. Again, he works extremely hard. He’s running around at practice, he’s working hard in the classroom, outside the building, he’s coming in with questions. He’s really trying to get on the same page and on the same page fast.
Q: Do you take it as a message from above, the idea that they didn’t take guys away from this defense? It’s almost like they believe in what you’re doing, at least that’s my perception, that they want to give you more to work with rather than taking guys away and starting over.
A: There’s probably different ways you could look at it, and that certainly might be one of them. I think when I sit back and look at it, I’m so narrowed in on—as a coordinator, as a position coach, you’re so narrowed in on continuing to do well what we’re doing well and to fix our areas from a scheme, from a fundamental, from a technique standpoint. That’s really what you do as a coach. Dave (Gettleman) and our personnel department, they handle all the player transactions and those kinds of things. As a coach, you just stay so focused on the present and the now and the guys that you’re working with and trying to help those guys maximize their potential.
STC Thomas McGaughey
Q: Any consistent mistakes Aldrick (Rosas) is making?
A: Not really. It’s just, he has to get into a rhythm. It’s kind of hard when you don’t have a lot of attempts. We’re talking about six field goal attempts. It’s just getting in that game rhythm. We all, as a group, are kind of struggling with our rhythm, practiced a little bit, but it’s getting better. We’ve made some breakthroughs this week as far as our rhythm and cadence and everything with our snap, our holder, and our kicker. It will work itself out, it always does.
Q: The Lions obviously had success with short kickoffs and I think that’s something they do all the time…
A: Yeah, they do that all of the time.
Q: Why don’t more teams do that? It does seem like it can work to your advantage.
A: That’s a good question. I think it’s more of a philosophy. In order to do that, you have to spend time at it and I don’t know if people are willing to dedicate time to it, or resources to it. In order to hang a kick up, you better have some people that can cover the kicks. Again, organizationally, it’s just their philosophy and how they see it.
Q: What do you need to do to be more successful against that?
A: You’ve got to execute. It’s extremely important to time it and to space it for kickoff returns, especially for what we do, is extremely important. So, anytime the timing and the spacing is compromised, it’s where you get in trouble. You want to be able to hit the creases at full speed, and if you’re hesitant or there’s too much space or there’s not enough space, all of the timing gets thrown off. Again, that part, the execution part of it, has to be there.
Q: If Corey (Ballentine) is eligible to play, do you throw him right back there as a kickoff returner?
A: I mean, he’s an option. We’ve got options back there with Cody Latimer, Darius (Slayton), we’ve got options. I don’t know if I’ll put him back there, but he’s been practicing at it— he’s done a good job at it. He was one of the better kickoff returners in the league before he got hurt. We’ll figure it out. By the end of the week, we’ll figure out who will be back there.
Q: As a player coming off a concussion, is that a variable in making that decision?
A: Yeah, anytime you have a guy coming off a concussion, for myself as a special teams coach, I’m always kind of leery about it. It’s from player to player. Each guy is different in how they react to the concussions. For me as a coach, I am very cautious in my approach of putting them out there.
Q: You’ve talked a lot how Darius doesn’t have a lot of experience. Is it something where maybe it’s just hard to do in season or can he still be in that mix?
A: It’s a hard skill. Don’t get me wrong. Situation dictates some things, and the situation dictated that he needed to be back there. He just needs to get more experience, needs to get more reps, and he’s a young player, he will.
Q: You did put Cody (Latimer) in for a while, I wonder now that Darius has a bigger role on offense is that maybe an option?
A: Could be. It’s just, again, each week is different. It’s all situational and each week is different. As we move forward, we just have to address each situation as they come.
Q: Is (Dallas Cowboys Kicker Brett) Maher one of the better long-distance kickers in the league?
A: Yeah, he has a very strong leg. Anytime you’ve hit over three, four or whatever it is, over 60 yards, and not just indoors— he did one right across the street over here (at MetLife Stadium). He’s pretty talented, he has a big, strong leg. He’s got some skills, for sure.
Q: How big of a deal do you view the lefty punters?
A: It’s always something that you’re conscious of. It’s a different spin of the ball. We had Ryan Anderson here all through the offseason and during training camp, so our guys got used to catching the lefty punter. We got a kid in this week that is punting to us. It’s always something that you’re conscious of.