Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Remarks: I’ll try to answer your questions. (Olivier Vernon) is out and (Tae Davis) is questionable. Other than that, everybody should be ready to go.
Q: What happened with (Janoris Jenkins) yesterday, anything you can tell us?
A: No, it’s just a family issue. Just give him his space on it. He’s fine. Janoris is fine.
Q: You expect him to play?
A: Yes, he was out here today and ready to go.
Q: With the snaps between (Lorenzo Carter) and (Connor Barwin), it looked like you used Carter mostly on passing downs. Is that how you view it?
A: No, that’s not how we view it. We will probably be able to use both players on first, second and third down.
Q: What made the distribution the way it was?
A: That’s just the way it worked out. We feel like both players can play on first, second and third down.
Q: Are you a coach that changes much week to week?
A: We game plan for our opponent and we try to put our players in the best position to beat the teams we’re playing. This week’s defense is different than last week’s, so there will be a few things we do differently.
Q: You talk a lot about the team’s energy and what you want to see. Do you see the requisite energy going into this game from your team in practice?
A: Yeah, the energy was good. They practiced well, and I thought it was good.
*Q: (James Bettcher) said that he thought the defense’s Wednesday practice was better than the week before. *
A: Yeah, those comparisons can be made certainly early in the year. The first preparation week, everybody’s going through that the first time, and so I notice incremental differences to the good this second week. I felt like Wednesday’s practice was better than last Wednesday, I felt like Thursday’s practice was better, and I actually felt like today’s practice was better than last Friday. That’s what you’re trying to get. When I talk about improvement from a team, you have to practice this game and if you’re fortunate to stay healthy, those are the improvements you look for and hopefully it translates into better play on Sunday.
Q: Any long-term concern about (Olivier Vernon) or do you think he should be back next week?
A: We are hopeful he’ll be back soon, so we’ll see. He did more this week and he got closer. We haven’t seen any setbacks in any way, so we will be hopeful for next week.
*Q: When you go into a game, how much halftime adjustment do you make, or is just a tweak here and there? *
A: Along the way, you’re making adjustments, that’s why we wear headsets. As things happen, you adjust and then certainly when you go in at halftime you talk about the adjustments you have been making and you get the players ready to go out for the second half. There’s a thing or two that you keep for the second half in every game, every team does that, and it looks a little bit new or different, but for the most part and that’s why I kind of say halftime adjustment is tongue and cheek – you’re adjusting constantly. That’s my view of it.
Q: Do you think the players get more comfortable or get used to the amount of adjustments you’re going to make in a game as you move on?
A: That’s part of working together. The longer you work together, the more comfortable everybody is with the little changes that happen during the game.
Q: You used Michael Thomas in the slot nickel more in the first game than I thought you did during the preseason games. Is that because he’s better against the run?
A: No, that’s just the way it played out by how they lined up. He actually did a good job. Again, we’re going to use the players that are up to their best of their ability, use their strengths and that’s one of his strengths, to play low.
Q: How do you approach the primetime game and handling players? Do you do anything different?
A: No, broadcast and then a game breaks out. That’s the way it works.
Q: You mentioned you practice a certain time because you wanted their bodies to be ready for the game. You don’t adjust for that for (primetime)?
A: We don’t worry about that. When you start playing night games, you spend time on the day of the game certainly, move them around, walk-throughs, those types of things. Really what changes only is the Sunday schedule leading up to the game. Typically for a 1 o’clock game, typically you don’t do much, but when you have 4 o’clock and night game type timeframes, you’ll do more with walk-throughs and such.
Q: Does your mantra is ‘if football’s on, I’m watching it’ still count on Sunday? Those 1 o’clock games come on-
A: Yes, I’ve always got it on in the background. I’m a football fan, so when there’s a game on I try to watch it, if I can stay awake.
Q: As far as Sunday goes during the day with your schedule, are there times when you may have the 1 o’clock games on?
A: Yes, we’re sitting around the hotel so we’ll be able to keep track of what’s going on just because we’re fans of the game.
Q: Can you watch Notre Dame-Vanderbilt game or will you be traveling?
A: I think we’re going to be flying. I’m going to try to find a way to get some updates. I’m certainly hoping that Vandy does well.
Q: You’ve played the Cowboys before, you’ve done this and been there, but what are your expectations? This is their home opener, a pretty big game for both teams.
A: Expectation is to go there, play well, and win. That’s what we expect. We had our home opener last week. We don’t really think too much about that. We get ready to play the Cowboys and we go down there and play the game.
Q: I meant more towards the atmosphere.
A: Really for a road team, the thing that affects you is the crowd noise, and we prepare for that regardless if we’re playing at night or during the day. That’s really the effect on the game and every away venue presents the challenge of overcoming crowd noise. We prepared for it and we’re ready to go.
Linebackers Coach Bill McGovern
Q: How impressed have you been with Lorenzo Carter’s development?
A: He’s working at it, he really is. He’s taken everything that we’ve asked him to do and he’s trying to execute it. He’s getting better. There’s things obviously he has to improve on, he’s young, he’s still growing, he’s still learning, but he’s working at it and we’re excited about his approach to the game.
Q: What did you think of your group in the opener?
A: Like all the groups there are things we did well, there are things that need improvement on and we need to get better at. That’s what we’ve been trying to do this week. As a whole the guys played with excitement, the guys were trying to execute what we did. There are things that we did wrong, but we’re trying to get them right now.
Q: What do you think Ray-Ray Armstrong does better than B.J. Goodson?
A: They all have their certain talents and strengths and weaknesses, but in particular the strengths, obviously Ray’s movement in coverage is really good. He’s been solid in that sense. He’s been a guy that has been able to help us in coverage a little bit, so we’re trying to use him and take advantage of his skillset.
*Q: How did it go with Alec Ogletree sort of being the quarterback of the defense with the headset and everything? *
A: No issues. I think his leadership ability has come through. You have seen it even with him being elected team captain, I think you get to see what the guys think about him and how he kind of leads by example out on the field.
Q: It seems like Connor Barwin played a little bit of outside, a little bit of hand on the ground against Jacksonville. Was that something because of his skillset you used him that way, or do you prefer all your outside linebackers be able to do that?
A: I think that has to go a little bit more to with (DC James Bettcher) scheme and how he wants it, but we’ve always said this - the more you can do, the more valuable you become. It was one of those things that Connor moved around, all those things – Kareem (Martin) moved around, Lorenzo moved around, a bunch of the guys we moved around, just trying to put them in different positions and let them execute.
*Q: One of the packages, I think you had maybe five or six LBS on the field, no down linemen. Is that just something that to confuse the offense a little bit? *
A: We’re trying to take advantage of all the guys’ strengths and trying to get them on the field in certain situations when it’s advantageous. If we can get them in there, it’s one of those situations where I’m guessing it’s probably more of a passing situation that you’re seeing those guys on the field, but we’re just trying to take advantage of their skillsets.
Q: When (Landon Collins) moves up where he’s actually in the box a little bit, is he almost playing a linebacker there and how much do the other linebackers have to be aware of him?
A: Everybody’s got an assignment and everybody’s got a responsibility, and Landon being up there is just the call that goes along with the defense. It’s one of those that he’s not doing it on his own or anything like that, it may part of the disguise may be a part of the defense, but as you see all of our guys are moving pieces and move around a bunch.
Q: The Jaguars a couple times ran receivers out of the backfield past your ends, past the outside linebackers. When an offense does that to you are they forcing your outside linebackers to make a decision there? Are they forcing them to drop?
A: They’re not forcing them to do anything, it’s got to be based on our call. If our guy’s supposed to drop, he’s supposed to drop. If he’s supposed to rush, he should rush. It’s one of those things where I have to see the play to tell you what they were trying to get done based on our call, that’s what their responsibly is.
Q: Just seemed like they hit a couple of those - one to a tight end, a touchdown to TJ Yeldon passed Landon, but (Ogletree) was there.
A: Again, that’s a defensive call. We had those plays in the game and we’re trying to correct and get right, and we’re moving on now with the Cowboys.
Q: How comfortable are you with your linebackers in coverage against a running back because obviously they faced Saquon all training camp and they’re going to face Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday?
A: As you know, this is the NFL. There’s good players on every team, there’s good running backs. So, every week, were going to be working our tail off trying to make sure we can cover any assignment Bettcher puts us in.
Q: How much did you have to adjust without having Olivier Vernon?
A: Right now, Bettcher is trying to take advantage of the guys we have available to us. The guys out there we thought tried to execute what we wanted they tried to play with energy and excitement, so we’ve got to, like I mentioned, try to correct some things because we didn’t win the game and we’ve got to get back at it again today.
Tight Ends Coach Lunda Wells
Q: How did you feel your guys performed in Week 1?
A: They did ok, but again, ok is not good enough. You got some things that we worked throughout this week that we tried to clean up, fundamentally and technique wise. As the season progresses, that’s where we got to continue to build our foundation. Getting better with the fundamentals and the techniques. I think that allows us to play pretty well so we can impact the game.
Q: How has Evan Engram developed as a blocker?
A: He’s gotten better, but again, is he where we need him to be at as a team? No, and he’s working his behind off every day, every week to continue to get better with the techniques. He’s done a really good job of understanding the techniques, understanding the footwork and the things that we’re asking him to do. He’s continuing to progress because of his hard work.
Q: As a coach, how do you work with a player who struggles with dropping the ball? What can you do to help fix that?
A: I think with catching the football, some might say is it mental? No, I think with him, he’s been built to catch the football. He has 10-inch hands. I think just like a baseball hitter, just keep getting more attempts at the plate, and keep swinging at it, and you’ll be hitting .500. The biggest thing is for him just continue to catch more footballs. We’ve been emphasizing that during practice. Emphasizing it pre-practice and post-practice with ball drills, even in our meeting room. Just to continue to keep catching footballs. I think that’s the way you get better at catching footballs.
Q: Do you work with Evan to reinsure him on what he needs to focus on and eliminating the negativity?
A: Yeah, at times with guys who are really competitive, at times they put a lot of pressure on themselves, and he’s really competitive. I think the mental approach of being positive, and like you said, pointing out some of the positive things that he’s doing so he doesn’t get overwhelmed with the things that he’s not doing so well. I think that’s very critical to keep emphasizing some of those positive things that’s he’s doing.
Q: What kind of help can (TE) Rhett Ellison be to the offensive tackles?
A: In coach’s (Shurmur) system, he’s always used tight ends in protection. So, I don’t know if I look at it as help to the tackles. I think any guy that has to block those guys has to win their one-on-one matchup. Rhett is a tremendous blocker. He understand things in terms of the techniques that we’re teaching. Protection wise, he’s a guy that allows us some flexibility to execute some things that’s already in our offense. Really, all the tight ends are being taught and emphasize the protection element and the techniques.
Q: What were (TE) Scott Simonson’s qualities that helped him make this roster?
A: Simonson, he’s very tough. He’s very smart. He gives you the ability to be a blocker. Also, being a guy that you can move around formation wise. I think his redeeming quality was his toughness and the ability to be an adequate blocker.
CB Janoris Jenkins
Q: Everything alright? We saw you leave yesterday and they said it was a family situation.
A: Yeah, everything’s good.
Q: How different will the Cowboys passing game be? There’s no (Jason) Witten and there’s no Dez Bryant. It looks kind of weird, I’m sure, when you see it on film.
A: Yeah, it looks weird. We got to prepare the way we always prepare. Expect the unexpected and just play football. We understand that they got a good running game and they’re trying to pick it up in the passing game so we’re just going to take it one play at a time.
Q: Is it a mindset that you have to watch out for the running game more?
A: Yeah it’s a mindset. We understand what they like to have lead them is the running game and we just got to play physical and fast and we’ll be okay.
Q: Does it feel like there’s a little more at stake this week? Loser of this game goes 0-2, I think it’s something like 10 teams since 2007 have started 0-2 and made the playoffs. Does it feel like there’s more on the line Sunday than a normal week?
A: I don’t look at it like that. I just look at it as another game that we got to win, that we want to win and just got out there and play hard.
Q: Both Pat (Shurmur) and James (Bettcher) said that they thought the practices this week were a lot better, a lot crisper. Do you notice that and why do you think that is?
A: We had a nice tempo, everybody flying to the ball, communicating, hand signals, everybody just flying around.
Q: Does missing a day of practice hurt you at all?
A: Not really. Situation like that, some things happen, but no, not really. Just come back and focus back on football and continue to go.
Q: Was it hard for you, I don’t know how much you want to share with what’s going on with your family situation, but just concerns about on the field were you able to put that aside and kind of –
A: Yeah, short term memory. In life things happen, just have to move forward and come back to work and pick up where I left
Linebacker Alec Ogletree
A: Hopefully throughout the season, we can continue to do that week in and week out. Being that we are playing Dallas this week, it definitely brings your focus in a little bit more for sure.
Q: What kind of similarities can you take from playing (Jaguars RB) Leonard Fournette last week to playing (Cowboys RB) Ezekiel Elliott this week? Or, are they just two completely different backs?
A: They’re both different in their own ways. They can run the ball downhill really well, and have decent hands out the backfield. It’s different because of the different personnel all over the field. Like I said, we try to learn from what we did last week – first in the run, being the number one rushing team. Then come this week, play the number two rushing team. It’s definitely a good challenge for us.
Q: Is it different not having (WR) Dez Bryant or (TE) Jason Witten out on the field?
A: It’s definitely a difference just because you always knew those guys were going to be there for however long. Then all of a sudden, they’re not there. So, you’re kind of looking for them on the film, you see certain routes that the tight ends and the receivers run. Now you’re like, ah man that used to be Witten and Dez right there. They got a good group of guys there. They still do some of the same stuff, but it’s definitely a difference in watching them.
Q: Can you sense that (QB) Dak Prescott has a favorite target or a go-to guy that he throws the ball to often?
A: They only played one game. Like you said, it’s a whole new receiving corps, tight ends, stuff like that. They have their guys that they like to throw to, I’m sure. For us, whoever he throws the ball to, we need to be there to make the plays.
Q: How are you guys handling the absence of (LB) Olivier Vernon? How confident are you in the rest of this group to step up and fill his void?
A: It’s the same thing. It’s a next man up league. Guys go down all the time, but it’s harder to replace a guy like that, for sure. The guys that have stepped in last week got to do the same thing this week. I thought they handled themselves pretty well and prepared really well.
Q: What does rookie (LB) Lorenzo Carter bring to the team?
A: He’s a Georgia Dog, for one, so he already has a step on a lot of people (laughter). For him, he’s been doing well. He came in, learned the playbook. Just getting his feet wet, learning what to do. Like I said, with OV being out, he’s one of the guys that have to step up and make plays for us, and he’s done nothing less than that.
Q: When Prescott rolls out of the pocket, do you feel as if he’s doing it to buy some extra time to throw? Or, is he really going to take off and run?
A: He definitely wants to throw the ball once he gets outside the pocket, but he has the ability to run it. It kind of varies play to play, I would assume, for him. He definitely looks to throw the ball down the field when he does scramble out.