Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale
Well, got a great challenge this week. (Cowboys quarterback) Dak's (Prescott) playing at a high level, (Cowboys wide receiver) CeeDee's (Lamb) playing at a high level. They are really turning it on as an offense and really starting to click and when I say Dak's playing at the highest level, I think he's really back. He's healthy and he's distributing the ball well. We had a tough one last week. Really was the tale of two halves. I give Vegas their props because that quarterback and they stuck with the run longer than they have in the past and they were running the ball effectively in the first half. We were going to take away (Raiders wide receiver) Davante Adams and other players made plays. The second half, we made our adjustments after we saw their adjustments and I thought we played tremendously better than what we did in the first half. With that, I'll open it up to questions.
Q: What did you think of (safety) Xavier's (McKinney) comments after the game? Did they bother you?
A: Yeah, I mean it surprised me because it's the first time it's ever happened in my career.
Q: What's the first time?
A: That a player would make a statement like that. I think it was a case where the kid is just frustrated from losing. We spoke, we cleared it up. The example that he gave me of what he was talking about was an in-game adjustment and it was over – I mean it really took a while for him to point out to me exactly what it was, but I think that you grow from that. I just told him that's something that it's hurt the locker room, it hurts the defensive room when you say something like that. I'll tell you all the exact thing I used is it – and I understand clicks and all the things that you do and I respect your profession, but the example I used in front of him and the entire defense was when you make a statement like that, it puts money in your pockets and takes it out of ours, talking about the media, you know what I mean? I said you just have to understand that it was an emotional thing right after the game and you've just got to learn from it, so we're moving on.
Q: Was there anything to what he said in your eyes? Or was it just all frustration?
A: I'll just keep that between us but like I said, we're moving on. I spoke – because I had to evaluate, I had to go back and talk to the leaders and when I say leaders, you don't have to have a 'C' on your chest to be a leader. I talked to the vets, (defensive lineman) A'Shawn (Robinson) and Nacho (defensive lineman Rakeem Nuñez-Roches), I can go down the list, (inside linebacker) Bobby (Okereke), I talked to everybody in every room, and I said 'hey, is
there something that we're not discussing? Is there a problem here?' And to a man, they said no. Like I said, we are moving on and we will see what happens when we come to Dallas.
Q: You have those keep it real sessions with those guys very often. Because you have those, was that particularly surprising?
A: Yeah, that's my point. Because I end every meeting with, 'Does anybody have anything? Any questions? Any concerns? Are we okay? (Are) your families okay?' Because it's a safe space, if you have something, say something. We like the plan. I check all the boxes and I mean it when I say it and we've had discussions and we've had some different personalities that have been in those rooms, that you've had discussions. And I think that's a good thing, before the fact, before the game, those type of discussions. I said, 'I mean it when I say it, so if you have something, say something.'
Q: Were there conversations on the sideline during the game? That's what he seemed to say, he wanted to change things and it felt like he wasn't being heard, so are you saying he didn't say that during the game?
A: I'll just let him explain that because what he explained to me was a coverage that we ran one time. So, like I said, I just think he was frustrated. Like I said, he explained that to me afterwards. I didn't hear about it during the game and that's why, that's another reason why it caught me by surprise. but like I said it's…
Q: What's the best way to prevent it from hurting the locker room?
A: I think we already did that. I think we've talked about it as a group. It's like I said, when I go in there – and it's not the easiest thing to do -- to stand up in front of these guys and say 'Hey, is there a problem?' because there is a lot of people who just glaze over it and not even address it. We addressed it. We like confrontation. I like confrontation and I think that's the only way you can move forward as a defense and go from there and if you don't do that, I think that you are letting something grow, that is needless to let grow.
Q: Will McKinney be in his usual role to start this game this week?
A: You are going to have to talk to Dabs (Head Coach Brian Daboll) about that. I haven't had any discussions with he or (Senior Vice President and General Manager) Joe (Schoen) about it but as of right now, we are planning on him being in his usual role.
Q: Do you think he grew from any of this? In terms of after the fact, after he already said what he said.
A: I think you are going to ask him that. We'll see when we come to play the game.
Q: It seems like that really hurt you though.
A: Yeah, it did. It did because I've always been open, I've always been honest with players and I think if you have a problem, it's just how we handle things in that room.
Q: And this was literally the first time a player under you did this?
A: Yeah, you read it and go, 'What? What is he talking about', you know what I mean? It's alright, we are moving on from it.
Q: In that room though, did other players have your back?
A: I think you've got to ask them that. Everybody was positive with me that I talked to, so I think there might be somebody that's not feeling that way to tell you what you want to hear. I don't know.
Q: And this is stuff that happens in these kinds of seasons, right?
A: Sure. Sure.
Q: Even if it hasn't happened to you before, it's a symptom of a losing season, I would guess.
A: Sure, it's frustration. It's easy for me to come up and talk about it five days later, I know that. You know what I mean? It's easy for me to do now. I don't know how I would've reacted or what I would have said if (you came to me and said), 'He said this, well how do you feel?' You know what I mean? Or whatever question you get asked.
Q: Since we've known you here, you always have a good read on how your defense is going to react to certain situations, how you are going to respond. Obviously, not an easy spot to go into Dallas after what happened in Week 1 and whatever happened last week, how they feel. Do you have an idea as to how your defense is going to respond, do you think it's going to be a positive?
A: I think it's definitely going to be a positive because of what we are talking about before, the leadership that we have in that room. I mean, here's the thing, it's like we have to find a better way to start faster on road trips, especially west coast when you look at it that way. But I also respect and can appreciate the fact that there is four minute drive and it's fourth down and we have guys fighting their tail off to stop them on fourth down with 27 seconds left in the game. That's not a norm in the NFL, of how guys take it all the way to the end and this group does.
I said it before here, I love this group that we have. We've played really good defense for the last month prior to Vegas, and I expect us to continue to just keep getting better. And fix the things, it's more technique stuff in this last game in the first half that got us, but I expect us to keep getting better.
Q: McKinney is a pending free agent, does this impact whether you would advocate for him coming back next year?
A: We've got eight weeks left, so we will see where we are at the end of the season.
Q: I know there is only so much you can do on defense; I'm assuming most coaches are looking at what the paths to victory are in games, and obviously you guys offensively are going with a young quarterback with not a lot of experience against a team that's got, as you just mentioned, some pretty good weapons. Is there any added urgency to score on defense? I know you want to do that every week, I'm sure, but when you are in the situation you are in right now, is there anything you try to dial up or whatever?
A: I think if there is a study of that of when defenses score, it's usually in a high scoring game a lot of times when that happens. I think that we just need to try to execute the best we can execute at the highest level, and I think that we've got a good plan going into this and see how it all comes out on Sunday.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka
Q: What are you the things that you learned about and liked about (quarterback) Tommy (DeVito) this summer when he was playing?
A: Tommy's continued to grow every single day that he's been here from rookie camp. Just learning the offense and understanding how to be a pro and doing all the little things, all the things that work into that. Whether it's studying, preparation, being in the huddle with the guys, being a leader and a teammate and then understanding what the NFL game is about and how much detail that goes into that. I think he's really honed in on that. Each week, you look his notes and it's just like getting better and better every single day, so that's probably the biggest thing.
Q: Ever since July when training camp started, he's always conducted himself as somebody who felt like he belongs, which can kind of be difficult for a free agent rookie. What is it about his confidence level that you've noticed? And is that rare?
A: He approaches the position with confidence, and obviously when you're playing quarterback, you want to have that confidence, you want to have that demeanor when you walk into the huddle. I think he has that. It's something that looks like he's had his whole life. He's a confident kid, not just on the field but also off the field, too. He brings an energy with him that kind of permeates throughout the room.
Q: Where did you first see that? When he arrived here, I guess, where did you see that confidence come in? Was it on the field? Was it in the meeting room?
A: You saw it really quickly, even when we had him in for that rookie camp in the meeting rooms interacting with him and then once you get on the field, there's a lot of learning. There's a lot of stuff and a lot of growing that goes with it, so it doesn't just come right away on the field, but I think as he got more comfortable within the system, got more comfortable with his specific job, I think you saw that growth there.
Q: You were a mid-round pick. It's pretty rare in the league, what do you think of the jump from undrafted rookie to starting as a rookie?
A: I think for him, just understand that it's an opportunity to take advantage of. It's obviously not something that happens all the time, like you said, but it's an opportunity, so he's got to go out there and take advantage of it.
Q: You've talked in the past about when you're a play caller, you're trying to get a feel for your offense. When you spend all summer getting a feel for one offense and now the offense is going to be reinvented twice in the last couple of weeks with different quarterbacks. How do you gain a feel of what your quarterback now can do with pieces that he really hasn't been with other than emergency situations in a game?
A: I think my time with that quarterback room, Tommy and all the guys in there, you spend time with them, and you try to get an understanding of what they like and what some of their favorites are. Obviously, you're doing that when you're calling games in the preseason and stuff like that and you're working through the gameplan of the week, and you look back at some of the stuff he did well in preseason or some of the stuff he did well in college and try to get a real good feel for how he likes to operate. Then you put together a plan that not only fits that person but all the other 10 guys on the field.
Q: You have that experience of trying to get up the ladder as far as rising up the depth chart. He mentioned yesterday his throws to (wide receiver Darius) Slayton were the first time he's ever thrown to Darius. Things like that, is that what you guys are trying to speed up over the last – yesterday, today and tomorrow? The idea that he's now playing with essentially teammates but new guys.
A: We're working that throughout the practice and getting everyone on the same page and he's done a great job of bringing those guys together and talking through with them and opening those lines of communication, whether it's with the coaching staff or with the players. I think that's just part of the process when you have something like this, it's not necessarily just at quarterback, it's at any position. When you have a new person in there, you've got to ramp up those levels of communication and detail.
Q: I know you saw him in Week 1, but how do you have a plan for (Cowboys linebacker) Micah Parsons?
A: Micah's a really great player. They have a lot of great players on that defense, so we've got to make sure that we put together a great plan that we can support. Support those guys and make sure that we handle some of the things they do up front, handle some of the things that they do on the backend and put our players in the best position to be successful.
Q: The Cowboys lead the league in pressure percentage. They're at 45 percent or right around there. What's the key in your mind to slowing that defense down?
A: I think the biggest part is putting together a plan that our guys can go out there and execute. Whether it's in the run game, in the pass game, things where our guys can play fast. These guys play a fast style of defense, an aggressive style of defense, so we have to be able to match that and I think having the right mentality throughout this week of practice, putting together the right plan for those guys to do that, I think that's going to give us a chance.
Q: Is it too simple to think that if they're a good pressure defense that the easiest way to beat them is to just run at them?
A: I don't think there's one way to do that. I think you have to be multiple. I think in this league if you just do one thing, I think teams kind of bank on that little bit. So, you want to be multiple, we want to make sure we have a wide variety of things we can use, whether it's run game, pass game, movements, play actions, all the different variables within that with motions and shifts and stuff so we want to try to be as variable as possible.,
Q: (Tackle) Andrew Thomas thought he was a little rusty in his own words, but he kind of got comfortable in the second half. What did you see? And obviously having him back out there kind of changed some things.
A: It was great to have him back out there, you saw it right away. I don't know if I would disagree with him, but I think he did a great job in the game. I think the more he's going to play, the better he's going to look. I think it's one of those things, he's a leader, he's a captain, he's back in the huddle. That whole
offensive line now ramps up, it's a little bit more juice there, too. He certainly sets the tone and tempo for that group.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q. How did it work out last week that you elected to go with Randy (Bullock) as the kicker?
A: We just thought it was best for the team. You get a veteran guy, quick turnaround, done it before. It makes it really easy. He's done a good job. Both of them have done a good job since they've been here. We just went with Randy because it was just the best for us at that time.
Q. Was it based on circumstances last week? Could we see something different this week?
A: I mean, obviously, it was a quick turnaround. That's late in the week, you want to make sure the guy feels comfortable, just all the different mechanics and different nuances between the two different kickers, just being able to get that ironed out as quick as you can. You get a quick little session on Friday, he just kicked in the workout on Thursday, you get pregame on Sunday, and now you've got to play. So, we didn't have a lot of time to mull over who was going to do what. You've got to make a decision and go with it, because you've got to get the reps in.
Q: Do you have a decision on who your kicker is this week, or are you doing a tryout again?
A: They're just both working, and we'll see where we're at at the end of the week.
Q. How do you decide? It's such a minor thing. You're making kicks, you're missing kicks. Is it literally who makes more kicks in practice?
A: It's a rhythm thing. Who we feel the most comfortable with, who we think is the most comfortable, and just go from there.
Q: How much do you kick field goals in practice? How many opportunities do they get?
A: We kick on our own. We do a lot of stuff on our own. But with the team, it's only, like, six to eight reps. So, it's not a lot with the team. But it's more so of what we do when we're by ourselves.
Q: What does that entail?
A: Just kick. Basically, doing the whole operation just without the team.
Q. I think back a couple years ago when you had Rosas here. It seemed like you really enjoyed watching the young kicker kind of develop and become what he did in his best season here. Do you look at (kicker) Cade (York), not in a directly similar situation, but as a chance to see a young guy who's talented, and try to develop him into a kicker that you can—
A: Yeah, I mean, that's why he's here. He's here for us right now. We've got to try and make the best out of his situation and try and get him better for the time that he's here. He's very talented. You're right. He has a very strong leg. He's very talented. He's done some really good things in his career, and that's why he's here. We've identified that. His whole goal is to work to get better every day. We've got to make sure that we're doing those little things to help him get better every day.
Q. What were the issues that he had to fix? Obviously, it didn't go well in Cleveland.
A: There's a few things that I can pinpoint. I think he was trying to do some different things with his swing. Cleveland is a little different. It's probably the hardest stadium to kick in in the league between there and Pittsburgh. He was trying to make some adjustments. So, it's just working through that. Again, Cleveland is different. Our place is not too far off of it, but it was just different. So, those are things he was just trying to do.
Q. Do you look at it as mechanical then, more than mental?
A: Yeah, definitely. He was just trying to—it's so windy in Cleveland. You hit a different kind of ball, because if your ball gets high, the wind's just going to take it. So, when you try and drive the ball, your plant is a little different. It's just a bunch of different mechanical things that you try to do to adjust to the wind. It was just something that he was working through.
Q: Can mechanical screw with the mental?
A: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Because you want to have success. Anytime something mechanical goes wrong, and your ball is not going on the flight that you want it to go on, you don't feel comfortable. If you don't feel comfortable, you doubt yourself and all those different things come into mind.
Q. When do you make that decision? Is it after practice Friday? What's the timing of it?
A: Who knows. We're just going to let it play out and let those guys get their work in. Whenever we make the decision, we make the decision, but they'll both be ready.
Q: What makes (wide receiver) Parris Campbell a good kick returner?
A: He is big, strong, and fast. You go back and look at Parris when he was in college at Ohio State, I think I want to say he was over 27, almost 28 yards a kickoff return. So, he's very explosive. He runs in the 4.3s. He's a strong runner. He was one of those hybrid guys coming out of out of Ohio State in the line of (wide receiver) Percy Harvin and (running back) Chris Rainey, and all of those guys that were at Florida under that Urban Meyer system. (Wide receiver) Curtis Samuel, those style of guys. So, he's very strong, and he runs tough. That's what makes him makes him good.
Q: Does that unit get a little juice from how he's kind of carried the ball and returned?
A: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I think you can see what he's done since he's been in there. I think we've done a better job of blocking for him. He brings definite juice to us.
Q: Obviously, best case scenario, you score on special teams every week. When you face a game like this where you've got a young rookie quarterback and you're facing a pretty explosive offense, is there a little extra pressure or anything else to dial up to try to score on special teams? Is it one of your paths to victory, so to speak?
A: For me, that's something that every week, we want to have a goal of doing that. And that is a goal. We always want to be able to affect the game in a positive way, especially by either scoring points as a field goal unit or being able to score as a return unit or a coverage unit. However we can affect the game positively, you always want to do that. As far as the pressure, no, you don't feel pressure to do it, but you want to do it. You know what I mean? That doesn't bother me.
Q: Maybe I meant urgency.
A: Yeah, absolutely. You always want to, especially in our situation. Like, we're 2-7. We're trying to do something to help us win the game. The more we can do as a special teams unit to be able to possibly score is going to help us win. So, I think that's something that we're always striving to achieve. Obviously
now it's even more sense of urgency, not just by us, but by the defense and everybody else because of where we are.
Q: Do you have to remind these guys that Dallas blocked the field goal last game, or do they know it?
A: No. Obviously, it was the first play of the game, first score the game, and you don't have to remind them of that. But obviously we did. It's one of those deals. It's a play that happened. You've got to learn from it and move on from it and be better because of it
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: Your support that you showed him (quarterback Tommy DeVito) really made him feel more comfortable than maybe he would've normally been. How important was it for you to kind of lead the way for a young guy like that especially under the circumstances?
A: I wouldn't say I led the way for him, I just said what I truly believe. He works hard, he comes to work every single day and he's got an unbelievable opportunity, so just reassured him that we've got all the confidence in the world in him, and we've got his back.
Q: When you spoke after the game obviously you didn't want to speculate on (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) but now that it's official, just what's your reaction to having him go down like that?
A: Yeah, it sucks. It sucks. Dealing with that injury before, knowing the road he's about to go down but knowing DJ too, how tough he is and how hard he works. I know that it's only going to be a minor setback for a major comeback. He's going to be alright, he's a heck of a player, heck of a work ethic and going to do all the right things to put himself in a position to come back and be even better.
Q: I know he's a mobile quarterback, is it different for a quarterback than it is for a running back to come back from that injury you think?
A: No, I don't think so. The way medicine works and the way the doctors are in today's world, you get lined up with some of the best. So, he's going to be more than right, wherever he chooses to go, wherever he rehabs, he's going to be in great hands. His mindset, his work ethic, obviously going to have tough times during it but he's going to be more than okay.
Q: How are you just feeling physically? You looked like your ankle might've been bothering yesterday when we saw.
A: I'm cool.
Q: You could be Tommy's best friend on Sunday, do you expect to get another 36 carries like you had against the Jets?
A: I don't go into any game with any expectations of how many times I'm going to touch the ball. Just want to be in position to win football games, go out there and compete and whatever that takes, I'm willing to do.
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