Q: What's it been like dealing with injuries this season?
A: A huge factor for us is the health level of our players. Slowly, guys are coming back, and who I'm really referring to is Hakeem (Nicks), and improving each week. He's starting to get a little bit better, a little bit healthier, and it's starting to show in his play. Same thing with Victor (Cruz). He was a little bit banged up, nicks here and there and now he's starting to play a little bit better. That needs to continue to progress, and if it does, hopefully we'll be firing on all cylinders midseason.
Q: Do you think Hakeem and Victor need to do some things a little bit differently with how all these defenses are taking away the deep ball?
A: I think based on what defenses try to do, they can take away certain things, and I think that's really what has happened. In the Pittsburgh game, we had a couple opportunities on some deeper balls that for whatever reason we didn't quite connect on. On two of those plays, we ended up getting a penalty called on the defense anyway and got that chunk of yardage, but we couldn't capitalize on the top ends of those drives, which we needed to in order to give ourselves a chance to win. When a defense is taking things away from you, then you do have to adjust and usually it's built within each play to try to take advantage of the underneath coverage if they're playing with extended coverage over top.
Q: Have you guys noticed people being more physical with Victor?
A: Yeah, actually overall the defensive back play this season has been very physical, not just with Victor, but with all of the receivers, the entire crew. That's something that we now are starting to overcome a little bit. We're starting to understand how to play through some of that contact, whether it's right at the line of scrimmage or further down the field.
Q: Is it a question of adjusting the routes or teaching the guys new techniques to get past that?
A: It's more about teaching the guys, not necessarily a different technique, but emphasizing certain aspects of that technique if the defender is going to play you a certain way.
Q: Did that begin after a certain game?
A: Not in particular; it's more just coaching off the film. You see the film, then you make the adjustment. As teams have started to play certain ways against us, and really it's not just against us, it's across the NFL, those are the adjustments you have to make. Not any particular week, but I think we're starting to understand that it's happening and make the proper technique adjustments.
Q: How has the progression of the third wide receiver played out this year?
A: The thing is, based on injury, we've had to slide some guys in there, whether they were the third wide or not. The good thing is that we've had some guys step into those roles and be productive. Whether it be Ramses Barden; clearly Domenik Hixon has played well when he's been in there and Rueben Randle's really shown some things when he's been in there as well.