HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN**
"Just an update on a couple injury deals here, Brian Hoyer is out of the protocol. He's been cleared by the specialists, participated fully in practice, and he'll start for us at quarterback on Sunday. JD (Jadeveon) Clowney, dealing with a foot issue, it's day-to-day. He's made some progress. It's day-to-day. A.J. Bouye did not practice today, dealing with a knee issue, and he's also day-to-day. Roster move-wise, we had to obviously place Charles James on injured reserve, and we brought up Corey Moore from the practice squad to the 53 and then we signed Robert Nelson, a corner, to the practice squad. With that, I'll open it up to questions."
Do you feel good about the way QB Brian Hoyer is playing as you reintegrate him into the offense?
"I thought he practiced really well last week. He was cleared to practice, not play in the game. He practiced well last week. He ran the show team, did some things on the side and then today I thought he looked really sharp. Again, it all depends on how it looks on Sunday obviously, but I think he's looked good, he's got good command of our offense and what we're doing, and the ball seems like it's coming out of his hand real well."
Has going back and forth between quarterbacks due to injury helped your week to week game plan in making it look seamless?
"I don't know. I think we had a lot of guys here last year when we had some different quarterbacks play, and that helped. I think that the way that we approach things is if somebody goes down, the next guy's got to be ready. I think that's the way pretty much every team approaches it in the National Football League, and I think we got a bunch of good guys. They rally around whoever is playing what position, especially at that position, and they practice hard, they compete in practice, they pay attention in the meetings. There's good chemistry on this team."
Will the concussion protocol be different on Sunday for QB Brian Hoyer?
"I would say that first of all, any decision like this we first would listen to the doctors. No decision is taken lightly when it comes to concussions, that's for sure. So he's been cleared. Everybody feels great about where he's at, how he's recovered, all those different things. Certainly when you watch that position, regardless of what the most recent injuries have been at that position, I think you really, you pay close attention to those guys. These defensive linemen are really good. Our guys are going to do their best to block them, but quarterbacks get hit, so we'll certainly be watching, that's for sure."
When a quarterback goes out due to injury, what are some things he can do to stay sharp so it's not that big of a transition getting back into it?
"Well I think it's hard. I think it's very difficult to do that, but I do think that the first thing is that they have to really do a good job in the meetings. They have to do a good job in the walkthroughs. We have to do a good job as coaches in trying to get them – when they do come back, and they're able like Brian (Hoyer) last week, he was able to practice – get him some reps on the show team, so he was able to run the scout team and I think that helped him. Even though he's running the other team's plays, he was able to be out there throwing the ball at basically full practice speed which I think is good. I think a lot of it, the onus is on the player. The player has to do a good job of keeping up with the material, making sure he's studying film and preparing like he's going to play, and I give our guys a lot of credit those guys that have played for us. They've all done that pretty well."
What do you think about the contributions of your rookie class starting with CB Kevin Johnson?
"Yeah well look, I think all of these guys have contributed in different ways. If you look at Kevin, I think he's improved every week. I think he's in a very competitive position on our team. He's plays a position in our league that's a very difficult position to play as a rookie, and I think he's done a good job. He's a bright guy. He really is mature. He knows how to prepare. He's got some good veterans to learn from there at that position. Benardrick McKinney is another guy who has really improved as the year's gone on, really feels more comfortable in our defense now than he did at the beginning of the year and he's making a lot of plays. So on and so forth down the road, there's different guys in there that have done, in that class, that have done a good job for us, maybe even (Kendall) Lamm. Lamm was an undrafted guy that has come in here and played a role for us and done a nice job. Obviously I'm not mentioning every name, but I think that class as a whole has done a decent job."
Your defense forced three turnovers off Jaguars QB Blake Bortles last time, but do you see him as not a tentative guy?
"Yeah, this guy is playing at a high level. He's doing a lot of good things. He's got a lot of weapons to throw to on offense, Allen Robinson, (Allen) Hurns, Marqise Lee, the tight ends, (Julius) Thomas and Marcedes Lewis. I mean these guys are good. The backs, (T.J.) Yeldon who I know has been out, but (Denard) Robinson's been in there. They've got a lot of weapons, and then they have him, and he's really improved over the last two years to the point now where I think he's playing at a really high level. He's a great scrambler. He's able to make plays on his feet. He's very, very dangerous. If you let him out of the pocket, he's going to hurt you, and he's getting the ball out quicker than he did his rookie year because he's understanding coverages better and things like that. He's playing at a high level."
Did you think he did a good job with his scrambling the first time?
"I did, I did, in our first game, yeah, I did. I thought he broke free a couple times and in addition to that, they run the zone read. He has the ability to keep the ball on that too. He's a big guy that can run. He's a threat in a few different ways."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GEORGE GODSEY
Talk about QB Brian Hoyer and how he fits into the offense now that he is back healthy?
"Last week was a big week for him, just getting back out there on the practice field and now it's digesting the game plan and, like we always say on Wednesday here, taking it each day at a time. There are some things out there with the first group just as far as the pre-snap, getting back into calling things getting things a little quicker run, so it was good to get out there today and get that fine tuning."
When a guy has had two concussions in a short period, do you have to keep a close watch on him?
"Just playing the position, I know, to protect it, I think that is something that we talk about before we even get into the routes. We don't talk about it, Brian (Hoyer) and I don't, we just talk about making sure that he is back there on his two feet throwing the football clean."
Before his concussion, QB Brian Hoyer's targets to WR DeAndre Hopkins were down. Do you think that he handled that the right way?
"By game, by play, each pass we are going to try to make sure that we distribute the ball evenly and to the guy that is open. Certainly, DeAndre is at the top of that list in a lot of our patterns, so if the defense gives us one-on-one coverage and if we feel that he is open, then the ball will be thrown to him."
How do you feel that QB Brian Hoyer did with making the decision to target or not target WR DeAndre Hopkins in the last couple games that he played?
"Like I said, there are certain plays that we would like to take back, but I think in that room we know exactly our reads and where we are trying to go with it."
Is there anything offensively that you can't give to him that you can give to the other guys?
"I think just being in the offense longer, there's a lot quicker recall and I think sometimes you see at the line of scrimmage the play clock is winding down and maybe we are not able to get to another play, but with Brian I think he really understands what we are trying to get done, especially the sense of urgency at the line of scrimmage."
How much more comfortable do you feel with having a veteran in the system?
"It's big because he has started quite a few games, but also just, within the system, and so I think that is the main thing."
Can you give us an up to date evaluation of WR Jaelen Strong?
"Each week he is getting better. Each week there are things to improve. We talked about running with the football, this past week, so that is an extra emphasis from him. As far as him being able to be move around and play some different roles, this is the first week that he has played inside, so he is accepting the role, it is a real good attitude and I like seeing him out there every day because he is eager to learn."
T DUANE BROWN
What does it mean to see QB Brian Hoyer back out there and what do you expect to see from him?
"Very pleased, I know going through that protocol myself, it's a lot, you know what I mean. I'm happy that he is capable of being back out there. It means a lot to this team, leadership, his ability, so definitely expect him to perform well. We've got to do our job to make sure he's upright and able to operate."
I know you always want to protect your quarterback, how do you handle that this week?
"It means a lot, like you said, we take a lot of pride in protecting the quarterback. This week is no different. We definitely have a little bit more emphasis on it. They have a pretty good pass rush over there, a lot of different blitz packages and things. So we know they're going to be dialing him up, but we've got to keep him clean, protect him with our life."
How remarkable is it to be so close to the playoffs with how many quarterbacks have been here this season?
"It's great, my hats off to all the quarterbacks that have come in. Learning the system in a short period of time isn't easy at all. They've done a great job and guys just rallying around them, us up front, running backs, receivers, all going to do a little bit more to help them and help us succeed. It's tough to have a lot of different guys under center. We've found a way to get the job done."
How dangerous is it playing a team like Jacksonville right now?
"Well we always expect a team's best shot. Jacksonville is a division opponent. They always play us tough, especially defensively coming on the road after we got the best of them in their place. We're sure that's going to play a factor. It's the NFL, you never expect any team to lay down, so they're definitely a dangerous opponent."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien said about halfway through the season he let you guys step up at practice and really work things out, what was the biggest thing you guys took away from that that helped you turn the corner?
"It's just a game-like atmosphere when you get out there. You have your calls, the defensive looks, and you don't have a coach in your ear telling you what to do, telling you what to expect. You're able to communicate with each other and play a little bit faster, so I think that transfers to game day because of the game-like atmosphere we have in our practice."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien also said guys are working extra outside of practice, what is it about this group that the harder you guys work, the better it seems to get?
"Yeah, we've always been a hard-working bunch. Effort has never been a problem, but I think over the last month and a half, you could just see the focus was there and whether extra work in practice, extra work in the weight room, extra film study, guys are meeting a little bit longer, maintenance on our bodies to stay out there, everyone is doing a little more to try to be successful in the months of November and December."
Have the veterans also stepped up in not letting guys get down and turning things around?
"I think it's happened naturally. We have a great group of leaders, it starts with our coaching staff and the veterans in our locker room. Any kind of adversity we have, any kind of down moments, you let it go, you move on, you find a way to bounce back from it as much as possible and it's the NFL. Bad things are going to happen, you just find a way to bounce back from them."
WR DeANDRE HOPKINS
As a team, this is obviously where you wanted to be. Has anything changed over the past few weeks about where you thought you would be?
"Not at all. We worked to be where we are right now and we plan on staying there."
How did you achieve that because it seems that you stayed even throughout the season regardless of your record?
"Hard work and believing in each other, not giving up, a lot of veterans on this team making everybody push harder on what they were doing when we were down."
How do you fit into that group of younger players versus older players?
"I have only been in the league for three years, but luckily I got thrown into the fire early, so I wouldn't consider myself as a rookie."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien alluded that he let you guys go through 11-on-11 out there. What kind of impact does that have on you?
"We like that because the coaches aren't on the field playing with us, it's the team and it's the 53-man roster out there, so them giving us the chance to communicate with each other helps out on the game."
Is this team a 'the harder you work, the harder you push, the better it will work out for you' type of team?
"Man, we are hard workers. I wouldn't say the harder we push because we are going to push hard regardless if we are down or if we are up. Luckily, a lot of guys in this locker room have played a lot of football on championship teams and some guys have played on championship teams in college, so I think we have a great group of guys in this locker room."
What about this group of veterans that has led to this great turnaround?
"Guys not letting young guys get their head down when we were 2-5, knowing that there was a lot of football to be played in the NFL. Not like college and not like other teams that young guys have played on, just telling guys to push through. We have a long season and giving us something to play for every game."
What do you hope that you will get from QB Brian Hoyer on Sunday?
"I know what I am going to get from him; a guy that is going to go out there and give us his all."
QB BRIAN HOYER
Did it feel good to get back out there?
"Yeah, it's great. I think when I talked to you guys last week, it felt good to be back out there, just be a part of the team. So now to be preparing to play this weekend against Jacksonville with the situation we're in, it's exciting. It's what you come to play in Houston for and to play this game."
You guys took every precaution and I guess in the long run it'll be good for you.
"Yeah, I think for me, I didn't take it lightly. I saw several medical professionals, not only just the doctors here but other ones and did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people, and I feel great, no reservations or anything like that. I'm ready to go play and play like I always do."
How badly do you want to be a part of what's happening with this organization right now?
"Yeah, for sure. I think it's hard when, however it is, you see someone else doing your job. Now Brandon (Weeden) and T.J. (Yates) have done a great job of keeping us in it and getting us to this point, so I applaud them and really just thank them for keeping it going while I had to deal with this concussion stuff. It is a sense of feeling left out I think so as a competitor and an athlete, you want to get back out there. I think, like I said, taking the precaution, waiting until the right time and now getting a chance to get out there and be with my teammates on Sunday."
Every game you pick up on a few things. What did you maybe learn in the last couple weeks seeing the guys out there?
"Yeah, I think you see it from a different perspective, that's for sure. I think you see how we're playing together as a team and you look at the game last week starting off with a defensive score, coming back in with a turnover, getting points, I think that complementary football, that's something when I get back out there, I got to continue to do and get even better about it."
T Duane Brown said the line always wants to take care of the quarterback, but this week it's almost personal. How good does that make you feel?
"Yeah, those guys have done a great job all year long. I mean, really when you look across the board, it's a great group. They play together really well. Obviously Duane being a perennial Pro Bowler, he's kind of the leader and then Ben Jones in there too, and those guys really get the rest of the group going. They've done a great job. They've done a great job all year protecting me, it's not even in the back on my mind that they won't do a good job on Sunday."
You've had time off this year between starts, does it feel any different this time?
"You know like I said, you just never want to see someone else doing your job, regardless of the situation. For me, it's just exciting to get back out there, be in that huddle, get things going again and really just be a part of the team."
You've been cleared, but if the team was out of the playoff race, would you still be out there this Sunday?
"Yeah, for me, I was waiting for the doctors to clear me. I think, like I said, I did a lot of research. You have respect for the medical people's opinions and I know how I'm feeling and then when that kind of coincides with the doctors' opinions of you being cleared, that's what I'm here to do. That's my job is to be the quarterback of this team."
Does it affect your timing with receivers and protections and anything?
"I think at this point, not only all the games but the practices, I think for me to get back out there and practice with those guys, it's good, but there's no, I guess like catch up. You get back out there and I know where those guys are going to be and they do a good job of running the routes and just go out and execute."
How important is it for you to play in this game leading into the postseason?
"I mean, playing in a game and practicing are two different things, so definitely want to get back out there. For me, it was all about getting cleared by the doctors. Like I said, I feel good so regardless of the situation, I wanted to play this week. I think we handled it the right way. I feel good about it, the doctors, the medical staff, they all feel good about it, so now it's just time to go out and play."
What's the difference in how this team looked in October and how they look now?
"I think we just really believed in the guys in this locker room and we focused one week at a time and I think that's the biggest thing and I think our season could have gone one of two ways. We could have either split apart or come together as a team. I think it's definitely the latter and you can see it when we're out there on the field."
How did running scout team last week help you speed up?
"I think for me it was just about getting back out there and doing football things leading up to it. You can work out, you can run, you can do all those types of things. You can throw, but nothing really compares to being out on the field and practicing football. It was good for me to get back involved in it that way knowing that I probably wasn't going to play, but also get some reps against a really good defense and just get back in the football mode."
DE J.J. WATT
What's it mean to have QB Brian Hoyer back?
"Yeah, it's great."
What's the approach for this last game vs. Jacksonville?
"Like we attack every game, you go out there and try to win. You have a great week of practice. It's the last regular season game in front of our home crowd. It's a chance to clinch a division. There's a lot to play for. We're really looking forward to the opportunity."
Did the team fix all their problems earlier in the season by just working harder?
"Yeah, there definitely hasn't been any magic potion, that's for sure. It's just been guys doing their job, executing assignments. Everybody doing it together, all of us on the same page. Just reaching towards one goal."
What does the team learn when it gets a chance to practice 11-on-11 with less coaching going on?
"You guys know (Head Coach) Bill (O'Brien). I don't know if he fully kept quiet the entire time. It's good. It's good to let the players kind of figure it out on their own and communicate on their own. Because that's when you really work out all the kinks. That's when you get a chance to see who knows what. If somebody doesn't know something, you get a chance to work it out with them. I think it's a great chance for us to all get together and figure things out."
Has the communication improved over the course of the season?
"Yeah, I think you see that every year. I think as a season goes on, you always start to communicate better as it goes on because you get more comfortable with each other and you understand the calls better. You just get into the flow much better."
What have you seen from the rookie class this year?
"I think they're doing a good job. I think they come in, they work extremely hard, they know their assignments, they execute their assignments, and they do what they're told. I think they've done a great job. I think it's a very good rookie class."
How much time do you spend looking at film and what do you take from it?
"There's a lot of time spent. From meetings to after meetings to at home to watching on your own, there's countless hours spent on it. But I think it's huge because you understand who you're facing and understand tips and keys and every little thing that you can find to take advantage of. That's what film does for you. It's obviously instrumental. Every year you do it, you learn more and more and you find more things you can use."
What do you see from Jaguars QB Blake Bortles on film?
"He's a very good player. I think he gets better and better as he keeps playing from year to year and from game to game. He can move around with his feet. He has a good arm. He can do a lot of different things. So I think he's continued to improve since our last game and I think he's a very good quarterback."
How special are college bowl games?
"They're big. Tonight, my brothers are both playing a bowl game. Derek, my older brother, plays in his final game as a collegiate athlete, so it's a bittersweet moment because it's a huge game for you but it's also your last game. So for him, it's really exciting. Then he gets to take the next step on towards working towards the NFL. Then for my younger brother, T.J., it's his really first bowl game that he actually gets to participate in. He's really excited about it. I'm going to have to take a pretty serious nap here at the end of the day to stay up until that game because it doesn't start until 9:30 p.m."
What's it like to take off your college jersey for the last time?
"I left after my junior year and I wasn't 100 percent sure I was taking it off for the last time. Mine's a little bit different, but I think it's just one of those things, its special. College is a special time, it's a special place. You create bonds with the fans and with the university. You have great memories and that's memories that will last a lifetime. You meet a lot of friends there. It's definitely bittersweet when you leave."
Are you betting with ILB Brian Cushing on the USC vs. Wisconsin game?
"Trying to figure out what we're going to put on it. We're not sure yet. Just something friendly. But we'll see. I think he'd look real good in red and white."
Players talk a lot about the veteran leaders in this locker room. Where do you fit in that group since you're a younger player but you've had success in the NFL?
"I don't know. I'm going out there, trying to win my third division in five years. So I think that's my goal, my first two years here, we won the decision and we had a chance to go on into the playoffs and win a first round game. So we're just going out here trying to do it one day at a time. Trying to have great practices and then go out there on the game field and win a division and get to the dance. Then maybe have some fun."
JAGUARS HEAD COACH GUS BRADLEY CONFERENCE CALL
With guys like DE J.J. Watt and OLB Jadeveon Clowney, what do you see from the Texans defense when you watch them on film?
"I think, generally, our conversations as a coaching staff is, since the first time that we played them, they're really playing well. Their aggressiveness, they're getting more turnovers. The production on defense, they're just playing very, very well right now and at a high level. Those guys add a lot to it. This game, especially in the passing game, is about rush and cover. You see the rush from them."
How much has the secondary improved since the last time you played them?
"Yeah, they have. I think both corners are playing very well. We talk in terms of tight coverage. They're fitting up routes really well, playing aggressive coverage. That's always challenging. There's not a lot of windows because the tight coverage and they use some different looks. If there are windows, the pressure or the rush takes care of it. So I think the rush and cover is working really well together. It makes for some difficult windows. The NFL is a precision league. They way they're playing defensively, heightens that part of it even more."
The Texans have gone through four starting quarterbacks this years. Does that make them tough to prepare for?
"I think they've done an unbelievable job. Boy, you don't hear that very often, number of quarterbacks they've gone to. I think what I've come to appreciate with what they've done is they're really taking the skill set of each quarterback and best utilizing it. You saw that in the last game. They have a system. They run the ball very well, very good upfront in their zone blocking schemes. The quarterback, they put him in position to be successful. But the receiver they have with (DeAndre) Hopkins out on the perimeter, his chance to take shots and get big, explosive plays. I think they're really operating well as a team. The offense and the defense is really feeding off each other. I think they have a great understanding of who they are offensively and defensively. They're just really working well together."
Are there any similarities between Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins and Jaguars WR Allen Robinson?
"I think the ability to go up and catch the ball away from their body. I think that's a challenge. You don't see a lot of receivers that do it. You see guys that will use their body, but to go up with it and get the ball at the highest point and just use their hands, it's almost like that's a lost art. I think those two guys both do it very well, very well. If you look at the number of explosive plays each of them have down field, but all the routes that he runs – he runs slants, he can take off, all the variety and he's a really good route runner. But his ability to catch the ball at the highest point stands out as well."
What has been the biggest difference from last year to this year with QB Blake Bortles?
"I think he has got more ownership of the offense, I think even as the season has gone on. Understanding the protections, the concepts, what we want to do, I mean, it's a first year coordinator that he is learning under and we really have a race with him. We call it the race to maturity to try to get him to play like a fifth or sixth year quarterback and I have been very pleased with him and his decision making. He plays with no fear, extremely confident, very good leader for us and he'll take chances. Sometimes those chances have led to interceptions, but for the most part I think that freedom has been a good growing curve for him and I think that he is making even smarter decisions as the year goes on."
What did it mean to you that Owner Shad Khan announced that he would be back next year before the season was over?
"I appreciate Shad (Khan) and we all understand that it is a results orientated league. We need to get better, obviously. We see progress taking place. We see some good things taking place with our team and in this building and he recognizes that. Like I said, we all understand that we want better and our fans, our community, Shad (Khan,) (Jaguars General Manager) Dave Caldwell they all deserve it. I appreciate it. Like I said, I was in a defensive meeting at the time and I think you kind of live in the old world, especially during the week, so I think we all appreciate it and very much so. At the same time, Shad (Khan) has high expectations and challenges us in many ways, so it is a great environment in that way."
JAGUARS WR ALLEN ROBINSON CONFERENCE CALL
What do you see from the Texans defense when you watch them on film?
"They're really able to help out their secondary with their pass rush. When you have guys like J.J. Watt and (Whitney) Mercilus and (Jadeveon) Clowney, and those guys rushing the passer, you really got to be diligent as far as how you get into your routes, your pass protections and things like that."
How do you think QB Blake Bortles has dealt with ups and downs this year as opposed to last year?
"I think he's dealt with it very well. As far as bouncing back on our next drives and things like that, always having a scoring mentality on a drive no matter what happened in the previous drive."
How do you think the tandem with you and WR Allen Hurns worked out? Do you feed of each other?
"I think it's us just pushing each other to make plays. But it does really make you want to step your game up when you see guys like Marqise (Lee) and Hurns and Julius Thomas and Mercedes (Lewis). It really does help you elevate your game."
What have you seen form the Texans secondary?
"They've been able to get the ball out, as far as creating turnovers and things like that. I mean, they have a very athletic secondary and a veteran secondary. You got Johnathan Joseph over there and the rookie (Kevin Johnson) as well, and Kareem (Jackson). They have a good balance of veteran and young guys. So I think they're a pretty balanced secondary."
Do you guys get excited for next year knowing you're close to competing for the division?
"Yeah, at least for us speaking offensively and things like that, I think we really made some strides as far as starting to build consistency and things like that, especially as the year went on. We started to capitalize in the red zone and became more consistent on third down and doing some things that we didn't do well at all last year. We were able to build on that this year."
The Texans players have credited Head Coach Bill O'Brien for changing the atmosphere here. Can you understand what they're talking about since you've spent some time with him at Penn State?
"Yeah, for sure. I think he's a week-to-week coach and it's the NFL, so it's a lot of games. Especially with him having that something that he didn't have in college. In college, it's 12 games so you're playing for National Championship but once you lose one or two games, you're kind of out of it. In the NFL, it's a long season and a lot of different things can happen. He's a week-to-week type of guy. Once you've lost or once you've won, that week is over. It's time for the next week. You got another opportunity and another task ahead of you."