HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
What are your thoughts on having four players selected to the Pro Bowl?
"It's great for them. I congratulated them this morning in the team meeting. It's a fantastic honor."
How disappointed are you for players like CB/S Kareem Jackson not being selected?
"Kareem made it as an alternate. I don't have any control over that. I know what I know and those guys have played good football for us. Everybody in the locker room, in the meeting rooms, know those guys – there are a lot of other guys that have played real good football for us."
What are your thoughts on ILB Benardrick McKinney getting named to the Pro Bowl? He doesn't get the same amount of publicity as the others that were named.
"I don't know about publicity. I think McKinney is a hell of a player. I think he's a hell of a football player."
Can you tell how much QB Deshaun Watson's decision-making has improved when watching film with him?
"Definitely. I think he's done a really good job of understanding, each week, how important it is to possess the ball at the end of each play. That's a big stat in this league. I think we're third in the league right now. That's important. That has to keep going and it only gets harder now with Philly because they do a great job of hawking the ball. We've got to continue to take care of the ball. That's a huge statistic in this league. It's everyday emphasis. It's something that's very important, especially in December football, to possess the ball at the end of every play."
Can you talk about the challenges of playing the defending Super Bowl Champions on the road?
"It's a big challenge. There are a lot of areas that we have to improve in. They're ranked in the top 10 on defense in the red area and third down. Obviously, we didn't do very well there offensively last week, so we've got to really try to work hard to improve. Big challenge, World Champions. They're playing well. They just went out to the West Coast and won a big game. We know. We understand the challenge. It's a great team, very well-coached, big challenge for us."
Why do you think Eagles QB Nick Foles has had so much success when playing in relief?
"He's a very smart guy. You can see it on tape. He really understands their offense. He plays the game in a very calm way. He's got great poise, very accurate passer. He does a great job of taking care of the ball. There was that one year where he threw 20-plus touchdown passes and only had one interception. He's a really smart guy, very good player. They've got a great quarterback situation. They have a first-round draft pick in Carson Wentz and then they have the Super Bowl MVP. That's a great situation for them."
Does the Eagles announcing QB Nick Foles as the starter for this week help you prepare more so than if they didn't name a starter until later in the week? Does it make it easier to face them?
"I don't know about that. I don't think there's anything easy about the Philadelphia Eagles. I would never use the word 'easy' in any way, shape or form with the Eagles. I think that they run a lot of the same things that they run with Carson (Wentz). They do it very well, just like they do with Carson. Doug Pederson is one of the best play-callers in the league. Does an excellent job, has a great staff underneath him – Mike Groh underneath him, who I know, is a great coach. We know it's going to be a huge challenge."
What are your thoughts on all of the things DE J.J. Watt has accomplished this season?
"It's hard to put into words what he's been able to do coming back from the injuries that he's had. You think about the injuries that he's had and the work that goes into rehabbing, the mindset that you have to have, especially at the position that he plays, the offseason work, his own ability to drive himself to get back to the top of his game, which is obviously elite. He's a great player. We're very fortunate to have him on our team."
Eagles QB Nick Foles likes to throw the ball down the field.
"They do a really good job. Whether it's (Nelson) Agholor or (Alshon) Jeffery or (Zach Ertz) – Ertz has 101 catches. I mean, that's incredible. Like I said, this is a big challenge for us, very, very tough opponent on the road. It's going to be important for us to do the best we can to limit what we call 'X-plays'. That's going to be important."
What are your thoughts on Eagles TE Dallas Goedert?
"When we were getting ready for the Draft, obviously we were looking at Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins, then Dallas Goedert was one of the guys, definitely, that stood out to us as an excellent player. Big, good hands, good route-runner, very competitive guy. That personnel for them with him and (Zach) Ertz on the field at the same time is very challenging. No doubt."
What are some decision-making hurdles when quarterbacks study ball security from their first season to their second season?
"I think their knowledge of defense improves a great deal from Year 1 to Year 2. There's not a lot of space in the NFL. There's a lot of man coverage, a lot of match coverage, a lot of great pass rushers with great length that can bat the ball. Windows open up, but they close very fast. So, the speed of the game, they get used to. They're more accustomed to seeing the different coverages that they're going to have to see. Understanding the skillsets of the guys that they're throwing the ball against on defense – that's probably a jump that they really take from Year 1 to Year 2."
How much does winning close games on the road help boost the confidence of the team when heading into a game like this weekend?
"It's hard to play on the road. It's very hard. You're dealing with crowd noise, different environments and all of those things. I think the fact that we've had close games on the road definitely would help us in any road environment. I think our guys embrace that challenge of going on the road, getting on that bus and that plane and knowing that this is what we have, this is what we need to go try to win the battle. I think we've done a decent job on the road – it hasn't been perfect, but we've won close games on the road in tough environments. Hopefully, that can help us moving forward. No doubt."
What are some differences between Eagles QB Carson Wentz and QB Nick Foles?
"There's always differences in players. I'm not going to get in here and compare – I would tell you there's a lot of similarities. They're both very accurate, very tough, very smart, understand their offense, do a great job of running the offense the way that Doug (Pederson) wants them to run it. They make good decisions for the team. They're both great guys, great leaders – you can tell – each in their own way. The team has a lot of respect for them. They're excellent players."
What are your thoughts on K Ka'imi Fairbairn being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week?
"He's done an excellent job. He really has. He was 5-for-5 last week, 2-for-2 on PATs. He did a great job. I think he was like 5-of-8, relative to his kickoffs, how we grade his kickoffs. He's done a really good job for us. Again, another guy that we're glad we have him on our team."
How big of a facet are kickoffs to K Ka'imi Fairbairn's game?
"Important. His ability to be able to make all of the different types of kicks that you need to make, especially in outdoor games on the East Coast. It's very important. He's a very talented kicker."
Is this season a reminder of how nice is it to be in the fight for the playoffs?
"Absolutely. I think this a great example of that. You can't ride the wave. You have to try the best you can to stay steady. I think it's good that we've won a lot of close games. I think we have a team that plays very hard, plays with good effort. We have a team that plays together. It hasn't always been pretty, but we've been able to come out on the winning end more than the losing end, and that's important. We have a steady team – a team that really believes in one another. I think that's where you want to be around Christmas time. You want to be in the hunt, and we're obviously in the hunt."
How disruptive is Eagles DT Fletcher Cox?
"It's hard to put into words. He's one of the best players that we've played against. We've played against him a couple of times here a few years ago. He's just so big and powerful, so instinctive, very, very hard to handle. Has the ability to edge rush you, has the ability to bull rush you, plays really well against the run. He's just one of those guys that can wreck a game. It's hard because of where he plays in the defense. It's just hard. There's going to be some one-on-ones, there's going to be some times where we can get a couple of guys on him, but it's a very, very difficult challenge."
Is it getting more difficult to prepare to face dominant forces in the middle of a defense?
"I think it's hard any time across the front that you have a dynamic player, whether it's our guys with (J.J.) Watt and JD (Jadeveon Clowney) and Whitney (Mercilus). D.J. Reader had a great game against the Jets. I mean, he's a hard guy to handle inside. So, I think it's hard to cross the front – so, I don't know if it matters edge or inside – it's very difficult. There's a lot of great players along the front in this league right now. There's no greater example of that than these guys with Fletcher (Cox), then, you're talking about Michael Bennett, who we have a tremendous amount of respect for Michael, you've got Brandon Graham, you've got Timmy Jernigan, they bring Haloti Ngata back in there. I mean, where you do want me to stop? They're loaded up front."
K KA'IMI FAIRBAIRN
What are your thoughts on being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week?
"It's very special. It's not every day that you get to do that. I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates. Obviously, the long snapper, holder, all of the line – they do a heck of a job and obviously the offense putting us in position to score."
What did you think when you found out you were named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week?
"I was excited, but it's all about the next kick. Trying to be 1-for-1 every time and perform for my teammates."
What's it been like for you having so many important kicks through the first 14 games of the season?
"It's a long year, but these next two games are the two biggest of the year. December football is what it all comes down to, and then January and beyond that. We're focused on working hard this week and doing my job."
What are you most proud of in terms of what you've been able to do this season?
"I think just mentally being able to take every kick for what it is. I think that's what's separating me from my success this year than last year – not looking ahead, not looking behind, but being in each moment."
Do you put any thought into kicking in cold weather like you did last weekend?
"Yeah, a little bit. It's not kicking at home in a dome, but I try to not swing as hard. With the colder weather, sometimes the ball doesn't go as far and you've got to accept it and not try to over-swing."
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
What are your thoughts on being selected to the Pro Bowl and were you surprised when you found out?
"It's a great honor. I want to thank the fans, thank the coaches, thank everybody for voting for me. It's a great honor to be nominated for the Pro Bowl."
Did you think you would be selected to the Pro Bowl?
"To be honest, I wasn't really thinking about it. I just ended up getting a lot of texts, seeing it on social media or whatever. I was happy, I was proud, my family – my mom, my dad always proud of me. Like I said, it's a huge accomplishment."
After receiving a contract extension in the offseason, does it feel fulfilling to earn Pro Bowl honors and show the front office their investment was worth it?
"It's a great honor. OB (Bill O'Brien), Brian Gaine and all of those guys, especially paying me the type of money, I'm just trying to take it day-by-day to just try to show them that there was a good reason for it. Like I said, I'm just trying to be a great teammate, a great inside linebacker and just trying to improve every day."
What are your thoughts on matching up with Eagles TE Zach Ertz?
"We're just going to do our job. The coaches do an unbelievable job with the game plan. We're just going to play our style of football, which is flying around and having fun."
QB DESHAUN WATSON
What's been the difference the last eight games in limiting turnovers so effectively?
"Just taking what the defense gives us, and then everyone just putting extra focus on protecting the ball when carrying it. That was pretty much it."
Do you guys place a large emphasis on ball security?
"For sure. We talk about it all the time. If we protect the ball, it'll give us a better chance percentage of winning that game."
Can you talk about the potential of you playing the Pro Bowl game?
"It's really out of my control, really. The only thing I can control is the way I play. I guess it's cool to be an alternate versus not. I don't really get in to all that. My main focus is Philadelphia Eagles, stacking these wins and trying to clinch and get in the playoffs and make a run to the ultimate goal, and that's the Super Bowl. That's down the road, but people have their votes and that's just the way it goes sometimes."
When you look at the Eagles defense, what stands out to you?
"Of course, their front. Very aggressive, being able to be disruptive up front and try to stop the running game and getting pressure on the quarterbacks. We have to do a good job of handling that, of all being on the same page and trying to make some plays downfield."
How would a first-round bye benefit this team?
"Get some rest. That's the biggest thing, getting guys healthy and rested up. But, whatever happens, we're going to be up for the challenge and ready to play ball. You can't ever go wrong with playing extra games, but, at the end of the day, I guess rest is probably the biggest."
What was fun about playing at Clemson, and what would Head Coach Dabo Swinney do to make it enjoyable?
"I guess the biggest thing was he didn't allow the pressure to get to us. We always had fun, we always knew that fun is in the winning and to be able to win, you have to put the work in throughout the week. He let us be us. He didn't try to control us in any way. He had a great culture that everyone bought into and was on the same page, and everyone loved it. That was the reason why we were winning and very successful."
Do you think playing in so many tight road games has given you experience that will help you this weekend in Philadelphia?
"I guess it kind of – you've been through those situations before so you learn through the tight ballgames. For me in understanding – if you look at all games, a majority of the games are very, very close regardless if they're home or away. So, you just got to be prepared for every situation, and you've got to be very good in situational football, especially down the stretch because a majority of the games are going to come down to that last drive or the last couple minutes."
Does this game against the Eagles feel like the biggest game of the year so far?
"For sure, because it's the next game. There's a lot on the line, and we know that, but at the end of the day, it's still football. They have to win to do what they want to do, and same for us. Both teams want to win and be successful and that's the ultimate goal."
Do you have time to reflect on your successful fourth quarter and overtime performances?
"I mean, it's big. It's something I take a lot of pride in in what I do, putting in the work. There was one quarterback who told me – it was early on in the season, it was Tony Romo. I sat down and did a production meeting with him. He said the biggest thing for young quarterbacks that they have struggled with that they should focus on a lot is situational football. I think that was probably Week 1, when we played the Patriots, but ever since then, those situations that it came down to the wire, those first three games they didn't go our way, that really stuck with me. So, being able to focus on that, protect the ball, play within the system and be able to make plays when I need to, and then when it comes down the stretch, take care of the ball and put ourselves in the position to win, it's very big."
Do you think you gain more confidence from your team by having success in those tight games?
"For sure. They already have a lot of confidence in myself, but being able to – for guys on the defense or special teams, putting the ball back in my hands and giving us a chance on offense to go down and win the game or put the game away, it gives them a lot of confidence. It's a lot of confidence to put the ball in my hands, and I'm going to continue to build that trust and respect throughout the locker room."
Have you ever failed to execute at the end of a tight game?
"For sure. I mean, it happened this year. Week 2 on the road. I had the ball with 17 seconds left, I could have gotten us a couple yards, probably gone overtime or kick a field goal – I can't remember the score but I know we could have had a chance of kicking a field goal or getting the ball into the end zone. Then of course, not in a live action, but we practice it a lot in the offseason throughout practices, even in college we did it, that I failed a lot and just kind of built on that and watching other people experience. Watching guys like Drew Brees before, and Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers has been in situations like that, and try to see what they did to manage those games."
When you're watching other quarterbacks perform in late, tight situations, do you pretend you are in that situation?
"For sure. I always try to put myself in those shoes of every quarterback, not just guys that played in the league for a long time, young guys. Situations with Patrick Mahomes, where they play Baltimore and it's fourth-and-9. He made a good play, and kind of capitalized on that to get their team an opportunity to win. Every week it comes down to the wire. I don't watch games just to watch it, I watch it and put myself in those positions because I want to play this game for long time and sooner or later I'm going to be in those positions. I always try to make sure that I'm finding a way to improve my game, regardless of who's playing quarterback in that situation."
Do you have a message for your fans in Japan? Also, what is your mentality approaching your first playoffs since being injured last year?
"Starting off with the Japanese fans, it's awesome to have football and just a fan base overseas in that country. It's crazy how big football is, especially around the world. I experienced that in the offseason, going to Germany and places like that, but definitely a place I want to visit, and I appreciate all the love and support from Japan. But, the mindset is still the same. Each and every week is a new test, is a new opportunity for us to be better and try to improve. It's a whole new season. Every week is a season to its own, but once you get in that playoff run, everything is free ball. Regardless of how the record sounds or what you did in the regular season, it's an open ballgame and anything can happen. We have to continue to just keep working, take it one day at a time and let the game come to us."
What quarterbacks stand out the most to you regarding their performances late in a close game?
"I think the two that stand out, of course A-Rod (Aaron Rodgers), just his poise and being able to make plays with his feet and the confidence he has in his receivers. Then, of course, Tom Brady. He's been doing it forever, and I lived it going against him last year. Those two guys really stand out."
DE J.J. WATT
What do does it mean to be back in the Pro Bowl after being injured?
"It's an honor, but I'm focused on the Eagles and much more."
Is the Pro Bowl honor any more special because of what you've been through?
"No. The Pro Bowl's kind of – you look at some of the guys around the league that maybe shouldn't have made it and did, and stuff like that. I just want to win football games."
What do you think about ILB Benardrick McKinney making the Pro Bowl this year?
"He's a great player. As a defensive end and defensive lineman, you want great linebackers behind you. B-Mac's always been a good one here. Very deserving and very happy for him."
How disappointed are you that CB/S Kareem Jackson not making the Pro Bowl?
"Yeah, very. Like I said, there's guys – Kareem's definitely very deserving. There's guys all over the league that are very deserving that don't make it, so I think that's why you just kind of got to take it for what it is and focus on the games."
What is it about Eagles QB Nick Foles that allows him to step in and perform well when needed?
"He's a good player, he's smart, he knows what he's doing. He's a good quarterback. When you win the Super Bowl, you're pretty damn good. He does great things. He can move around a little bit, he knows the system, he know the guys, he knows what he's doing, knows how to find the open guy and get it to him. He does a great job."
How important is it to not only win on Sunday but play the kind of football you want to play heading into January?
"It really doesn't matter how you win, you just have to win. After this week's game – we've kind of heard it all year, 'This. That. They didn't' – we won. I don't care. I don't care how we win, I just want to win. I really don't care. I don't care if people think it's pretty, I don't care if they like it, if they don't like it, I just want to win. I really do not care how we win."
How do you feel about possibly facing your brothers in the playoffs?
"It's obviously pretty incredible to have all three of us in the playoff race at this stage of the season, and we're all very excited about it. It's wild how it all shakes out. Obviously, we're watching the game this last weekend, T.J.'s (Watt) game, and he's playing the Patriots and it all shakes up the playoff race. Now Derek (Watt), is playing against the Ravens this week, which can shake up the Steelers playoff race, so it's just wild that we're actually watching games that matter to us and it's our own brothers in it. It's pretty wild, it's pretty crazy. They've gotten to play each other once this year, and I'd love to play against them. I've never gotten the chance to do it at the NFL level, so it would be pretty cool."
Do you think your brother, Steelers OLB T.J. Watt, got snubbed for the Pro Bowl?
"Like I said, there's a lot of guys around the league that probably should be in it, didn't (get in), and I think he's one of them. I think he's extremely deserving with what he's done all year. I mean, you look at Chris Jones from the Chiefs, the guy – he's a defensive tackle with 14 sacks. How you don't make it to the Pro Bowl with that, that kind of right there tells you all you need to know about the weight you should put in to that."
Can you talk about the Eagles offensive line?
"They have a very good offensive line. They do a great job working together. They are obviously great as individuals, they do a great job working together and they do a really good job for their team. It's going to be a great challenge."
What are challenges going against a double tight end offense?
"They do a good job with it. Obviously, they have a couple good tight ends, and (Zach) Ertz can do – everybody knows what Ertz can do in the passing game and he's a very, very good tight end. Like I've said all year, it just comes down to everybody doing our job. We have to make sure that we're doing our job first, and making sure everybody knows their assignments, knows what to do. Because if we take care of our business, then we can worry about what everybody else is doing."
Do players ever turn their play up a notch knowing what's at stake?
"I would hope that there's not another notch to turn it up to. I think it would be pretty wild if you have another notch that you haven't been using all year and then you turn it on now. I think that, obviously, the later you get in the year, the games, the magnitude and such changes because of the situations you're in. But, I think to a guy in our locker room, I don't think anybody's left anything in the tank in any game this year. I think our guys are incredibly tough, resilient, they fight all year, they've given us everything they have and that's why it's so much fun to be a part of this team, because every single week, every game, every practice, everybody's giving it everything they've got."
Do you feel like playing multiple sports growing up adds to your skillset?
"Yeah, I've always been a massive advocate of playing multiple sports as a kid if you can. For many reasons, including specialization and what it does to kids, and the pressure and things like that from parents and AAU leagues. But, from skillset, and building athleticism and building different muscles up that you use in different sports, and also just the friendships and the competitions and the different things. I mean, there are so many advantages of playing multiple sports as a kid. I've always said that one of the reasons I think I got a chance to become a good athlete was because my parents taught me how to skate at the age of three. So, I was learning how to balance on a razor-thin blade when I was three years old and my body had to learn how to balance and adjust to that at such a young age. I think that, throughout my youth, helped me to learn how to use my body and carry my weight and things like that. But, playing multiple sports is huge. You get different coaches, you get different perspectives, you get to hang out with your friends, your teammates, and it's fun. I wish I could still play multiple sports because it's truly fun and it's a blast."
Do you have a photo of you in skates when you were three years old?
"I got photos of me in skates at 23. I still skate when I can, but yeah, I'm sure my parents have some."
If you were a two-sport athlete, what would be your second sport?
"I love hockey. It would probably be hockey. I'm a huge hockey fan, and I love to skate, I love playing. There's nothing like putting the puck in the back of the net. I'm probably too big to be the guy that does that anymore, but I guess I could be an enforcer. Maybe we can get an NHL team here in Houston. If you know anybody, let me know. I'd like to get in on that."
CONFERENCE CALL WITH EAGLES HEAD COACH DOUG PEDERSON
As a former quarterback, what are your thoughts on QB Deshaun Watson's game? Why do you think he's been successful in limiting turnovers over the second half of the season?
"Well, first of all, I wasn't as athletic as Deshaun Watson. But, I can appreciate, first of all, what he's done coming off of injury and really leading that football team down there. I think that's the key to their success right now is you have to eliminate the turnovers down the stretch as you approach the postseason. Those are things that we talk about all the time – penalties and turnovers and then of course takeaways. I think that's something that he's been able to do and it just helps your team. Again, everything he's put himself through to be in a position to where he's at today, I can really appreciate that."
What is it about Eagles QB Nick Foles that allows him to step in and perform well when needed?
"One, (he's) a veteran quarterback. He's been a starter in this league. I was a member of Coach (Andy) Reid's coaching staff when we drafted him here in Philadelphia, so I obviously have some extensive history with him, but he has a cunning knack to just slow the game down, to just process it and keep things kind of simple in his mind, no clutter, and just allowing things to work for him around him. Again, that's a credit to him, his preparation during the week and it paid off for him the other night."
Are you surprised at all by the way DE J.J. Watt has played this season? What makes him a dynamic pass rusher?
"I'm not. This guy, he's a Pro Bowler, he's a tremendous defensive player. I totally respect him as a player and what he's accomplished in this league. His first step – first step quickness – and then his little swim move that he can do, his arm-over move, is as quick as anything as we've seen all season. He's a load. He lines up anywhere along that D-line – inside and outside, left and right. We've got to account for him. So, a lot of respect for him. I just love the way he plays. He plays hard every snap and that's what you can appreciate about him."
What are your thoughts on WR DeAndre Carter and what did you think of him when you had him in Philadelphia?
"I think, one, it was fortunate for us to have had him and coached him. This kid is a hard worker. He's explosive, he's quick and the Texans are fortunate to have him. He's a guy that if he gets offensive snaps, obviously, they can move him around the formation. He's smart, he understands concepts and then of course his returns are very explosive. He did that for us and he's doing that for the Texans now."