ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
What are your thoughts on DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney earning a third-consecutive Pro Bowl berth?
"Well, I think he's making good progress and I hope that that progress will continue because if you make plays, people notice. That helps you become a Pro Bowler."
Is there a concern in terms of surrendering lots of yards over the last two games?
"You're always concerned if you give up a lot of yards because that can lead to field position change, that can lead to points on the board. We are concerned about it. We've got to try to get better and try to prevent some of that."
From a defensive perspective, why do you think QB Deshaun Watson has limited turnovers over the second half of the season?
"He runs pretty good. He's got some avoidability and I think that helps him be able to get rid of the ball or throw it down the field, even though he's been sacked a little bit, but he's still been able to make plays. He's dangerous."
What do you think has changed with QB Deshaun Watson to where he's limited turnovers?
"Those offensive coaches have done a really good job with him, teaching him about not throwing interceptions and choices and decisions that you have to make when you're at that position."
Does luck factor into not turning the ball over?
"Well, some luck sometimes goes into it, but you have to know what your job is, you have to put yourself in position on the receiver. Sometimes you have to read the quarterback. I think skill and knowledge help quite a bit. Then, sometimes it's luck. Sometimes the ball gets tipped and falls in your hands, but a lot of times just going and getting the ball helps you."
Have you been around a player like WR DeAndre Hopkins who has the mentality that every ball in the air is his?
"The only guy that has the kind of attitude that DeAndre has that I've been associated with is a tight end – Ben Coates – we had at New England in the redzone. When he got to the redzone, the ball was his. If it came close to him, he was coming up with it. That's the way DeAndre is. The ball is his. If it comes close to him, he makes the catch. That attitude reminds me of what DeAndre is about."
Among the players you've coached over the years, who had the best instincts in terms of recording interceptions?
"Well, Ty Law came up with a few interceptions. He had good instincts, good ability and had a knack. Then, another kid – he played in Philly, as a matter of fact – when I first got him, Asante Samuel. We started letting him read the quarterback and he started coming up with interceptions. He had a knack for it."
How would you evaluate DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney's versatility?
"We've always thought he had the versatility. You use him how you think best helps the team. So, we've moved him around quite a bit this year and he's kind of taken to it because he's able to make plays inside and outside. In our mind, he's still the same guy."
Does this locker room feel like some of the elite locker rooms you've been a part of?
"It's getting there. Every team has to grow together and come together and develop that trust among themselves. When we started off, we didn't have it. We came together and started growing and developing it and I think that we're still growing and developing that camaraderie."
How much of the development of camaraderie amongst the players come from the coaches?
"We can preach to them, but they have to do it themselves, basically. The guy next to you that plays next to you, you have to have the confidence that he's going to do what he's supposed to do. He has to have the confidence that you're going to do what you're supposed to do. Then, once you get that confidence, then you can be freer as a player because you don't have to worry about what's going to happen next to you. You know that this guy is going to be a solid guy. Then, that helps everybody be more consistent and helps the unit be more consistent."
When did you sense the defense was building camaraderie this season?
"Well, once we started winning games, that became better. Early on – the first couple of games, they were fighting hard, but everyone wasn't as solid as they needed to be. Then, once they understood that if everybody is solid, then the unit does pretty good."
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
How much does WR DeAndre Hopkins' confidence weigh in to getting him the ball?
"I think it's a huge part, and I think it's on both ends. It's the guy who's catching the ball, to me who knows like, you put it in the air and I'm going to go get it, and it's the guy who's throwing the ball that's just as important who knows, if I put the ball in the air to this guy, he's going to go get it. So, on both ends, it helps and it pays off. I think it's a huge part of being able to perform at the level that receivers like that, as good as Hop is – how those guys perform, confidence is a huge part of it."
Do you see WR DeAndre Hopkins' defensive background in his play?
"Yeah, I think it all helps. I think the more you use those skills, whichever side of the ball it is, you're learning about going and high-pointing the ball, attacking the ball in the air, I think it's all helpful."
What do you focus on with QB Deshaun Watson to contribute to the pass protection?
"From a quarterback standpoint, the biggest thing that you talk to those guys about in terms of helping pass protection is getting through your progressions, not holding the ball and getting the ball out on time. Seeing what the defense is doing, reacting accordingly, and being on time with your reads and your progressions and the ball coming out. As a quarterback, that's the biggest thing you can do to help the protections in my opinion. Then, beyond that, it's little things that we may tweak from week to week in terms of what we're doing with the protection. But really in my mind, it's the internal clock that he's got, getting the ball out and helping those guys do their jobs."
Is a quarterback's internal clock in their DNA, coachable or a combination?
"I think it's a combination of. I think a lot of skills that these guys have, it's a combination of some are gifted with, obviously, a lot of things – that's why they're playing at this level – and some of it's got to be reinforced, and talked about and understanding what the challenges are – and 'hey, always be aware of that silent alarm'. It's a constant reminder. It will never stop for as long as you coach quarterbacks and talk to quarterbacks. It's got to be a part of it."
Do you talk to quarterbacks about pocket presence?
"Yeah, of course. I mean, a guy that not only has pocket presence, but has to understand when it's time to leave the pocket. Again, it's a combination of both, you've got to have the instincts to know – 'it's time to stand in here, get through a progression and deliver a ball,' versus, 'now it's time to go. Now it's time to go and go make a play.' Again, some of it's instincts, and some of it's a combination of coaching and just kind of emphasizing it over and over again, combined with someone's instincts and has the abilities of a guy like Deshaun (Watson)."
QB Deshaun Watson has thrown less interceptions but continues to get sacked. Do you think that goes hand in hand?
"I think, as always, we would much prefer a non-interception to end in throwing the ball away or running and getting down and getting out of bounds. That's the better choice. So, we try to limit the amount of times that we just hold the ball and take a sack. I think OB (Bill O'Brien) said it to you guys, and I know we've talked about it before in here, that every sack has a bunch of different things that go into it, as do interceptions and none of them are the same. Sometimes it could be a combination of a lot of different things that are happening on the field, so we're never going to emphasize to him, 'Hey, let's just take a sack.' It'd be more like, 'Hey, let's get rid of the ball out of bounds. Let's get out of the pocket and then get ourselves down or get out of bounds and protect the ball.'"
Do you think QB Deshaun Watson has thrown less interceptions because he has more experience?
"Yeah, I think that's part of it. The more you play, the more comfortable you get with what's going on post-snap, what's the defense doing and then making good decisions off of it. I think, certainly, playing gives you more – you've seen more, and you can react to things a little bit quicker. I think that's certainly a big part of it."
Sometimes turnovers a product of bad luck.
"That's right. You do what you can to prevent them, and a little bit of luck never hurts."
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
What did it mean to you to make the Pro Bowl for the third-consecutive year?
"It meant a lot. You're working so hard to come out here and play hard with your teammates. It goes out to all my teammates. It's not an individual effort. It takes all 11 guys to go out there. We all contribute. Could've picked any of us, but like I said, thank you to the fans in Houston who voted for me, my teammates who support me, the coaching staff for putting me in situations to make plays. I'm happy about it."
Does it ever hit you that you're a part of the best of the best?
"I don't really pay that part no attention because I'm shooting for stuff bigger than that, like the Super Bowl. I'm more focused on trying to get that and finishing this season out to try to get to that point. I don't think about the Pro Bowl. You really don't want to play in that game. If you're playing football in February, you're doing pretty good. But, it's a great compliment for me, and I'm happy about it and I'm glad I made it."
What do you think about how far you've come?
"Yeah, people don't even know. It's crazy. I got hurt as soon as I played my first-ever NFL game. I haven't had the time to show anybody back then what I really can do, sat out, got healthy for two years, came back and started to build back up to that, and still I feel like I got a lot of work to do. But, I'm just happy where I'm at right now in my situation and what's going on here with the team, and where we're at, 10-4. I haven't won 10 games in my five years I've been here. Hopefully, it will lead to much more success for this team."
How does the team plan on getting back to how they were playing a few weeks ago and put together convincing wins?
"Man, we don't care about how it looks. We want to win games, period. We won last week. It doesn't matter if won by one or two. I don't care how it looks. We get it done. It's hard to win in this league. We play every week hard. Everybody's played extremely hard, so I don't care how it looks. You win a Super Bowl by half a point or a point, they don't care how you did it, it's done. So, just trying to stack wins. We won last week, that's behind us and we're getting ready for the Eagles. It's a great opponent coming up, Super Bowl defending champs, got a lot of work to do."
How fun is it to be involved in a huge game like this this late in the season?
"It's like it's a playoff game, and trying to stay in the second seed. With so much at stake, we just got to keep playing hard and try to win them all. I don't care what game we play in, we want to win them all. I know I do. I know a lot of guys on this team do, all of them. So, we're going to try to show up and play. That's what we're here to do – win games, and that's what we're going to try to do."
Did you ever think the public was going to give you credit for coming from where you were as a rookie?
"It doesn't even matter. My teammates do, the coaching staff does. They know what's going on around here. That's all that matters. Just keep playing and thanks for voting for me, the people that did vote, I appreciate you."
What do you think you've done well this year?
"Probably moving around a lot more. They move me around more than I've probably ever moved. I've played more linebacker this year than I've played in the past four years, but whatever I can do to help this team, I'll do it. I'll line up over the nose, guard, anywhere. They lean on me to help and I'm going to do whatever it takes. To learn the playbook and help them guys behind me and help out a lot because everybody gets in the game and plays. But, I'm just happy I can help this team in this situation, anything that I can do, I'm just trying to do it."
Can you tell the impact that you have when the offense doesn't know where you're coming from?
"Oh yeah, when you can line up anywhere, it helps a lot where you can just move around the front. It's big when you go into games and everybody has to make adjustments. We have a good front, we just can't line up for me, you have plenty of guys across the front that can play and make plays and make moves all around. It's good for the defense and the team. That's what we try to do."
Can you tell before a snap that where you're lined up will work for you?
"I feel like all of them are going to work for me. Wherever he (Romeo Crennel) puts me, I just feel like I can make a play. That's how my mindset is no matter where I line up at on the field. I know I can make a play and I try to go out there and make a play. I just keep going because I know I can make a play."
RB D'ONTA FOREMAN
Is playing football like riding a bike where you're able to step back in and play again right away?
"At the end of the day, it's football. I've been running. Like I said, I've had a lot of weeks of practice under me. I've done a lot of cutting, a lot of catching the ball. I've just got to go put it together. At the end of the day, like I said, I haven't been tackled, so I know that will be something different for me. Whenever they give me the opportunity to go out there and do what I do, then I feel like I'll be ready."
Since you don't hit a lot during practice this late in the season, does it make it tougher to prepare to get hit in games?
"I haven't been taken to the ground in a while, so I think that will be one thing. Me protecting the football is a big thing, definitely with me not being tackled to the ground in a while. That's something that I have to look forward to – making sure that I have the ball and do what I do from there."
How do you feel now after practicing for a few weeks?
"I feel like you always get better with time. When you get more reps, you can start to develop more of an instinct and you start to develop things that you've been doing your whole life. You start to get more comfortable with doing it. Like I said, I've had a lot of weeks of practice and I feel good."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
Do you have the mentality that you have to catch any ball that's near you?
"Of course. That's been my mindset since I've been playing football – defense, offense – basketball as well. If the ball's in the air, it's mine."
How did you develop the mentality that any ball near you is yours? Was that developed as a kid?
"Yeah, I think as a kid. Also, I think also playing defense growing up, being a defender in my early career in football, that was my mindset. You always have to knock down the ball or go up and get it."
Do you think playing defense growing up helps you as a receiver?
"Oh yeah, I think so, of course because you just learn how to position your body better, especially in tight circumstances like that."
Are you still impressed with your highlights?
"Yeah, honestly sometimes I am. But, I always feel like I can do better. I feel like I be better. I feel like I can make better catches."
Do you feel like any defensive back can stop you from making catches?
"Yeah, I've been stopped before from making all of those catches. I may stop myself sometimes. I feel like it's me more so than the defender. That's just the role that I feel like I put on myself and the pressure that no matter what DB is out there, it's my ball. I don't want to say a DB can't guard me, but I still feel like I can catch it."
Has a cornerback said anything to you after you make a spectacular catch against them?
"All the time. I think last week (Morris) Claiborne, when I caught the ball, he was like, 'Man, I don't know how you caught it.' It's been before with guys I've played against like Pat Pete (Patrick Peterson) and other people."
Does it mean something to you to become the second-youngest player to reach 500 career receptions?
"It does, because there's a lot of people that I look up to in those categories that I've passed that are wearing the yellow jacket right now. So, of course that means a lot to me."
How would you assess the way you've played this season?
"My team is No. 2 right now in the playoff seeds. I think that's most important. However I'm playing, if it relates to that then that's the best football I'm playing."
Does it feel like a difficult game coming up on Sunday in Philadelphia?
"Of course. They're a good team. They beat the Rams. They've beaten some other teams, but the games that they've lost, they've been right there as well. Don't let the record fool you."
Do you think your catching ability gives QB Deshaun Watson confidence in throwing balls up to give you a chance to make catches?
"Of course. I think that helps any quarterback. Anybody who makes catches like that, I always tell young guys, 'The more you make those catches, the more the quarterback wants to come to you and you can rely on him.' So, I think it does help, but he's always had confidence in situations like that, being able to throw it up. That for sure helps."
Do you get mad at yourself when you don't make a catch?
"Yeah, I do. I do because I feel like any ball in the air, I can catch or I should catch even if it's sometimes not in my vicinity, I still hold myself to that."
Do you go about your business the same way when preparing for a big game?
"For sure. You go about your business the same. We know what we've overcome. We know where we're trying to get to, so we're not going to let this game right here determine anything different. It's a big game for us and also for them, but just go out and play our game. We know we have the players in here to do what we want to do."
What does it mean to you to play well this season and help the Texans turn it around?
"It's always a great feeling when your team's winning. If I had 50 catches and 500 yards, I would feel like this is my best season because my team is in this position to do more than we've ever done before. For me, team success first. I'm always happy to see other guys having success, but I think they would say the same thing that the team goal is first."
What's your favorite catch that you've made?
"I'm going to go with the Dolphins catch between the legs."
Do you sometimes watch your highlights?
"I watch Megatron's (Calvin Johnson) highlights probably more or close to more than mine. I watch my highlights a lot, but I watch Megatron's highlights, too, just because he made great catches like that. It motivates me before the games, just seeing a great go out there and do it effortlessly, but yeah, I watch my highlights. I kind of work on my game as well seeing what I can do to do better. I don't watch all the great catches all the time."
What do you think when you watch your own highlights?
"Sometimes I surprise myself like, 'Damn. I did that?' But, I just feel like I can go out, be better and do more."
How special is it to make the Pro Bowl again?
"That's a great category to be in with a great group of guys. I've got to thank the fans, the City of Houston for voting for me."
When you're in the Pro Bowl, does it ever hit you that you're playing with the best of the best?
"Oh yeah. I think I realized that my first game in the NFL, that I was playing with the best of the best. I went up against Philip Rivers."
Is there pride in making spectacular catches each week?
"There is. I feel like I'm one of the best pass-catchers in the NFL, so I feel like going out weekly and proving it only helps that."
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
Is Sunday's game one of the most significant games of your career?
"It is. I don't think there's any added pressure because my mentality has always been your next game is always your biggest game. I think that's the mentality we have to take as a team. Obviously, there's a lot riding on it and we all understand that, but it's no different than the other 13-14 games we played before this. So, we can't overlook any of this, put too much hype into it. We just have to go out and play our game."
Beating the defending Super Bowl Champions would be a big deal.
"Absolutely. Definitely going up there in that tough environment, they're a proven winner before. Last year, they made the magical run and this year for whatever reason things happen, but I think they're trying to find their magic again, like you said. So, us going up there and playing a team like that right now that's finding themselves to get hot at the right time of the year and trying to make their final push and us trying to get to where we need to be at this time of the year, I think it will be a tough task, but we're more than ready for it. We just have to prepare each and every day and just go up there and play our game."