ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
What do you think about the way the defense has been playing?
“It hasn’t been as good as we would like it be. We’re making some mistakes that’s costing us yardage and a case of gains. So, we’ve got to work on it, try to tighten it up so that we can get better and not let them thrown the ball over our heads. Part of that, we missed tackles and let them run for 52 yards and things like that. We’ve been talking about it, looking at the tape, seeing how we can get back to what we were doing after the three-game losing streak. That’s been the focus with the group and we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see if it pays off.”
Do you think the mistakes have been mental or physical?
“A combination of both. Yeah, mental and physical. Because when you miss a tackle, that could be physical and it could be mental. A lot of it – sometimes is not focused and you’re not concentrating as much as you need to. Sometimes you think you’re maybe better than it turns out that you are, and then that allows you to give up plays.”
Is it frustrating as a coordinator for your players to be making mental mistakes at this point in the season?
“Well, whether it’s early or late in the season, if you make mental mistakes, that’s bad. That’s hard for a coordinator. The fact that it’s occurring now, in my mind, is no different than if it occurs early because either way, they cause you yardage.”
When you look back at the winning streak, what did you like about the way defense was playing?
“Well, that they came together as a team and they were doing the things that we needed to do to win games. Not give up big plays, not give up touchdowns, make the opponent work for whatever they get. When you give up big plays, it’s just too easy for the offense.”
How much does the defense’s performance have to do with pass-rush?
“Well, usually rush and coverage go hand-in-hand, and if you got a good rush and you’ve got a good coverage, then you’re successful. But, offenses, they do things to try to minimize the rush and so both the front and the back have to be on top of their game for us to have the most success.”
How have you guys been able to shut down opposing running games so consistently?
“The consistency of the players and the guys doing their jobs. Because it’s a unit thing, and everybody has a responsibility, and when they do their responsibility, then it works. If somebody misplaces a hand, or plays with poor leverage or forgets to remember what his job is, then there’s a hole, and the good runners that we face, they find those holes and gain yards. But, if we do what we’re supposed to do, then it’s tough for them to find any holes and generally they might have to try to bounce out and run around the corner or they have to cut back, which gives the pursuit chance to get there and all of those kinds of things.”
What are your thoughts on S Andre Hal receiving the Ed Block Courage Award?
“Well I’ll tell you, Dre (Andre Hal) is a great person, a great guy, and for him to overcome what he had to overcome at the start of the year, I think that’s tremendous that he’s been able to work through that and get back on the field and help us. He’s well deserving of that reward.”
Given what his medical situation was, how shocked are you at what he was able to overcome?
“You’re floored when you hear what the diagnosis is. Then, the fact that he’s able to overcome it gave me pride for him and a good feeling about him and him getting back on the field and him helping us win some games.”
What are your thoughts on DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney’s season this year?
“Jadeveon has been playing good. He’s an impactful player. He’s been able to stay healthy and stay on the field and get practice in. So, I think all of those things have helped him.”
Can you talk about Jaguars QB Blake Bortles?
“First, he’s back. We found that out. His running skill and his size and his running ability adds another dimension to his game. So we have to be cognizant of the fact that he can run. They run a read option offensive scheme with him at times. He will pull it down and run when he sees an opening in the rush. What that does is it makes the rushers have to be more cognizant of their rush lanes and their position on the quarterback not running up the field past him, but rushing to his level and having somebody in front of him, so that any lanes that are created you have an opportunity to overlap to keep him from running down the field. Usually when he runs, he runs for a first down because he’s fast and it’s hard to catch him. The running aspect is something that we definitely have to be aware of and cognizant of. Then, we have to do a good job in the coverage area, which we’ve been struggling just a little bit the last couple of weeks. I don’t know what their game plan will be because they like to run the ball, but they might come in and say let’s see if we can throw it. So, we have to be ready for both things. Our guys have to put their best foot forward and make something happen.”
Do you get the sense that the defense is letting mistakes snowball at times?
“Not necessarily. When we’ve made mistakes, we try to correct them. And then, hopefully, we can eliminate the mistake. If we’re not able to, we haven’t done a good enough job and they haven’t done a good enough job.”
As a coordinator, how much fun is it to have a player like DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney that you can move around like a chess piece?
“It’s a lot of fun. When the guy has that kind of ability, that kind of length that he has, he can make an impact on the offense. You know that it causes the offenses problems about how to block him, where he’s going to be, and then they have to decide who they are going to double. Are they going to double J.J. (Watt)? Are they going to double Clowney? Those kind of things.”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
What is it about QB Deshaun Watson that he’s able to lead the team on a comeback last Sunday?
“I think he’s got, like we’ve talked about before in here, I think he’s got very good instincts and I think the moments are never too big for him. I think he thrives on it. He’s kind of been doing that since he started playing football in those big moments, just stepping up and making plays. I think he’s got a knack for it. I think it’s when he can rise to that occasion and really be at his best without – there’s more a sense of excitement and this is why he does it than any sort of apprehension. He just cuts it loose, he plays and he makes good decisions in crunch time.”
Can QB Deshaun Watson’s attitude in big games be learned or is that an innate aspect of a player’s personality?
“I think it’s both. I think certainly it’s one of those things that you have to be wired that way to be able to handle some of those situations. I don’t think there’s any question about it. You have to have that in you, but I think going through it and experiencing it and having success through it definitely makes it where it’s going to be something that continues to grow and grow and get better for you the more you do it. I think it’s a two-part answer.”
Do you ever have to settle QB Deshaun Watson down on the sideline?
“No. All we do between series, whether it’s me and him, OB (Bill O’Brien) and him, whoever is with him, it’s all about the football. It’s all about what we see how the game is going at that time, where our plan is taking us next and how we’re going to attack the opponent, what we feel like they’re doing to us and how we’re going to handle it. It’s all of that. It’s never time to panic, it’s always calm. Just talking about where we’re going from here.”
When the running game struggles, what does that change in terms of the type of coverage the passing game faces?
“I just think when one part of your game – whatever it is – struggles, another part has to step up. You can’t let one affect the other. I think the way we go about it here is whatever happens defensively, whatever our opponent does at the snap of the ball, our goal is always to train our guys to react appropriately. Whatever the defense gives us, whether it’s based on them having success against the run or just their plan of the day, when we’re doing our job, the players should be prepared to handle that, get through their progressions and make good decisions. So, I don’t know that it changes anything significantly other than we’re going to do whatever’s necessary to move the ball down the field.”
Is QB Deshaun Watson running more than you would like to see?
“I don’t know. We spend a lot of time – again, sometimes when he takes off and he does that it’s those instincts that we talk about and you walk the fine line with him of not curtailing those, of still encouraging him to be a player who plays and trusts his instincts because he’s very talented in that way. But you also do a good job of continuously reminding him of when the journey is over, when to be smart, when to get down and protect yourself and the team at all costs.”
What has been the key for QB Deshaun Watson limiting turnovers?
“I just think it’s one of those things where the more you play, the more you realize and the more you can be in the moment. What I mean by that is understanding the point of the game at which you’re in, when it’s time to take a risk and when it’s not. I think the more he plays, he’s getting better with that – when it’s time to do that and time not to. I think that’s certainly helped out. I think he’s a pretty good decision-maker for a young guy. We’re going to keep pushing him to continue to improve, but I think that’s probably part of it.”
Are you impressed with how successful QB Deshaun Watson has been in limiting interceptions?
“Yeah, certainly. I don’t think we focus on it. In fact, I know we don’t. We talk about turnovers and protecting the football, ball security. It’s a huge part of what we talk about every week. I don’t ever specifically talk about, ‘Hey, let’s not throw an interception.’ We don’t talk to him like that. It’s about what do we do when the ball is snapped and the defense gives us this look? How do we progress through it? One should take care of the other. If we’re doing that correctly and he’s doing that correctly, then there’s no need to talk about the other part of it.”
After coaching with Baylor Head Coach Matt Rhule at the Giants, what do you think of the job he’s done at Baylor?
“I think, obviously, he’s done a great job, No. 1. It’s been a really impressive turnaround. He walked into a very difficult situation. No. 2, I’m not surprised. Having worked with him and then following him through Temple and being around him and knowing him, I’m not surprised at the success he’s had there. But, I know it was a difficult situation he walked into and he’s done a really good job.”
What did you think when you saw C Nick Martin pick up a fumble?
“Go score. No, I mean, first I thought, ‘The ball’s on the ground,’ – not good. Then, luckily we got on top of it and kept the drive alive.”
C Nick Martin didn’t just fall on it. He tried to do damage.
“Sure. I mean, those guys don’t get it that much. They have to make the most of that.”
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
How much are you looking for to the opportunity to do what you need to do in this game to clinch the division?
“I think I look forward to every week the same. They’re all big games for me. I take them all about the same seriousness, going out there approaching it the same way. The next game up, try to win and do whatever I can do to help the team win.”
Do you know what opportunity this is and what it could mean for the team?
“Yeah, division, win the division. Yeah, we’re trying to get back on that right track trying to win the division, but a great opponent this week in the Jacksonville Jaguars. Division game. We have to get ready to go.”
What do you think about Sunday possibly being Jaguars QB Blake Bortles’ last game with Jacksonville?
“I don’t care nothing about that. I worry about what’s in this locker room. I don’t care about what Blake’s got going on or whoever else. So, I don’t care about that.”
How do you feel the way you’re playing and how you’re coming off a big game?
“I just want to build on it. I want to build on going ahead into the playoffs. Against Jacksonville, I want to build on it, the defense, get us a little giddy-up going. We have to keep it going. We have to step up this week. We need this win. It’s very important to this team and the organization. Just looking forward to the opportunity.”
How special would it be to be able to clinch in front of the home fans?
“Very special. Last game of the season, to go out with a bang and clinch the division would be very special for us to end that way. We need to after going on an 0-3 start, then going 11-3 in the last whatever. But, we need this win and I think it would be very important to the team and organization leading to the playoffs. We need to win. You need to stack as many as you can, and this a big one.”
How do you feel about the way you’ve played this season and what you’ve been able to do to help this team?
“I always feel like I can do much more than I do, but I just try to go out there and make plays. Whatever happens, happens. I try to put our offense in good positions to score points. If I can make a turnover, or sack or fumble or even help somebody else make the play, I’m happy with that. I just try to go out there and do that most of the time.”
How much fun do you have on the field when you’re out there doing what you know you can do?
“Oh, I’m having a lot of fun out there with my teammates. Flying around and making plays, you have a lot of fun. It makes the game go fast. We’re just having a good time. You don’t get tired when you’re having fun. That’s what I try to do, go out there and have a good time running around and make plays, try to get the other guys going and keep them in the game. That’s what I usually try to do when I’m out there.”
How much do you feel like you’ve proven this season?
“You never know. You never know what’s going to happen. You just play, you don’t live in whatever’s going to happen, you just live in the now. Right now we got the Jacksonville Jaguars up, and that’s a big game. I don’t think anybody wants to talk about a contract right now. Shoot, we have a chance to win the Super Bowl. So, right now we got a little stretch of six weeks to go out here and put everything we got up for this stretch and try to get to the Super Bowl. That’s all I do, just go out here and don’t worry about a contract. I feel like if we win that, everything else will take care of itself.”
How do the leaders of the defense assess how the last couple of weeks have gone and how you want Sunday to go?
“It’s never perfect. You just have to go out there and compete, and with the guys on defense and all the leaders we have, I think we do that very well. No matter how the game’s going, we go out there and compete at a high level. When things don’t go our way – and that’s what we do, but we have a lot of great leaders. We just compete as a team and a unit. We don’t point fingers at anybody, we just have fun and that’s what we do out there.”
CB AARON COLVIN
What do you expect from your old team?
“I expect them to come out and play hard. I don’t think that they’re just going to lay down. I think that they’ll continue to fight. So, we just have to come out and we have to be ready and just do what we’ve been doing all season.”
Can you envision how it would feel for this team to be able to clinch at home in front of the home fans?
“That’s what we work for, no matter if it’s away or at home. But, of course it’ll be sweeter if we can do it in front of our fans. Our fans have been great all year supporting us and being there for us, so for us to do that in front of them, it would be awesome.”
Can you envision what it would be like to clinch an AFC South title against the team you won it with last year?
“I can’t, honestly. It’s all still a learning process for me. We’re just really focused on getting that win, man. We’ve been talking about it all week. This is why we play the game, is to win championships and this is a step in that direction.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
What’s up with your Clemson hat?
“Born and raised in Clemson. It’s more than a school. That’s where my whole family lives. I love that place.”
Will you watch the Clemson game this weekend?
“Of course. Come on. I can’t miss that game. That’s a must-watch.”
How much better are you feeling this week than last week?
“I feel a lot better. Training room staff, those guys did a great job last week of helping me get to the game. Right now, just trying to get it full.”
How much are you looking forward to the opportunity to clinch the division?
“That’s the main thing we’re thinking about is just clinching the division, nothing else because we know that the teams that are ahead of us in the AFC are winning games as well. In order for us to get to where we want to get, we have to win this game.”
Have you taken time to appreciate clinching a playoff spot after starting the season 0-3?
“Oh yeah, of course. It wasn’t ideal at the start of the season, but we knew the team we had in here, we knew the guys and we knew where we wanted to get to. It was on us when everybody took a little bit more, I guess, sense of responsibility not just on the football field but off the field as well making sure that we needed to get wins.”
What kind of challenge does the Jaguars defense present on Sunday?
“Oh yeah, they’re a great team. Their record doesn’t always represent how good they really are. They’ve got a good secondary, good D-line, good linebackers. The list goes on of all-stars they’ve got over there – guys that can make plays.”
Do you expect the Jaguars to play with the attitude that they have nothing to lose?
“I expect a tough game. Those guys always give us a tough game. I don’t think I would like it any other way. I don’t expect those guys to come out and do anything else than what they’ve done before, and that’s trying to win.”
How special would it be to clinch the division in front of the home crowd?
“It would be special, especially this crowd and this group of fans that was here when we were 0-3 that never went anywhere. It would be awesome to clinch and do what we have to do.”
You’ve been asked this a lot, but what do you think of where this team was and where they are now?
“Yeah, I can talk about that all day. I think I could write a documentary on that by now, but right now, we’ve got 10 wins and we’re trying to clinch this division with one more. The 0-3 definitely helped us get a spark, but this is a good team.”
Why is it important for you to be there for your teammates at all times and how important is that for you to have a good season?
“It’s not even more so me having a good season, it’s the team having a good season and getting this team where I know we can get to. Any way I can help. I don’t have to be 100 percent to go out there sometimes, but I’m always going to feel like I’m 100 percent even if my body doesn’t let me. I hate feeling like that, but this team is a good team. I know we have good guys in here that depend on me. The coaching staff, they depend on guys like me to come out and not always be 100 percent but still come out and help this team win.”
How impressed are you with the way QB Deshaun Watson has improved this season?
“Very impressed. I knew this was the kind of season he would have after having a full 16 games under his belt. Nobody in this locker room doubted him and his abilities. He’s special. Never doubted himself after coming off of injury. That’s not easy, but he worked hard in the offseason to get to where he is now.”
How important is it to have a winning mindset as a quarterback?
“That’s great. You want a guy that can go out there and take hits and get right back up. With Deshaun (Watson), we never feel like we’re out of the game. Even if everybody else writes us off or people turn the channel, they turn it back on and we’re right there in the game. That’s all due to the quarterback play.”
Do you ever think back to the day QB Deshaun Watson was drafted and think that you knew this was coming?
“Oh yeah, he was my favorite player of all time in college, personally. I knew the kind of player he was. I knew the kind of person he was off the field – a leader, a guy that wants to win. So, when we drafted him, I knew he was going to bring that same thing to this team.”
What’s the mindset you have to have when playing through an injury if you’re not 100 percent healthy?
“Go out there and fight. Nobody in the NFL right now is going to be 100 percent. Week 16, guys are going to get banged up and are going to be banged up, but you’ve got to fight through it. That’s football.”
Clemson-Notre Dame on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a good one. I hope it’s not a good one. I hope it’s a blowout.”
What have you seen from WR Vyncint Smith in practice and how he’s developed this year?
“Vyncint, he pays attention to detail very well. Coming here earlier this offseason, I knew he was a guy that would be able to make plays, but sometimes it’s not always about going out there and making plays. You have to know the little details, the ins and outs, to be able to make the play. He definitely got better at that. He was a fast guy. We knew that. We knew he could catch. But, coming out and playing a full game is something that he knew he needed to get better at, correcting mistakes and all that. He showed that he can come out and help this team with that play. But at practice, he’s always been a great practice guy and everybody knew that he could play.”
Is it cool to see an undrafted rookie from a small school have a chance to make plays in the NFL?
“It is. Especially that school is right around the corner from where I grew up at. It’s in that same area, Clemson, or around there. So, when I heard a guy from (Limestone College) was in the NFL, it was kind of shocking, but I knew to make it from there, you have to have hard work, you have to be dedicated because no one ever made it to the NFL from that college. So, he never had anyone to look up to or to be inspired by from that college but himself. He counted on himself and it paid off.”
What’s it like on Saturday among all of your teammates who played at schools that are participating in the College Football Playoff? What are your thoughts on the Clemson-Notre Dame game?
“That’s a good game. That’s a really good game. I think Notre Dame can do some things against us, but I think overall we’re a better team. I think we kind of outmatch those guys, especially in the secondary. From a wide receiver group, we have the best wide receivers in college. We have one of the best quarterbacks, got one of the best running backs, one of the best D-lines. They’re going to be hard to beat.”