HEAD COACH BIILL O’BRIEN
What are you thankful for during this seven-game winning streak?
“I just really appreciate the players. The players work very hard, they put a lot of time into this. It’s all about Tennessee. Very good football team, very tough team, very physical team, well coached. So, I’m thankful for the players that we have here.”
How have you seen the chemistry grow between QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“It’s been good from the time they got here, when Deshaun got here. They work hard, they meet a lot together, they talk through routes together, all the different coverages that you can see in this league. So, they have good chemistry.”
What’s special about CB Johnathan Joseph?
“He’s a really great person, husband and a father, he’s played a lot of football, he’s played for a lot of different coaches – Marvin Lewis, Mike Zimmer, Romeo Crennel, myself, Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips, seen it all. Played for great coaches, those guys that I just – those other coaches I just mentioned, not including me of course in that category, those other coaches I mentioned. So, that means a lot. His leadership in the locker room is excellent, he’s a very smart guy, he’s helped us win a lot of games based on his film study, he’s seen it all and he’s just a really good guy to have on the team.”
Has S Tyrann Mathieu been everything you hoped for when you acquired him in free agency?
“Yeah, he’s been everything that we’ve hoped for. He’s a great teammate, was voted a captain, had only been here for one offseason and was voted a captain at the end of training camp. Good tackler, good ball skills, tough guy. He’s been everything that we hoped for.”
How critical is the run game during colder weather and to help protect QB Deshaun Watson?
“Yeah, we have to be able to run the football. We can’t stand back there and throw it 60 times. If that’s what we have to do, then that’s what we’re going to have to do, but we really need to be as balanced as a we can. Those guys have done a good job. They ran really hard against Washington, got some yards on their own. I thought the line did a decent job, obviously, but those guys ran real hard and they’re going to be critical to our success moving forward.”
What stood out to you about S Justin Reid during the drafting process?
“Justin was a very smart guy, just a guy that you could tell was a good person, came from a great family, his older brother having played in the NFL I think helps because he had an understanding of how it works in this league relative to the schedule, the days and things like that. So, I think he’s been a real good addition. He works very hard, he pays attention in meetings, he’s a real good teammate.”
What does it do for your offense to continue running the ball?
“It always depends on how the game’s going. It really depends on how the game’s going. That’s what we try to do each week. It doesn’t always look pretty, but it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is winning. We’re not in this thing for style points, we’re in this to win. So, what we try to do is get a feel for the game, how the game’s going and that’s what dictates how we try to call plays in all three phases.”
Have you reached out to Titans Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees?
“I haven’t. I know Brad Seely did. I have not. To be honest with you, I don’t have his number. I had his number when he was Baltimore. I don’t have a number for him. But, I’m sure I’ll see him before the game. Our thoughts go out to him. From what Brad said, it sounds like he’s doing better, and from what Mike’s (Vrabel) saying, it sounds like he’s doing better. We have great respect for Dean Pees, we have great respect for Mike and the program that they run there and we know it’s going to be a really tough game on Monday night.”
Did you have a chance to watch the Rams and Chiefs game on Monday night?
“I did. I watched the tape of it. I didn’t watch much of the live game because we’re getting ready for a real good team, but I watched the tape of it. So many different things happened in that game. Great quarterback play, great pass rush, turnovers, strip sacks, interceptions. I mean, everything happened in that game – penalties kept drives alive. It was a really fun game to watch on tape.”
What improvements have you seen from OLB Whitney Mercilus these last few weeks?
“Whitney, he’s a very, very solid guy, very solid player. He does a lot of different things for us. When you talk about being on a defense with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and (Benardrick) McKinney and things like that, everybody’s got to find their role. Whitney knows his role, he knows what we ask him to do, and we ask Whitney to do a lot. We ask him to rush the passer, we ask him to play at the second level, we ask him to do a lot of different things relative to coverage and rush. So, I think he’s doing a good job. He’s battled through some bumps and bruises. He’s out there every day. He’s just a great guy.”
How big is Monday night in terms of the division race and setting yourself up for the playoffs?
“I think what happens is when you’re winning, they all become more and more important. I think that’s what you want. You want it that way, and we have to focus hard on the details. Winning football in November-December means that you’ve earned the right to win during the week. You’ve earned the right to go out there and compete and win because you’ve prepared during the week and paid attention to the details and done everything that you’re asking each other as teammates or as coaches and players to go out and do to be able to win a game. As you keep continuing to win, that becomes more and more critical.”
Do you tell the guys that one of their goals should be to continue to play better than they did the previous week?
“I think you’re always looking to improve. No doubt about it. I think that’s what the league’s all about. Who can get better the fastest, who can be the team that improves the fastest as the year goes on? I think every game there’s going to be chances for improvement, and we definitely have to improve. No doubt about it.”
What is the status of G Senio Kelemete and C/G Zach Fulton?
“I think both guards will be day-to-day. I think it will be game-time decisions, and we’ll see how it goes during the week, we’ll see how it goes on – it’s a Monday night game, which kind of helps because you have the extra day. But, we’ll see how it goes.”
Can you talk about WR Demaryius Thomas’ involvement?
“Yeah, it’s not Demaryius. I have to do a better job of getting him more involved. He’s working hard, he’s a good pro and we need to do a better job of getting him the ball a little more.”
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH / DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
What are your thoughts on the potential of getting ILB Dylan Cole back from the Reserve/Injured list?
“Well, they call it ‘igniting’. So, they ignited him and he can start practicing. We’ll have to see what he looks like in practice and then make a decision in three weeks, two weeks down the road, something like that, but he was very valuable in helping us before he got injured. If he can get back to that form, then I think that he’ll be an asset.”
What would it mean to have ILB Dylan Cole and ILB Zach Cunningham back for the final stretch of the season?
“Well, I think it’d be pretty good because they both are athletic and they showed that they can produce when they were healthy. Having both of them back will add some pieces to the puzzle.”
Did you think about the similarities between last Sunday’s game where Redskins QB Alex Smith suffered an injury and the game in which Redskins QB Joe Theismann broke his leg 33 years ago?
“Not until after the game. After the game, then I realized that I was involved in both of them. Neither one was a pretty picture. You just hope that they’re able to recover and rehab and make it back. Sometimes it’s hard to do, though.”
Do you have a sense of if CB Aaron Colvin will be able to play this week?
“He’s out there, we’re practicing with him and we’ll see how he does this week. You make your decisions week-to-week on how the injury is coming around and what we see. So, as soon as we see enough, then he’ll be there.”
What’s it like coaching two pass rushers like Leonard Marshall and Lawrence Thomas and now DE J.J. Watt and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney?
“Well, it’s good to have that kind of ability on your side. One, you don’t have to face them. Then, two, they do produce and make plays and help us win. Lawrence and Leonard played on the same side as a matter of fact, but that’s good to have that kind of ability and that kind of production from a couple of players. That just helps you.”
It’s a relief for you to have DE J.J. Watt, DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus all on the field together, right?
“Exactly. It is. It’s good to have them all out there.”
Does having DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney standing up put any extra pressure on opposing offenses?
“I think when you have a player who’s a productive player, offenses have to take note. Then, they have to decide how they want to handle him. If they handle him by putting two guys on him and someone else may be free, if that someone else can make a play, you feel good about it, but we just move him around a little bit and it’s been effective so we’ll keep moving him around.”
What’s it like when you see a play like S Justin Reid’s 101-yard interception return for a touchdown?
“It feels good because you never know if that play is going to occur in today’s game because the athletes on the field are so good. The guy I was concerned about what Alex (Smith) because I know Alex can run and Alex will give effort, and Alex tried but Justin had too much and was able to get that touchdown. If you can score a touchdown like that, the team energy and attitude gets lifted. I think that that helped our team – able to make that play and then it helps going forward in the game as well.”
Has S Andre Hal surprised you with anything since returning?
“Well, he made a pretty good play on that ball thrown down the middle to the tight end. It was a good break on it. That’s what you expect from your safeties to make breaks on balls like that and knock them out, which was a good play. He’s still working on getting back. The fact that he’s able to be out there playing is pretty wonderful in itself.”
What stood out to you about S Justin Reid during the pre-draft process?
“He’s athletic, he was a productive player in college, he’s a smart player. All of that combination of things, you take notice.”
How early on did S Justin Reid look like the player he is now. Was it early in training camp or did it take a while?
“It takes a while like it does with most young players because rookies are rookies and they make rookie mistakes. He’s made his share of them, but I think he’s getting a better feel for the game and the opponents and is able to make some plays.”
Were you surprised S Justin Reid was that fast? You don’t normally ask players to run 100 yards.
“You don’t unless they have to.”
Why do you think the defense hasn’t been as successful on third down this season as in previous years?
“The opponents are pretty good that we’re facing. Then, we’re doing some different things, mixing things up a little bit, and sometimes when you mix, if you hit, it’s good, and if you’re not right on, that gives the opponent the chance to make a play. Teams have been making some plays on third down against us and keeping us on the field.”
How important is it for the defense to improve in the redzone and on third down over the final six games of the season?
“It’s really important. During the bye week, we looked at the redzone and third down and tried to put our finger on some things that we can do better. We talked to the team about that and tried to put some emphasis on it. Hopefully, that will sink in going down the stretch because all of these games are going to be close and one play can make the difference. If we can make that one play, then we’ll keep winning.”
What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
“Just to be thankful for what this life has provided me – family, friends, a good career and all of those kinds of things.”
What’s been the key to minimizing big plays allowed this season?
“Well, we put the emphasis on it and those guys on the back end, you have to give them a lot of credit because they listened and understand what we need to do. They’ve been doing a good job, for the most part, of staying on top of the receivers and not letting them get behind them. Hopefully we can continue that.”
What did you think of the Monday night game and is that the direction the league is heading?
“There’s a lot of offense in that game. Defensively, you wring your hands. Hopefully I’m not involved in a game with that many points.”
What did you think of the way the defenses were scoring points in the Rams-Chiefs game?
“Well, that was good. Any time the defense scores, it’s good.”
Will the defensive coaches spend the offseason figuring out how to slow down offenses?
“Sure. That’s what you’ll do. We’ll sit in the offseason and see what the trends are and how you can defeat what’s going on, but some of it is the ability that’s on the field. If you don’t have the ability to match what they can put on the field, it’s difficult. These teams are getting better players, faster guys. The offensive lines are bigger and stronger. So, if you can put those pieces in place – and then the guys who are calling the plays, they do a good job of calling the plays as well – you can have something that’s pretty hard to defend.”
Is it frustrating for a defensive coordinator that all of the rules are designed to help the offense?
“It’s been like that all the time, but back in the day, they did let the defense – they gave some leeway to the defense – but now they’ve taken it all away from us.”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
What were the coaching points you relayed to QB Deshaun Watson after watching his first interception on tape?
“I thought the first interception – I’d like to have that one back. I didn’t think there was a need to throw that ball. I thought there was potential to drop it down to the tight end there, and even a chance to run for a first down even though it was third and long. So, we talked about that, but I thought that was – coming after it, we didn’t think that was a great decision trying to force that one in there.”
Would you like to be able to utilize RB Lamar Miller in the passing game more?
“Yeah, and we do. We have ways of doing that. There’s times when we do – we can free release him, depending on protection. So, there’s ways of getting that done that are usually in the game plan, it’s just kind of seeing how the course of the game, how it’s playing out. There’s ways we can do that, and then also, some of the stuff where we do ask him to help, there’s a chance after he does help that he’s able to get out late, leak out late and do some things like that. There’s various ways to get him out throughout the game so we don’t always have to use him in protection help. We try to balance that, and a lot of that depends on how the games going, how it’s being played.”
You haven’t thrown more than 24 passes in a game since the Buffalo game. How do you keep your receivers and tight ends happy?
“I think you keep them happy by winning. Some games call for there to be more run, we’ve been in that kind of mode and I think everybody understands. We have a bunch of professionals and a bunch of guys in that locker who really take a lot of pride in winning ball games. When you win seven in a row, everybody’s pretty happy. So, I think everybody understands that and that’s the mark of a good team and a smart team.”
How does QB Deshaun Watson handle making mistakes or when things don’t go his way?
“He’s always been a guy who takes coaching. I think there’s always a willingness on his part to admit, yeah, maybe I didn’t need to do that. Then, we’re able to move forward, and I think that’s the biggest thing for anybody playing that position or doing that job, however you want to say it. You’ve got to learn from the mistake and then you got to let it go. It can’t stay with you for the next series. So, I never liked the saying, ‘you have to forget about it’ because you don’t forget about it, because you better learn from it, but you also can’t just sit back there and continuously think about it. It’s on to the next series, it’s on to the next play. I think he’s done a good job of doing that for a young guy.”
Has QB Deshaun Watson always had a short memory?
“Yeah, I think so. In terms of being able to overcome those things and just kind of get back on the horse, and go out and start slinging it around again and having confidence in himself, he has. He’s had that ability.”
How do you get an extremely successful guy like QB Deshaun Watson used to dealing with failure?
“I guess I would say, and it’s probably semantics, but I don’t think you ever want to get used to failure. I think it should always drive you, I think it always should kind of make you mad and really push you into working harder. He’s got that. He’s never been used to it. How does he deal with it? I think he deals with it by trying to be like, why did I fail? Why did we fail, more importantly. What can we do as a group to kind of turn that around? What do we have to do in order to be able to execute better so there aren’t these failure? I think that’s what’s great about him. He’s got that mindset. He’s never going to accept not being successful. It’s not in his nature. But, I always think he wants to know the why’s. The why’s of why it didn’t go right, when it doesn’t go right, and how’s of how to fix it and get it right.”
Did you feel like there was a difference in QB Deshaun Watson’s approach in the Washington game that maybe had to do with his two interceptions?
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think, again, he was trying to make a play, in hindsight, I don’t think it was a great decision. We talk about that when it is time. You’ve heard me say it a bunch of times, there’s times for that play, and there’s times when it’s not the way to go. In that case, it was one of those. But, no, there was no huge difference in his mentality or his approach.”
If a quarterback gets a sense that a screen play is not going to work, what is the ideal bailout?
“You see these guys all the time fire it at the feet. He thought he could make a play, the guy made – 94 made a great play on the ball, and those are the times when, ‘Hey listen, this is the National Football League. They’ve got great players on the other side of the ball.’ When someone makes a great play, again, you have to accept it for what it is, and move on.”
How have you seen WR Demaryius Thomas take a step forward in this offense?
“I just think the understanding of the offense. When you first get here and only have two, three days of practice, when the huddle breaks you might need a little help getting lined up or something like that. But, now you know you can see that’s kind of – those times are coming less and less. He’s kind of getting the feel for the verbiage. It’s like learning a new language. He’s more comfortable with that and you can see now, a more sure guy when the huddle breaks and going to where he needs to line up and then doing his job. So, I just think it’s been experience and time in the system. It will keep coming. He’s a smart guy, football savvy and a vet, so it’ll keep coming.”
Are you happy you don’t have to coach against DE J.J. Watt and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney?
“I am. I am, yeah. Definitely.”
Although you don’t coach them, do you take a step back and think about how tough it would be to coach against DE J.J. Watt and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney?
“Yeah, I mean, no question. When you think about it, especially in terms from a quarterback dealing with all the X’s and O’s on your end and know what we got to get done and what we have to do, but then understanding what they’re doing exactly when the ball’s snapped and how it affects what we’re trying to get done. Then, when you have great players who can put me under duress at the same time, I mean that’s a lot to deal with. So, I certainly appreciate what those guys do for our team and I know other quarterbacks probably don’t appreciate it.”
QB DESHAUN WATSON
Do you have a sense that Monday’s game against Tennessee could put you in a good spot for the rest of the season?
“For sure. The next game is always the most important. We just try to keep on stacking wins and put us in position for later on down the season. It’s a very important game. It’s a home game. We want to win those. It’s a division game. We have to make sure we prepare well and get ready for it.”
How thankful are you for not only the wins, but how the team has played over the last seven games?
“I’m thankful for this locker room, the guys we have on the team, the coaching staff, this organization, the fans. Everyone’s just buying in and continuing to believe in us. The first three games were a tough stretch, but no one was discouraged, no one was down on each other. We all just kind of picked each other up and kept fighting, kept pushing forward and kept grinding.”
What’s it like throwing to WR DeAndre Hopkins even when he doesn’t have a lot of separation?
“Time after time, he just continues to prove that regardless of if he’s wide open or if somebody’s on him, he’s going to bring it down. If he doesn’t bring it down, no one will. The percentage of the balls going his way, I’m pretty sure it’s about 80-90 percent that they’re going to get caught. He’s a veteran guy, All-Pro receiver and he’s just continuing to bring the trust in myself and this team.”
How important is sticking to the run in this offense?
“The run is very important for any offense, not just ours, but any offense. That’s the bread and butter of any offense to kind of create the passing game. You want those safeties to kind of have to cheat up and try to fill those extra gaps and holes on the running back. Once their eyes get in the backfield, it kind of creates the open grass for the receivers down the field. The run game is very important and every week we have to continue to improve on that.”
How would you describe S Tyrann Mathieu’s impact on the locker room?
“Very impactful. He’s one of the top leaders on this team. He has so much history and he’s been through so much, that he can give so much advice to all of the young guys, including myself, and even some of the veteran guys. He just brings that good, positive energy regardless of it things aren’t going well. He’s always positive and continues to bring people up and just make everyone else around him better. That energy and positive mindset that he has, it’s been very, very special for this team.”
Is there anything special about playing on Monday Night Football?
“For sure. You’re the only one on national TV, so you get the chance to kind of show what you’ve got and what you’ve been preparing for. Every game is very important, but of course Monday nights, Sunday nights and Thursday nights have a little bit more juice.”
Despite the winning streak, do you feel that collectively the team needs to play better?
“For sure. You have to be able to improve each and every week. Everyone gets better. If you take a step back, each and every week we’ve been trying to improve. We’ve been doing that. The other team is also good, too. They’re going to make plays, but you have to continue to improve and correct the little things to pull off seven games in a row.”
How close do you think WR Demaryius Thomas is to having a full grasp of the offense?
“He’s very close. There are still some things that he’s going to continue to have trouble with remembering because we do a lot of different things. We put a lot on the plate of the receivers switching them around, but at the same time, he’s a guy that came in and put his head down and went straight to work.”
How do you guard against listening to the hype and being overconfident?
“We don’t believe in the hype. We just grind. We just work. We understand that it’s going to be tough each and every week, and we understand that all 31 other teams don’t really care what we’ve done in the past. It’s about what we do this week. We don’t believe in the hype. We just grind and go out there and prepare and try to play our hardest to get a win.”
What makes the Titans defense difficult to deal with?
“They’re playing very well. They create turnovers, they do a good job of being on the same page. The chemistry is there. They’re one of the top defenses in the NFL for a reason because they’re getting stops and doing what they do at a high level. We’ve got to bring our A-game and get ready for it.”
What does WR Keke Coutee bring to the offense?
“He brings a lot of different things – running the ball, (catching) the ball, blocking. He’s a complete receiver that can do it all. It’s another weapon that the defense can continue to try to focus on. You can’t just focus on DeAndre (Hopkins) or D.T. (Demaryius Thomas).”
DE J.J. WATT
As a defense, how important is it to take over games during this time of year?
“We just have to go out there and play our game. We have to do what we know we can do. Everybody has to do their job, execute their assignments, make some plays. If guys feel like getting 101-yard interception returns, we’ll take those all day, but just doing what we do, trying to make plays.”
What do you think the strength of the defense is?
“It’s everybody. I don’t know if there’s one strength I’d say over anything else. I think the rush and the coverage work hand-in-hand. I think stopping the run and putting them in tough situations makes us better. I think that being able to make a play from any position from any player is what makes us good.”
How much does all your experience together help at a time like this?
“We just have to keep playing the way we’ve been playing. I don’t think that you look at anything – time of year or whatever it is. You just go to practice, we get better at practice, we go to the meetings and learn in the meetings and we go to the game and play the way we know we can play in the game. I don’t think the approach or anything has changed, or experience or whatever it is. You just have to work.”
Do you feel like this game has additional importance with it being a national TV game against a division opponent?
“I think they’re all important. Especially in November and December, they’re all important. I mean, we want to win. We just want to win. In this league, it’s very difficult to win, and wins are extremely important, especially the later you get in the year. So, we’re just trying to get a win.”
Can you talk about CB Johnathan Joseph and CB/S Kareem Jackson’s friendship on and off the field?
“Oh yeah, they’re connected at the hip. They’re like brothers. They’ve been like that since day one, since I’ve been here and J-Jo’s been here. They’re as thick as thieves. Everywhere you go, you see them together. When they’re outside of football, you see them together. I’ve been very fortunate. As a defensive lineman, you’re very thankful to have good defensive backs because they help have good coverage and then you get extra time to get sacks. I’ve always been very thankful for those guys. They’re both two of the best at what they do, have been for a while, and I’m thankful for them.”
Have you and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney grown your game together?
“I mean, we’re on opposite sides most of the time, so I don’t think we really read off each other a lot. We’re just trying to make plays. Whether it’s one guy forcing a pressure and making the quarterback step up and the other guy can make the sack. Whether it’s just being disruptive – the more playmakers you have, the better you’re going to be, always. It’s good when we’re healthy together and it’s good when the whole defense is healthy together and we can make plays.”
Has S Tyrann Mathieu brought everything you hoped for when you acquired him in free agency?
“Yeah, I think it turned out exactly how I’d hoped it would turn out. He’s a great player. He came in he makes plays, he finds ways to affect the game and he’s done a great job for us.”
Out of all the guys you’ve played with on this team, has CB/S Kareem Jackson matured in a good way the most?
“I think since I’ve been here he’s been a core part of it for most of the time. I think this year he’s playing lights out, on a crazy level. I think being able to do that despite having to move around positions and do things like that. He’s playing at an extremely high level right now and like I said, not like he wasn’t necessarily before, but even little things. I mean, how sure of a tackler he is right now and how quick he’s reading things, he’s just flying all over and making plays. That’s a huge help for your defense.”
What would you convey to players today about the end of the 2011 season when you lost three games in a row?
“I think that was a little bit of a different time. I think that was our first time ever clinching a division, and there was a lot of excitement and we did it with like three or four weeks left. I don’t think we’re anywhere near that at the moment, but if and when that time comes, I’ll be able to use my experience and help make sure what happened the last three games there doesn’t happen again.”
Can you talk about the influence S Tyrann Mathieu has on and off the field and how he changes things for the defense and the locker room?
“Yeah, he’s been good in there. Obviously, helping out some of the younger guys. When you have guys like Tyrann, J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) and Kareem (Jackson) being able to help out young players, a lot of experience, it’s great. I mean, J-Jo’s been like a coach since day one. I’m sure as soon as his career’s over he’s going to step right into a coaching role because he’s been doing it his whole career. A guy like Ty back there who can do the same from the safety positon, so it’s always good and it’s always beneficial to have guys in those roles because it helps the younger guys develop a lot quicker.”
What are the challenges of stopping the read-option?
“It’s everybody knowing their jobs, doing their jobs and just – it’s a tough play. There’s no question about it, it’s a tough play. Just everybody doing their job and trying to be the best they can be on that play, because it is, it’s a tough play. I mean, they have an extra runner and a guy that can do it very well, so you have to make sure that you know what you’re doing and then make the tackle.”
As a defensive player, what was watching the Monday night game like for you?
“I caught the first half. There was a ton of offense, and in today’s world, people want that. But, there were also a couple defensive touchdowns. I always love watching Aaron Donald play, so it’s fun to watch him play and some of those guys out there. It’s interesting. There’s no doubt about it. You score over a hundred points in a game, it can’t feel terribly good to be on a defense out there. But, those guys, like I said, a couple defensive touchdowns help that, but I guess we have to get a little bit used to it. It seems like it’s the new age.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH TITANS HEAD COACH MIKE VRABEL
As a defensive player with a defensive background, what did you think of Monday’s game between the Rams and Chiefs? Do you think that is the immediate future of the NFL?
“I think there’s a lot of good players, I think there’s a lot of good coaching going on. It was like watching a tennis match back and forth. We’ve got a lot to worry about here with the Texans. I just think that we have a big challenge ahead of us and hopefully we’re prepared by the time Monday gets here.”
How much did Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel help you last year?
“Very supportive. He’s always been – even from when I was a player – I played for RAC. He coached me hard but he was supportive. I think he understood my situation when I got to New England that I hadn’t played a bunch, I hadn’t started a lot of games, but he had high expectations for me as a player and he held me accountable. Then, being able to coach for him, alongside of him, it was great. Tried to help him and then he tried to help me and be supportive in all levels last year.”
You got cheated out of having DE J.J. Watt and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney on the field together over the last few seasons. What have you seen on tape between the two of them this season?
“For the record, you said that I got cheated out of it. We have to play with whoever’s out there, but there’s a lot of emotions watching these guys on tape just because you know them, you know their families, you know their girlfriends, you know their wives, you know their kids. Everybody’s playing well. They’re all playing well. It’s good to see (Benardrick) McKinney, (D.J.) Reader and Dunny (Brandon Dunn) improving, and Angelo Blackson, obviously Whitney (Mercilus) and JD, I could go on and on – and the guys on the back end. It’s hard to pull out of your job for four years and not have just some emotions about the player that you know and have spent a lot of time with them. They’re playing well, playing at a high level.”
When you see DE J.J. Watt and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney playing well together, you can’t help but feel good for them, right?
“Yeah, I think 14 games out of the year, I’d probably feel pretty good for them, but there will be two of them when I don’t. They’re good people. I thought I had a good relationship with both of those guys. I felt like I had a great relationship with the players there and tried to help them improve. Injuries are a part of the game but they certainly have handled them, and seeing where JD’s come from his rookie year and some of the issues that he had, to be able to sustain and be available. I know he was available and he made himself available for us last year when I was there. He played through some pain and certain things.”
What can you tell us about Titans QB Marcus Mariota injury-wise?
“Well, I think he’ll be limited today. I think we’ll get him back here when we resume on Friday.”
How much does the read-option open up what you’re trying to do on offense?
“I think it’s a part of what we do. I don’t think it’s a huge part, but we have it as part of our offense. It’s something that we can do. We have to block and run and throw and catch better. It’s been inconsistent at times. We’ve done good things and then we’ve done some things that we’d like to have back – both coaching and playing.”
What’s different about the Texans now than when you saw them in Week 2?
“I think that they’ve done a great job of winning close ball games. They’ve had four games that they’ve won by three points or less, which means they’re a team that plays very well situationally, understands the situation whether that be two-minute, four-minute. I thought they did that very well against the Redskins. They were driving for a field goal and they keep them really out of field goal range. It was a prayer kick, so you saw good examples of situational football there. They’ve done that throughout the year and that’s helped them win seven games in a row.”
Where are the Titans better now than they were in the Week 2?
“I think that there’s things that we’ve improved on. I think, other than last week, we probably were playing better defense than the first time, but you never know. The great thing about this league is you have to prove it every week. Every day that you come to work, as a player in this league and as a coach in this league, you have to prove your value to the team. We have to get to work and be able to practice and prepare against a good football team.”