RUNNING BACKS COACH DANNY BARRETT
How important was sticking with the run game vs. Denver? The run game seemed to have a cumulative effect later in the game.
"That's one of the things that we came into the game looking at. They're very good off the edges. Von Miller is one of the best in the league. We had to try to find ways to nullify himself and (Nick) Chubb. One of the ways to do that is to run the football right at them. That kind of helped us out and it also enabled us to utilize our time of possession. I think we came out of the game with over five minutes more than they did, which was key. Even the last drive we had, even though we didn't get points, we took four minutes off of the clock and changed the field as far as getting it out of our own end backed up. Then, Trevor (Daniel) hit a great punt for us, too."
In the offseason, did you work with RB Lamar Miller and RB Alfred Blue in terms of being decisive with their cuts between the tackles?
"That was one of the goals that we looked at coming in. When I first had a chance to meet those guys, I wanted to take a look at, 'What are your goals?' and try to combine them with the same goals that I had. One of the things was let's be decisive and take what they give us. You can't always look for the home run. You've just got to be consistent in our run game. Both of those guys have done a great job of doing that. They're good running backs, they've got good vision and they feed off of what the offensive line is doing up front as well."
What skillset does RB D'Onta Foreman bring to the table that's different than the other two backs?
"I think it's a combination of things. For his size, he has good speed. I think he runs with great pad level as well, which is always leaning forward – falling forward I should say. It complements what we do on offense with the other two guys as well. Right now, we've got the one-two punch and hopefully he gets back and we get a three-headed monster. I look at the success Philly had last year in their backfield. They used three, four guys in the backfield. When you get to this time of season, you're going to need all of your guys. We're looking forward to, at some point, him coming back to join us and helping us build on the success that we've already been able to accomplish."
What areas of improvement will you look for in the second half of the season from the running backs?
"Just being consistent. It's going to be tough sledding as you start to get into the colder temperatures, especially in the outdoor stadiums. We have to make sure we're consistently taking what they give us, not being greedy, but more importantly, just taking care of the football. That's one of the goals that we have coming in is take what they give us and take care of the football. When we're able to do that, we're going to be successful and win games."
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH MIKE DEVLIN
Where do you think the offensive line is at this point in the season?
"Still trying to get better week to week. Every matchup is tough. Every defense we play has great players. I think playing together for the last couple, three, four weeks here is obviously helping. That always helps. You always tell them (if) you get five guys on the same page, you've got a chance."
How have your tackles improved?
"(Kendall) Lamm has been, obviously, a product of the system here for a while. The thing I think he's doing well, he knows what he is, he knows his shortcomings and he's playing well within the system. He's utilizing – what I think has been a really great job by Coach (Bill) O'Brien helping us out – helping us be able to do our job efficiently. (Julién) Davenport, I think naturally a left (tackle) coming out of college. We had to move him back, so again, a young guy. The more he plays the better he'll get and the more confidence he'll get. Still have to get him playing earlier in games with that same type of mentality, but the last couple of games, if something was to occur, he wasn't letting it snowball. (He's) getting back and playing within the system. They're learning, they're fighting. That's where we're at."
What was the key to eliminating pre-snap penalties over the last few weeks?
"Again, I think young guys getting some experience playing, figuring it out, whether you're on the road, in the snap count and you're about to go against these great D-ends when you're young. I think the more they play, the more confidence they have in even the procedural things."
How has the offensive line been able to continue producing despite the injuries up front?
"Well, I think we've been – knock on wood – the last three, four weeks here, we've been able to have a semblance of the same. Obviously, Greg Mancz has been here. He's a product of being in the system and a smart guy. Can't talk enough about the job he does daily in preparation. He knows he's a play away. The more those guys are around each other, the more they know each other. Like I said, it doesn't matter if you're from Toledo, Appalachian State, you've got a chance."
How do you coach the offensive linemen to avoid holding penalties?
"Obviously, you've got to teach hands inside and that technique, but then you've got to really break it down. When Deshaun (Watson) breaks the pocket and you feel a guy and you get it extended outside your body, you've got to let him go. Then, go re-find him to try to get a fit because (Watson) will make another move. In the run game, it's a matter – to me, it all starts with footwork. Julién (Davenport) had the one in the game, he had his head across and he ended up dumping the guy, but he didn't quite get his feet there. So, then from wherever (the referee) is calling it, it looks like he's out of frame, and they know. I'll ask him, 'What do you think? Why do you think they called it?' 'Because I didn't move my feet enough. I didn't get my feet there.'
TIGHT ENDS COACH TIM KELLY
What have you seen in TE Jordan Thomas' development, especially the last few weeks?
"He's come in every day with a plan to try to get better. He works tirelessly on it. He's done a really good job of doing what we're asking him to do. Really, the last couple of weeks, the opportunities have come his way and he's been able to make the most of them. I don't know if he's necessarily doing anything different. It's just he's getting the ball thrown in his direction and he's able to go up and get it."
TE Jordan Thomas threw a big chip block on Broncos OLB Von Miller. How do you think the tight ends have been performing in terms of blocking?
"No doubt. We're asking our guys to do a lot in some of the pass protections. They're all doing a good job of trying to help protect the edge and things along those lines. All three of them have really done a good job in that area."
What do you like about TE Jordan Akins as a lead blocker?
"He's a very strong player. So, he does a good job of once he's able to get in there on the second level, he stays connected with the linebackers and he's a very strong player."
INSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH BOBBY KING
How have you seen ILB Benardrick McKinney and ILB Zach Cunningham develop?
"They've done a good job this year. Zach obviously didn't play this past week but they've progressed and gotten better every week and still looking to get better every week. They've done a nice job."
What challenges do you encounter when you have an injury and you're trying to mix other guys like OLB Brennan Scarlett and ILB Brian Peters in?
"Well, it's two different situations. With Scarlett, obviously moving behind the ball, it's a different deal, but they both did a nice job and prepared and they really put the extra time in and did a good job. With Peters coming off the injury, he obviously wasn't 100 percent but he battled and they both did their job."
Do you think you'll get ILB Zach Cunningham back this season?
"I hope so, absolutely. I hope so."
What have been some keys for ILB Zach Cunningham and why he's become such a good player?
"Well, he doesn't make the same mistake twice, hopefully, and every week he has gotten better. I just tell him to play confident in his coverage, in his tackling and stuff and just get better every week."
Leadership-wise, what do you see out of ILB Benardrick McKinney this season compared to last?
"He runs the show. We put a lot on his plate. He's the signal caller and he gets everybody lined up and he does a nice job at that."
SECONDARY COACH ANTHONY MIDGET
Do you think S Justin Reid's NFL background with his brother or his intelligence has attributed to his quick transition to the league?
"I think it's a combination of all that. I think that he has some good veterans in the room to learn from, he's asking a lot of questions, he's a very bright guy, so that part of the game was easy for him. But, he's had the opportunity to get a lot of reps for us and he came in here from day one and put in the time. I think the more he continues to play, the better he'll get and he's been showing that with his performance the last couple weeks."
When you break it down, how is CB/S Kareem Jackson able to get so much pop in his tackling?
"Well, he takes pride in it. You don't see many defensive backs willing to do what he does, but he takes pride in it week in and week out to set the tone. It's a great tone-setter for us. The hit he had the other day on (Phillip) Lindsay, I think it really sparked the group. Week in and week out, that's something he prides himself on, being a physical, tackling DB and it's been a joy to watch him do that."
Are you hopeful that CB Johnathan Joseph and CB Aaron Colvin will be back after the bye week?
"That would be good if we can get those guys back because it provides the depth and extra bodies of guys that started for us and play significant football for us."
Is it exciting to look at the depth you have built and the potential veterans that could return from injuries soon?
"When you get injuries, it's always tough when you don't have your starters out there. But, it's another opportunity for other guys to step up and get some playing experience and that's what happened when J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) went down and some of the guys were down. Mike Tyson had the opportunity to get some reps, Natrell Jamerson had the opportunity to get some reps, so just like we always tell the guys, if you're in the game, you're a starter and we expect those guys to perform like that. It benefits us in the long run when they get a chance to get some game experience."
How valuable has CB Shareece Wright been to guys?
"It's been valuable because he's one of the guys that stepped up in the absence of some of the guys getting hurt. He's been a guy that – he's tough, he's been playing with some things himself, but a guy that's been able to come in and provide a veteran experience, goes out there and challenges guys, had a big play for us on the deep ball in Denver. He's been doing a good job for us. We're happy to have him."
SENIOR DEFENSIVE ASSISTANT/OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH JOHN PAGANO
How impressed have you been by the pass rush defense lately?
"I think that the production always comes with what we talk about, what RAC (Romeo Crennel) really stresses, winning those one-on-one matchups. Any time you get those opportunities between 99 (J.J. Watt), 90 (Jadeveon Clowney), 59 (Whitney Mercilus), inside linebackers coming up the middle, one-on-one with the backs, you've got to be pleased with it. So, moving forward, it's been good for us."
How have you seen DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney develop?
"I think to be able to do what RAC (Romeo Crennel) does to move him around and not get a true beat on where he lines up. He's a very disruptive player and I think moving forward you always want that guy to have that disruption and to be able to truly come up the different alignments of where he aligns. So, that's been good."
How would you describe OLB Whitney Mercilus' role this season?
"We ask Whit to do a lot of different things. He lines up at multiple spots, he's all over the field and he's had, the past two games, a little bit more edge rush ability and that's showing up and it's been good. But, I think the biggest thing is the amount of where he lines up and moves around. We ask him to do a lot for us and he's doing a really good job of just the different alignments of where he aligns."
How's OLB Duke Ejiofor doing?
"Duke's doing good. I think the biggest thing for being a young player in this league as a rookie, is that day to day, that development. I think the best thing that we've seen from Duke is his improvement and really understanding about embracing that grind every day of his development. That's been good."
What is it like working for Head Coach Bill O'Brien?
"It's been great. It's been outstanding. An opportunity to come here and be able to work for RAC (Romeo Crennel) with this defensive staff, and the things that I've learned and the things I learn from Coach O'Brien on a day-to-day basis, of how to handle the players and everything he's meant of saying what he says to the guys. It's been great."
WIDE RECEIVERS COACH JOHN PERRY
What have you seen from WR DeAndre Hopkins in terms of leadership?
"As soon as he became a captain and that was announced, I think he took a lot of pride in that. He had always kind of been a leader in our room. I talked to him about not losing that focus because we do have some young guys in the room. He's put a lot of time into that, talking to those younger guys and giving them a really good path to having success like he has."
What was the process on preparing WR Demaryius Thomas for the Broncos game in such a short time?
"I give Demaryius a lot of credit on that. He reached out to me once the trade was done and asked me, 'What are the availabilities?' and things like that. We came in each day, early, before the team and we went over all of the different things he needed to do. I give a lot of credit to DT. He took the onus upon himself to really come out there and prepare."
How do you think WR DeAndre Hopkins and WR Demaryius Thomas' skillsets play off of each other?
"When you look at Demaryius, he's got a great route tree and he's even more impressive than I thought he was on tape. I think he sees that we allow some creativity within the routes and everything like that. You saw we had some double-moves with him the other day. He looked really sharp in those. So, that's a good complement because when you look at how strong a route-runner and how strong a physical player that Hop is, having those guys that can be great route-runners around him, really plays off each other really well."
What has impressed you about WR Keke Coutee's development so far?
"One of the things that's been really impressive for me is that he missed a lot of training camp and still was able to, from the meetings, take what he needed to take and then translate that onto the field very quickly even though he missed time on the field. That was really impressive to me because we're really going to have to count on him to do that again because he's missed some time here, but he's been in every meeting. He's done a good job. He's very diligent about doing those things, so that part of it is the most impressive thing because certainly his skillset is something that we've always been impressed with right through the draft process. We're seeing those things, but his professionalism has been great."
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
How would you assess where the offense is at this point in the season?
"I think we've made some strides. I think we've done a lot to be balanced and keep emphasis with the running game and taking a little bit of pressure off the quarterback. I think we've done a good job of that. I think we're balanced, I think we've had some success and I think we need to continue to look at the different packages we're running, grow on them and then go from there."
QB Deshaun Watson looks like he's doing a better job of being careful with his body.
"Yeah, I think he's definitely been aware of that. I think that's been a big positive for him and it's paying off for him, too. I think he's feeling better and he knows he's taking care of the football, which is helping us win games. So, it all kind of plays into each other. It's being reinforced by the outcome. I think that all helps, but he's definitely taking care of himself, he's making good decisions right now. We just have to keep going with that."
In what area has QB Deshaun Watson grown the most this season?
"I think understanding defenses. I think kind of seeing things pre-snap and having an idea of what it's going to be, and then when the ball is snapped, kind of confirming it and then making decisions from there. I think he's done a good job of improving in that area. It's got to keep coming. There are always things to improve on and he'll continue to get better with it the more he plays, but he's definitely taking steps in the right direction in that area."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR BRAD SEELY
How pleased are you with the unit's improvement from where it was when you got here to where you are now?
"There's always plays we wish we could have over but overall I think our guys have a done a pretty good job. I think they work hard, they practice hard and they play hard. As a coach, that's all you can ask for guys to do."
Why do you think the coverage teams have improved so much this year?
"I think because of the personnel. I have to give a lot of credit to our personnel department. We have good players. Good players make good coaches. Fortunately, we have guys that want to do this job and they want to do it well and they work at it and it shows up on Sunday."
Is the kick return game an area where you'd like to take the next step and become more explosive?
"Certainly. Some of that we don't have any control over on the kickoff returns. We really haven't had many opportunities recently. We'd like to get some more because I think we have good blockers and we have a good returner. I think that's one of the reasons they kick it out against us. I think that will come here, especially when we play these games in the northeast here later in the year. You're not going to be able to kick the ball out of the end zone so I think that'll work both ways. We have to do a good job of covering kicks and they're going to have to cover kicks against us."
What do you see from K Ka'imi Fairbairn and do you think he's still growing as a young kicker?
"Yeah, I really think he is. I really like his demeanor. He never gets too up, he never gets too down. He tries to be the same guy every day, he tries to be the same guy every kick. I think that goes a long way into being a good kicker."
How is P Trevor Daniel doing?
"Trevor is doing really well I think. Again, he's a rookie. Just like every other rookie we have on our team, he has his ups and his downs but overall I think he's learning. Like, last week we went to Denver, I ask him if he'd ever punted in Denver, 'No,' 'Have you ever punted at altitude?' 'No.' 'Have you ever punted in cold weather?' 'No.' So, here's a guy that, besides playing in the game, he's got other stuff he has to figure out."
DEFENSIVE LINE COACH ANTHONY WEAVER
What do you think about NT Brandon Dunn's improvement?
"It's been a steady climb from the second I've gotten here. He's put in all the work. It truly is a credit to his hard work, his discipline and his willingness to really do whatever it takes to succeed. So, I love Brandon and I'm happy to see the successes that have been coming his way."
How close is DE/NT D.J. Reader to reaching the next level?
"I think D.J. is an unsung hero of our crew. He's a technician and he's very meticulous in everything that he does. Some of that production that we talked about previously with Brandon Dunn, I think is also attributed to him. Stopping the run game is all about limiting space, and if anybody's a space eater out there, it's D.J. because a lot of times he's eating up two, sometimes three guys. He's obviously always improving, puts in the work. I love the kid."
What did you initially see in DE Angelo Blackson and how does it make you feel to see him continue to improve and make plays for the team?
"As a coach, any time players improve, you obviously feel a sense of pride and some joy out of it. But, that being said, I can only steer him in the right direction. It's up to them to put the work in, to put the time in and to take the coaching in. All these guys, to a T, have done that. This group, how close they are, how much love they have for each other, it shows up on the football field on Sundays. Angelo, he has tremendous work ethic, he puts his hard hat on every day and just tries to get better. He's big. He's in that 325-330 range and he can run. Guys like that, they don't grow on trees. So, when you have his work ethic combined with the talent that was just God given, we knew he could do something with that and I think it's shown."
What do you think about the year DE J.J. Watt has put together and the comeback he has made?
"It truly is just a credit to him. He is the most willed, and his work ethic is just second to none. For me to say that I expected him to be what he was, that was an easy bet. I'd make that bet 100 out of a 100 times. So, I love him, I'm happy that he's had the success he's had and the thing about him is, as much as we appreciate what's he's done, he expects more and that's what makes him great."
Can you talk about the DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney plays?
"JD's versatility is incredible. The kid is so much smarter than I think anybody gives him credit for. We play him all over the place and he picks things up quick. Then, from an offensive standpoint, not knowing where he's going to be is a problem and it consistently shows up week after week after week."
What growth have you seen out of guys like DE/NT D.J. Reader and DE Christian Covington?
"Those guys continue to grow every day. Like I said earlier, the group I have, I have eight guys that I'm completely confident that can go in and win us a football game. I think that's rare. They're all completely selfless, they just come to work every day wanting to win and wanting to get better. When you have that, you can be successful."
OFFENSIVE/SPECIAL TEAMS ASSISTANT WES WELKER
How tough is it to change teams midseason the way WR Demaryius Thomas has and how are you helping with his transition?
"Demaryius is a sharp guy, is a real pro and has been around the league for a long time. He's actually been in this system – although things have changed a little bit – but some of the terminology was the same from his rookie year and some of his early years there in Denver. He's done a great job of staying on top of the game plan and hopefully that should get better as we go."
Did General Manager Brian Gaine or Head Coach Bill O'Brien talk to you about WR Demaryius Thomas before Thomas got to Houston?
"Yeah, they just asked me what type of guy he was. Obviously, D.T.'s a great dude. He was like my little brother when we were there in Denver. He's done a great job with his career and hopefully we just keep it going here."
Do you make WR Demaryius Thomas call you 'Coach'?
"Oh, I already told him. I was like, 'You call me "Coach Welker." I'm not Wes to you. I'm "Coach Welker".' So, we had some fun with that."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien said he was really impressed with WR Demaryius Thomas' route tree. Do you agree?
"Yeah, for his size, not only can he stretch the field a little bit, but he has very good feet and is very good in and out of cuts. Usually for a guy that's that big, you lose a little bit as far as the quickness and getting in and out of breaks, which he does a really good job of."