HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
How do you feel about the depth of the roster at inside linebacker and do you have confidence that ILB Josh Keyes can fill the position if ILB Zach Cunningham misses any time due to injury?
"It's that time of the year where everybody's dealing with injuries. We've got a number of candidates there. You just mentioned Josh, I think we've got a good chance to get Brian Peters back, Peter Kalambayi, I think we've got a good chance there relative to him from last game, Brennan Scarlett, all the different things we do on defense – I'm not trying to pass that off as anything other than it is what it is, and I think we'll try to figure it out."
Pro Football Focus has OLB Brennan Scarlett rated as the top special teams player this season. What have you thought of the way Scarlett has been playing?
"I don't know anything about Pro Football Focus. I just know what I watch on film, and he's a very tough, very instinctive guy, great in the locker room, fabric guy. Really one of those guys that when you talk about the NFL, he's one of those guys that I think every team needs."
Does versatility become even more important during this point of the season when every roster is dealing with injuries?
"Yeah, that's definitely one of the things that if you have guys that can play multiple positions, let's just say relative to Brennan Scarlett, can do some different things – relative to the offensive line, Greg Mancz is a good example. Kareem Jackson is the obvious example. I think there's a lot of different things you can do, but if you have too many of those guys, it's not always the greatest thing, but you do need some guys that can fill multiple roles."
How much do you think philosophical alignment with General Manager Brian Gaine will help as the trade deadline approaches?
"It's huge because you're talking every day, you're on the phone with each other, it's a lot of face-to-face, a lot of phone conversations, text. It's comfortable. To me, the whole thing is just about communication. When you're in a partnership, it's really about communication. You may have disagreements here and there but at the end of the day, you want what's best for the team. So, eventually you're going to see it through the same set of eyes. That comes through a lot of communication."
Do you think there's a chance you make a deal before the trade deadline?
"I think there's always a chance. I think Brian (Gaine) and his crew are working really hard and I know, probably just like every team in the league relative to the trade deadline, I'm sure – there's a lot of talking and not a lot of action, but you never know."
Do you handle a team any differently if you're in first place or trying to get your first win?
"That's a good question. I really don't think so. I'll go in there, we meet at noon, they're lifting right now, we'll go in there at noon at we'll show them some of the things from Miami that were really good and some of the things that we need to correct and then we'll start showing them Denver. When you watch Denver, let's just say from the offensive perspective, you're watching Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Those are two of the best players we'll play all year. I don't think it's any different. I think we just have to – it really is, it's one week at a time, and we've got a big challenge ahead of us."
Is it too early to know if WR Keke Coutee will play this weekend?
"I think it's too early to probably tell that. I think we'll probably continue to work with him throughout the week, especially moving to Wednesday, Thursday, and see where he's at. So, I'd probably say yeah, it's too early."
What have you seen from TE Jordan Thomas?
"I think he's really improved. One of the things I always point out – I'm not trying to be repetitive – is he was a wide receiver and then as he got bigger, Danny Mullen moved him closer to the ball and he became a tight end. Now, he's had to learn how to block against some of these defensive ends and outside backers and he's gotten better and better at that. He's got really good hands, he's learning about the passing game. I think he works hard, so I've seen improvement, but again, it's got to continue. Especially for the rookies, this is where you start getting into November where maybe the college season, in some ways, the regular college season is winding down, our season is ramping up – from a games standpoint. I know there's a bunch of rivalry games in college. I just mean from the amount of games left. That's where the rookies really have to climb that wall."
How important has S Tyrann Mathieu's off-field leadership been to the team?
"He's been a big addition to our team, big addition to our locker room. He means the world to me. I just think that the guy, in addition to being a really good, tough football player, he's a very bright guy, he cares about his teammates, he's been through a lot in his life, he has no fear, he brings a great attitude every single day to the locker room and he's been a great addition to our team."
What role has S Tyrann Mathieu played in the development of S Justin Reid?
"I think he's played a big role, I do. I think that any time you have veteran players – I think obviously Anthony Midget and D'Anton Lynn have done a great job with Justin Reid – but I know that the veterans in that room – Tyrann, J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph), Kareem (Jackson) – those guys have all spent a bunch of time with Justin and I know that he's benefitted from that."
Do you have to tell the players to focus on one game at a time or do the leaders of the team set that tone for the rest of the locker room?
"I think there's good leadership in there. I think the players realize that. I think it's probably more about the younger guys. The younger guys may be dancing around, 'Oh, five in a row. This is great. This is unbelievable.' Yeah, right. Wait until you get to Mile High. It's a big challenge. I think the veterans help with that and I know that the veteran leaders and the veteran players understand that this is a 'what have you done for me lately' league. So, I think they help with that."
Is the altitude in Denver a factor for QB Deshaun Watson traveling to and playing in the game?
"I think that's a great question. I think the altitude is a factor for everybody, whether you're injured or not. I think that's something we're talking about relative to preparing for that. Look, I think we're only out there – we get there Saturday, we play Sunday. I'm not sure how much of an effect it would have but I think that's something we're talking about with all the resources we have here – Kap (Geoff Kaplan) and Luke (Richesson) and all those guys. So, I think that's really a factor for everybody."
What can Senior Director of Sports Performance Luke Richesson do to help prepare the team for the Denver altitude given that he spent six years with the Broncos?
"The support staff was off this weekend so I haven't really spoken to him too much. I'll get with him tonight on some of the things but I'm sure there's some things that he – whatever it is, maybe it's extra conditioning. There's no magic wand. I've coached out there several times. Obviously, Romeo (Crennel) and Brad Seely have been out there a bunch of times. We've all done it different ways. Went out there and did nothing and played, and other times went out there and had the masks and all the different things and it didn't matter, you know what I mean? So, I don't know what the answer to that is. I think we're always going to try to do what's best for the guys."
When a player misses time and a backup replaces him, how does that affect special teams?
"It definitely does. When you're playing more on offense or defense and you're a core player on special teams, it affects – all the reps that you're getting on O and D, now it affects the reps that you're getting on special teams, just from a conditioning standpoint. Now, I think our team's in very good condition but I'm just talking about guys that are playing every snap on defense and then they have to run out there and be on the punt return team or whatever it is. So, I think that's definitely something that we have to factor in and, again, there's other guys on the roster that have to try to help us out."
What do you think of the job the offensive line did last Thursday and the growth you've seen from that group?
"They've really improved and they've worked hard to improve. I think we've been able to run the ball the last couple weeks. I think we have a huge challenge here being able to go up against Denver's front. Denver's got a great front. I think it's a big challenge. I think our guys understand that but I think those guys have really improved. They're a great bunch of guys. They're awesome to coach. Mike Devlin does a great job with them and they've really improved."
How have you seen Broncos QB Case Keenum improve since he was here?
"I think Case is a really good quarterback. He started two games for us here and helped us win two games – Baltimore and Jacksonville."
Is your message to the players different than it was when you were trying to get your first win?
"There's a foundation of the message that's always the same – hard work, competition, taking care of your bodies, being a good teammate – and then there's the message of who you're playing, which is different. Every team's different. So, now you go from playing Miami, which is a totally different team than Denver. Players are different, scheme is different and all those things. I think there's a foundation of what we talk about all the time here but then there's the message of who's the opponent, who we're playing."
S KAREEM JACKSON
You have to be excited about where the team sits right now mid-way through the season.
"Yeah, definitely. For us, it's just continuing to be consistent in what we do. Come in every day and try to get better in some aspect of our game, some aspect in all three phases. There's a lot of stuff that we can improve on and we'll continue to work that way each and every day. We've got a big task this week, but we've got to take it a day at a time."
It seems like the defensive backs have been stepping up when called upon despite a slew of injuries.
"Right, it's just all about the next guy stepping in and being able to execute the game plan. I think we've got a great group of guys. Every guy in that room, I like to think, can step in and do what needs to be done. That's how we look at everybody in there. We hold everybody accountable to know the game plan and to come in and be ready to play at any given time."
What do you remember about Broncos QB Case Keenum during his time in Houston and how has he improved since then?
"Case Keenum has a strong arm, can make every throw on the field, can also extend plays as well. He'll run around a little bit and find some open guys, make some off-schedule plays. For us, it'll be about keeping him in the pocket and just trying to make it tough on him being as sticky as possible in coverage."
At the beginning of the season, would you have taken a 5-3 record at the mid-point of the season?
"If you told me we were going to start out 0-3, yeah. Right now, I think we're in a good spot. To win the last five games was definitely great for us. It just means that we're continuing to build off of each week, just being successful. We've got to know how to handle success and we've got to continue to get better. Like I said, there's still a lot of ball left. There are a lot of phases in which we can get better and that's how we have to work each and every day."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien said he relies on leaders like you to tell the young players that there's still a lot of season left.
"Right. We'll continue to echo that throughout the locker room. I think we have a great group of guys and I think they understand what we're trying to get accomplished here. We all have the same goals in mind. To echo what Coach (O'Brien) said, we just have to continue to stay at it. We have to keep our heads down and keep pressing."