HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
At what point did you know that DE J.J. Watt was back to his normal self?
"I mean, I don't know if I ever look at it that way. I just think he's done an incredible job in the offseason of rehabbing. He was here every day at 6 a.m., put a lot of time into it. I can't even imagine what he did, to be honest with you. Clearly, I'm not a doctor or a trainer. I knew when he got into training camp, the way he was practicing, that he was playing at a high level. I don't know if I look at it like anything other than – I've been around him now for five years and his expectation level of himself is huge. He wanted to get back and help this team win."
The Cowboys have a lot of talent with QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliot. When you watch the tape, what do you see?
"You just said it. I think in all three phases. You look at, start with special teams, Tavon Austin returning punts for them, Deonte Thompson, kick returner, (Chris) Jones, the punter. They have some really good specialists. Offensively, the offensive line. Obviously Zeke is a great player. Dak Prescott's done a great job for them. (Cole) Beasley's a good receiver. They've got good tight ends. Their defensive line is very disruptive – Demarcus Lawrence. They're getting (David) Irving back off of a suspension. Jaylon Smith's playing at a high level. Sean Lee I know is dealing with an injury, but (Leighton) Vander Esch back in there, a rookie that's in there, so they've got a ton of talent. The secondary, Byron Jones – I could go right down the roster. It's going to be a very challenging game for us. We got off to a good start here this morning. These guys are focused and having a good day today. So, we have to string days together and be ready to go."
What's the level of concern regarding the secondary?
"Like I always say, it's an improvement league. There are certain things we can improve on. Definitely making plays on the ball, things like that. I do think that there's a big emphasis for us on communication and combining coverage and rush. There were some poor communication plays on last Sunday that we have to fix and we just have to be a lot more consistent. I think if we do that, then we've got a chance to play good team defense."
Do you think having faced the Cowboys in the preseason helps you prepare for this game?
"No. Absolutely not. The fourth preseason game? No. Has nothing to do with anything."
How difficult is it for the offensive line to jell when there are different combinations of players starting each week?
"There's always continuity that you have to – you'd love for it to be there, the same five, but these guys have worked a lot together in the last six or seven months that they've been together. That's just the way it is. So, that's what we have to do. We have to do a good job of making sure that they have multiple reps in a row together so they're not in there for one rep and then we're moving them on the next rep. So, we do a lot of planning, strategic planning, when it comes to practice of those guys being together so that we have as much continuity as possible."
What have you see on tape of Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence?
"Great length, athleticism. He plays very hard, plays hard on every snap. He's chasing the ball sideline to sideline, chasing the quarterback. He can wreck a game."
How valuable are the contributions you've gotten from your rookie class?
"It's been good. I mean, I think this rookie class, obviously, they've got a ways to go, but relative to where they are in their careers, all of them have contributed in some way, shape or form. It just needs to get better. I know that there's a lot of focus on that when a guy has a good game, but they have to just understand – I think one of our players stood up here the other day and said it – it's a 'what have you done for me lately' league. It's what are you going to do next? Nobody's going to remember the Colts game if (Keke) Coutee doesn't go out and do a good job against the Cowboys and things like that. I think it is a good class and they just need to keep improving."
What jumped out about WR Keke Coutee when you were going through the draft process this year and did Offensive/Special Teams Assistant Wes Welker have any input on Coutee?
"I think we all took a peek at him, myself, John Perry, Wes Welker, obviously Brian Gaine. We saw a guy that had really strong hands. We saw a guy that had very good playing strength. He was a very strong player. We saw a guy that had quickness and good speed. Then, when we brought him in here, we found him to be a very bright guy that kind of could explain things to us and what they did at Texas Tech and had some good instincts about certain football questions. We felt like that was a good pick for us."
What do you think has led to DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney's recent success?
"I think he feels better. I think with JD, when he feels good, body-wise, he goes out there and he's hard to handle. I think he feels better."
What could WR Keke Coutee do when he was injured to stay mentally prepared to produce?
"He was in all the meetings. He's a smart guy. He could be in the walkthroughs so he could mimic what the guy in front of him was doing. He took a lot of good mental reps. Again, going back to (the other) question, they have to build on it. It was one game. He's got to build on it. That's the big key for a rookie is consistency. Can they keep it going day-to-day."
What areas of the offense have you been pleased with so far?
"I think these guys work hard. I think they're getting better. They're a great group to work with. The whole team is a great group of guys to work with. They work hard, they give us everything they've got every day. I don't want to go down a laundry list of areas. We'd be here all day. There's a lot of things that we have to improve on but I enjoy working with the guys."
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
What are your thoughts on being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week?
"I'm very happy about it. I hope I can go ahead and do it again this week."
How much fun are you having out there?
"A lot of fun, but I'm really trying to get a win, whatever it takes to win with my teammates out there."
Have you been successful because you're healthy and feeling good?
"Oh yeah, for sure. For sure. I feel great and I'm going to practice every day, working on my craft and just working on stuff I wasn't good at, trying to get better at it and enhancing stuff I was already good at. So, I credit that to what he said, that's what it is."
What areas of your game are you working on improving?
"Like, just using my hands better. Like I said, I always can improve on using my hands every year. I'm trying to use them better. Turn the corner a lot better than I was coming off my leg injury and the surgery I had this offseason. So, that's coming back and it felt good, felt pretty good."
Do you get excited when a team tries to block you with a tight end or two?
"I get happy, yeah. I'd rather go against tight ends than tackles, a lot easier to go against. But, if you're going to do that to me, of course they expect me to win here, I expect myself to win, so, go out there and compete and win."
What goes through your mind when you get a one-on-one matchup?
"Try to kill him, go run through him, get to the quarterback, no matter who I'm going against. Just try to run through this guy and get to that quarterback as quickly as possible."
The way you played on Sunday, is that what we should expect from you for the rest of the year?
"Yeah, I hope so. That's what I expect out of myself. Just go and put all my effort to this team and my teammates and go out there and compete at a high level."
What is it like to play against QB Dak Prescott?
"I played him in college. He can run, he's a big, big quarterback, physical guy who likes to run the ball. Just looking forward to the matchup."
After all you've been through, what does it mean to you when you're out on the field performing well?
"It feels great. I've been through a lot and the day I walked in here, the first game ever I get hurt, battled back, got hurt again, battled back. Just keep battling. My back's against the wall. Just keep battling, competing and showing up. That's the way I live and that's what I'm going to keep bringing every week, hopefully."
When you and DE J.J. Watt have four sacks in a single game together, is that what you've been waiting for?
"That's all we try to do every week. We've been trying to do that before that, but it just came together last week. Hopefully we can continue to do the same thing we've been doing, putting pressure on the quarterback and just competing at a high level."
What does it do for an opposing offense when you and DE J.J. Watt are both performing well?
"I think it brings a lot of energy to our defense. We aren't worried about the offense, we just worry about what we got on our side. But, when us two bring it, everybody around us picks their stuff up and we just got to have the energy out there and just keep the whole game, four quarters, not just half the game, some of the game. We just have to do it for four quarters."
After scoring a touchdown, are you eager to score again?
"Score again. Yeah, who's not? To end up in that box, a defensive player ending up in the box is a great feeling. We don't get the ball a lot."
Are you aware of how important this game is to the fans?
"This is a big game this week – which, all of them are big, but this one is pretty big. Home game, we need to win at home, going against a rivalry, to us a rivalry because Dallas, Houston. Like I said, we have to be ready for the matchup this week and come out here and fight this week."
Do you see a lot of Cowboys fans around here?
"Yeah, I do. I hear a lot of them, too. I mean, America's number one team, so like I said, it's going to be a good matchup for us this week. Just got to go out here and get ready for a four-quarter battle."
What do you see from their offensive line?
"Probably one of the best in the league, if not the best in the league. Got some guys up front that can go, a lot of Pro Bowlers up front. We got some guys up front that can go too, so it's going to be a good matchup game. We just have to come and play a four-quarter game, so come down to it, just got to bring it and get ready for a long fighting game on Sunday."
What's special about playing in the primetime spot on Sunday Night Football?
"Night time. We don't play at night a lot. Primetime, we're the only game on at that time, so of course, everybody is going to be amped up looking forward to this game and we just have to come out and compete and come out on top, hopefully."
Do you feel like last Sunday against the Colts was the best game you've ever played?
"I don't know, I don't know. I'm just trying to get better week by week, play by play and just keep competing at a high level, like I said. That's all you can ask for in this league, go out here and get better week by week and compete. That's what I'm trying to do."
WR KEKE COUTEE
Being from Lufkin, Texas, do you know WR Dez Bryant?
"Oh, yeah. Me and Dez are very close. I'm sure you guys see us always going back and forth on twitter. We stay in contact as much as we can."
When did you meet WR Dez Bryant?
"When I was very young. When he was playing at Lufkin, I watched him a lot. So, growing up, all of the kids wanted to be like Dez. So, him being around for some part of my life is good."
How excited are you to play in a big game like this on Sunday night?
"Everybody's pretty pumped up to play against Dallas. It's an in-state game, so everybody's ready to go."
How do you feel like you did in your first game?
"I feel like I did pretty good but that was last Sunday, so I've moved on."
Do you agree with Head Coach Bill O'Brien that your success last week was last week and this is a new week?
"Yeah, I agree with that 110 percent. That was last Sunday. We have a new game Sunday, so I'm looking forward to the Cowboys."
To what do you attribute your mental preparation to? Was that instilled in you or is that natural?
"I would say it started in college just taking notes from Coach (Kliff) Kingsbury and things like that. It's definitely translated over to the NFL for sure."
QB DESHAUN WATSON
You've mentioned that QB Dak Prescott and his early success was an inspiration to you. What do you think of him now and what does it feel like to play against him?
"It's cool. Dak is a friend of mine. We're boys. We talk whenever we see each other. We want the best for each other and he's a guy that I can watch and try to improve my game because we have similar things we do. We both can run, throw from the pocket and do some good things, have great leadership of the team. He's a guy that, of course he's one of the quarterbacks I look at as my time as I'm growing in this league."
How do you feel about where your game is right now?
"I'm comfortable with my game. I'm always trying to trying to strive to get better, really just craft my game with the details, reading coverages, making the right reads, making the right throws, my accuracy. So, there's always ways to improve and I'm always trying to improve that each and every week, but as far as feeling confident when I step on the field and being able to produce at a high level, I'm very cool with that."
Do you pay attention to specific pass rushers when you go against them?
"I respect all guys, regardless of the name or how much he's getting paid. Everyone is good in this league, everyone is in this league and especially, if you're out there on the field Sunday, or whenever you're playing, you deserve the right and you're pretty good to be performing. So, I don't really focus on that. I focus on my task at hand and being the best quarterback I can be for my team and doing my job at the highest level. But, I make sure that I respect everyone that I'm going against."
What are you trying to do to make sure you are protected and can sustain the amount of hits you take?
"Just try to do different things. A lot of those hits are on me, getting rid of the ball, not holding the ball too long and just protecting myself, but that's part of the game. I don't shy away from all that. I make sure throughout the week I take care of my body, and after the games I get recovery and do what I have to do with the trainers and Luke (Richesson) and his staff and make sure that I'm taking care of my body. I really don't focus on that, I just try to protect myself and help the O-line out as much as I can."
Do you think the offensive line gets unfair criticism?
"Oh, for sure. I mean, those guys are doing a great job. A lot of the sacks I put upon me getting rid of the ball or holding the ball too long or trying to create a play where I probably could have thrown the ball away or ran for extra yardage, two or three yards. But, those guys are doing a heck of a job and they keep battling each and every week, and they're improving, building chemistry, enjoying the game, having fun and just getting better every week."
Did you follow the Cowboys at all when you were young?
"Honestly, I just followed the Falcons. I was a (Michael) Vick guy, so every Sunday I watched Vick. Of course, Deion Sanders, but outside of that, no. I was really (just) the ATL."
How do you feel about playing the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday?
"I look at it as another game. Of course it's big – Sunday night, Cowboys – but at the end of the day, it's still football, just more people watching. So, more people to see what we have as a team, as the Texans, and just go out there and perform at a high level."
Do you understand how much this game means to the fans?
"For sure. This is pretty much the battle of Texas. Two Texas teams and Houston wants to beat Dallas and have the bragging rights. So, we have to go out there and do our job and try to get those bragging rights so the whole City of Houston can hold that weight for a year."
What did you think about WR Keke Coutee's performance on Sunday?
"Keke did a great job for his first start and being able to come out there and perform. He helped us out a lot. He did what he needed to do. Some things that he's going to correct and continue to improve on, but as his first start and continue to help this team out and be a playmaker."
Do you think playing a primetime game puts pressure on you or gives you a chance to show the league what you really are?
"I don't have any pressure. I go out there and perform regardless if it's Wednesday in front of middle school kids, I'm going to go out there and perform and do what I have to do. So, none of that stuff matters. Football is football and I do my job to the fullest and go out there and play as best as I can to help this team win."
DE J.J. WATT
At what point did you know you were back to your normal self?
"I don't know. I told you all offseason you'd have to see it with your own eyes, so you tell me. I still have a lot of work to do and I think that's the exciting part for me is I still have a lot of room to improve. There's still so much to work on, but like I've said all season long, it's been getting steadily better and better each game, each quarter, and I'm going to continue to do that."
Can you be better?
"Always. You can always be better. Of course."
What would you like to improve upon from last game?
"Last game was a ton of plays, obviously, and it was a really long game, but I'd like to be a little bit better conditioned at the end. I would like to handle double teams and chips a little bit better. I'm getting back to seeing more and more of those again so I'd like to work on finding ways through those, fighting through those. Then there's always little things you can improve on. There's little plays here or there that you'd like to make the play or bat the ball or whatever it may be."
Did you feel like last Sunday was the best DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney and you have played together since you've been together?
"I don't know. I mean, obviously, being able to get four sacks between the two of us, he played a great game. The touchdown, a couple of the TFLs he made, it was definitely a great game. We need to do that."
Did you watch a lot of Dallas Cowboys games when you were growing up?
"I lived in Wisconsin. We watched one team and one team only."
Is there anything special about playing the Cowboys or is this just another game?
"We're 1-3. We need a win. That's what it is. We need to keep winning. We need to build off of the momentum we had from last week. Obviously, it's an in-state game, which means there's a little bit of something there, but more than anything we need to win. We need to win football games."
Do you understand the importance of this game for the fans?
"Yeah. I'm sure there's definitely something there for the fans on both sides, but like I said, I think our fans, us, everybody knows we just need to win. They could be lining up anybody over there. We need to win this game."
What's special about Sunday Night Football?
"It's a chance to play football. Obviously, the whole country's watching you. You're the only game on TV. It's a chance to go out there and show what you're made of."
What are your thoughts on the Cowboys offensive line?
"Obviously, they've done a great job building it up. It's unfortunate, obviously, what Travis (Frederick) is going through, but it's crazy to have one All-Pro out and they still have two more All-Pros. They've done a great job building it and trying to build that identity and obviously have a very good running back, good quarterback. They've worked to build that up and I think they've done a good job at it."
When did you know you were all the way back?
"Who says I am?"
When did you know you were where you are right now?
"Like I said, I'm still getting better. The first half of the Patriots game in the beginning, after that I really started to build and get better, but it's just little by little. There's still a lot of work left to do. I felt good in the offseason as we were coming back, I felt good in training camp, I felt good in practices and in the game. It's just a continuation. This league is all about improving week to week. It's all about what can you do from Sunday to Sunday to get better to make sure that you can be the best player that you can be. That's all I'm trying to do, is every week be even better than I was the week before and try to find a way to be better than those guys across from me. We all get the same amount of hours, we all get the same amount of meetings, we all get the same amount of practices. It's what you do with that time, it's how you utilize that and who can take advantage of it and improve the most from week to week. That's all I'm trying to do is be the guy that improves the most."
What do you see from Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot when you watch the tape?
"He's a good running back. He's tough, he's physical, he has good vision, he can see the holes. We faced a very tough running back in Saquon Barkley here a couple of weeks ago. Ezekiel's a very good running back in his own right and he can do many of the same things. He's got good balance. He gets hit and it's tough to bring him down with the first guy. You have to do a good job in swarm tackling and make sure everybody knows their assignment."
As a Packers fan, what does it mean to have your name mentioned with Hall of Fame DE Reggie White?
"I'm always chasing him. It's incredible. I grew up idolizing Reggie. Reggie was my favorite player growing up. He was such an incredible player. I knew he was a great player when I was a kid, when I didn't know anything about stats or football or anything, but now, to be accomplishing some of these things and to see how incredible he really was from a stat perspective and from what he accomplished as a player, it's unbelievable. If there's anybody that I'm going to be No. 2 to, I'm alright being No. 2 to Reggie White."
What do you remember from the last game you played against the Cowboys on the road in 2014?
"It was awesome. I remember they had to go to a silent count in their own stadium because of our fans, which was really cool, but I also remember we lost that game. So, good memories, bad memories. It's a new year. That was long ago and we're looking forward to having our home stadium packed out and loud."
What do you see when you watch Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on tape?
"He's a good player. Obviously, he can do both things. He can get you with his arm, he can get you with his feet. Any time a quarterback has that ability to move and to be effective in the running game, it creates challenges. You have to make sure that you're sound in your assignments, you have to execute and everybody has to do their job because they basically have two good running backs back there. They have Dak and they have Ezekiel (Elliott). So, he can give it, he can keep it. You just have to make sure you're smart."
Did you feel like you had a pick-six that you just missed against the Colts?
"That's like my third one that I've missed. I feel like I had a couple of them in the Titans game too that I could've had. I've got to get one of those at some point. That'd be nice."
Were you inspired by Hall of Fame DE Reggie White's impact off the field and have you tried to model yourself after him in that sense?
"I was a kid. I didn't know a whole lot about off the field back then. It was more just I knew people loved him, I knew he was an incredible player and I knew it was cool to see how much people adored him. Obviously, growing up in Wisconsin, how people felt about him. I always thought that was cool and I always thought there was something more where people loved him on another level, maybe more than just a football player. I knew what it looked like for people to be fans and then I knew what it looked like for people to be more than fans. I thought that was what people were for Reggie. I thought that was really cool. It's cool."
How does it feel that people feel the same way about you?
"I don't know if people feel the same way about me. I've got a long way to go to do anything close to what Reggie did, but I'm lucky. I've got unbelievable fans and I'm very fortunate and thankful for all of the support they've given me over the years. This city, back from the day I got drafted to where we are now, the rollercoaster and everything we've been through, I'm thankful, I'm fortunate. I couldn't ask for better people to play for, I couldn't ask for a better city to represent. All I can do in return is try to give them my best every single day. That's all I can do and I hope that they're proud of that because I'm proud as hell to play for them."
How do you have more success on third-and-long as a defense?
"Get more sacks. I'll put it on me. I'll go get more sacks, whatever we can do. Third-and-long is where you want them, so it's our job to then get off the field, whether that's more pressure, sacks, batting down balls, whatever we can do. Find a way."
How do you game plan for a running back like Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott who can catch passes out of the backfield?
"If I told you that, that would be a bit of a problem, wouldn't it? He's a good player. That's one thing that's impressive about him. He has good hands. He can catch balls down the field. He's not just a guy that catches balls out of the backfield. So, when you have a talented guy like that, you try to find ways to get him the ball. We just need to make sure that we know where he is at all times and do our best to stop him. He gets paid a lot of money to play this game too, so I'm sure he's going to make a play or two here or there. We just have to try to minimize him."
Is the performance last Sunday by you and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney what you've been waiting for?
"I think we know what our team is capable of when everybody is out there and healthy and flying around. It's been nice to have a performance like that, of course. So, we've just got to keep it going. Like you said, we've all had our issues in the past with health. If we can stay healthy and we can all put it together at the same time and play the game we know how to play, we have a chance to be pretty good, but it's a matter of doing it, not talking about it."