ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
What have you seen from the communication between the secondary and the defensive front?
"Sometimes we don't talk as loud as we need to talk. Some guys are more soft-spoken than others. That could result in a miscommunication. A guy said, 'Well, I made the call,' but if it wasn't loud enough, then no one got the call – the guy he was making the call to. So, I tell them all the time it's a two-way street, communication. Somebody's got to give a call, somebody's got to get a call. If you know what you're doing, you can anticipate getting a call and then you can anticipate giving a call and then give it. Sometimes we have to work a little bit better at that communication."
What does losing CB Aaron Colvin mean for the defense? Is CB Kayvon Webster ready to play?
"We're taking a look at him. He got some reps today. We'll make that determination before Sunday and see. Colvin has been a starter ever since he's been here. He was able to go out and play at the corner and also play in the star position. When you lose a starter, it's kind of difficult and you have to move people around sometimes. We're very fortunate that we have Kareem (Jackson) because his versatility allows us to do some of those things so we're able to still operate."
Is DE J.J. Watt all the way back? What does that mean?
"Well, that's a good point that you make about what it means. He never left, in my estimation because he's been here the whole time. He had some injuries that he had to deal with and he had to overcome, but he's been able to do that and get back on the field and be productive like we saw him when I first got here. He's a very productive player, so he's back to that, being that productive guy who makes plays in the backfield and harasses quarterbacks. Hopefully, we'll be able to keep him going in that direction."
Why was DE J.J. Watt able to record so many statistics over the last two weeks?
"Like we've been saying the last couple of weeks, when you come back from an injury, you don't know exactly where you are until you get out on the field and start playing the game and having to put the foot in the ground and make a cut, take a hit, give a hit, and those kind of things. I think that we saw, as the season has progressed, that he knows where he is, knows what he can do and that production is showing up."
How valuable has it been to get production from your rookies despite not having a first- or second-round pick in the draft?
"That's huge. Not having a first rounder, or first and second, and being able to get some third-round guys who can contribute to the team. The personnel department, they do a good job of evaluating and putting guys before us. We have an opportunity to look at some of those guys to see what we think about them and then we make the choice and we were able to get some guys who help us. I think that that's good for the team in the long run."
What did you like about S Justin Reid coming out of college? Is his production what you expected?
"Yes, it is. We liked him quite a bit coming out. We were a little surprised that he was there, available, but we were fortunate that we got him. He's shown that he was worthy because he's been able to come in and play and make some plays. I think he'll get better as the season progresses."
Do you think Colts QB Andrew Luck is all the way back?
"Well, last week we talked about where he was and when he was going to get all the way back. I said I hope he doesn't get back against us, but it looks like he made a lot of strides."
What is it about S Tyrann Mathieu that allows him to be leader having played only four games with this team?
"I think that goes to his personality, his attitude about football, the way he plays the game of football and not being afraid to come into a new situation and assert the leadership that he has within him. When you're able to do that, people will follow you. So, I think that the guys respect him, they listen to him and he's able to be a leader on the team."
What does ILB Benardrick McKinney mean to this team and this defense?
"We like big, physical guys, and he falls into that category. He had some leadership qualities about him when he first got here, but as a rookie, it's always tough sometimes for those qualities to come forward because you're trying to learn the system and understand where you fit within the scheme and on the team. In his second year, he began to blossom and show up as a leader, and now he's got the role, he's in charge, he communicates, he helps the guys get lined up sometimes. He's made tremendous progress in that area, as well as as a player. He's made good progress as a player and he's able to make plays, he plays complete three downs for us, he plays on the sub, charger, and our base defense. When you're able to do that, you're making a great contribution."
What do you contribute the lack of interceptions and third-and-long situations?
"Some of that, particularly last week, was that communication that you talked about. We miscommunicated several things, which allowed them to make plays because we were not where I anticipated us being. Some of that occurs. Then, you have to look at sometimes we miss the tackle and it allows them to get a first down instead of us getting off the field. We harp on it all the time about knowing where your help is, using your help, taking proper angles when you have to tackle. Last week wasn't the best week on third down so we've got to improve on it."
Do you have a personal relationship with Cowboys Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli?
"I know Rod. We've been around a long time. Knock (on) wood, that's very fortunate for us to be able to stay in this league as long as we have been."
Do you treat rookies like they are any other player?
"No. He's a rookie."
What does that mean to you?
"That means that he doesn't know what he doesn't know yet. He's got to learn the system, he's got to learn the locker room, he's got to learn how to play the game. That takes a minute. Sometimes a rookie's able to come in and start playing, sometimes it takes him a half a year, sometimes it takes him a year before he can become a really good player, but because he's a rookie, he's one of the team members, but he's a rookie. They have to understand that, too, even though sometimes in today's society, they don't exactly understand that."
Is there anything different that you do with rookies to help them?
"Oh yeah, we try to coach them up. We meet extra with them, watch film with them and all those kinds of things to try to get them up to speed. But, a lot of times, the game is what really gets them up to speed. When they see how the game is played, the speed of the game, the speed of the receivers, what the quarterbacks are looking for and what quarterbacks are reading and all of those things. Then, once they learn all of that, then they can become a pro."
You've had so many guys playing early in their careers this year. Does that help speed up their development?
"Sure. Like I say, we'll see it down the road. We'll see it down the road."
OFFENSIVE/SPECIAL TEAMS ASSISTANT WES WELKER
What did you like about WR Keke Coutee when you were scouting him?
"Obviously, his speed, his quickness, really good hands, really good burst, really good in and out of breaks. He had a lot of the intangibles that you look for for that position. It's kind of translated over to the field and then, obviously, we knew that he was going to be tough and smart coming from Texas Tech. So, that was always a plus."
What did it show you that WR Keke Coutee remained focused while recovering from his injury?
"He's done a great job of staying in his playbook and really kind of paying attention during meetings. Being on top of all of those things is a big thing. Young guys, usually when they get hurt, you never really know what you're going to get from them when they get back. He's done a good job of staying in tune with everything. Still a lot of things to clean up. There were some mental errors out there and different things like that. A couple of little things to really clean up, but for the most part, he did a great job and helped us win this game this past week."
What have you seen from WR Keke Coutee in regards to the chip he has on his shoulder?
"He's a very prideful guy and wants to do a great job out there and wants to make plays. That's what you want at that position. He still has a long ways to go, but everything he's shown and what he's done so far has been encouraging. Hopefully he just keeps on building on that."
How much does fearlessness have to do with being a successful slot receiver?
"Absolutely. You can't go in there thinking you're not going to get hit because you are. Any player at that position that's had any sort of success has had to have a little bit of that fearlessness. Not only that, really kind of understanding the coverages and understanding when you're going to take that hit and be able to protect yourself and the quarterback be on the same page with you."
What have you seen from RB Tyler Ervin in the return game?
"He's doing a great job on the return game for us. He's doing a great job of getting north and south. Coach (Brad) Seely and Tracy (Smith) have done a great job of scheming up stuff. He's done a great job securing the ball and getting up the field and making some plays for us."
Does WR Keke Coutee realize that when he's getting coaching, he's getting it from the greatest slot receiver in NFL history?
"I don't think that's really the case at all. I think we have a lot of good coaches and everybody's trying to bring everybody along and trying to help him out as best we can, and then from there just let his talent take over."
Does WR Keke Coutee know all that you accomplished in your career?
"Hopefully he saw some of my pictures back at Texas Tech, but who knows. You're out of the game even a couple of years, everybody tends to forget pretty quick. Just trying to give the best knowledge I can. From there, just let him go play."
What did Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury say about WR Keke Coutee when he was entering the draft process?
"He was very high on Keke. He was talking about how he's a football player. He didn't love school, which I think was kind of a little bit of a knock on him, but he loves football and he understands it and gets it. When you get to the pro level, you don't have to worry about school any more. So, that's a plus and it's all about football. Hopefully we continue to carry that over and to keep it on getting better."
What do you think the biggest area a slot receiver needs to learn coming from college to the NFL?
"That they're not going to play like two coverages. They're going to play multiple coverages and there's going to be tells here and there that you have to understand. Right now, he's really just kind of using his talent and his ability, right now. But, once we really get going and he sees more coverages, and he understands what he's seeing and why they're doing this and why they're doing that, now you're anticipating, now you're playing ahead of the game and now matched with your ability is taking it to another level. It's a slow process, so we'll just let him keep on making plays the way that he is and then from there hopefully build on that."
What does a productive slot receiver add to an offense?
"It gives defense definitely something to think about and something – he could do this, he could do that. Being able to be a multiple-type player on offense like that, it's like those safety-linebacker-hybrid types – they can cover, but they can rush, but they can play in the box – they can do multiple things. It's tough on an offense. So, in the same way speaking, it's tough on a defense having a guy like that, that can do multiple type of things for you so they have to be ready for different things and just more to prepare for."
The learning curve from college to the NFL, how much did it set him back missing a few games and some of the preseason?
"I think it sets anybody back, especially a young player like that. It takes time, and not getting those reps and really seeing it for yourself, it's difficult. So, as we get further into the year and he starts to see more and more coverages – Indianapolis was a pretty basic-type package that they were running there. They have some young linebackers. So, when you start getting into those teams that do multiple type of things, you really got to be on your toes. Hopefully, he'll continue to kind of build on that, but it's a big learning curve as far as all that goes."
When you have a dangerous slot receiver, how does that affect your outside receivers?
"Well, I think they try to clog the middle more or put a 'rat' player in there, so you get a little more post safety. Where, if you're getting two-high, that's the time for the slot player to really kind of eat and get a lot of production on that day. But, when they start muddying up the middle and playing post safety and different things like that, it makes the inside a little tougher and we have to throw the ball outside, and still be able to get open inside, but understand that it opens up the outside more. That's why our outside receivers have to continue to play well, like Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) and Will (Fuller) are and make them play two-high, so now that opens it up for Keke (Coutee). Having that multitude and making the defense do different things like that where they can't just focus in on one or two guys, they're focusing on everybody."
Are you enjoying coaching?
"I enjoy it. I enjoy it. I do. There's obviously aspects that are tough, and tough on the family, and all those things, but I love being around the game, I love being around the players, love going out to practice, love the preparation and all those things. So far, so good."
When did you know you wanted to coach?
"I think I always knew I wanted to do it, I just didn't know what I level I wanted to do it. So, I kind of went back and forth on that and had a long talk with the wife and told her, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it fully in, and she totally understands that. So, we're rolling."
WR WILL FULLER V
Were you disappointed to not finish last week's game?
"Yeah, I was frustrated. I wanted to be out there and help my team win. We got the win, so that's all I'm worried about, but yeah, definitely wanted to be out there."
Do you feel like you'll be OK to play this week?
"Yeah, I feel good. Just taking it day-by-day in the treatment room, trying to get it to feel as best as possible."
If your health continues on this track, do you think you'll be able to play Sunday?
Do you think about your injury when you're out on the field?
"If it's bothering me, yeah. If it's not bothering me, no."
Are you excited about playing on Sunday Night Football?
"Oh yeah, definitely, especially against the Cowboys. Growing up, my dad was a Cowboys fan, so it's fun to go out there and play in a game like this."
What do you remember about the Cowboys when you were young?
"That they were always good. They were always good when I was growing up, so it should be fun."
What do you like about this offense when WR Keke Coutee is in there?
"It's fun. No matter who's in there, it's always going to be fun playing with Deshaun (Watson). As long as he's out there, we're all going to have fun."
What is it about WR Keke Coutee that allows him to be successful?
"He's just a real explosive player. He makes it look easy. Ever since camp, one-on-ones, whatever we did, he was out there catching a lot of balls. It didn't even surprise me that he had 11 catches."
Is there an element that WR Keke Coutee brings given his role in the offense?
"Yeah, we try to get each guy the ball in different types of ways, especially Keke with the explosiveness he brings."
How much pride do you take in your footwork along the sidelines?
"We practice that every Friday. Whatever you've got to do to make that catch, you don't want to mess up any catches like that. Just keep that ball moving down the field."
Do you think the team felt a sense of relief getting the first win of the season?
"I would say so. It's always good to get that first one, especially after losing our first couple of games. Just to get that first one out of the way. Now, we've got to keep it on a roll."
What are you looking to keep working on personally this season?
"Just staying consistent and doing whatever I have to do to help the team win."
Are you starting to see some differences in the offense now?
"I would say everybody is just settling in. Everybody's a lot more comfortable. Like we just talked about, we got that first win, so we're just going to have to keep it rolling now."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
How do you feel about the offense right now?
"Trying to get better every week, like I said before. Trying to go out and improve on mistakes that we've made in the past."
What have you seen out of the Cowboys secondary defense?
"A lot of young playmakers. They got guys converted to corner that played safety before, so a lot of physical players in that secondary, a lot of young guys that want to make plays."
What's special about playing on Sunday Night Football?
"Everybody's watching. You're the only game on, and as a football player that's what you want."
The fans get into this game for bragging rights, with it being an in-state team, do you guys get into it as well?
"It's football. Every game we approach the same, no matter who it is, no matter what team it is."
What did you think of WR Keke Coutee's performance last week?
"I thought it was awesome. What he was able to do out there after coming off an injury and not playing football since who knows when, to have 100 yards, that speaks for him. He's a good player and he wants to get better."
How important is it for a rookie or young player to stack great games together and not read the press clippings?
"Yeah, definitely not read any press clippings. That's what everybody's been telling them. He had 100 yards but he knows he left some stuff out there on the field as well."
Do you feel like there's always something to work on or that you left some stuff on the field as well?
"Of course, but the only thing that matters is to win, and that's improving and moving on to the Cowboys."
Do you feel like you guys are building something?
"Always, always. I feel like we're improving every week. Especially, as an offensive group, I feel like everybody's focus has been better, less mistakes, less penalties. Those are keys to winning."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
Why do you think turnovers come in bunches?
"I guess, I don't know, when it rains, it pours, especially on the back end. You just have to create more chemistry. Then a lot of dialogue has to take place. Sometimes the ball just has to bounce in your hands. We'll just keep chipping away. I felt like we started the season off the way we wanted to as far as takeaways go. Kind of been a little dull in that area since, so it's important for us on the back end to try to create turnovers."
What are your thoughts on the way the defense has played through four weeks?
"Like I said, I think we play in spurts. Sometimes we're really great and then other times we don't complement each other very well. Even when guys are getting to the quarterback, us on the back end, we can't seem to help those guys. So, we have to do a better job, especially with the way our front's playing right now. We just have to step up and make more plays."
Are you optimistic the defense is going to make more plays?
"Yeah, for sure. The first quarter of the season didn't really go as we wanted it to go, but like I said, we had a lot of good moments, we had a lot of great things that we could possibly build off. As far as the secondary goes, there's a lot of chemistry. We've got some guys down, but we're just constantly chipping away at it."
Is it a big deal for the players to go against the Dallas Cowboys?
"Yeah, for sure. Obviously, this is my first time here, but any time in-state teams play each other, it's always about bragging rights. More importantly, for us, we know we get a chance to win two games in a row and we've got a tough opponent coming in. We'll have our hands full, but more importantly, we'll try to win the game."
Did you love or hate the Cowboys growing up in Louisiana?
"Well, I wasn't the typical Cowboys fan. I enjoyed watching the Saints, Joe Horn, Randy Moss, but I wasn't a Cowboys fan growing up."
What have you seen from Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on tape?
"He's a big, strong quarterback. You've got to really pay attention to formations, different things that can kind of give you tips on where he wants to go with the football, but our biggest job is going to be to kind of make him throw the ball, keep him in the pocket. Once he gets outside the pocket, he's pretty tough to tackle and bring down, so we're going to have to keep him in the pocket, obviously disrupt him and then on the back end, get our hands on some balls."
Why do you think the Colts were successful on 3rd-and-long?
"For one, it's frustrating. It's very disappointing. You really try to win every third down rep, but that just goes back to what I was saying earlier. I felt like (Jadeveon) Clowney, (J.J.) Watt, the guys up front, they played really well. Then when it was time for us to kind of make the plays, we didn't do it. Obviously, it will be a point of emphasis this week. We'll just try to continue to get better."
How disappointing is it to not be able to get off the field on third down?
"It's disappointing. Like I said, the first quarter of the season didn't really go how we wanted it to go. We have a lot of good things we could build off. We play a lot of man-to-man, so teams are going to scheme us to beat us and pick us and different things like that in man-to-man. We just have to be better in the back end."
How big of a deal is it to lose CB Aaron Colvin to injury?
"I think it's going to be tough. We talk about the chemistry all the time in the back end. We lost one of our starting corners earlier in the season and now we're down Aaron right now. We've just got to keep chipping away at it. Can't really make excuses for ourselves and then other guys will have to step up and make more plays."
What kind of leadership are you trying to provide for your teammates?
"For me, it's really about attitude. That's all I try to stress to my teammates, attitude and energy. Obviously, executing and understanding what coach asks you to do, but I think if you have the right attitude and the right kind of energy, you can make a bad play a good play or even if you're beat, you could possibly make a play. I just want my teammates to have the right attitude, the right mindset. It doesn't matter if we're 0-3, 1-3. If we have the right attitude, we could dig ourselves out of any hole."
What is it about Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott that makes him difficult to face?
"I'd probably say he's everything you want in a back. He reminds me of the guys that used to run the ball back in the day, guys who really run behind their pads, looking for contact. Their offense runs through him, so they're going to feed him. Any time he gets the ball, it seems like they get going. We'll have to do a good job of just tackling him, hitting him and then trying to contain him."
When you're new to a team, how do you gauge whether your teammates will respond to your leadership?
"I think it's just a give and take, trial and error. You've just got to keep chipping away at it, but more importantly, I think guys only respond to you if they see you do it. So, as long as I have the right mindset, the right attitude and the right energy, I think a lot of guys will not only just listen to me, they'll try to follow that."