Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly
Is it going to be weird to have to worry about DE J.J. Watt for the first time? How's he playing and are they using him any differently than you guys did?
"I mean every time we went against him in training camp and practice, we worried about him. He's playing at a high level. He's still very disruptive. You still see all things he did when he was here. He's playing at a high level. They are moving him around. He's playing inside. He's playing outside. Looks like he's kind of picking his spots to the particular matchup he may want. But he's playing at a high level. So, it's going to be a concern obviously. We got to do a great job making sure we know where he is and taking care of him and not let him wreck the game."
How do you game plan for Arizona's defense?
"Every week we are going in and going against a good defense. We're always going to take a look at the matchups, take a look at the personnel, take a look at the scheme and figure out ways to best neutralize their top threats and see what we can do schematically to take advantage of what they are doing."
What do you see from DB Budda Baker? How much of a challenge is that as you get QB Davis Mills ready to play against him?
"He flies around. He's like a blur on tape. He's a see-ball, get-ball type guy and you can tell he's got great instincts. He's always around the football. So, we've seen some good safeties and Budda is up there for Davis from the guys we've seen this year with being a guy who is really productive and can make plays on the ball in both the run game and the pass game. Again, just continuing to work with Davis and his film study and making sure he's got an idea as to what to expect when the ball is snapped based off different looks and those lines."
QB Davis Mills talked about building up patience against the Colts. How did you see him work through that and reflect on that after watching the tape?
"Again, coming back in here, the top thing that we talked about is he has to protect the football. We as a unit have to protect the football. We're not going to have any success moving forward if we don't eliminate the turnovers. First and foremost, that was the biggest thing that we took from it, that we continue to talk to him about and really lean on to continue to improve in that area. Each defense we play is going have a unique philosophy and different ways for us to attack them. Last week, hopefully we put that in the IBM for the next time we see them and moving on and taking the lessons they learned and getting ready to play a totally different scheme with totally different philosophy this week."
How do you feel about the performance of your offensive line this past week?
"They battled. Obviously, with the circumstances with some missing pieces in there, they came and did a great job. Justin McCray stepped up, played against a good front, and for the most part played at a pretty high level. Again, it's going to be a different challenge again this week, and see how things go. But last week for the most part they played well. Obviously, there's areas that we can improve on. We're looking to do that throughout this week at practice."
What did you see on film as far as the running game this past week?
"Executed the game plan well. Backs ran hard. Guys up front blocked well. Had some good blocks by our skill position players. Davis (Mills) did a good job getting us in and out of plays. They executed the plan well."
Do you think the offense communicated a little better this past game?
"Yeah, at every position. Upfront, whether it was letting us know what the front was, the Mike points, the different motions, the different shifts, everybody as a whole did a better job."
In the time since the players only meeting, have you noticed any change from the players?
"I have never had any complaints with the way that our guys work. Our guys work hard. We've got good pros in our room that come and take care of business. They're continuing to elevate each and every week, and the issue is we just need to make sure that we start to see those results show up on Sunday."
When success on the field doesn't come, how do you approach managing players through frustrating moments, and even yourself?
"Just got to keep your head up and got to get ready to go win the next one. This league is very unforgiving, so if you see there and you mope or you feel sorry for yourself, the next guy in line doesn't really care. So, he's going to take advantage of that. For us, we've just got to make sure we're not doing that. And yeah, it's unfortunate that we're at where we're at right now, but luckily for us, we play again in four days. We get a chance to go out there and change it. So, that's got to be the mindset. Got to make sure that we're learning from previous games and go out and perform at a higher level. Everyone. Coaches, players, everyone."
You came here during what everybody thought would be a 'rebuild' year, when you followed a 2-14 season and went 9-7. What are the differences and similarities between then and now?
"That was a long time ago. Obviously, for me personally, that was a complete eye-opener for me coming in, learning what it was like to work in this league and come into work every single day for what seems like an eternity when you're coming from college. It's so long ago. There are so many different variables, I don't know if it would be fair for me to compare the two."
What do you see from WR Nico Collins?
"Nico (Collins) did a good job for us, made some big plays for us on Sunday. He's big, he's strong and you feel him when he's on the field. Hopefully, he can continue to improve and go out there and make the plays when the ball finds him on Sunday."
After the last game, WR Brandin Cooks talked about how this team is undisciplined. When you hear that as a coach, what does that mean to you?
"I don't know if it necessarily means that people are being malicious, but there is a lack of focus at times that's shown up. Again, I don't feel like anybody is like, 'No, whatever.' Everyone cares a lot. It's just there's been times where there's a mental lapse, just a lack of focus that has ended up costing us in crucial situations. Again, we're addressing it and we're making sure that everyone understands what the standard is, and what level we expect them to play and perform, what level we expect ourselves to come out and coach at. To have those lapses and to have those errors in focus, it's not acceptable, and we need to cut it out. It's been happening now for a couple weeks, so we need to continue to address it and really eliminate those. Because when that happens, you end up getting self-inflicted wounds, it's first-and-15, now it's hard, you're behind the sticks. It's already hard enough to score points when you're going against the defense, let alone going against the defense plus yourself. We have to stop with the mental lapses and the lack of focus at times. It's not consistent, and like I said, it's not malicious. It's just there are some errors there that we need to correct."
What does OL Jimmy Morrissey bring to the team, and is he prepared to add some depth?
"Yeah, he's coming in and you can tell he's diligent, works hard and it's important to him. He's been in here late working with Koogs (Robert Kugler) and Camp (James Campen), making sure he's getting caught up. At certain times like this, you're learning plays more so than learning the playbook. But making sure that he's putting himself in a position to be able to go out there and function if needed. So, he's done a great job. Looking forward to continuing to work with him."
Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross
"Big week. Jeff Rodgers doing a great job coaching Arizona's special teams unit. We have to be at our best as it moves forward towards the middle of the season where teams are really starting to hit their stride in things that they do. Kind of really defining who their role players are in the kicking game. You are seeing that now. They are down one of their better players in Ezekiel Turner, but they got some guys that can really cause us some problems. It's been a hard week of preparation to make sure our guys are ready to go out and compete versus them. Obviously, looking at situational football, you are going against a team that has been productive offensively. Add in a guy like Matt Prater, they are able to shrink the field on you. So, we have to do a great job of controlling field position going into this game."
With the release of Andre Roberts, do you feel like DB Tremon Smith and DB Desmond King II are your primary guys for returns?
"Yep, that's correct. Just coming into the season it's quote on quote, 'Nice to have depth in the returner room,' guys that will fill in those roles. Desmond could be a guy. Tremon could be a guy. There are other players on our roster who have done it. Danny Amendola, Scottie Phillips was a returner here a year ago. So, there are players here that we do have to use in those roles. Correct."
Do you like to have one guy do kick and punt returns? That's what Andre Roberts did.
"Obviously, Andre's forte is a return specialist. Whether it's one guy or multiple guys, teams do it by committee, multiple players all the time. However, it shakes out, we'll choose the best guy for each job and continue to roll forward as it unfolds here moving for the rest of the season."
What do you like about DB Desmond King II and DB Tremon Smith?
"First off, speed with Tremon Smith. He's continually trained his body. He's a fast player. He's a gunner on the perimeter, penetrator on kick off and a return man. He's proven that he can flat out run. Desmond has experience in the NFL. Has some really good make-miss ability and his ability to pick his way through coverage. We saw that a little bit in the preseason. Overarching for both of those guys, and really a large number of players on our roster, they really want to do the little things to get better. Andre (Roberts) was handling the majority of those returns for the first part of the season, but those guys are out there every day plus some, continuing to work their craft for whenever their number is called. You can't do anything but appreciate that right there. As a professional to wait on our chance and then hopefully maximize and capitalize on those opportunities when they do arise. Speed, ability to play fast through coverage, and attack downhill is what we are looking for from those guys."
Will the new guys have the same issues with directional punts and how will they break through those in different ways?
"I don't know if 'issues' is the word. I think that every team wants to maximize their coverage. So, you stretch your coverage when the ball is placed in the middle of the field. Just those executions that some other teams have had, that's a success. You look at that punt last week from Rigoberto Sanchez and he put the ball 48, 49 yards, I couldn't exactly tell where it hit, but it was on the tick mark. There's not a shot for a return there. It's just a dead play. Opportunities, you got to capitalize. You look at a guy like Matt Prater, for example, who we are going against this week. He kicks a ton of touchbacks, so you are limited opportunities. So, when you have them you got to capitalize on them."
How do you feel about the blocking in the return game, is that where you want it to be?
"That's a great question. It's never where you want it to be, because I'm always a next play, next move forward guy. So, you can hit a homerun for a touchdown and there could still be a missed assignment, but it just so happens that a player beat another player. You are always looking for it to be improved, every single play doesn't matter if it was good or mediocre or not so good return. I think we take a lot of pride in trying to execute your blocks, win your one on one matchups, know the players matchups that you're going against. How do I have to set this guy with leverage? How deep do I have to set this guy? Do I have to short set him? There have been multiple cases so far this season where we've lost a one on one block or we made a one on one block and it still resulted we wanted more out of. We're going to work that no matter what."
Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith
When it comes to Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins, what are some of the challenges he presents?
"When you're going against one of the best receivers playing, there's a lot of different things you have to deal with. Just looking at us, we've given up too many big plays, kind of starting off with that. Keeping the football in front of us, some of those things. But DeAndre (Hopkins), he's excellent in one-on-one situations, whether it's man coverage, just going up and getting the football, no one competes harder than him. It's a challenge. It's a challenge, our guys should know that. Of course, they kind of see most of his career and what he's been able to do. But as you talk about the Arizona receivers, they have four guys, they'll play four-plus receiver sets as much as anyone we've played. Getting the football to them is one thing, but I think it all starts with who is getting the football to them. (Kyler) Murray's about as good a football player as there is in our game right now. He's the reason why their team is the only undefeated team in football right now, so we could talk on and on about what they do offensively."
What defensive ends do expect to get more of an opportunity after moving on from DL Whitney Mercilus?
"Well, it's the ones that we've been playing. Our two starters are Jacob Martin and Jonathan Greenard, who's playing excellent football, I might add, right now. Of course, other guys that play, Jordan Jenkins and Chuck (Charles) Omenihu."
Has DL Charles Omenihu showed more in practice to earn time to play this week?
"Chuck (Charles Omenihu) has been doing good things in practice. But when you only dress eight guys and you have nine, somebody sits down. It's kind of as simple as that. Each week is a different week, opportunities present themselves and it's left up to guys to take advantage of them."
You mentioned you have nine defensive linemen but can only dress eight. How much of that is matchup-based versus what you are seeing in practice that week?
"Our matchup base is to get the best eight each week. Our roster is set up right now, if you're at that position, we feel like you can do the things that we're looking for each week. But again, you can only dress so many, and it normally works itself out. I've never seen a player that deserved to play that didn't eventually get a chance to, and different combinations kind of happen from week to week. This is a new week right now."
What about Cardinals QB Kyler Murray and his mobility factor? What kind of challenges does he present?
"He's an excellent thrower, baseball background, he's accurate, but he's probably the fastest guy on the field each week he plays. So that just in itself, he's going to be faster than all the defensive linemen and most of the linebackers he's going to play against. There's a lot of different ways, teams have tried everything. You can try to blitz him. When you blitz him, though, there's only a few eyes on him when he breaks. But just his mobility causes problems, and you just want to try to keep it pinned in and keep those scrambles to a minimum as much as anything."
How much more difficult is it to game plan for the Cardinals after they added TE Zach Ertz?
"I kind of look at it as there's one ball, so you have a lot of different options. But eventually, you kind of run out of balls to be able to throw it to everyone. They were a potent offense without him, and to add an excellent player, which he is, at the tight end position, to me, what that lends to is maybe not as much four receiver sets and more three receiver sets. But it's tough duty however you look at it."
The Cardinals have WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR A.J. Green and WR Christian Kirk. What have you seen from rookie WR Rondale Moore?
"Well, people that are familiar with the NFL of course acknowledge the other three that you mentioned, and they've been excellent players in our league. But I have seen Rondale Moore the last few years play, and I think he's about as good a receiver as there is out there, also, especially in the slot and some of the different things you can do with him, which they do. We'll see him in the backfield. He could be at the one position, two position, inside in the third slot or in the backfield. So, there are a lot of different things that they do with him, and we'll have to be ready for him."
What things did you have to address and fix in the secondary after last week?
"There are a lot of things you see in the game. You kind of start with keeping the ball in front of us, big plays. (There are) two things that you just can't win doing, and that's giving up the big play, and we had about four big ones, one big tackle. I thought we played the run fairly well except for the one big run. But we don't play zero coverage, so we normally should have one last line of defense to stop those. And then just the big pass. The big passes of course hurt us last week, we kind of start with that."
What is DL Jonathan Greenard doing now that is helping him be excellent?
"I think he was just a young player that needed time to play, No. 1, and opportunity. As you go back to the preseason, he was starting to come, and he had an injury that knocked him out a few weeks. But he can rush. I think he's a legitimate rusher on the outside. He has good size to play the run, also. He's just coming into his own. He left a couple, probably at least one sack on the field last week. He's a guy that can do some things. What we need to do is have, I feel like Jacob Martin can do the same things. We need him to, of course, elevate his game, also."
What's the conversation you have with players to fix mental mistakes and big plays?
"As far as whenever a player doesn't do something we feel like they should, we're correcting them. Win, lose, that's what we do. So, after every practice, pretty much after every play if it's not done right, we correct it. That's about all you can do is that. It's a process that you go through, and we're not quite there yet. I think the players see that. You keep practicing is what you do, and eventually you make less mistakes. And eventually, you get to a point where you're not making any. That's what we're trying to get accomplished."
Did you get a chance to talk to DL Whitney Mercilus before he left?
"I've tried to talk to every player that has left our program, and I think most players know what the NFL is all about. You have different area codes if you stay in it long enough. But Whitney (Mercilus) and I are kind of neighbors out in Scottsdale a little bit, too. So, our relationship is going to go a lot farther than just football. I talked to him about what everybody else did. He's been a great Texan, and I'm excited about this next opportunity for him."
With DL Roy Lopez going back to his home state, what has he done to improve in the last two or three weeks?
"As a young player, we kind of talked about what our expectations were for him early on, and you don't really know as a rookie. But he earned a spot then to start and to play, and we saw him giving us a little bit as a pass rusher at the nose guard position. But it's about playing the run, staying in his gap, being disciplined with that. I think every rep he gets, he hasn't missed anything since he's been here. First step is just availability, and he's been available for a lot of things. It is special when you get a chance to go back to where you played your college football. I know he'll have a lot of family and friends there, and the best thing for you to do when that's the case is to play your best ball, and that's what we're hoping he'll do."
What are you hoping to get out of DL Ross Blacklock?
"We talked about Jonathan Greenard, Jacob Martin, young players that are coming into their own. I think Ross (Blacklock) is in a similar situation. COVID, of course, kind of knocked him out a while, but he's athletic. He's been productive rushing the passer at our three-technique position. He just needs to play. We'll be a better defense once he's in the mix, also, and we plan on having him in this week."
WR NICO COLLINS
How do you feel about your development in the games you have played?
"I feel like I come out every day and try to get better. There's always room for improvement in my game. Every day I come in and try to work on anything I feel I need improvement on. So, that's the main thing I focus on every day."
How frustrating was it behind the scenes now being a part of it and not being able to help the team?
"It was frustrating not being a part of the team because who doesn't want to be on the field with your teammates. When I was on IR, the main thing was that I was locked in mentally. I made sure I was locked in even though I wasn't out there physically going through the routes and running. So, I made sure I was engaged, asking questions just like if I was playing. Not being out there those three weeks, it hurt me because I want to be out there. But, I'm glad I'm back and looking forward to this week."
How did yours and QB Davis Mills' connection develop?
"Over time. You know we came in together at rookie minicamp, OTA's, camp. Just catching passes with him, routes on air, just team, 7 on 7's. That's pretty much how the chemistry came. Even after practice, just routes that I feel like or throws that he needs, I spot it up for him, go through the footwork, make sure the time is down right."
How much has WR Brandin Cooks been able to help you in your rookie season?
"A lot. I appreciate Brandin a lot. He's always been in my corner since day one I got here. Whatever I need, whatever questions I have. He always there to help me out and I really appreciate that. I got him in my room and I'm learning from him every single day."
What's the best advice WR Brandin Cooks has given you?
"Just continue to get better. You feel like if you mess up on the play, it's always get better next play. The play's over it's in the past. How are you going to respond? Just everything. Coming in , overall being a great receiver, working on my routes, my footwork. Anything I can need to become a pro like him. I want to be great just like Cooks. So, I look up to him and I'm glad we got him in our room."
How are you feeling now?
"Oh, I'm feeling great. I'm good. I'm great. Looking forward to this week against the Cardinals."
Is the NFL what you expected six games in?
"Oh yeah. It's exactly what I expected. Everybody is good on this level, so it really comes down to the small details. Some things that I got away with in college, you can't get away with on this level. So that's some things I work on every day. Just try to work on my routes. Try to give defensive backs no indicators which way I'm breaking, in or out. That's why I feel like every day there's room for improvement with my game."
What's something you got away with in college you can't get away with now?
"Coming off the line of scrimmage, playing bully ball. Even though I'm still doing that, it's part of my game. It really comes down to running routes, top of the routes, creating that separation. Really got to focus on that part. On the run game, blocking. So, it's things like that. All around just finding things to work on my game."
Do you feel like the year you took off last year helped you for your rookie season?
"Yes. But there is still room for improvement each and every game I want to get better and better. That's my goal."
What are some of the things that you can see improvement from that time period?
"I would say my route running. No indicators. Just trying to come out my breaks clean and smoother. Just run smoother routes. Using different hand comebacks, things like that."
What type of impact do you think you will make for this offense?
"Hopefully, a big one. I want to come in every day, I want to build trust from the offensive coordinator, Coach (Tim) Kelly, my teammates, just everybody. I want them to trust me. So, that's my goal every day. I want to make sure they believe in me, and I'm doing whatever I can do to get that trust from them."
Do you ever look at film of Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins and learn from what he does?
"I look at all of the receivers. I feel like that's the best way you learn. You learn from the people that have been doing it for a while. He's been a great receiver in this league for a minute. I'm new to the league, so I'm doing whatever I can, studying him, seeing what types of releases he's using or anything he uses to get open, because it can be helpful on my end, too. I'm just watching film on him, all the receivers across the league that I feel like I can compare to my game. I feel that's what I do."
Did you guys do anything special for QB Davis Mills' birthday today?
"Nah. So, actually, he sang himself happy birthday in the meeting room, because the rookies have to sing it. He's a rookie, too, so he sang himself happy birthday. But, no, we just wished him a happy birthday. Blessed to see another year, always."
How's QB Davis Mills' singing voice?
"It's good. It's alright."
WR BRANDIN COOKS
Going up against a 6-0 team, is there any extra motivation to be the first team to beat them?
"No. At the end of the day, I think we know going into this week and just trying to figure out how we can truly play a complete game ourselves and focus on ourselves. Great team, don't get me wrong. With that being said, we want to beat them, obviously. We just got to continue to focus on building ourselves and playing the best ball we can, and let everything else kind of take care of itself."
Is it going to be weird seeing Cardinals DL J.J. Watt across from you in a game?
"Absolutely. You talk about a great player in J.J. (Watt) and what he brings to the game, I'm looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. Obviously, he's still playing at a high level. I've got a lot of respect for him and what he's done in this game. But at the end of the day, he is an opponent now, so we definitely want to beat him."
What was DL J.J. Watt like as a teammate?
"Like I said, any time, you feel his presence on the field. From the moment that he stepped into this league, and he's doing it now, been playing it at a high level, one of the best to play the game. To be on the opposite side of the ball when we were playing, you just knew teams felt his presence. He's still showing up and showcasing that. You feel his presence when you're watching film. We know we've got to account for him as best we can."
This week, have you noticed this team becoming more disciplined, or is that something you just see in game?
"No, I wouldn't say it's just the game. It's through practice, and I think we're having a better week of practice in our process. We've got to continue to trust it and be consistent at it, and hopefully those things will show up in the game, as well."
What do you see on film from Cardinals DB Budda Baker?
"The guy plays at a high level. He flies around the football field. You never know where he's going to be at. He plays with a relentless energy and a passion for the game, and I've got a lot of respect for the way that he plays the game. I've been going against him for years now, and he seems to just continue to get better. A lot of respect for him."
What did you think of WR Nico Collins and the step forward he took?
"I mean, huge. The strides that he made, to be able to miss those games and come out like that and play big in some of those one-on-one situations and make some of those plays, that's what you expect from him. Like I've always said, the guy is a great player. He's continuing to learn, I love playing out there on the field with him and I just look forward to continue to see him get better every single game."
Were the players able to get together as a group this week and talk about being more disciplined?
"No, just straight to practice."
DB DESMOND KING II
What do you think of the matchup with the Arizona wide receivers?
"Great group of guys. Very special group of receivers that we got coming up Sunday. Very talented guys with a quarterback to match with it."
Does it make it harder to game plan for QB Kyler Murray when he decides to use his legs more?
"We know he's a threat. As far as handling him, we just have to continue to do our job, play the defense that's called and try to do what we can to stop him from making plays as a quarterback."
What are some of the important things when trying to contain DeAndre Hopkins?
"Just making sure that you are playing him, playing the ball. He's a receiver that when the ball is thrown his way, nine times out of 10, he's going to come down with it. As long as we are in the area and competing all the way until the ball is thrown to the ball is down and whistle blown. That's all that we can do."
How important is the communication on the defensive side of the ball?
"That's what we do throughout the week. Monday through Saturday. We go over this so when we play them Sunday, we don't have those hiccups in the game. Just making sure that we communicate and overcommunicate it and clarify what that we need to do when it's time to play."
How have you felt playing outside cornerback? You haven't done that before in your career right?
"No. This is my first year playing outside corner. It's good being out there. Like I said, it's a new adjustment and just finding where the comfortability is for me and just contributing."
What are some of the biggest elements to that adjustment?
"Just kind of the mindset of a nickelback going against guys from the inside to outside. So, I think that's just what it is. Different route combinations and just different stuff that a corner and a nickel have to think about."
As a defensive back, how hard is it to hold those wide receivers downfield when they have a quarterback like Kyler Murray who can extend plays?
"That's the thing about a duel threat quarterback, guy that can use his legs and his arms. You have to keep these guys in the pocket. You can't let them get out because it can get dangerous when a quarterback like him that knows how to move the pocket, get out of the pocket, and make plays and throws down the field. As long as we can keep him in the pocket and have guys in his face and us covering our man, I think we'll be fine."
Are you excited about your returns being added to your role?
"Absolutely. Having Andre (Roberts) here, he definitely helped me when he came in. He's a multi plus year veteran. Learning from him definitely helped me a lot. I thank everything that he's done for us. Now it's my turn to take over that and do what I can to help the team."
How has being such a zone heavy help when going against mobile quarterback like Kyler Murray?
"Just having eye discipline on the quarterback. Everybody having their eyes on the quarterback. I think that's what's going to help us this week. Just knowing what type of quarterback he is, a guy that can extend plays. So, we will know where he is running too and at the same time, we have to stay in the area of our man so that he doesn't make those big plays down field."
Were you guys heavy zone in Iowa?
"Kind of yeah. Definitely, definitely was but we would switch it up every now and then. In Iowa, I played outside corner so it kind of of helped me a little bit transition to this defense. Definitely got me back to my college days."
When you are transitioning into that, are you thinking about those times?
"Definitely. I was thinking about how I would played that in college and stuff like that. Just look back and see how I played it as well."
Is there a different mentality when playing a 6-0 team?
"Just really trying to approach this week like we approach every week. It's a new week each and every week. Just have that same mindset, going into win. That's the only reason we travel each and every Sunday is to go out there and play our best, play our hardest, play as a team and to win. Knowing that it's a 6-0 record team, yeah, they've been winning. But we treat them like we treat each and every opponent that we've played before. Just going out there and doing what we can to get the win."
How much more difficult does it make it that they added Zach Ertz?
"Just another weapon. As long as we keep studying up on that, knowing that at some point they are going to try to add him into the offense and just adjust to that as well."