HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"I don't know exactly how many games I've actually coached. I know a lot of them. To be able to get ready to play your 200th game, it's pretty special. I just know how Jon (Weeks) carries himself every day from a leadership board, shows up every day has a routine that he goes through every day. It's good to show young players how to be a real pro. To be able to play at that level for that many games, we're lucky to have him on our team. Pumped up that he's a part of the team. Congrats of course for that coming up. Practice-wise, Wednesday practice, good to get back out on the field. We have a couple of injures like everybody does this time of year. A couple guys in practice, getting a couple more of the player back, which is kind of how it goes also. Getting back into the division, there's been some disappointment that we've faced during the season, but we haven't lost in our division. One win against a top team in the division, that's something. You have to put your hat on a little bit. We realize who we're playing too, how they've won football games, commitment to the run from offensive side and playing good hard-nosed defense. We're excited about getting back at home. It's been awhile since we've played in our home stadium."
How much can DB Tavierre Thomas help in the run defense, especially with the Titans game this week?
"He eventually will be up. As far as when he's actually active on gameday, that's still up for debate. When he does get there, all the things I've talked about when I've talked about Tavierre, I'm saying the same thing now. He's one of the toughest guys on the team. No one plays harder and he has ability. We're searching for a defensive touchdown these last couple of years. He's the only one who's been able to get one. We could talk on him awhile, but getting a player like that back into the mix is big."
Can you talk about WR Nico Collins and DL Maliek Collins' status?
"Neither player practiced today. We see who Nico (Collins) is becoming. A go-to guy, making plays, big target since preseason on. We're not as good as football with Nico not being able to play for us. Hopefully, we can get him back sooner than later. Maliek Collins, our defense starts up front, the three-technique. If you say what's the most important position on the defense? It's the three-technique. Losing Maliek, I think he played 10 plays this last week. That hurts us. Getting both of those players back, we can't wait to get them back. We don't know exactly when that will be."
How important is WR Phillip Dorsett and do you see his role changing with WR Nico Collins being injured?
"Yes, I see his role changing based on how much Nico (Collins) can play. Beyond that, he made some big plays our last game. That warrants more time, more targets. Phillip, great speed, fluid athlete, can do a lot for us. It was good to see him making a few plays like that. He's definitely capable of that and we need it."
What is WR Nico Collins' projection with his health?
"We'll see tomorrow. Right now, he's out. He didn't practice today. We'll let you know what's happening. Today Nico (Collins) didn't practice. He's not out for the season or anything like that. Hopefully we get him back sooner than later."
Why did WR Tyler Johnson not work here in Houston?
"We've kind of moved on now. I don't know what good it does to talk about that. We're excited about Tyron (Johnson) getting in here, becoming a part of what we want to do. He has a history here. Of course, started here, good target, good size, good speed. We're excited about him and sometimes divorce is a good thing for both parties. Let's wish Tyler (Johnson) the best."
How can you describe what the nickel position does towards the run defense and why is that crucial?
"If you go back to the 21 or 12 personnel, we have a base linebacker. He's a part of the base core run fit in the mix. You take a receiver there. Some of the defense we have that guy is still in the run fit to be able to stop inside perimeter runs. He's a hybrid that does an awful lot in our defense. He can be playing the wide receiver, he could be playing the wide receiver man-to-man, line up on a wide receiver outside in the slot, potentially outside. As I talk about the run fits, we'll blitz him off the edge. There's a lot of things that the nickel position does in our defense. We need a guy that's capable of making plays. Des (Desmond) King is has played well this year. Both of those guys have good football knowledge and we'll find a way to get both of them on the field."
What's been the biggest issue throughout the fourth quarter so far this season?
"How many games? Believe me, after one if we knew exactly what that was, we would've fixed it. We're just going to keep plugging away. You group them altogether it doesn't look good. There has been one game in particular I can think of where we did finish. So we've done it before. If you've done it one time, you should be able to do it again. We'll keep working towards that. I hate making excuses but this past week we weren't the same team at the end of the game too. Maybe that had a little bit to do with it. But, can't go on that. We're excited about the opportunity to finish this week. It'll definitely take that for us."
Because you've seen a lot of great running backs over the years, how would you characterize Titans RB Derrick Henry?
"On record, I've had a chance to compete against some of the best backs to play the game. Absolutely. Is Derrick Henry headed in that direction? Absolutely. You just look at the best back in the league right now, he will be a part of that debate. He's as big as our defensive ends. Has as good of speed as some of our skill guys. Plays hard, pads low to the ground. These are the kind of guys though that as I talk about having an opportunity to play against some of the all-time greats, we look forward to competing against him also. I'm talking for our defense. You want to see how you matchup against the best. Last year, when we played them, he didn't play in any of the games. We need to get a win. Whoever is on the other side, we've got to play our best ball."
What does WR Phillip Dorsett bring to the offense if WR Nico Collins is out for a long period of time?
"Speed, quickness. Comparing him to Nico (Collins), of course a different body type but he is one of the fastest guys on the team. You start with that, quickness, speed. We've seen him. Now he's on record of making some big plays for us. That's what he'll bring to the table."
Do you have to use someone the same way you'd use WR Nico Collins?
"They're two different body types. Not exactly the same, they're wide receivers. It's not like one receiver is here, we go from 100 to 10. It's just about getting receivers the ball in different ways. We won't be throwing fade routes with him out jumping smaller DBs (defensive backs). That's not a part of the game we'll be using him for, but there's other ways you can use him. It's not going into strategy too much to see we're going to be using him a little differently. You look how we've been using him, you kind of start with that."
What are some of the things from the game can LB Christian Harris improve on?
"He and everybody else can improve on an awful lot. As I said Monday, liked everything he did for his first game as an NFL pro. He got better at practice today. Excited about what he's going to do in the future."
What are some of the reasonings behind LB Kamu Grugier-Hill's reduction in snaps?
"We try to play the guys we think give us the best chance to win. Linebacker wise, if there's nickel, there's two linebackers that can play. Christian Kirksey is our mike-linebacker playing a different position and Christian Harris is going to play for us. Sometimes it's just that. It's a numbers game as much as anything."
QB DAVIS MILLS
How do you think you and the team progressed last week?
"I think the biggest thing is we did well as an offense this past Sunday was about converting those third downs, which allowed us to keep drives alive and move down the field. I think going into that, found check downs early on first and second down which allowed us to stay in third-and-manageable for the first part of the game. Guys were making plays on the edges and allowed us to convert pretty easily."
How do you feel you've improved over the last few games?
"The biggest thing is just growth in the offense. I'm not trying to do too much. I try to go out there and improve every week. If I'm not making progress, then something's wrong. I've got to try and get better each day one percent and keep that moving the rest of the season."
What from your touchdown pass to WR Phillip Dorsett over the weekend plays to your strengths?
"Just being able to see the defense. Obviously, we see a bunch of cover-2 in practice from our defense, so I've had reps at it since OTAs this past year and even some last year. So, it's a familiar look to us as an offense. We've got a lot of reps at it. But just on that play, seeing and going through the progression. Low-high, the corner was staying down on Brandin (Cooks) that opened up Phil (Dorsett). He ran a good route to keep that safety flat footed before he could make a break on it, and I was able to throw it on time. We trusted that we were both on the same page where he needed to end up, and I felt like my line gave me enough protection to make the throw, and he made a play."
What are WR Phillip Dorsett's strengths?
"The big thing is speed and just consistency. (Phillip Dorsett) is a veteran in the league. He's going to be in the right spot at the right time, knows defenses well, knows what he needs to do versus different looks to end up in the same spot based on we need from the concept. We can trust him in doing that, and he's going to have the speed to get there."
How do you expect the offense to function if WR Nico Collins' is unable to play?
"It's tough. I feel for Nico (Collins). He's been playing extremely well. To go down, hopefully he'll be back soon. I think kind of replacing him by committee. We're going to have guys moving around and have a lot of guys making plays. We're going to ask a lot from all of our receivers to fill that role, but I think the guys are ready to step up in that position. Not even just receivers. We are able to use tight ends in the different personnel packages to fill the gaps we need from losing Nico. I'm excited for it. I think a lot of guys are ready to step up and make plays."
Why has TE Jordan Akins been such a strong target for you?
"You love throwing to tight ends and running backs because a lot of times they're matched up on non-coverage guys on the defense. Any time we can get an advantageous look with a matchup, especially with a guy like (Jordan) Akins who can have a lot of speed through transition to separate at the catch point. It really helps you as an offense because you know you're going to find a reliable target who's going to be able to get open."
What have you seen from WR Tyron Johnson since he arrived?
"I think he's going to help a lot. From going back and watching a little film on him and seeing him today, he's able to take the top off a defense. He can fly. I'm excited for that, especially as we continue to develop the run game. I feel like we've been running downhill really well. It's going to make defenses pack the box, and even if we show some kind of play action, they're going to have to step up and respect the run. That will give him more time to get behind the defense, and we can lay the ball out there and get some big plays."
How frustrating is it to have four losses on the record when you have been in most games towards the end?
"It's tough. Obviously, you've got to see it realistically, but I'm a confident and optimistic person. You know if you can play them close for three, three-and-a-half quarters, you can find a way to finish games. We have not been able to do that yet, but we know it's there. Our guys are confident in our abilities and what we're able to do out there, so if we put a full team game together, the sky's the limit."
How do you describe OC Pep Hamilton's role of creating creative plays?
"We have a ton of plays we haven't shown yet, game plan wise and good-look wise that we check out of into something else. We're going to continue to do that. Show the defenses a ton of different looks to make them respect it. Formationally, personnel wise. We know that if we're able to do a lot on offense, it makes the defense not be able to do a lot because they can't have all of their different defensive calls to all of our personnel packages and formations because they have to respect each one individually. It kind of narrows what they can run as a defense, and it gives us an advantage on offense. That's why we need to try and stay on the up, on the positive side of that matchup."
When looking at film, what stands out to you from the Titans as a team?
"First thing you think of when you look at their players is that they have some stars on defense. Especially (Jeffrey) Simmons and (Kevin) Byard. You've got to know where those guys are at and protect against what they are trying to do. From a pressure standpoint, they are not doing anything crazy. They trust their guys to defend us and stay on top of a lot of things. It's more so about execution and winning the matchup each play against their defense. We're excited for it. We've done a lot of film review already. It even started by in OTAs when we were previewing our divisional opponents. I think we're ready for the challenge. It's a divisional matchup, so you take it even more importantly than every other week because we know this is one of those teams that we're going to see multiple times a year. We're excited for the challenge."