HEAD COACH DAVID CULLEY
What is the message you give to players when trying to win games while rebuilding for the future?
"I don't think our football team feels that way. Our football team basically goes out and tries to win the next ball game, and that's always the goal. It's never ever been mentioned. As I said before, those guys, every game, they go out and try to play to win. Regardless of who the quarterback is they play to win."
Would it send a bad message if you had a healthy QB Tyrod Taylor doing everything he is supposed to do but you play a rookie?
"I don't think it would send a message. Again, he's our starting quarterback. He was our starting quarterback before he got hurt. He's our starting quarterback now."
What are some of the things you noticed through the offensive mishaps against Miami?
"Bad decisions. We made some bad decisions. Obviously, he (Tyrod Taylor) was a little rusty and he wasn't sharp, but there were calls that we had that could have gone down the field to different guys. They didn't because of some bad decisions."
As a coach do you have to consider playing guys for the sake of development or a veteran player who is better for the short term?
"Right now, I'm just playing the best players that give us a chance to win. Whoever that is, that's who we will play."
Have you made any decisions on if OL Laremy Tunsil and OL Justin Britt will begin their practice window?
"We'll see how it is. They're in rehab right now. I know Justin's probably a little bit further away than Laremy is as far as coming back, but I'll know more later on in week on where Laremy is at this point"
Is OL Lane Taylor going to get a chance to play?
Is OL Lane Taylor healthy?
As you evaluated everything over the bye week, what did you find, and will there be any changes?
"Basically, during the bye week, people ask, 'What are you doing during the bye week?' Well first, our players had some time off. Gave the coaches a little time off at the end of the week but prior to going off, we self-evaluated everything, offense, defensive and special teams. The reason you do that is because after nine ball games you kind of get to see exactly what you are and who are? What we found out during that time was, what have you been doing well? The things that you haven't been doing well, eliminate those things regardless of how we felt these plays would work. They weren't working. They weren't very good. What we found out is when you go back and look at the things you doing well, we want to do more of those things now in the run game and the pass game. The other thing about that is when you look and see what that is, you sit here and you say, 'We have to get better at those things.' Now, what's been hid through all the good things we've been doing, especially offensively, is the penalties and the turnovers. With that being said, moving forward we have to have a relentless effort in practice from our coaches, our players, every play, every practice, every meeting, of doing things the right way. You eliminate those things and you see the reason the good things get blinded because of us having bad penalties at certain times. Penalties are going to happen, but some penalties are bad penalties. We've had some bad penalties. And then the turnovers, we go back and looked at it, talked about the self-evaluation. We feel like there are probably three ball games this year that if we don't have bad penalties and we don't turn the ball over, we have a chance to win the game."
How has your role in game planning for the offense evolved?
"Basically, I allow Tim (Kelly) and the staff to basically do what they feel like is best. They know my feelings on what I want done. They've tried to do that to get that done. Same thing defensively with Lovie (Smith) and Frank (Ross). I go in and they tell me what the plan is this week and I make suggestions. They come to me and say, 'Do you like this? Do you like that?' In the end, I trust them to do what we feel is best for us to do."
What are some things that your team does well?
"When we have run the ball in certain situations – I don't want to give you all the little stuff that we've done well, because I don't want the Titans to know what we're going to end up doing – but the point is that we felt like there are certain things in the run game that we need to do more of that we've been good at. We've been doing some things in the run game that we hadn't done so well. Some of the things in the run game that we have done well, if we do them more, I think it will help us in our pass game."
What was your evaluation of yourself?
"I've got to do a better job. When you're 1-8, you've got to do a much better job of that, and that trickles all the way down to my coaches and to the players."
What are some things you feel you haven't done well in the first nine games?
"Well, I haven't gotten across about turnovers and the penalties, and I've got to do a better job of that. Like I said before, there's going to be a relentless effort from me and on down to our staff to making sure that we do a much better job of doing that, because those are the two things that are keeping us from doing what we need to do."
How different is the offense going to look going forward?
"It'll look much different because we (won't) have those penalties. If we don't have the penalties and we don't turn the ball over, what you're going to see is a more consistent offensive football team in the things that we're doing."
What are you going to do better in order to take advantage of takeaways?
"The thing is, again, like I said, eliminate those penalties and not give it back to them with a turnover, which we've been doing. I think now after self-evaluation, we've seen that we've been doing some things that we haven't done very well. If we don't do those things moving forward, then the things that we do well that we know we're good at will allow us to not be able to turn the ball back over, and be able to be more consistent on offense."
Is there anything you can do in season to teach out some of the penalties?
"We do that in practice. Normally, without the COVID deal, we would have officials at practice. Because of the COVID and the protocols that we've had, we haven't had them at practice now. We've kind of been doing that ourselves. Sometimes it's hard to be able to consistently do that, where we're more concerned with getting a play run and guys doing what they need to do offensively and defensively. We're thinking about trying to see if we can get more of that done in practice and maybe getting them here, because the COVID rules have gotten where now you can possibly get some guys in to do that."
Coming out of the bye week, what is the message to the fans?
"We're going to play better. Our football team is going to play better. The big message to our football team is we've got to be a smarter football team. We've got to play better, and I think with all the stuff that we've done during the self-scout, that you'll end up seeing us doing that."
How do you keep spirits high in the locker room when you are in the middle of a tough season?
"Their head coach's spirit is high, so when they see me and I walk in there, every day they're going to see that. Our coaching staff is the same way. That's a really good dressing room that I've got in there with those players. I haven't seen anybody with their head down. They know we don't do that here. They know that everything is going to be positive. We've just got to make the corrections. They trust what we're doing, we've just got to do it better."
How much of your scouting involved RB Derrick Henry, and how have you seen the Titans find success without him?
"The thing about him is this: they are who they are. With him, obviously, he's a special player, probably the only one of his kind in this league right now. But since he's been out, what we've seen is instead of them giving the ball to him, they're giving it to two or three other guys. They're doing the same things on offense that they've done before when they had him. It's just that now, they're doing it with two or three other guys. There's only one of him."
WR CHRIS CONLEY
How do you expect QB Tyrod Taylor to bounce back against the Titans?
"I expect him to do just that. I expect him to bounce back. He's always been a hard worker. Regardless of what anyone has said about his performance, or anything like that, I know that he's critiqued it harder. He's looked at it many more times than anyone else, and he's also worked at the things that have happened and the things that he has to get better at, anything that he considers a deficiency. Really, it's just trying to get him to recover and rest, too, because that's part of it. I know he's going to be prepared. I know he's itching to get back on the field, so luckily, we get to do that in a few days."
Could you see any rust from QB Tyrod Taylor due to inactivity?
"No. He doesn't use any excuse. There's no excuse in his game. He knows that the team relies on him, and that we need him to play at a high level. He was the first person to tell us that, 'Hey, I ask you guys to do your job and execute every day. I didn't do my job today, and that's why we're in this position.'"
Where have you guys fallen short the most offensively?
"I think if you can't sustain drives, you can't score points. I know there are a lot of teams out there that can make big plays, and they can put points on the board. But at a certain point in time, you have to be able to sustain eight, nine, 10-play drives. Potentially, 18-play drives to get points. There are games where that has to happen. We have too many penalties. We have too many critical M.E.'s (mental errors) that happen at critical points of the game. You find in the first third down of a game, or the first second down of a drive, you have a penalty that puts you in third and very, very long. It doesn't really matter what offense you're in, there's not a lot of plays for third-and-15, third-and-20. So, we have to stay out of those situations."
Considering this is such a veteran team, why do you think that's such an issue?
"That's a question that's kind of alluded me. It's not a lack of hard work. It might be a lack of attention to detail. It might be a little bit too much anticipation, guys eager to go out and make a play and anticipating things to the point where they do something out of character. It might be that. I can only speak for myself, that's something that's happened to me before. But ultimately, it comes down us looking at each other and saying, 'Hey, I'm going to play the best game soundly that I can play. That's all I can promise.' And then I have to rely on my teammates to do the same."
Is there anything you guys are doing now that you weren't doing to address the penalty issue early in the season?
"I think that there's a lot more emphasis on it at this point, whereas earlier in the season, somebody takes a bad angle, or false starts in practice, and it's kind of like, 'Hey, focus in, lock in.' Now, there's a lot more emphasis on it. You can definitely hear it from the coaches, you can hear it from player to player to the point where it's like, 'Hey, cut it out. Lock in. There's too much of this stuff happening.' Definitely a lot more player-driven to the point where we're not allowing that to happen in practice any more, but we need to translate that to the field."
What needs to happen now in order to turn this season around?
"What I just said. At a certain point, you can practice as hard as you want to practice. You can put in all the extra time and extra reps, but you've got to allow that to translate to Sunday. You've got to allow it to happen on the field. There are a lot of times you hear people say, 'don't press.' When things go wrong, athletes who care can press. They can try to force a play to happen. They can try to force your way back into a game, and that ends up causing more errors. That puts you more into a hole. At this point, it needs to come down to smooth execution, positive plays, protecting the football and don't press."
Do you guys talk much about not scoring a touchdown on the road since Cleveland?
"No. No, we don't. We focus on each week individually as it comes. Obviously, we want to score points, but at the same time, dwelling on a stat line like that isn't necessarily going to fix the problem. It's looking at the little things that kill your drives, the errors that happen in the red zone. Fixing that is what's going to fix it, not saying, 'Oh, we haven't scored in this situation.' If you mope about things, they don't get fixed at all."
Your yards per catch average this season is the highest of your career. What do you think about what you're doing with the opportunities you're given?
"At the end of the day, my job is just to make the plays when the ball comes my way. Would I like to be involved? Yeah, every receiver would like to be involved. But right now, as an offense, we have problems that are bigger than my issues, so it's about the team. I've been working on what I do with the ball in my hands, so when it's there, I'm going to make as many plays as I can, as many yards as I can. But as an offense, we need to get better."
As a receiver, how can you help QB Tyrod Taylor be better moving forward?
"Being efficient. I think being efficient is something that we've really looked at in self-scout over this week that we've been off. We've looked at our inefficiencies on 'give me' plays. Say a team is playing zone coverage, we have a 'give me' where someone's sitting right in the zone, exactly where they need to be at five or six yards, and it's a 'give me' play where the quarterback can get the ball out of his hands quickly, we get five, seven yards a pop. There's been a lot of inconsistency on those routes run. Sometimes the route, if it's supposed to be in between the hashes, sometimes it's hugging the hash, sometimes it's in between the hashes, sometimes it's offset to the left. Right now, there's a little bit of hesitation, not only from Tyrod (Taylor), but there was hesitation from Davis (Mills), too, about throwing that ball maybe a hitch extra when it should be a timing throw. Really, that's onus on as receivers, backs, tight ends, to be more consistent. It's not about just running the right route in an option. It's about being at the right spot at the right time."
DL JONATHAN GREENARD
How much of developing pass rushing moves is muscle memory and how much is watching the guys that played before you?
"It's a combination of both. It's one of those feel things you kind of have to have. Just continue to get repetition. It is muscle memory. You got to find your go to move, kind of your niche in the pass rushing game. If you ask me, I watch other people. I watch a lot older ones. I don't really watch the crazy athletic, freak guys. I'm not an athletic freak. I can do some things. Some things are just God-given. You got to know your game, but it's a little bit of both."
Where did you get your spin move?
"I had a little bit when I played running back when I was younger, but I never knew how to use it in the pass rush game. The first one I saw was obviously Dwight Freeney and he just does it as a move, not even a counter. I kind of thought, 'Why not change it to a move?' I definitely watched him coming up and it definitely inspired me from that."
Who do you think is a good athletic guy for you?
Who is someone you watch be like I can use these skills?
"I'm being honest, I don't really see anybody like myself. We're just different builds and people can do different things. I can do a little twitchy stuff. Some people are much faster they can deceive a little bit better. I don't really have a comparison, for real. I'm pretty sure there is some guy out there I just don't know about."
Do you agree that pass rushing is an art?
"Yeah, I can say that. Some people can say that, but you can also get some nitty gritty sacks. The ones that don't really take a move you just have to out work a guy, keep being relentless. Other than that, it definitely is an art. You can throw that in there as well."
What are you seeing from the Titans run game and Adrian Peterson and D'Onta Foreman?
"They want to have the same approach as if 22 (Derrick Henry) is back there. They're still going to run the ball. AP (Adrian Peterson), we know who he is, and Foreman is a guy who has been well respected. People know about him. He was here before hand. They like the physical run style. They want to impose their will. They want to do that and then it opens everything else up. They are going to have the same game plan for sure."
Is that what you've seen from the Titans on film, using other backs like Derrick Henry?
"They still have a lot of confidence in their backs. They got some good backs. Just because it's not 22 (Derrick Henry) back there, they are still some well-respected backs who can get the job done. It's not going to change our approach at all. We still have to get all 11 hats to the ball and get it to where we want it to go."
As a defensive player, what's is like not having to prepare for Derrick Henry?
"It's not necessarily not preparing for him because, he says he's out but we are going to prepare as if he could suit up Sunday. They are still going to run the ball the same way. I think when you have a 6'3" guy back there, it's kind of unheard of. However, they are still going to prepare AP (Adrian Peterson) the same way, they are still going to prepare (Jeremy) McNichols the same way, (D'Onta) Foreman the same way. They are still going to run the ball as hard as ever. Whoever is back there, they are still going to run hard. They are still expecting the same outcome as 22 (Derrick Henry), so we have to prepare as if 22 was there."
What did you do during the bye week to prepare for the second half of the season?
"I really had to relax. My body was a little tired, little beat up a little bit, but I just relaxed. Got some treatment a little bit. Went back and saw some family. Just recharged. Stayed off the field."
What's the respect like for Adrian Peterson in the locker room?
"It was the same when we played Detroit last year. We understood that its AP (Adrian Peterson) at the end of the day. When we were first running out there, he's running full head of steam like he was as a rookie. He's going to bring it. He's a competitor, everybody knows that. Their team is a competitive team, obviously with where they are in the league and who they ran and what their style of play is. So, they are going to continue to try to impose that on our defense and we got answers for it."
What does it mean to you when you hear people say you can be a cornerstone for this organization?
"I like to hear that, but it's also that I'm a big results guy. I want to win. That's all good and all but it doesn't mean nothing if we aren't winning. We are all trying to make sure we are all that cornerstone guy, to be honest. That's cool, but we need to get a dub, and then that will make me feel a little better."
Why do you think you went where you did in the draft based off what you did at Florida?
"Anybody in that locker room, wherever you are, they are going to say they feel like I should have been a first round talent. At the end of the day, it didn't happen that way, so that's not for me to decide. I'm here now. Houston took their chance on me and we are going to make everybody pay for it."
What were the things that coaches went over defensively after self-evaluating?
"We showed that we have flashes of being a very, very dominant defense. We've done that in a lot of games we've played. Now it's just a matter of consistently doing that. This is a great game and great opportunity for us. We can still control our destiny. It's not far out the count to still have a chance at this. If we win out, we control this. We just have to have that same approach and understand that if we all believe that then that makes everything go a little bit longer."
How frustrating is the losing streak?
"Oh, very. I mean, it's losing. Nobody likes losing. You can't find one person who like to lose. It fuels me, for sure. Like I said, stats and all the other stuff might be on my side, but we're not winning so I could care less about that. I can have nothing but as long as we win, I'm good with it."
DL JORDAN JENKINS
Where do you feel you guys are in terms of attention to detail with where the team needs to be?
"I feel like we've been preaching it, toeing the line, doing what is required with regards to paying attention to detail but we can always take that next step and that's what we need to do moving forward for this last little stretch if we want to have anything. If we want to get to where we need to get to, we have to pay attention to detail and take it to the next level in practice. Whether that means added punishment, like as players, not coaching wise, nothing too crazy, just some extra sprints or small fines. If you jump offsides at practice, 30 extra pushups. Just try and stress that we need to have more attention to detail to get some of those key turnovers and key offside penalties out of the game."
Could some of those punishments be for fun?
"No malicious intent there at all. Just holding people accountable and trying to take the next step and doing whatever we can to stack these W's"
What would you attribute to the lack of focus to in this losing streak?
"Sometimes it's just guys, and it's across the league too, you get caught up in the moment. You see you are behind or you envision yourself as the guy to make that big play, you want to be the one to do that, and it sort of takes you away from your fundamentals. When that thing happens, it has a catastrophic effect with regards to the rest of the play. You have to have all guys firing on all cylinders, when you have on guy that's trying to make that one play, trying to get that extra block, whether getting the unnecessary roughness penalty or get a jump on the ball and get an offsides penalty, it hurts everyone else."
What does coming off your best game as an defensive line do for the confidence of this team? What is it like facing the Titans offense with Ryan Tannehill being the driving force and not Derrick Henry?
"I played against Tannehill when he was in Miami. These guys, the guys who were on the team last year, played him in two tight games this past season. You have to show credit to the offense, it doesn't matter who is back there they are still going to be running the same runs. They have hard hitting runners in every back that's in that backfield lineup. We are just going to prepare the same and just be ready for anything because Tennessee is known to throw anything out the book at you. I think they ran a double reverse in special teams on the opening kickoff. They're a team that does what it takes to win. They will do anything and everything. So, we have to prepare that way."
Is Ryan Tannehill an underrated runner considering he's a former receiver?
"He's got some speed. He out ran me once my second year when I was with the Jets. He's got some speed once he gets going , deceptive speed. He can get out there and if he can do it on his feet, he can do it on his feet."
What does it to the Titans play action game not having Derrick Henry there?
"I feel like it's still there because they run play action probably, I'd have to put them in top five in all the teams in the league. They will find a way to get the play action going with them. It doesn't matter who's back there, they'll set up a different look. They will put a receiver back there. They'll change the look up and still get the same play action. I'll give them their credit for that. They'll still accomplish that."
Would you say the biggest challenge with the Titans is their physicality?
"Yeah, there's certain games where you see on the schedule like, 'Okay, you know what type of game this is.' Looking at Tennessee on both sides of the ball, it's going to be a physical game. That's the mentality that we've been talking about in the D-line. We want to be the most physical unit out there, on our team, on their team. We want to be the most physical unit, because the most physical team this Sunday is going to win that game, and that's how it is with Tennessee. My style of football, it's SEC football. You've got to outman the guy across from you, and that's how this week is going to be."
What will it take to turn this season around?
"I'm not sure. I just know we can't have penalties, can't have turnovers. We've just got to be dialed in and have that attention to detail high, and just want it. Go out there with effort, go out there and just do your job and don't try to make plays that aren't your play to make. That right there is what I'll have as the answer to your question. If it's your job to eat up two blocks, if it's your job to sell out a route, if it's your job to cut the biggest D-tackle they've got, you've just got to go out there and do it."
What's it like tackling RB Adrian Peterson, and what does it take to get him on the ground?
"He's still running that ball hard. I've played him in the past, as well, in his ventures throughout the teams he's been on. He's running hard, and he's still talking trash while he's getting hit. He's out there, he's trying to prove that he can still play. He's trying to dominate. He approaches the game the same way he did in his younger days, and I feel like now he's out there trying to hit guys even harder. He's not that hitting that hole soft, he's not looking to go down. He's trying to fight and trying to put his body into you and just run through you."
Is it like that when you shake hands with RB Adrian Peterson, too?
"Never actually got to, but hey, he's a GOAT, Hall of Famer. A lot of these younger guys have never got to play A.P. (Adrian Peterson) and never got to tackle him. A lot of the guys' goal might be to get a good lick on A.P., so that's just another added bonus to this Sunday."
Were you able to talk to any of your teammates during the bye week about what it it's going to take to go forward?
"Yeah, we talked after the game and on that Monday a lot about looking inside, about, 'What all have you done, what all have I done in the past to help this team, what all have I done to hurt this team?' In games that you played well, what did you do right, and try to just keep that going. You've got to look in before you can look across to someone else."