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Transcripts: 11-17-2021 Press Conferences 


What do you think about Mike Vrabel as a head coach and the job he's done in Tennessee?

"They are a reflection of who he is. I happened to be coaching with the Pittsburgh Steelers when he was a young player there. He was a very selfless kind of player, the kind of player you want on your football team. His football team is a reflection of him. He was also very tough. It was always about the team and his football team is a reflection of who is his offensively, defensively and special teams."

When you look at Tennessee's front seven and Jeffery Simmons, what makes them such a difficult blocking assignment?

"We've gone against Aaron Donald and this guy right here is as good as Aaron Donald. He's one of the best guys in the league in doing that. Obviously, the same thing with Aaron Donald, you try not to leave him in a situation where you are one on one with him very much, but he's a heck of a player."

What do you make of the physicality of your offensive line?

"We're going to use the same line we had last game out. We're starting the same guys that we had. Justin (Britt)'s not quite ready yet and Laremy (Tunsil)'s not quite ready yet. The thing about what this team does is it brings out the physicalness in you. They are a very physical front. They play that way. They play that way defensively and we got to match that."

What do you need to see from OL Laremy Tunsil before he gets back on the field?

"Well he's still going through the rehab right now. He's still got the point where 'Do I wear a splint? Do I not wear a splint?' Now the big thing he is doing is just getting his strength back from the standpoint of him getting his overall strength back because of the injury he hasn't been able to life weights, those kind of things. It's almost like being on COVID and coming back and not being able to do anything. He's actually getting to the point where he's starting to lift now and get his strength back. Once he gets that back that back, it's just a matter of him being able to go."

How frustrating has it been to come from Baltimore where you led the league in rushing to now, where the running game is not where you want it? Do you have any hope for the running game rest of the season?

"I do have hope. The reason I have hope is that after nine ball games, we've gone back and we've saw that we've tried to do some things we thought we were capable of doing, but because of certain situations some being injuries just not been able to get that consistency we need there. I think during the bye week when we went back and assessed who we are and what we need to do to get that going more, I think we'll eliminate some things that we had been doing that weren't good and start doing the things that we feel that we were very, very good at."

What does LB Zach Cunningham offer to the defense now that his role has increased?

"This past game, he actually called the game too which he hadn't been doing before. He's a heck of an athlete. He's one of our better players on defense. The last three ball games that he's played, he's played probably his best football this year. He gives us that guy in there that can get all over the place. He makes a lot of tackles. He's all around there. I think his energy too bring a little bit more to us on our back end than what we've had."

How have you seen the run defense improve?

"Well the thing that helped with our run game, especially this week with the Titans, this team's going to run the ball regardless of if Derrick Henry is there or not. They are going to run the ball. They are the number one leading team in the league in rushing attempts. Our upfront having gap control, I thought was very, very critical for us to do that especially with this kind football team. We just have to have gap control. And having Zach (Cunningham) back there doing what he's doing it allows him to control the front and the linebackers to get into those gaps and make plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage instead of on our side."

What have you seen from OL Jimmy Morrissey so far?

"I'll tell you what, he's jumped in there and done a heck of a job for us. He's a very smart kid. He hasn't had a bunch of playing time, but he went in there and upheld his end very, very well in the last game, making calls and doing all those types of things. We're very comfortable with him in there."

Would you start DB Eric Murray at safety again?

"Eric Murray will start at safety." 

When it comes to managing the game, how has your learning curve as a first-time head coach matched up to what you anticipated it to be?

"Well, there's been some things that have happened that I wouldn't say I wasn't ready for, but things that happened to me for the first time that when it comes up you have a quick decision one way or the other. When you go with it, you have to deal with it. Some of those have been good. Some of them I wish I would have had back, but I just think it's a learning curve as I move forward. Our analytics people do a great job of giving me situations through the week that I study that happen across the league, that may or not happen with you but if they do come up, we've kind of been over those things."

What's been your process when reviewing some of the things you wish you had back?

"We review it with the whole staff. We go over those things. We look at those situations again and say, 'What would we do in this particular situation? This is what we did, this is maybe what we should have done and if we are in the situation again this is what we will do.'"

How did DB Terrence Brooks do in his recovery the past few weeks?

"He did very well. He's practicing this week. He'll be limited, but we feel like he's back. It's just the fact that he's been away for a while and getting his stamina back and making sure we don't bring him back too quick, too fast. He's going to practice this week and we will just see how it goes. He could possibly be ready to play for us."

WR Chris Conley mentioned how the wide receiver group has fallen short, is there another position group where you can been point that they can do better?

"When you're 1-8, every group needs to do better. All groups need to do better at what we are doing right now. There are some specific things at that receiver group that they feel needed to get better at, but that goes with all of groups. I don't think any of us have done anything from a coaching standpoint and a playing standpoint as consistent as we would like to do. We got to get better in all those areas."

What do you think will be the key for QB Tyrod Taylor to bounce back after his performance in Miami?

"He's a 10-year veteran. He's been there and he's done that. He's had a game under his belt. It was eight weeks before he played a football game. He came back and played a football game, did not play very well, was not very sharp. That game will obviously help him. He's always been a guy that doesn't make the same mistakes twice and I hope moving forward that's how we go with him."

What does RB Royce Freeman add to the running back group?

"He adds more depth, he gives us more depth. Obviously, he's been around a little bit. If we feel like we need to go with another back, we feel good about him being there. But he gives us depth."

What kind of defensive front do you see from the Titans?

"Very aggressive, very aggressive. This team, you talk about (Harold) Landry and (Jeffery) Simmons, I think Simmons, as a defensive lineman, he's leading the league in sacks at his position. Landry's also up there in sacks. That's a pretty good crew. Again, that overall defense is very consistent and very good. They've got a safety back there that's a very good player. This defensive team has scored three touchdowns this year, so it's a very formidable group."

How have you dealt with the losing, and how have you helped your players and staff cope with how things have gone?

"Well, basically, it's always the next game. We don't look at what's happened in the past. We came back off the bye week and we said, 'Hey, look. What's happened in September and October and the first week of November is in the past.' We've got eight games left, and we're looking forward to the next eight games, taking them one game at a time. We're not looking at it as a losing streak. We're looking at it right now as having a one-game winning streak and then moving forward."

What makes you confident that your team will handle the blitz better this game than in the past?

"I think, too, I'm going back to Tyrod's (Taylor) first game back. We actually had some things ready for that. We didn't execute it quite as well. Fortunately for us, although they could do it, the Titans defense is not a blitzing-type defensive team. They have it and they're capable of doing it, but if they decide to do what Miami did to us, running the zero blitzes and whatnot, we're ready for that. We were prepared for it at the time, but we've just got to execute it. I think we did it a couple of times, but actually a couple other times, we had a chance to beat it. We didn't beat it because we didn't make the throws or we didn't make the plays."

What led to the decision of not playing DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. as much as he did at the beginning of the season?

"We've moved him back to corner, which is basically his natural position. Now, he's basically having to relearn that again and getting acclimated to being a corner again. But we feel good about Lonnie (Johnson Jr.) being there. As he starts to get more comfortable there, if we felt like we needed to play Lonnie within that group, we'd put Lonnie out there."

What went into the decision to move DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. back to cornerback?

"He was more comfortable there. He wasn't as comfortable playing safety. That wasn't natural for him. He had been a corner before we got here, they moved him to safety, and then we tried him back there in our scheme. It just didn't fit what he was athletically. We talked about it and decided the best thing for him to do was to go back to corner. Now that we've got him back there, I think he's comfortable there and will remain there."

Did you approach Lonnie Johnson Jr. about that, or did he approach you?

"No, we talked about it. We talked about it."

How soon could DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. see the field there?

"Depending on what happens with injuries, he could see it at any time."


Do you think QB Tyrod Taylor will give you the boost you need now that he's had more time under his belt?

"Absolutely. I still think he gave us that boost in Miami. But it's good to be able to have that game under his belt, had the bye week, had some extra time to prep. So, we look forward to getting back out there together."

What is it like going against physical defensive backs like the Titans?

"You're talking about a physical bunch of a group, and not just the defensive backs, but the whole defense. With (Mike) Vrabel, that's the way they play the game, that's the way they coach the game. We look forward to the matchups."

How do you overcome physical defensive backs?

"I'm a dog, too, but at the end of the day, just trusting my technique, not rushing things, watching film, studying my opponent and letting everything else take care of itself."

Do you feel that the week off was good as far as a refocus?

"Absolutely, absolutely. I think that the biggest thing for a bye week that you get is a mental reset. You definitely miss the game, but at the end of the day we all know that mental health is very, very important. So, when you can just get away from your everyday job just for a little bit, it's huge. You come back refreshed and ready to get going again."

Do you think some people don't think about the mental toll this game takes?

"No, I think everybody understands that from a player's standpoint, coach's standpoint. It's definitely a journey."

From your end, what does the run game do for opening up the offense?

"Just from our team, we preach physicality. Any time you can run the ball well, that gives your team a boost. But from a whole offensive standpoint, it just opens up everything else. When your backs are running hard and your O-line is able to do what they do, and you're getting good yards per carry, I feel like from a play calling standpoint, that just takes a lot of pressure off of T.K. (Tim Kelly). That's what we look forward to doing. We've all got a part in that, not just the O-line and the running backs, but the receivers as well, blocking downfield and staying engaged with our man."

Is there anything you take from having a good game against the Titans the last time you played them?

"No, just trusting the play calling and trusting my teammates, and let it come to me, not try to force anything."

As one of the leaders of this team, what was your message to your teammates about leaving the losing streak behind?

"Like I always talk to the guys, take it one week at a time. They bye week came at a perfect time, kind of in the middle of the season. Forgetting what's behind and striding toward what's ahead, and just focusing every single day at a time. Try to become more disciplined, being the best version of yourself and not try to think about anything else, and just play our best game moving forward."

Does that come from your faith?

"Absolutely, no doubt. No doubt."

What was it like for you to see Mark Ingram II break the all-time rushing record for the Saints?

"That was awesome. That was awesome to be able to go back there and do that. As we all know, I've got a lot of love for him, but for him to go get that record was huge. I know he's happy about that, but he's got a lot left in the tank."


Last game you had about a tackle every two snaps. Was there anything specific about Miami or did you read the ball well?

"When I was in the game, I just did my job. Hit the gap and if I couldn't get through, get to the ball."

Can you talk about your process as far as studying the opponent?

"I always prepare the game as if I am going to start the game. You never know when somebody is going to get hurt or if something comes up when your number is going to be called. The philosophy is always be prepared. Be prepared for when your opportunity comes."

LB Kami Grugier-Hill said you've called him at midnight to ask him something about film. Do you do that often?

"Me and Kamu pull up plays all the time even with Kirko (Christian Kirksey) on stuff. We'll see a play. We want to get things solved in the meeting before we get to the field. I've always been like that since college, just watch as much film to see the stuff they might do that we haven't talked about."

What do you see on the Titans on film?

"A lot of movement. They move around a lot, pretty much. If you're not lined up right, line up correctly, not doing your job correctly, that's how they get the big plays in the run game. That's one of the things we are going to have to do is get lined up correctly that way we can do our jobs."

How do you feel you guys have done that this season?

"Every week is different. Some weeks we might not do our job as well as we should have. It's just little things here and there that we can clean up that will get us where we want to go." 

What kind of adjustments will you have to make to try to keep Ryan Tannehill in the pocket?

"Really just keeping the edge if we are blitzing or something. Just containing him. I played with Tannehill when I played in Miami. He can run. I believe he played receiver at some point in his life. He's pretty fast and when you see him on film, he can run."

How have you adjusted to your role this year compared to your role last year?

"The last two years I played a lot, started a lot. I mean, it's one of those things that when I played in Miami my second year, the year we went to the playoffs, I learned that you have to accept your role on the team. You play your role to the best of your ability until your opportunity comes. If you play special teams, you play special teams to the best of your ability to help the team win. That's been my job and role this year to do my job to the best of my ability and help out the guys that I can." 

Where do you think the defensive line is right now?

"Our defensive line is very impressive. A lot of the young guys, they have a very bright future ahead of them. You got Ross (Blacklock), (Jacob) Martin, (Jordan) Jenkins. I mean all of those guys. They get a lot of sacks up front, putting a lot of pressure on teams, causing a lot of turnovers."

How are you staying mentally prepared until your opportunity comes?

"Some days it's harder than others but you have to stay locked in. It's a long season. You never know when your opportunity is going to come and when it comes you have to be prepared. You can be ready but if you are prepared for it, you are going to take full advantage of it."

Did military school help with your discipline?

"Yes, it did. When I got through that military school, it prepared me for everything in life. If I could get through that, I can do anything."

Head Coach David Culley said the Titans are still committed to the run game with Adrian Peterson and D'Onta Foreman. Why do you think that their offense is built that way and how prepared are you for that offense?

"I think we are prepared. Our defense is prepared to stop the run. If that's what they do, they are going to continue to do it whether they have (Derrick) Henry or not. They still have a very good veteran quarterback to lead the way for them and the rest of the guys in that room are pretty good. Their offensive line is good. That's why they are 8-2. If you run the ball well in the league it opens up a lot of stuff for you. If we stop the run and force them in long third downs, it helps us out on defense as well."


Do you feel that now you've had a game under your belt you will play better?

"Definitely. I believe so. Obviously, the last outing in Miami wasn't a winning one or an opportunity to give the offense to go out there and put up points. Definitely something to clean up and watch with a critical eye. I had the bye week to also work on some things and looking forward to getting back on the field this week and bouncing back personally and also as a team."

What have you noticed specifically to work on after that game?

"Timing. Some balls out there that I left out on the field. Some plays that were left on the field as well too, typically you make those plays. Like you said, I never look at it and blame the time off. I was fully confident going into that game in my ability to go out and perform at a high level. Just didn't meet that mark. Like I said, watch it with a critical eye, put it behind me, eyes forward and continue playing well."

Can you talk about what you've seen from the Titans defense in terms of challenges?

"They're playing great football right now. The team in general obviously, the defense is a very talented bunch. A lot of energy when you watch them on defense. They run to the ball, making plays. Definitely going to boil down to us executing, going out there, obviously taking our shots when we can. But, executing up and down the field and finishing in the red zone with touchdowns and not field goals."

What is the adjustment period like working with a rookie center?

"Jimmy (Morrissey)'s been great. Very I wouldn't say outspoken, just a confident guy. He's confident in his ability. He's picked up the offense in the short time that he's been here. He's going out there and he's competing, can't ask for anything more. A guy that's competing and knowledge of the things we are putting in each week. Each week he gets the chance to gain experience and he'll continue to step up to the challenge each week."

Other than penalties and turnovers, without going into specifics, what were some of the things the offense can work on?

"Like you said, I can't go into specifics I think that's more in house. Obviously when you get a bye week, you get a chance to self-scout and you want to build around those things. We took away some strengths that we can take advantage of moving forward. Like you said, the main point is eliminating penalties and turnovers. That right there alone gives you the chance to go out each week and be successful, along with us doubling down on the things we have done well up until the point."

How much did your last performance weigh on you mentally?

"It didn't weigh on me mentally. Obviously, you want to go out there and win a game, but you learn from it, put it behind you and keep moving forward."

What did you see from the red zone performance that you guys can work on to get better in the red zone?

"Obviously hit the shot. We got the coverages that we wanted in most of those red zone situations throughout the season. Just being able to execute. Like I said, that's really what it boils down to each week."

What do you see from Jeffery Simmons?

"Very fierce rusher. He's one of the best in the league. Big human being, moves well, very strong. We definitely have our cut out for him, but (I) have tremendous confidence in our guys to be able to go out and perform at a high level against him."

As one of the leaders of this team, how did you talk to the other players about the losing streak and turning the season around?

"I think coming off the bye week, the focus more so was the past. Obviously, it happened, we lived it and we created it. But at the same time, you can't look back and move forward at the same time. You have to go out with the '1-0' mindset each week, winning the day. You can't play the game on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. You literally have to take it one day at a time, executing, focus each and every day and take that attitude one day at a time and one week at a time, and look up at the end of the season and see where you're at. You can't focus on the past."

Do you see a different mindset from your teammates coming back from the bye week?

"Yes. Definitely energized, refocused, understanding the opportunity that's ahead of us, and looking forward to take that challenge head on."

How does the team work through the small things to do things that are fundamental?

"That's constant communication as far as timing. Obviously, you get the reps that you get in practice and you want to take advantage of those, but it's also talking through things, whether it's watching a game with the receiver, with the group, talking through it on the football field, at practice, just being on the same page. The more you can communicate, the better off that you are going out and just playing and reacting to one another."

What are the most important things you guys will have to do on Sunday in order to get a win?

"Stay ahead of the chains. Stay in third and manageable, obviously, and executing the red zone. That's definitely key to our success this weekend."

What are your thoughts on WR Brandin Cooks?

"Great man, great competitor. I've always admired his game from afar. Obviously, getting a chance to play with him, he's wowed me each and every day. Just the professionalism, his ability to go out and make plays. I love him as a friend and love him as a teammate."

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