Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly
What did you see from QB Tyrod Taylor's last performance that makes you think he can quickly put it behind him, and what do you expect from him this game?
"I expect for him to come out and play well. Last week was very uncharacteristic of him as far as some of the decisions that he made that ended up in turnovers. He knows that. We talked about it, we feel like we've got that corrected, so I'm looking forward to him coming out and bouncing back, and again, playing a cleaner game."
How much different is the offense now after the bye week evaluation?
"I don't think it's different. I think, obviously, we'll be focusing more so on some of the more successful areas, and try to eliminate some of the stuff that we haven't been very good at. But it's not like there was a huge overhaul."
How frustrating has it been not scoring a touchdown on the road in two months?
"It's frustrating, but we've got to find a way to get it done. No matter how frustrating it is, for whatever reason – there's a multitude of them – we've got to find a way to put the ball in the end zone. I think everyone in the building's frustrated with it, and our guys are coming out and working to make sure that when those opportunities come up for us here in a few days that we're able to punch it in."
What would you say some of the positive things you're trying to lean on?
"I think throughout every game there's been some stuff that we've been good at. Different aspects of running the football, I know the numbers probably don't reflect that, but certain schemes have been more efficient for us than others. Certain styles of genres of the pass game, if you will, have been more successful than others. Again, it's just all about us being able to go back and identify it. Not only identify by the numbers, but going and watching the film and seeing where the breakdowns are and why plays haven't worked and why plays have, and continue to try to find those combinations, eliminate the bad ones, and accentuate the good ones."
WR Chris Conley spoke about cleaning up the details in route running. Is there anything like that you've diagnosed and said this is what we can correct?
"Yeah, I think in every position group there's something that we need to improve on. Whether if there's a specific route that we need to improve the timing on, or specific blocking technique that we need to improve on, or read by the quarterback or read by the back. I think there are areas in every room that obviously we need to improve on. So, yeah, I think that's a part of it, but I don't think that's a major factor, no."
Over the course of the week, what is the dialogue like with Head Coach David Culley as far as the game plan?
"Earlier on in the week, having conversations with him, figuring out how he wants to play the game. Obviously, that changes every week based upon our opponent, so really trying to figure out his vision for the game and how he wants to play it, and then formulating the game plan around that vision, and again, making sure we're putting our guys in the best position possible."
What do you see from OL Tytus Howard as far as growth at the left guard position? Do you see him as a guard in the future, or is tackle something you'd think about for him?
"Yeah, maybe. I think we're going to do whatever is best for the team. That's one of the good things about Tytus (Howard) is that he's got the ability to play multiple positions, and right now the best offensive line unit that we have, or the best offensive line group that we have is with him playing guard. He's getting better every week. I know probably the analytics don't necessarily reflect that. We could have a different conversation about some of those analytics later. From what we're seeing, he's become more comfortable in there, because it's different. It gets on him faster, the type of player you're playing is different. Just the little nuances that go along with playing that position in the NFL are different than anything he's done in his career. He's adjusted well, and just like everybody, we all need to continue to improve, but he's trending in the right direction."
Jeffery Simmons has made some big plays against the Texans, and now he's playing some of the best football of his career. How are you going to keep him from wrecking your offense?
"We've got to know where he's at. You hit it right on the head, he's playing at a very, very high level. He's as good as any person we've played this year. Different than (Aaron) Donald, but disruptive. He's big, he's strong, he's long, he plays hard, he's physical, so we need to know where he's at. We need to know how we're trying to attack him, and we just need to make sure that, again, as an offensive line, as a quarterback, as a running back, everybody's got a piece of it. We just need to understand the game plan and how we're, like you said, going to avoid putting him in positions where he can go and wreck the game."
How has Denico Autry changed the Titans defense?
"We're familiar with him. Obviously, coming from Indy, he's another player that's big and physical and versatile. They move him around, he plays outside, he plays inside, they slide him inside on third down. He brings a little bit of an edge to them. They've always been a physical unit, but with him up front, him and (Jeffery) Simmons, they're a tough group up front. He does a good job of playing hard, getting his hands in the way and using his length, and doing things along those lines. Again, similar to Simmons, we've got to make sure we understand who we're putting on him, try to avoid bad matchups and try to figure out how we're going to attack him."
Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross
"Good to be back. Going to prepare ourselves for a multiple look team, a size team, and as you guys know very well from covering Houston, a Mike Vrabel prepared team, which is we have to be sharp in all facets especially when we are preparing for not only different looks but how they use their players in matchups. They do a great job of that. One of all tallest tasks of the year to this point and we have to be on our P's and Q's with that."
What is it about a Mike Vrabel prepared team that makes it so challenging?
"A guy who is a do it all, a jack of all trades guy himself as a player and now as a coach. You can see it permeate to all of his players. It's not just a cliché, I know a lot of us has sad that, that shows up and it truly does. Whether its playing with a certain style and level on intensity and physicality but just aggressive. Everybody playing with technique within the scheme and doing the little things right but moving guys around. Especially in the special teams core, they have had players all over the board, in different spots and are still successful. It's obviously coming down from the mantra of the team up there."
In the past the Titans have done trick plays on special teams. Do you still have to worry about that?
"Yep, and we are going to look at all that stuff every single week and make sure we are sound on our fundamentals and as prepared as we possibly can be. There's one thing you know about them and that's situational football. It isn't just offense and defense, game management and clock management. That is a broken formation. That is knowing who their personnel is, what they do well, inserting certain players at different positions. We have to be alert for that and being ready to play in those exact things for whether it's to steal a possession or a big moment in the game. We are going to do our best to prepare for Coach (Craig) Aukerman and Coach (Mike) Vrabel in those situations."
What have you seen from DB Tremon Smith overall and not just as a returner?
"That guy has gotten better since he's gotten here and he's doing a great job of using his biggest weapon, his speed. He's playing with physicality. He's playing with detail in his leverage as a tackler. We are going to continue to work him to improve. I'm proud of Tremon and just like everybody else, they are there to prove themselves. So, he knows and next time he steps out onto the field as a gunner or returner, hey, that's the only rep and the only play that matters to this point of the season, and he does buy into that. So, happy with where he is at."
When evaluating the group through the first nine games of the season, what are some things you noticed?
"As a collective team, we have to improve everybody. Whether we've had a good play or a bad play, we have to improve as tackling and making sure that we are rallying. When you are going up against a team like Tennessee, just look at their punt return average. It's not because Chester Rogers is taking the ball all the way to the field or whatever their return look is. It's because they steal possessions. They steal a first down, rather, by attacking vertical. That stresses your coverage when you have return that is savvy to go this way and we have to be able to collapse and make sure we're closing space against guys like him and teams that are taught to do that."
What are you seeing from K Ka'imi Fairbairn now?
"I've said it before, but I think it's a consistent pattern with him. The guy shows up every day to work. Let's say there are five or six kicks in a field goal set, and he doesn't feel good with one of them, he'll go and get that extra work in. Going to continue to see him every single day improve on any mishit he may or may not have. I'm happy with where he is at and he knows it's one kick at a time, as we all do."
Do you think some of the team's best pro bowl candidates might be on special teams?
"I think that's always a tricky thing in the NFL. I'll leave that up to you guys. I know that for us, every single person here, we just want to make that next play and perform as well as we can to put our team in good field position, in our first chance to prove ourself against the Tennessee Titans is this one next weekend."
Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith
What are you seeing from LB Zach Cunningham the last few games?
"Well, a lot. He's been productive. He's a good football player, I'll start with that, of course. That's understood. A lot of us hadn't performed our best earlier, but it takes a while sometimes. I just know we like what he's been doing lately. Giving him more responsibility and he's stepping up to the plate. Excited about seeing Zach (Cunningham) and the rest of the guys finish up the right way."
Head Coach David Culley was telling us about how you moved DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. back to cornerback. Can you tell us about that decision-making process?
"I think when you come in, first off, you're trying to get everybody in the right position. Some guys have flexibility where they can play multiple positions, and you have to let them. You keep playing them, they'll tell you where you should go. That's the case with Lonnie (Johnson Jr.). He did some good things back at the safety position, mainly intercepting the football, but it didn't feel like that was his best position. We feel comfortable where he is not at corner."
What were the things that ultimately led you all to move DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. to corner?
"There's a lot of things, not one thing. It's a body of work. With everything we do, it's a body of work. We've been (through) training camp, gone through games, practices, meetings, all of that."
How has DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. handled the transition?
"Well, like you expect a good teammate to. There's a process to everything we do that we feel like is fair. There's video to kind of tell you what you should do with guys. Lonnie (Johnson Jr.), he's at the corner position, and we're seeing marked improvement daily."
How does that affect a player's development, moving back to cornerback from safety?
"It's part of it. I think a player should be really concerned if he's not getting any time and he's not playing for you, people aren't trying to work with you to try to find your best position. I think the more positions you play, the better you become as a football player, making you learn an overall scheme, not just being isolated at one spot, from what I've seen in my history of coaching."
Derrick Henry has three consecutive 200-yard games against the Texans, and A.J. Brown has dominated them, too. What's the key to A.J. Brown being so good, and why have the Texans not done a better job of defending him?
"I'm still on that Derrick Henry, you said 200 yards? He did that against a lot of teams. You're talking about a great player. We have a better chance of beating them without him, so that's a good start. But just talking about (A.J.) Brown, he's got great size, he'll block, he's a full receiver. He does it all. I know what happened last week, but you look at his body of work and it says we need to be ready. It's a big challenge for us. Kind of goes along with who they are as a football team, too. When you say you're a tough football team, one of the positions you look at is the cornerback position, will they tackle, and the wide receiver position, will they block? Of course, he'll do that. And then catching the football, again, we'll have to have all bodies on deck knowing exactly where he is."
What have you seen from the Titans after Derrick Henry went out, as they've still been able to win without him?
"I think you have a philosophy. You don't change your philosophy based on one player, even though it's an MVP-type player. They're set up a certain way, and its next guy up, and that's what we've seen. The guy that's replaced him has carried the football a few times, too, and I've seen him more than my share of times. We're both from the same area of town, area of the country, area of the state, but that doesn't give me an advantage with much. Adrian Peterson is a heck of a player, and not just Adrian Peterson. Their entire stable of running backs fit what they do, so they won't change it much."
Head Coach David Culley said LB Zach Cunningham was calling plays and he hadn't done that before. How do you think he did?
"For us to let a guy do that says what we think of him. You kind of grow into it. Sometimes when you're in a role and you don't have to be in another role, Christian Kirksey was that guy making the calls. He had an injury, now it's about the next guy stepping up. It was Zach's (Cunningham) time to do that, and he stepped up. As I said earlier, we like what he did. Zach's a smart football player, played a lot of football, and I think he liked being in that role, taking on more responsibility. We'll continue to give it to him."
Can a change like that help you see growth in a player that you hadn't seen weeks before?
"Yeah, that's a part of it, but I think it's a lot more than that. I think you keep practicing, you keep playing, and eventually you get it. We played our best defensive game last time. It just wasn't Zach (Cunningham), it was a lot of the guys. We set a standard, a bar, and we're hoping to achieve that and go further. Zach is a part of that, but it takes time to get the product right."
In your first year as an NFL head coach, what do you think were the biggest learning curves you faced?
"That was a long time ago. I can tell you an awful lot about being a defensive coordinator now. I think just like any job, you get in and we all assume that we're really prepared for it. You prepare as best you can and you get in the role, and then things come up and your background will take you through all those challenges that come up when it's your first time. From anything in life, I feel like that's the case."
Has Head Coach David Culley been able to lean on you, and have you been able to help him go through those things?
"David (Culley) has a plan for what he wants to do. He's been able to lean on, there's a lot of good coaches on our staff. My experience is there, absolutely."
Is there an expectation that LB Neville Hewitt will still play a lot of linebacker like he did against Miami?
"Yes. Neville (Hewitt) played well. We talked about Zach (Cunningham), and Kamu Grugier-Hill has played well, too. His role changed a lot when Christian (Kirksey) went down, but Neville has been waiting. He's been primarily a special teams player for us, and he's done a good job with that. The last game he played, he stepped up. I think he might've been our leading tackler, where he was supposed to be. That's how he prepares each day. We're expecting him to take another step, too. This is the kind of team that a player like Neville should play well against."
Using A.J. Brown as an example, why are some receivers able to get more yards after the catch than others?
"I think once you get the ball in your hands, then it's about – I think you look at this size. He's bigger, stronger than most of the guys he's playing against, you start with that. Cornerbacks, a lot smaller. I think then he becomes a running back and he's a hard guy to get down. Of course, he has excellent hands, but once he gets the ball, I think now it's about what kind of guy you are. I think size helps that a little bit based on most of the time defensive linemen, the bigger guys are going to get a chance to tackle. Now it's about smaller guys, and he has broken a lot of tackles."
The Titans are a team that likes movement to get the defense out of position. Have you seen this configuration of linebackers improve with that?
"We've seen everything improve. Again, just based on our last game, most of the spots we need to be in gap-wise, we were. It takes a while to get, but that's the life in the NFL. If you look on our offensive side of the football, we move just about every snap, too. That's life in the NFL now. Offenses want to put a little doubt in your mind before the snap of the football, and you have to be able to handle it. I feel like we've handled it well the last time. We'll handle it well this week."