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Transcripts: 12-15-2021 Press Conferences 


What do you want to see from QB Davis Mills against Jacksonville?

"Decision making. Quicker decisions when he is not sure of things back in the pocket. Much better job of getting the ball down out of his hands instead of holding it trying to get it down the field. He's got to be able to do that. In the second half of this past ball game, he held it a little bit when he didn't need to hold it when he could have gotten it out to the backs. He's got to be able to do that. Just a quick decision making process."

Did QB Davis Mills throw better on the run than in the pocket?

"He did a nice job especially getting to the right. He was very, very good going to the right. He can make all the throws. His accuracy is very good. So, there is not an issue with him going either way and making those kinds of throws. He just has to be more decisive when he is getting ready to make a throw, just no hesitation. What happened to him in the past was those hesitations created interceptions because the ball was late trying to get the ball down the field, especially in the middle of the field where most of his interceptions came from."

You guys called a lot of screens effectively in this last game. Was that more of a function of the matchup or were you trying to put easier throws in there to help QB Davis Mills?

"That was more so because of the way they rush. We knew that if we called a few of those we would have a pretty good chance to be successful and for the most part we were successful on all of those plays simply because of the way they rushed." 

In your evaluation of the offensive line, what has been missing this year?

"The one thing that has been missing is the continuity with the people we have had to move in and out and move people different spots. Other than that, just developing that continuity. We just have developed that as quick enough as we needed to develop that, and we are continuing to work on doing that." 

What are some things you want to see better from the offensive line?

"Just more consistency in what we are asking them to do. I thought early in the year we were asking them to do things that maybe weren't their strong suit. I think now we kind of know what their strong suits are and we're more so playing to what they do best as opposed to what we think would be a good play. This is what we do best. This is what they are very good at . This is what they have been very consistent at."

You've talked about continuity with the running backs too. Is that a product of being in your first year with a lot of roster turnover and having to learn a lot about your personnel?

"That is a part of it but not really knowing because not having a full off season. I don't think if we would have had the off season we would have known more, because we are in shorts. We are not in pads. In training camp, it was a lot quicker, a lot shorter than we were accustomed to having and we just haven't been able to get the consistency that need to get out of that group."

How do you help that helps you going into year two having a full year of getting to know these players?

"I'm not even thinking about year two right now. I'm just thinking about getting that consistency into this game this Sunday against Jacksonville."

What is your health situation with the running backs?

"Right now, David (Johnson) and Royce (Freeman) will be our two running backs just like we had last week less Rex (Burkhead). We can actually take our tight ends and use some of our tight ends in a position as a back in some protection things to offset that."

What do you make of how the running back situation played out for you guys?

"Well injuries happen and unfortunately for us David (Johnson) having the COVID was a big set back simply because it wasn't an injury more so than it was the situation with the COVID. Playing those two and having three available is good enough for what we wanted to do moving forward after the break. Unfortunately, we're losing Rex (Burkhead) in that particular ball game and not having David up was a tough deal for us."

Do you think RB Rex Burkhead will be something that keeps him out for multiple weeks?

"It's day-to-day. I think Rex will be ok. He just won't be able to go this week."

After the long touchdown before half, DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. played more corner in the second half. Is that position open and where is the future of that right now?

"No, basically we play who we feel will give us the best chance to win right now. Lonnie played strong in that second half. We'll see this week how it goes as to who is starting there and who is getting the playing time there."

What does DB Terrance Mitchell need to work on to prove himself and get back on the field more?

"He needs to play the defense and keep the ball in front of him, simple as that."

What do you think QB Davis Mills has to do to be more consistent?

"Get us in the end zone in the second half. Us around him, do the things that we did in the first half to give him an opportunity to do that because we just did not give him an opportunity to be able to get us down the field and do the things in the passing game that we did in the first half. Part of that was not being able to run the ball."

What do you think OL Justin Britt brings in his return?

"He's a leader for us. He gives us some continuity there. There's some security with those guys beside him that they feel, having him there with his expertise and his veteran leadership."

What is OL Laremy Tunsil's status?

"He's day to day."

Are you still hoping OL Laremy Tunsil can play this season?

"I'm hoping he can play this season."

Why is it so important to the defense to build depth on the defensive line?

"More important than them getting up the field, the thing we've got to do right now is do a better job in the run game of getting gap control. Sometimes getting up the field trying to get the passer is less important than staying in your gap and keeping those big plays from happening because we're out of our gaps. Sometimes that's been an issue of us staying in our gaps and big things happen. When you stay in your gap, whether it's run or pass, and you contain when you're supposed to contain, you eliminate those kinds of things. Our big plays have come off of when that hasn't happened."

How have you thought DL Maliek Collins has played this season?

"Maliek (Collins) has played very consistent for us. He's probably been our most consistent guy game in and game out."

Do quick screens substitute for a lack of running game?

"Not necessarily substitute, it's one of the ways we've felt like getting the ball in Brandin (Cooks)'s hand quickly. They all aren't necessarily to him, but that is like a run. We have some passes that we have in our offense that we feel like should be like a run. That's where we talked about Davis (Mills) moving forward. There are passes that we call that if he drops back and lets it go and throws it to one of our backs right now, it's like a run play for us. We've got to get him to thinking that way."

Have you changed any of your COVID-19 protocols based on the recent outbreaks going on in sports?

"The changes we've made (are) the changes that the NFL requires us to make. Usually all those changes come down from the league office, and once the league office gives us those changes, then we go by those changes. There's really not anything else we can do. I think our people here, our staff do a great job of everything that we need to do to prevent this thing from happening. All of our guys are vaccinated and it's still happening. It's happening across the league. Obviously, this past week and these past couple of days, there's been a little bit more outbreak."

How essential is it in the offseason to add running backs?

"Again, I haven't thought about that, but obviously that will be something that I'm sure Nick (Caserio) will look at."


How do you feel about how all the rookie are contributing this season? What does it say about this draft class and what does it say to the future draft class?

"I feel like the rookies that came in with this draft class we took advantage of every opportunity we got. Every day it's stacking days, getting better, waiting for the opportunity, waiting for our number to be called. I feel like our numbers have been called and we coming up to home plate. We are doing what we were working this offseason for, grinding for opportunities like this, to play on Sundays. The time has come and now it shows the ground we've been putting in the offseason, so now it shows now."

How do you feel you have progressed in your rookie season?

"I feel like I've improved a lot. I feel like I've grown a lot, but I still have a lot more growing to do. Season is going fast, faster than expected. I feel like I just need to work on the little things in order to improve on myself and my game and overall, just becoming a better player."

What has your season been like working with WR Chris Conley? What have you learned from him?

"A lot. I appreciate Chris a lot. (Brandin) Cooks, Phillip (Dorsett), Danny (Amendola), just having those vets in my room. They always there for me as a mentor. Whatever questions I have, they're always there giving me advice, what to do, what not to do. The little things, just helping me out because they've been in the league for a while and I'm new to it. I'm glad I have them in my room for mentors or whatever. I appreciate them a lot."  

What has been the biggest adjustment from college to the NFL?

"There are a lot of adjustments. Everybody here is good so the little things you got away with in college, you can't get away with here. It really comes down to small details, creating separation on the DB, little head nod, footwork. Just little things like that I really didn't pick up in college that I know now. Those small little nuggets like that can really separate you. I feel like that's what I am working now. Just trying to figure out what best fits me and my game so I can produce on the field."

In what ways do you think you and QB Davis Mills have been able to work together and build chemistry?

"A lot of ways. We've been connected since rookie minicamp, OTAs. We've always been playing pitch and catch with each other during the rotation. He was coming in the rotation with Tyrod (Taylor). We've always had that connection. We stay after practice. You know quarterbacks need a couple of throws. I'm there catching for him, so the connection has always been there. We are just building on it, finding ways we can score points, the whole offense."

What do you think about what Michigan has accomplished this year?

"I'm so proud of Michigan, man. I'm glad. They got the momentum. I feel like the Ohio State win, that meant a lot to that program. I just know being in that program for three years, four years and knowing how much that game meant to that building, I'm glad they got that win. So, I feel like they are feeding off that momentum. They end up getting the BIG 10 championship, proud of them for that. Now it's Georgia. That's the next obstacle, not obstacle but look. I feel like they are going to get it done. They are going to come out and play. They got the juice right now and we have to find out." 

How anxious are you to get your first touchdown?

"I'm real anxious but it comes with time, patience. When my time comes, it comes. I am going to keep working. Working on small things and whenever my number is called in the end zone, it's going to come." 

What has been the difference between playing with QB Davis Mills and QB Tyrod Taylor?

"It's just experience. Tyrod (Taylor)'s been in the league for a while, so he's played with a lot of receivers. Me and Davis (Mills) just came from college. Just finding ways to connect, timing. For instance, Tyrod's drop back. If I've got a quick out or something, the timing's not right, he'll come over and say burst to the sideline or something, and I'll say, 'I got you.' Little things like that just to find that chemistry so we can connect on the field and make plays. I feel like things are going to get better, we're all going to keep growing, keep continuing to improve on anything we need to improve on."

What does it mean to you to hear that you and TE Brevin Jordan could be the cornerstones of the offense in the future?

"It sounds great, but we're just still keep our heads down, getting better every day, stacking days. We can't take anything for granted. Like I said earlier, whenever our opportunity comes, we've got to take advantage of it. But until then, we've got to keep going, keep stacking days, keep improving, finding ways to grow and help out this organization."

When you left Michigan, what did you think about Aidan Hutchinson, and are you surprised that he's become the top prospect?

"I'm not surprised. When I was there, he was a lot younger to me, about two years, or a year or so. When (he) first stepped foot on campus his freshman year and the way he came off the ball, you knew he was fixing to be a problem for the next couple of years, however long he was there. He's special. God blessed him with a great ability and he's taking advantage of it. He's out there just doing what he do, playing ball, having fun."

What would you think about being his teammate again here?

"I would love it for sure. (I) wish nothing but the best. Whatever team picks him up, they're going to get a dog, a great player, somebody who's going to give it their all no matter what and leave it all out there."

What have you seen from the Jaguars defensive backs on film?

"We just watched the film. We played them the first time, they're a good secondary. So, we've got to come prepared and ready to play this week and see what happens this weekend."


Other than protecting the ball, what would you like to do better against the Jaguars?

"Just finding ways to get the ball in the end zone, scoring a lot more points."

How much does it hurt you that you do not have a running game to help you this season?

"In certain scenarios it's tough where you kind of get stuck in passing scenarios where the defense knows what you need to do. But it kind gives us more of a focus on trying to improve the run game."

Head Coach David Culley said he didn't want you throwing 49 passes every game. Do you like throwing that much?

"I am doing what they are asking of me. Trying to do what is best for the team but obviously you are not in the best situation when you are to throw that many times."

How does the offense manage having only two running backs?

"Unfortunately, we have had guys go down so a lot of it is you got to make what you have available to you work. I know they are making a lot of decisions upstairs and they will handle the personnel decisions that way."

How has the struggles in the run game affected the looks when you do deploy play action?

"Not too much. I know most of it is making sure we have a really good play action fake and getting a lot of pull from the defense to make sure they are packing the box. But like you said, I think successful running game improves the play action."

What do you think you have to do better to string together consistent games?

"Continue to protect the football. Make smart decisions, make quick decisions and also just find ways to get the ball in the end zone."

Are you getting more excited going up against Trevor Lawrence because he was the first overall pick?

"It will be pretty cool I guess because we are both rookies, both from Georgia. But I haven't really pay too much attention to their offense more so focused on their defense."

Do you know him well?

"I wouldn't say super well, but we have ran into each other a couple of times growing up."

How have you seen WR Nico Collins grow this season?

"He's been great. A lot of progress from the start of the season. The more he's gotten chemistry with the quarterbacks back, there including myself. The way he has progressed in the offense and kind of knows his role, but he has loads of potential and it's starting to show."

Since Head Coach David Culley said you will be the starter for the rest of the season, does the knowing you're not waiting for someone to come back affect your mentality or how you approach the job?

"I don't think so. I think the week of preparations the same. Obviously, the starter gets more reps in practice so that helps with preparation a little bit, but the mentality is just going out there and playing my best."

Seattle LB Bobby Wagner said on Sunday you had great reads and were getting the ball out of your hands faster. Is that something that you learned when QB Tyrod Taylor came back and you were able to see the game from the sideline?

"I think just being in the offense longer helped with that. Kind of being able to anticipate based on our given plays and what our preparation of the week on that defense and how they interact with each other. Just being in the offense longer allows you to play through that a lot quicker."

Do you like throwing on the run? You threw well going to your right.

"I am able to throw on the run. Whatever play we dial up or if I have to elongate the play and make something happen on the move, I'm able to do that."

What do you think is the biggest thing you've learned from the start of the season till now?

"The biggest thing, just in the NFL as a whole, is just competitive each week is. Sometimes in college you'd get, not to say a week off, but some of the opponents were a little lesser. But in the NFL, any team could win a game every week. It's kind of just going with that focus in and out every week ready to attack and ready to attack the challenge."

What's the balance between making sure you are taking care of the ball and not robbing yourself of being aggressive?

"I think just being patient. The shots will come but most of it is just taking what the defense will give you and if you have to take some passes under the defense, they will eventually dive down on it and you'll be able to get in behind them."

What's your relationship with OL Justin Britt? How has he helped you?

"He's been great. Very good leader for the offense. We can rally behind him. We know he has our back on game day. He Is always one of those guys willing to just get extra work in the week of preparation. We meet together and watch film, make sure we are on the same page with all communication both run game and pass game, so he's been great."

Do you and OL Justin Britt sit and watch film together?

"Correct. The centers and the quarterbacks will meet together and make sure we are on the same page for everything."

What is going to be the key for you this week?

"Just going out there and executing the job to the best of my ability and finding ways to get more touchdowns."


With so many people testing positive for COVID-19 across the country, what has been the team's conversation to you all about that?

"Just the usual. Mask up, wash your hands, social distance, and things like that. I think right now with the holidays coming around and stuff, it's more important to do those types of things and work on those. That's really been the general message."

What are your thoughts on the recent surge in COVID-19?

"You've got to do what's best for you to protect yourself. I've got kids, me personally, so anything that's available for me to protect them, I'm going to do that."

You guys went four games without giving up a long touchdown and last week you gave up three. What was the difference in that game?

"They really got behind us and used their long speed. I think what contributed to that was we weren't able to stop the run kind of early on in the game, so I think that was the main factor of that."

What did you see from DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. as he came in and played a lot in the second half?

"Lonnie (Johnson Jr.) is a really good player. He's versatile, he can do whatever you ask him to do. Being that he's a big body, I think he provided us with a physical presence on the edge. I think that's something that it can add a different dimension to the defense."

What changes have you seen on film in Trevor Lawrence?

"He seems like he's moving through his progressions a lot quicker. But most of the route concepts are kind of the same, kind of three-level concepts to keep the reads right in front of each other. But other than that, it's been a long season. I think he knows what he's good at and they know what he's good at, so that's mainly the difference."

What about preparing for Jacksonville's running game?

"They do a lot of inside zone, so I think we have to just stay gap-sound. That's kind of what we haven't been doing the past couple weeks in the run game. As long as we stay gap-sound and we tackle well, I think we can handle the run."

What is it about Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith's defense that has allowed you guys to be fifth in the league in takeaways?

"It's just a huge emphasis even when we don't have pads on. I think a lot of the teams in the past, the teams that I've been on, the guy will come by and everybody grabs the guy, so you kind of miss that opportunity to punch the ball. Here when we practice it, you let the guy run so everybody gets a shot on the ball, and I think it changes the mentality of 'we have to take the ball away, we can't wait until the offense turns it over.'"

With all the guys on one-year contracts, what have you seen from your teammates in how they approach the game?

"It's just an everyday attitude. Regardless of however many years your contract is, it's just you've got to earn it every day. It's a one-day contract, really. So, just go in there and do the best you can do that day and stack days."

When you talk about gap discipline, does that also mean eye discipline?

"100 percent. (You've) got to stay gap disciplined. If your eyes ain't right, you're probably not going to be right a lot of times, so they go hand in hand."

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