QB DAVIS MILLS
Do you think your confidence grew after your performance against the Chiefs?
"My confidence has stayed the same. I've always been a confident player. I got more snaps than the previous week, and more snaps means more opportunities to go out there and be successful and move the football. That's the main focus, just moving down the field and scoring points."
Why do you think your red zone efficiency was better against the Chiefs?
"I try to pride myself on situational football, third-downs and red zone. Any opportunity we get in the red zone we want to finish with a touchdown. As long as I can get the ball out on time and our guys are creating separation, the concepts allow us to score a lot of points. We want to get down there as often as possible and hopefully have multiple opportunities down there."
How do defenses respond when both you and QB Jeff Driskel are getting snaps?
"Having to defend two quarterbacks that are able to do two different things. We have a ton of variations and different personnel and formations in each of our packages, and it gives defense a lot to defend and a lot to prepare for during the week. If we can continue to mix that up, it kind of simplifies what defenses can do because they have to prepare for so many looks during the week that they can't add in all the complex blitz looks and disguises for certain coverages. It just kind of simplifies the defense for us so we can go out there and see it cleaner than usual. Really just go out and react and let our guys win on the edge."
Did you know TE Teagan Quitoriano well before he was drafted?
"Not too much. I knew always playing Oregon State, the team was kind of built similar to what we had at Stanford. We knew they had really talented tight ends who were able to block and catch passes. Once we drafted him, seeing some of his film from college and seeing what he's done early on, it's extremely impressive. The more he continues to develop like he has, I'm really excited for his future."
HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"Wednesday practice was good. Getting some guys back. Brandin Cooks is doing more. Steve Nelson is doing more. All of the rest of the guys are getting better. Tennessee the first time around, I think it was a seven-point game, but they really got their running game going. They were tough, especially inside. On the defensive side of the football, we couldn't get a lot going. Whenever you play like that, especially in division, you have to look forward to the second go round. We're excited about that. Good football team. They're playing for a lot. We're playing for a lot. We'll finish up the season with division games. It's a three-game season with division games, and our players have continued to show up each week. We're expecting a better performance this week."
Are your preparations for the Titans' quarterbacks similar to the last time around?
"I don't know a lot about Josh Dobbs, but you go into a game, and a team normally has two quarterbacks up. You know both of their skillsets. You always kind of plan for that a little bit. We can't chase too many ghosts though. Their offense goes through their tailback (Derrick Henry), no matter who the quarterback will be. We understand it's going to be that type of football game, so that's how we're preparing."
What is it like in these games when you know the other team well?
"You like that because it's going to come down to execution. That's normally the case, but it really comes down to that in division games because you do know each other well. It's not like we had a meeting yesterday introducing the Titans to our team. They knew all of the guys right away. They know the stats. There's a history because we are so late into the season. We know the history between us too. Our players are all familiar with that, so that should add even more motivation. But honestly, I really don't think you need that. Especially with the division games."
How is your defense more equipped this time around to face RB Derrick Henry?
"We're healthier. Did we have all our guys the first time around? No is the answer. Maliek Collins didn't play. So, we had a few things like that. Christian Harris is older. Some of the younger players that were playing then, they've played a lot more football. We feel like we'll be healthier starting with that. We didn't play our best ball last time, and we're playing better football right now."
Specific to LB Christian Harris, how is he now compared to when he first started?
"Reps get you better. Play time, game time, gets you better. Just being out there. It's hard to just put a player out there and expect them to play at a certain level early on. But, the more they play, the better they get, and I think that will be the case, not for just Christian Harris, with all of our guys. We're kind of locked in now with who we're playing at all the positions. Again, we think we'll be the healthiest we've been going into a game, especially defensively. Hopefully that will pay off."
Where do you think the defense has improved the most in recent weeks?
"I think we've gotten better in all areas. I think it just takes time. I know that is a simple approach, but you have to let the guys play, and that's what we've done. They've gotten better versus good competition. I understand what the win-loss records says, but we have an opportunity to win each week. I don't think that could happen unless we're playing – I understand we've got to score points on the offensive side, but we have to play better defense, and especially in a game like this. We know what the temperature will be. We know what type of football game it will be. It's going to take discipline, all 11 guys around the ball, and again, us playing our best defensive game of the year."
For a team that isn't used to cold weather conditions, are there things you can do to help prepare them for the weather?
"This is what I've found from being up north, people say you get used to it. I never got used to it. Every day it was cold in Chicago, I was cold. Something's you have to do. When it was cold to me, it was cold to everybody else too. My point a little bit is it's going to be cold for both teams. That's just a given. It could be a rainy day. Both have to deal with that. About three hours, we're going to see how mentally tough we are first. I know what we have. I know how mentally tough our guys are. This is December football too. Around Christmas time, this is what it's supposed to be like. Again, normally you don't get a chance to – I can tell you. I've got a top five coldest games I've been around, so this will add one to most of our players. They'll remember it."
Going off you last few games, has there been a more emphasis on finishing games?
"It's been that way on finishing. We haven't been able to finish, but it's not like we haven't been trying to finish. It's been an emphasis on it to play an entire football game 60-plus minutes and we've been in that situation a few times. That's what we're trying to do. That's what the guys are going to show up and try to do again this week. That's what we're going to show up and try to do again this week."
After close games, you mentioned that you can't wait to get back on the field. Is that the kind of energy that has been throughout the building this week?
"I definitely think so. I know so. That's what it is. I think that's why you see we're in the games. We haven't beaten a couple of really great football teams, but it's not like the guys quit at the end. No, we're playing hard. I think we've been playing as hard at the end as we have throughout the game. The energy in the building, yes, they all showed up. We have injured players. I'm talking about coming back. They're all trying to get back because maybe it's just a little bit that we need to get over the hump. Maybe just some of the guys that have been injured, just a few of them playing may be the difference. That's what I'm seeing in the building, in the meetings, on the practice field, with everything that we're doing."
What have you seen from TE Teagan Quitoriano from the scouting process to now?
"We scouted him and brought him in wanting him to be a traditional Y tight end. A guy that can block end line, block the defensive ends, tackles, all of that. With being able to be a factor in the passing game, I think that's what we've gotten. He is going to be an excellent blocker, but I think what we've seen from him being a pass catcher has maybe even been a little bit more. You just never know when a rookie comes in exactly what you're going to get. After he worked through the injuries, we talk Christian Harris, a lot of those guys, just think about all the time they miss. They're catching up right now, and they're playing their best ball right now. That's how its supposed to be."
What signs of maturity do you look for in a linebacker like LB Christian Harris?
"This is what we're looking for with everybody. We're just looking for their overall play to get better. Keys, recognizing plays. Being where you're supposed to be, zone coverage, man coverage, when you blitz. Tackling, making plays in pass coverages, all of those things. Being a pro off of the field. Meetings, not ever being late. Early, staying late. It's all of the above is what all of our football team has been doing. You get a little bit better when you continue to do things like that. Sometimes it doesn't happen right away, and no one wants to hear 'it takes time', but it does take time, especially for rookies. It's hard for rookies to come in. Our game is bigger than that, and especially at some positions. Quarterback position, it's hard for young guy to play. Linebacker, our linebackers have an awful lot. Linebacker and safety, where you have Jalen Pitre and you have Christian Harris. They have improved so much throughout."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR FRANK ROSS
"Christmas week. Titans round two. Got to have our field position in what we consider or what we expect a cold game. So, you guys know we're going to have our work cut out for us as far as controlling the elements, ball potentially traveling not as far, lesser hang time, things like that. We've got to cover, and we've got to be ready to return both on kick and punt phases. If you look at the Titans for the last few weeks, that's been a revolving door of players that have been elevated to the roster, practice squad. That's a testament to their coordinator, Craig (Aukerman), getting everybody ready to play relative to injures, reserve/injured, reactivations and just continually getting people ready to play and play physical in the kicking game. My definition of them from my perspective is physical. We've got to be ready for that type of cold weather, December football game. Round two of a division matchup, got to do our best here come out on top."
How do the guys returning from injury factor into your rotations?
"On their team, they've had numerous returners the last few weeks. For us, when you're talking about availability, you've had your starters that you've been rolling through. When guys get back and healthy, I'm a special teams coach, I assume there are very limitations in my mind. Somebody from above will then say, 'hey Frank, that guy is not available to you right now.' If they're in uniform and we're playing on Sunday's, whatever it takes to win the game. Kind of my perspective on that right there."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR PEP HAMILTON
How encouraging was it to see RB Royce Freeman step up?
"It was very encouraging to see Royce (Freeman) really just step in and show that he can be a physical, downhill, in-between-the-tackles type runner, which is what we're going to need to have a chance to wear on a really good defense that we'll face on Saturday."
Did QB Davis Mills' success warrant some more confidence moving forward?
"It's been encouraging to see Davis (Mills) play some better fundamental football over the past two weeks. Nevertheless, we have to secure the ball in all situations, not just critical situations. But yes, it's good to see that he's able to move the team, move the offense and be efficient."
What do you make of RB Royce Freeman finding success even with some injuries to the offensive line?
"Tytus (Howard), just the versatility that he has as an offensive linemen, just being able to play. He can really play all five spots if needed. It was good to see those guys just find a way to come together and really at times do a good job just working together to run the football against a good defensive front."
What are your thoughts on TE Teagan Quitoriano's play so far?
"Teagan (Quitoriano) is really the epitome a guy that takes a lot of pride in playing without the ball. That's one of the requirements that we have for our skill players. But we won't just designate him as a run blocker, he's also a weapon in the passing the game. The more he continues to practice with our quarterbacks, we're hoping that we'll be able to feature him in the passing game as well."
Are you able to be a more aggressive play caller with the two-quarterback system?
"Ultimately, we are challenged with the task of putting our players in the best position to be successful. Jeff (Driskel) two weeks ago was an experiment to see how he would handle that situation and how defenses would react to having him on the field. I'll say after two weeks of playing both quarterbacks, I think we've had an opportunity to see what both guys offer. We hope to be able to do more."
What did using both quarterbacks at the same time reveal to you?
"I think it's part of the chess match. Ultimately, you started to see a pattern of defensive calls when it was just Davis (Mills) in the huddle. It was just something else we felt like we could present to our opponents. We're always looking to create conflicts and do anything that's going to help us to be efficient on first and second-down and execute better on third-down and in the red zone."
How have you seen the two-quarterback system help in the red zone?
"I would hope that just the potential of us presenting different packages and looks would in some cases be a deterrent for defenses that want to really be aggressive when Davis (Mills) is in the game or really pack the box. They have to prepare for all of the above. In doing so, we would hope that it would limit the potential looks that we see."
What have you been able to see from WR Chris Moore and WR Amari Rodgers?
"We knew Chris (Moore) when given the opportunity, he would step in and make plays. Amari (Rodgers), it's been encouraging to see the trust that the quarterbacks have had in Amari as well as just how calm he is in all situations. He stepped in, and he made some big plays on third-down a couple weeks back. Of course, when the ball was in his hands this past game, he showed the ability to create his own yards and make plays. Both guys have stepped in and really given us an opportunity to keep it going as far as calling what we feel is the best play in that situation or in all situations when they're in the game."