HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"It seems like forever, it's been a while since we played. The guys are back in today, so the preparation for the Jags has started. The extra day should help us heal up a little bit too. Our injured players are getting better, which is good. The guys played our best ball in a while the last game to be able to finish, all those things. Jaguars are playing good football. They are playing for an awful lot right now, to represent our division. Since we played them last, they've gotten better. Offensively, the numbers say they are one of the best offenses in football. Defensively, they are taking the ball away quite a bit."
Who did you give the game balls to for the Titans game?
"Tremon Smith with special teams. Of course, a really big play. Offensively, a lot of guys made some big plays in the game. A.J. Cann as an offensive lineman. On defense, the game ball went to Ogbo (Okoronkwo)."
Do you discuss the winning streak against the Jaguars?
"When you're in division, every time you play a division opponent, an opponent in general, I go over the history of our programs, the records against each other. We are aware of some of the success we've had in the past. I wish the past could help you, but it really can't. It's going to come down to this game, different teams. A lot has changed this year between the two of us. But history, yes we do."
What have you seen from Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence since you last played?
"Trevor Lawrence has been a good football player for a long period of time. As far as what he's done differently, he's probably protected the football a little bit better. But he's mobile. He's mobile right now. He'll take off with the ball and get a first down when things break down. He can make all of the throws. He could last time we played. He's a competitor, all of those things you see. (Travis) Etienne has gotten better. They've been productive with him catching the ball and running the football. So, the offensive line has to have been good. (Evan) Engram, the tight end, there's been a difference in his play. He's had an outstanding year."
What would winning a home game mean to the team?
"We are aware of that also. That we haven't won at home. Last time. This is the last chance to get a home win, so it would mean a lot. The last time for us to play in front of our home fans, all of that. We're aware of that too. That's the way you want to end the season, as far as the home schedule at least."
Do you think the Texans teams has had a chance to show who it is this season?
"I think most guys have a had an opportunity to play. For the most part, the majority have. As a far as have we had an opportunity to show who we are? Yes. I think who we are is a team that you've seen about the last month. A team whose previous three opponents are division leaders, and you see how we matched up against them. This is who we are right now. So, yes I do."
What do you think of DL J.J. Watt's career now that he has announced his retirement?
"I wish I had the chance to coach him, like every defensive coach would say. I remember J.J. (Watt) when he came out of the University of Wisconsin, knew about his career he had in college. Just what he's done on the football field. First off, motor. He plays hard every down. It's just one thing to play hard every down, but the production that he's had. Taking the ball away, interceptions, fumbles for touchdowns. I think three times he was Defensive Player of the Year. Just an unbelievable career. I'm sure there's no regrets that he has. Again, not many have done it the way he did."
What was it like trying to gameplan against him?
"Tough duty. Most people didn't figure it out. I mean, he's been a productive player this year, so you can imagine that there's been some defensive players that you have to know where they are at all times, or they'll make you if you don't know going in. Again, he was one of those players. I think all NFL players would like to leave the game the way he's leaving it. Added an awful lot, but no regrets, 'my play his on record now, you'll be judging me for a lot of years.' Then our franchise. I'm talking about him just as a guy playing in the NFL, but for our franchise for what he's done, it's pretty special."
Other than QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne Jr., what else do you think the Jaguars have done to improve?
"I also mentioned their tight end, (Evan) Engram. The offensive line has to play well. (Christian) Kirk has really gotten involved catching the ball. I think they're using all their weapons. They have quite a few weapons on the offensive side of the ball, but if you're talking about a team improving, you have to look at how they play defensively too. They have a lot of stars up front, in their front seven. They're playing outstanding there too. I think it takes a while for the team to really show who they are. Right now, who they're showing that they are is a pretty good football team."
From a defensive perspective, where have you seen Jaguars CB Tyson Campbell mature?
"A very talented player. A lot of ability. Again, it takes a while for players. Eventually they figure out the game a little bit. He checks off all the boxes. Good size, he'll tackle. He's got ball skills. All the things you're looking for, he has. Great speed, all those things."
Do you notice that it takes more time for young cornerbacks to transition to the NFL as opposed to other positions?
"I'd say the quarterback position it does. Cornerback position too. Why I say that about the quarterback position, there's a lot of things a quarterback has to do. Cornerback position, just on what they're having to do, they're guarding elite athletes going backwards most of the time. That's tough. Also, they have to be able to tackle, all those things. That takes a little bit, but you could ask me on the other positions too. I think it's tough for a linebacker to transition. It's tough for safeties. It's just tough for any young player to transition. It takes a little bit of time."
Can you speak to your team's production in getting takeaways?
"We've been preaching. There's a constant message that we preach all along. We put an emphasis on it. Practicing it. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't, but that's what it is. There's an emphasis on it. The guys see it too. I think a lot of the teams that are wining, you look at this week's game. We talk a lot about turnover ratio. Offensively, you have to protect the football. If you don't, there's a good chance you're not going to win. Defensively, to help those odds, just going to be able to seize the opportunities you have if you keep harping on that. It's pretty hard for a running back to keep the ball covered up like this every time. It's pretty hard for the quarterback. Eventually, it's got to be out there. There're going to be opportunities for that. I don't think anybody preaches that any more than we do. It's good to see the guys being able to get the ball out here lately."
How do you describe what Director of Team Wellness Ladd Harris brings to the organization?
"First off, just an important job. Nutrition, your body, if you're fit, all of that, what you put in, a lot of that is education. Ladd (Harris) is always there harping, preaching exactly. We know when we're putting something (in our bodies) we shouldn't, they know that. There's a customized plan for every athlete, coach, anybody that wants to join in with that. He has an important role. Guys buy into that, and they listen. It makes sense too. I think a lot of us kind of know what makes sense with nutrition too."
Do coaches buy into that too?
"Absolutely. Coaches too."
Have you had that type of conversation with Ladd Harris?
"Absolutely. Being personal, you're a young guy. I'm an older guy. We really pay attention to nutrition, what we put in our bodies. To be educated, constantly reading up. One thing that we can do here, if you want to have a healthy lifestyle, you can have it here. The choices that we have, it's all of that. When you eat, all of those things. That's a constant. We have position coaches. We have a linebacker coach teaching the linebackers. We have a wide receivers coach teaching them. He's got a job too. He comes in with his game plan on exactly how he's going to help our team get better each day."
Can you talk about the importance of winning these last few games?
"Just in general, you're competing at any time. If you're competing, you competing to win, right? You just start with that. For our program, I've talked about it for a period of time, our last games are in our division. We want to eventually take over the division. For us to have an opportunity to have a winning record in our division it's pretty important to our guys. That's how I see it. That's how we see it. You see other guys competing. You play to win at all times. Period."
As a coach, how do you balance that?
"Everything is short term. We have a short-term opponent. We're going to do everything we can to beat that opponent. It's kind of as simple as that. That's what players do, one play at a time, one game at a time, and you do your best you can playing that game. That's what we do. Period. That answers every other question, any other direction you want to go, it's kind of as simple as that. I think things work out the way they should in the end. It's kind of as simple as that."
QB DAVIS MILLS
Do you notice a difference with the team because you all are playing your best ball right now?
"Yeah, I think we're in a really good spot right now. The past couple of weeks we've been playing at a high level with a chance to win all three games. Obviously, we won the most recent one against the Titans. We feel like we're at a really good spot. All three phases are clicking. We're excited for another opportunity this upcoming Sunday at home."
What would it mean to win here for the first time in front of your fans?
"It'll be great. Obviously, that's our goal every week but even more special we can do it at home in front of our fans."
Do these division games mean a little more to you as well?
"Definitely. Got a bunch of things coming together at the end of the season. For an opportunity like this, we focus a little bit more divisional games, although every game is extremely important. We're seeing these guys twice a year every year. You're a little more familiar with the teams that are in your division. We're excited for the opportunity to win 10 straight against Jacksonville."
Do you feel like there is added pressure or a belief to perform after a win?
"You say it's a belief, but I think it's confidence our guys have, knowing what we're capable of, knowing how much hard work we've put in all season. To go out there and finally display it, get a W in the win column after this previous week, it's encouraging for all of us, and we're excited for another opportunity."
Is the win streak against Jacksonville something you guys think a lot about?
"Definitely, it's mentioned throughout the week. It's hard to beat a team once. We've beaten the Jaguars nine times in a row as this point. We're excited for the opportunity to make it 10."
How have you personally reflected on the past few days over the weekend?
"It's been great. Big win on Saturday in the cold weather. It was nice to come home and enjoy Christmas and the off days we were given. We haven't really had a victory Monday or victory Tuesday, however we deem our schedule during the week. It's nice to have one of those. Lot of time for guys to rest up and get ready for this week."
What did you do this weekend?
"A lot of rest. I think I slept for 10-plus hours both nights I had off. It was nice."
How do you go about potentially getting your first home win this season?
"Extremely important. Excited to be back home in front of our fans with another big divisional week ahead of us. We're excited for the opportunity."
How do you evaluate your performance following your benching?
"I think I've progressed. We talked about it a couple of weeks, being benched made me go back and reflect on what I was doing the first half of the season versus how I can perform now. Step my game up, I think I've done that. We just watched a little cut up of the first Titans game versus this next one and how I was playing. It was a big difference. I just want to continue and progressing forward."
How much did your growth as an athlete and man helped you deal with your benching?
"Mentally, it was tough. I've always been an extremely confident person. I knew I would get another opportunity at some point. Knew I needed to make most of the opportunity, and I feel like I've done that up to this point. Played tough, really close in those first two games and won this most recent one. Like I said, just excited for another opportunity this week."
Lovie Smith said he gave a game ball to OL A.J. Cann. What have you thought of his play and the offensive line?
"They've been great. Obviously, last game they were a little banged up. They had some guys step up into that role. A.J. (Cann) has been extremely consistent all year, securing the inside of the offensive line and being a really good leader out there. He's a veteran in this league, and we know he's going to do the right thing. He's been winning his one-on-one matchups. This past Sunday, he played extremely well. I think he had one of the highest grades on the offense throughout the game. We're excite. We're going to need him again this week versus a talented defensive front. Props to him, he's playing extremely well."
What were the differences for you between the first game against the Titans and last week?
"It just seemed like poise. More comfortable back there. Not trying to do too much. Seeing it better and having a better feel of the offense. Being able to take what the defense is giving me instead of trying to force stuff."
What is your view on the two-quarterback system the offense is running?
"I've kind of talked about it the past couple of weeks now. We feel like it's a really good way to attack defenses, because it makes them have to deal with a lot of different looks that the offense is trying to give them. If we can keep them guessing and keep them in simpler looks than what they would normally prepare for when there's just one quarterback out there, we want to stay in it and continue to try and get that advantage."
What differences have you noticed in Jacksonville's defense since the previous matchup?
"Yeah, they've kind of found what they've done well all season. They're playing really good football right now. A lot of talent in all three levels of their defense. I think we match up pretty well against them. We're excited for the challenge."