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Houston Texans

Transcripts: 8-24-2021 Training Camp Press Conference 


Opening Statement

"Normally when I'm getting up here for you all, I'm through, we're done with practice. We haven't even started practice yet, so we're getting into that mode right now."

What would it mean to your defense if DL Charles Omenihu could play this season like he did in the first half against the Cowboys?

"Well, that was the first half. That's what we expect from him. That's what we expect from that same group that they're playing there. I think one of the reasons you're starting to see the guys now with their level of playing the way we feel like they're capable of playing – I go back to competition. Competition makes people better."

How much does it help that he plays inside and outside?

"It shows his versatility. Obviously with what we are doing on defense, with him being able to go inside and go outside helps us. And probably with his versatility, that allows us to be able to do more things."

He's played in several positions. What are you thinking right now about where he'll end up?

"Again, after this preseason game, we'll decide exactly how we want to group those guys up front. Right now, we're still going through that process."

What about OL Tytus Howard's versatility?

"Same thing. The fact that all training camp we've been able to move those guys around, and those guys have played multi positions has helped us make that decision in where we feel they're the best fit. And that's been good for us."

Does the amount Associate Head Coach/ Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith rotates defensive linemen affect the construct of the roster in terms of how heavy you go at certain positions?

"No, what that does is that means he feels like we've got more guys on that defensive line that can play. It all goes back to having fresh guys up front especially with those four linemen that we're playing, the three linebackers. It helps to have fresh guys, and we've been fortunate because of our depth to be able to rotate those guys in and out. And we've basically been rotating them in and out not as a first group or second group, but as, 'Ok, these are the guys that are in this series, these are the guys that are in this series.'"

What have you seen from RB David Johnson in training camp and what's your vision for him this season?

"I'll tell you what, he's very versatile. He's a guy who's been very, very, good during his career in third down situations, as well as on first and second down. With the depth that we have at our back position right now with those guys, his versatility becomes very, very important for us. And I feel good about where he's been during this training camp."

How did you and Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly approach blending your offensive philosophies and how have you seen that play out?

"I think more so than a philosophy, it's more about what we have to do to fit our personnel. Through my career, places I've been, your offensive philosophy is dictated by the people that you have playing for you. Tim obviously did a nice job of doing that last year here. Obviously, with us wanting to be better a little bit better at running the football, he understands where I'm coming from with that mindset. As far as the philosophical thing is, it's what does our personnel do best. And we've been able to mesh that, and we feel like we've got a good mix of that right now."

With the moves you all have made with defensive backs and cornerbacks, what do you think that says about how you all feel about your depth at cornerback?

"There's some veteran guys back there, and when you have cuts and you cut guys at a certain position, when that happens, obviously that's a position. With (DB Bradley) Roby not being able to play in the first game, we're going to be without him for that one game, and so we've got to be able to have people back there to be able to take that role and be able to roll in there and go."

Do you have an update on OL Laremy Tunsil and WR Nico Collins?

"Nico will practice today. Tunsil will not."

What are your thoughts on Ka'dar Hollman?

"He has really good corner ability. He has the ability to be able to do what we want to do back there. He's a smart player. He's a player that understand what we're trying to do back there on defense, and we feel like he fits very well there."

You've talked about matching personnel to the offense. With a lot of decisions coming up in the next week, what have you noticed that team does well?

"The thing is, I don't feel like we've done as well as we need to do running the ball or throwing the ball. Obviously, when you go 0 for 10 on third downs, that's not what you want. I think we just need to keep improving, both with the balance of what we want to be running the ball and passing the ball, and we're going to continue to work on that. But we're not anywhere near where we need to be at that point."

You've worked for some of the most respected coaches in the League in Andy Reid and John Harbaugh. What's one thing about their culture that you want to apply here?

"The one word that I've always told this about Andy Reid, and I was 18 years with him, the consistency. You always knew every day when you came in that building as a coach and as a player what to expect, and I've carried that with me. To me, that's a credit to his longevity and to the success that he's had. It not only works for him, it works for anybody that has that kind of philosophy. The consistency is so important. And going back to John, John is so versatile in things. He was a special teams coach for his most of his career as an assistant, then he became a head coach. At that point, people were saying, 'He's a special teams coach, how does he handle being a head coach?' The one thing about that is he's always said that we're all football coaches. We all know football. And he says the thing is what happens when you're put in this position of being the head coach is you just become the head coach of all the football team, but you're still a football coach and you still do the same things that you did as an assistant. Except now, you're looking at the big picture instead of that small picture."

How much has that helped mold you into the person you are right now?

"The big thing with me is I know that whatever we're preaching as far as a culture has got to be the same every day, every minute that we're here. In order for them to believe that, they've got to see me every day coming in and understanding that what I'm saying is what we're doing. And that's what I try to do and will continue to do. That's all I know."

How did seeing John's success up close and coming from your background inform how confident you were stepping into this job?

"I was fortunate enough that for seven years, he was not my officemate, but I was next door to him, so we were kind of close with that. First of all, how he is as a human being, then translating that over into the coaching. It's not just about what you do on the football field, it's also about what you are as a person with your character and whatnot. That's the one thing that he carries over and he preaches that to his team every day, and we do the same thing here. And that's how I feel the same way."

Tampa Bay plays their starters on the defensive side of the ball. How much of a test do you think that will be for you all offensively this week?

"We're going to play our guys just like they're going to play their guys. They're the defending Super Bowl champions. It will be a good test for us, probably seeing the best group of frontline players that we've seen because, basically, we haven't seen in the first two ball games. We didn't see all of Green Bay's starters, we didn't see all of Dallas's starters, and vice versa with us. We're going to put our guys out there, they're going to put their guys out there. And then we're going to go and evaluate from there."


Does the third preseason game mean a lot to you guys in terms of will you play a lot?

"I feel like preseason 1, preseason 2, 3, all mean a lot. Sure, the record might restart for week one but for Ryan McCollum, Carson Green you know this one means a lot for them. It's their first action, they are trying to make the team, I am trying to make the team, everyone is. This game isn't taken lightly and however long we play, we play and we do it to the best of our ability. To answer your question, yeah this is a very important game. Any time they take score, anytime you get to go out there, it's a championship opportunity to play your ball and yeah it's a big moment."

QB Tyrod Taylor, QB Davis Mills and Head Coach David Culley talked about the Cowboys how they showed them more blitz than you were expecting. From your perspective, can you take us through what you all saw from intensive training to adapt in the season, but what do you feel like you all learned from that situation?

"It's hard in the preseason. We're trying to get better as a team, and we're practicing against ourselves and trying to learn our own schemes. Then we go to a game that we didn't really get the game plan for to the extent we want. So, they threw out a blitz we haven't seen all camp and we didn't really talk about, and it was a new look for me and Tyrod, and we're grateful it happened because we've learned from it. It's only going to continue to help us grow and move forward. They didn't do anything crazy, but what they did, they did well."

What was your overall diagnosis of that?

"Yeah, it's my first year in this offense with this blocking scheme and how they do things, so it's just one of those reps in games that you just get to kind of learn from. It's not that they did anything too exotic, but they did enough to make us have to take a step back and re-evaluate the best way to do it, which is going to help us in the future."

How would you say things are going with dealing with chemistry with guys like QB Tyrod Taylor and some of the other new teammates you have on the line?

"I mean, what is this, day 20, 20-something? It's starting to feel normal coming out here and kind of expecting, based on the play, what Tyrod (Taylor) is going to say, how Tytus (Howard) is going to fit something compared to Max (Scharping). In the spring, it was brand new, trying to learn who they are, how they communicate. Now it's just trying to fine tune it and master it and just kind of take it to another level."

How is it playing for Offensive Line Coach James Campen?

"Camp's allowed me to play kind of freely. I felt pretty stress free this whole process and coming in here. I've just been excited to come to work every day. I think it starts with, obviously, Coach Culley and then (Tim) Kelly and then Camp.

Yeah, I'm grateful to have Camp as my coach. He has a lot of knowledge playing and coaching. Playing center, that's something that really attracted me to be able to learn from him. It's been a pleasure."

OL Tytus Howard told us yesterday that you've been really helpful in his transition from tackle to guard. What can you share with us just how you tried to be a leader to some of the other younger offensive linemen, whether it's someone playing behind you or someone on the line?

"Well, going into my second year -- my first year I was right tackle. Then we go to the Super Bowl, we lose it, and that whole off-season I'm banking on being one of the top right tackles, taking a big leap. Then right before camp ends, they move me to left guard.

So, I've made that transition. I knew exactly what he was going to go through. I mean, luckily and fortunately, he's played it before. So, it's not completely brand new. But I just tried to make it as stress free for him, over communicating in practice so he's comfortable and he's not thinking too much, he can just go out there and play.

But I'm grateful to have him in there. He can give me praise, but I can give him praise. Him, Max (Scharping) has been really beneficial to me in my transition here since he's pretty much the smartest guy in the room and knows the playbook. To have him in there is a blessing as well."

It sounds like there's a big emotional shift from right tackle to left guard. How do you work with that? "You've just got to understand it's a different world, different beast. Not only are you switching your feet, but you're going from where you might take three or four kick slides before you make contact to you'd better get your first step down and get ready to go at guard.

It's a quicker beast. You're playing people like Aaron Donald and (Ndamukong) Suh, and it's just a different world. You've just got to get comfortable, find your balance, and go out there and trust yourself."


What has your role been in adapting to Lovie's scheme?

"Just come in here and do what I'm supposed to do. He brought me in here for a reason. Lead the team the right way. I'm a vet now, so it's just about doing the daily things each and every day and doing it the right way and leading from the front by example."

How would you grade your coverage game so far?

"I'm just getting back used to it. I haven't done it seriously for two years now. It feels good to get back into a rhythm with that and just work out the kinks and just getting better at it."

DB Tavierre Thomas says you've got to score this time of year.

"Absolutely. Absolutely. Got to, got to. Whenever I touch the ball, that's my mindset is to get in the end zone. I never choose the option to go down. I like to stay up, get as many yards as I can, and hopefully get to the end zone."

What's it like playing with DB Tavierre Thomas? You're long-time friends both being from Detroit. "It's good. It's a comfortable level, I feel like. Just having him there and knowing I've got somebody that I can trust and knowing he's going to do his job. Hopefully, I get to build that relationship with the rest of the players that's on the team and build that confidence in them as well."

What do you think about the secondary, especially at cornerback? You guys have made a couple of moves the last couple of days. How are you guys feeling about that room?

"For now, I feel like the room is very comfortable, very used to everybody in there. As far as the personnel, who's coming in and who's going out, I honestly don't know anything about it. The room, we're building that relationship with everybody in there. That's as much as I can say for that. I know that we all believe in each other. We're all going to make each other better. We're going to be there to support and compete against each other."

What are the challenges for you pulling double duty like that, playing secondary, punt returns, and all that?

"I mean, the value, the value of a player, the more you can do, the better it is for you, yourself, and the team. As long as I can contribute to the team's success, I'm down for it."

We've heard a lot about the system, people talking about it being like acting on instinct and being able to play free. How do you describe it from on the inside?

"We preach it getting take-aways on our defensive side. We got seven now in the last two preseason games and just trying to improve off of last year, knowing that it was only nine last year and now we've got seven in two games. It's very, very impressive by our team and knowing what the message is every time we take the field. So, I feel like that's what our goal is this year is to get the ball for our offense to put them in good field position."

Do you feel like the turnovers and just how effective you guys are with that is just about as much as a mentality approach as it is schematically?

It's more of a mindset. Like I said, it's how we approach the field. That's our message each and every day. We want to get the ball. We want to take the ball away from the other offense and win the turnover margin. So, the more turnovers -- the more take-aways you get as a defense, the better chances for your team to win. That's our message, and every time we take the field, that's what we want to do."

Did you know the stat nine turnovers last year? You know that because Associate Head Coach/ Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith is preaching that number to you guys?

"Absolutely. Coach Lovie, he's a turnover mindset guy, take-away mindset guy. His defense is built on having eyes on the quarterback, having those zone instincts. So, what we want to do is be able to play fast out there on the field and get the ball."

Facing Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on Saturday. Does that mean anything? It's a preseason game. Do you think it potentially show where you guys stand as a defense?

"New season, new team. That's the goal here. We're just trying to go out there and compete against each and every team. Never underestimate anybody. We want to approach the field each and every week the same way."

Is there anything -- compared to other teams, is there anything Lovie does emphasize in practice that actually –

"Just the take-aways. He wants his players to go out there and be comfortable playing. That's what we're doing. He wants us to play fast, play smart, and play physical. That's how we're going to play."

You guys won the turnover battle the last two preseason games. How can that actually carry over into the regular season and building up your confidence?

"The more you do it, the more it's going to come. Like they say, the turnovers, they come in bunches. Once you get one, once you get two, they're just going to keep rolling in. You've just got to seize the opportunity whenever the ball is in the air and go get it."

It was often called like a four-three most of the time you're out there. How would you describe your relation to the front, the secondary? Where do you fit in?

"As a nickel, we're definitely one of the more vocal guys on the field knowing the personnel, knowing what the D-line does. Our job in the run fit, our job in the passing game. So, it's like we're also the quarterback of the defense. We're just doing what we've got to do, and that's being the communicator of the defense and making sure everybody's on the same page."


What would you make of the offensive performance in the run game the last couple games? What do you like and what do you feel like you want to improve?

"You've got to understand preseason is hard sometimes to get a groove and stuff with the whole run game, so you've got to really, really take practice into consideration. We've had great -- I would say a great camp when it comes to the running game and everything else. You've seen flashes with our game in the preseason, and as we get going and the runs aren't as vanilla anymore, we can get more creative, I think we're going to have a great run game. I think we have great running backs that understand the system, and we've got a great offensive line that is older, mature and physical. This honestly probably is the most physical offensive line that I have been around in the three years I've been in the NFL."

Yesterday when we talked to QB Tyrod Taylor, he said that the identity of the offense is going to be up front and in the backfield. How do you feel when you hear him say something like that?

"That's a running back's dream, but we also know that. You watch these games year-in and year-out, and the team that can control the ball is going to be the team that wins, because it comes down to four-minute. It comes down to being able to control the game, and there's nothing worse than a team that can just run up and down on you. It defeats them. It takes your heart out. It's one of those things where it's sad to look when you're on the defensive side, just seeing them dragging people along, but also for offense it gives you that momentum and that confidence, and that's what you need. So, if we can get five or six yards on the ground every time then we're moving down the field, which then opens up lanes for our receivers and our tight ends. So that's the goal, man. The goal is to be as physical as we can. Be mean and gritty down there and take what they give us at the time and go with it."

Drawing from your experiences, what did you notice between what Head Coach David Culley and Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly want to do, kind of philosophically with you as a running back and the group as a whole?

"We can be better in all phases. Communication is where it starts. Of course, executing. If we weren't in situations where it was third and nine, manageable; when I say that, 10, 10-plus, we were in third and manageable. It's just about executing and we watch the film and seeing what we can be better at that, and we just got to take the right steps in cleaning that up and getting on the right track this week as we go into the season."

So how do you balance -- it seems like a lot of spread concepts and being physical. How do you bring both of those things?

"That's up for the coaches to do. For us, we do what we do best, and that's run the ball and catch when we're supposed to. The coaches are the ones that come up with the ways to get us open, the ways to get Tyrod (Taylor) in space for us and (Brandin) Cooks to get the ball to him. So, we're just supposed to do our job and we trust that they're going to do their job. That's a team collectively. We have the coaching staff and your teammates and your team together, that's a team right there. So, they're doing their part and we need to do ours."

What's the approach like when you play Tampa Bay, with them being the champs? I know it's a preseason game, but do you look at it as a barometer just to kind of see where you're at?

"I think that for me, I've got to just continue to get used to it, get used to each other, and I think that over time we've done a great job, and I think that we're still not finished yet. We're going to get into these games and we're going to have longer periods of time, and we'll be able to set things up. It's going to end up being really good for us. I think as a whole unit, running back unit and offensive line, that we're doing great things and we did great things in camp. I think that you guys will see it this year."

How do you feel about how you're reading holes and cutting, getting into a rhythm and blocking?

"I think it's a combination of both. Of course in the NFL, a lot of big plays from the quarterback as far as running happen on broken plays. Of course you can scheme up things but some stuff happens just organically, and I think there's ways to do both and still have success. But more importantly, we have the weapons outside to be able to get those guys the ball and take the hits off the quarterback."

I assume you're going to have a running back overpopulation issue. Is that somewhat of an advantage to keep you guys healthy throughout the season?

"Definitely. You have to understand, in this day and age, you need more than one running back. That's just how it goes. On top of that, the majority of us have been on teams where it's a running back group by committee, which does keep you fresh. It keeps you fresh, it keeps you healthier. It's a long season, man. It's 17 games. You guys don't understand the littlest hits are the ones that mess you up the most, getting landed on and all this. When we can go in and out and have so many different players, it keeps you fresh and also keeps the defense on their toes where they can't just get comfortable and think one person's going to be in the whole game. So it works to our advantage. Like I said, at the end of the day, it's up to our coaching staff to put us all in the great situations to help this football team out."

How would you say the blocking concepts here are different from the ones you've had in the past, without giving too many trade secrets?

"I mean, it's physical. I think it's going to be more physical, man. That's all I will really say about the schemes of that. You guys will be able to see here in less than a week when we start taking stuff out of the bag and stuff, man. Definitely, we want to be a physical run team that's going to be able to stay on the field. We've got to stay on the field."

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