HEAD COACH DAVID CULLEY
"Before I get started, I want to welcome the Houston Police Department here today. The Police Activities League is here, and just wanted to welcome them here today."
Have you determined your rotation for Saturday night?
"Not yet. But again, we're still in training camp mode. Just about all the guys are going to play. Some will play more than others, but again, as we said from the word go, we are in a bunch of competitions right now at a bunch of positions. One of the best ways with the three preseason games is to let them play, and we are going to do that. There may be some guys that play a lot more than others, but for the most part, we are going to decide at the end of the week, depending on where guys are with injuries, where we put them in to play or not."
Will you share before the game how you will rotate your quarterbacks or will that be game-time call?
"We'll wait and see at the end of the week how things are."
Most teams don't play their starters during the preseason, but your team is obviously in a different situation. How will you handle that given the competitions and that your team is on a different timetable?
"That is a very good question, and that's exactly how we are approaching it right now – that we're still in evaluation mode. As we went into training camp, we told all of our guys, competition is wide open. We have almost 50 new players on this football team, and the only way to find out is in game-type situations. We have some young guys that basically they have to feel what it's like to play in the game, and basically that's how we are going to approach it. But they will all, at some point, be able to be play during this preseason."
How do you balance the risk vs. reward with injury potential during the preseason?
"I feel like the only way they are going to find out with the situation we're in is they have got to play. We are not really concerned about that right now. We are more concerned about evaluating, and the only way we can evaluate is to see them play."
The one year that you were QB Tyrod Taylor's coach, his throws traveled the least distance downfield on average. Is that more a function of personnel or defenses?
"What we like to do is – we are going to what the defense gives us. We are going to do what they allow us to do, and if that means getting it down the field, we'll get it down the field. I do remember the year before I got to Buffalo with him, they were one of the better teams in the league at getting the ball down the field. So obviously, that can be done and he's done that. Basically, it's going to be what the defense allows us to."
This will be the first NFL game for QB Davis Mills. What do you hope to see from him?
"Well, again, we really don't know and that's exactly why we are going to see. That's the importance of having the three preseason games this year to see that happen, and we'll see."
What has QB Davis Mills shown you so far in practice?
"He's shown us again, as you've seen, that when he has bad days, that he can come back and he's going to do what we need to do as a quarterback and that's what quarterbacks need to do. Just like in the scrimmage, we had some bad plays that happened with that first group, and they overcame it, although that's a hard thing to do. And he's shown that when he's put in that situation, that he's going to come back and he's going to do what we feel like we want to do – the play the next play mentality."
With this different kind of approach to preseason games, does that mean a less set number of drives even if a player is doing well?
"No, we let him play the game. We let him play the game. I give you a good example of that is what just happened in our last practice. You know, Jeff (Driskel) didn't get as many reps, and his reps and Davis's reps were a little bit different. That was because we played the game. The drive dictated that they were three and they were out, and next group was up. Basically, what we will do is as we see those reps unfold, we'll manufacture it to the point where we'll make sure regardless of what happens that this guy gets enough reps to where we can evaluate him."
Given this year's roster turnover, do you think the preseason games are much more valuable to your team than to some other teams?
"I've always felt like in the past that the preseason games were very important. They're very important from the standpoint of how do you know. We have to get in game situations where you can know exactly what you've got, and they have got to play it before that first game. And that's why they are important to be able to do that, and I'm so happy we've got three of them to do this year."
After the first couple days, TE Brevin Jordan seems to be settling in. Can you talk about what you've seen from him so far?
"Just like all the other rookies. I can say that about the rookies on defense and the rookies on offense – time. Time is what they need, and having these three preseason games is so invaluable for those particular guys like that. And even the new guys that we got here that's been playing in the league, because they are basically playing – it's a different deal for them, a different team. In some ways, a different system. You know, that's just how it unfolds."
Can you talk about QB Davis Mills and how important it is for someone in his position to be getting the reps?
"Well, the quarterback position, obviously, we know how important that position is, and when you are a rookie, we've got to see. And the only way for those guys to grow is by doing, and we are going to with these three preseason games, we are going to put him in a situation, and Jeff in a situation, where we can see exactly where they are at and where they are and how we need to use them at that point."
What were your takeaways after reviewing the film from Saturday's scrimmage?
"It's the same thing I took away from talking to you all after the scrimmage, it was the same thing then. But the point being was this, what I did see was I saw a team that was flying around. I saw a team that when we made the mistakes, and you all have mentioned this when we talked, we overcame a couple of things offensively. But let me tell you something, that's hard to do. And this week in practice, our focus and our concentration is on making sure we eliminate those things, and when we eliminate those things, good things happen."
There's been a trend in the NFL for the past few years of practicing against other teams before the season. You're not doing that this year. Is there a reason behind that?
"The reason is because we felt like we needed to find out what we are all about because we are so new and so it was more important for us to get those reps with us and us finding out exactly what we are. I've always enjoyed going against other teams, but I felt like in the situation we were in, it was best for us to be able to just practice against ourselves and we've gotten out of it what we wanted."
TE JORDAN AKINS
What's it like with the competition, as far as tight ends?
"It's great, man. We have a rookie who can do a lot of things, and Pharaoh (Brown), we all going at it. We make each other better. Competing, running and pass game."
What have you seen out of rookie TE Brevin Jordan?
"Great opportunity for him, man. A lot of opportunity for him. He has great feet. He has great hands. Knowledge of the defense, with zone and man, he's very good. He has a couple things to work on but you know in the future he's going to be really good."
TE Pharaoh Brown was really excited for his first interview today. Can you tell him anything?
"Pharaoh? That's my dog. We just kind of work together and do our thing. Great guy, great personality. We learn from each other on and off the field."
What have you learned of TE Pharaoh Brown the most so far?
"Personally, Pharaoh is a goofy guy, man. He's very funny, nonchalant, laid back, great guy, really chill."
How much does your role change? I know the offense is still the same. Do you anticipate doing things differently as a tight end?
"I expect us to make a lot more plays, be a lot more involved in this offense, down the field, blocking as well. Out on the edge and just moving us around and getting mismatches against defenses."
Do you complement each other well, you and TE Pharaoh Brown?
"Yeah, we definitely do. Whether it's blocking and catching like I say, you know, we compete and we bring different things, like I say, we get mismatches. Whether he has a mismatch or I have a mismatch, we go up and make plays."
You had a really good start to last season before you went out on IR. Do you feel like, when you look back on it, there was stuff you maybe weren't doing as well when you came back, or was it somewhat of an adjustment?
"Definitely, man. I'm pacing it more this year. Getting my body together and making more plays through the air, as well as in the run game. I was working a lot on my run game last year but now I'm at ease with both. So just working on playing fast and getting used to Tyrod (Taylor) and getting used to the whole new offense."
There has been a lot of turnover since you've been here. How are you getting acclimated to come into this new camp seeing so many new faces here?
"Like I say, OTAs, we really knocked that out of the park. We really were in the building getting to know each other on and off the field. When we walk by each other, there's no cliques, no separation, everyone is just one. We ask, "How you doing?" We see somebody down, you pick them up."
What within the run game did you work on?
"Footwork, hand strength as well as core strength, maintaining my blocks and finishing."
How much of that have you seen pay off so far?
"A lot, man. Down in the goal line, we were kind of getting out there during the scrimmage and that repetition paid off."
You said y'all are expecting to make more plays from the tight end group and be more involved in the offense. Where is that focus coming from, from a coaching standpoint, from a game plan standpoint?
"I would say it's just coming from us. The tight ends put in the work and the coaches put in the work, as well, giving us more opportunities in the run game but once we get our chance, we make do of it. Tyrod (Taylor) has shown a lot of confidence in us and we've been working with him off the field in the offseason, as well. So it's starting to show on the field."
What did you weigh last year and what do you weigh now?
"I put on a little weight. Last year I played 245 and this year I'm at 249, 250."
Head Coach David Culley was talking to us more about normally, you guys might scrimmage against another team but this year you want to focus on yourselves. Do you learn more about yourselves as a team just by focusing on yourselves in the preseason?
"Definitely, man, it's a whole new team, everyone is different, different positions and different players coming in. So I would say like we are more on one accord and working and getting repetition, and getting to know each other as a family, you know what I'm saying? It's showing on the field, special teams, as well. Everyone is coming together and playing as one."
You said you added 25 pounds?
"No, no, I went from 245 to 250, so five pounds. No, I'd be Pharaoh then."
Can you talk about the passion that you saw from Head Coach David Culley on Saturday night?
"Coach gets fired up. Once he gets going it kind of puts fire under us as well. We don't want to disappoint him. We want to play best ball for him so we can become a championship team, and once he gets fired up, everyone gets fired up and we get going."
Do you have any tricks to learning everyone's names?
"I say I'm 90 percent on nicknames and 80 percent on full names. Jersey numbers, for one. But then you know, once you start picking their brains, you learn more about them and you eventually learn the names."
As the players, do you compartmentalize the QB Deshaun Watson situation?
"I mean, man, we just come to work every day, whether it's Deshaun (Watson) or Tyrod Taylor in the backfield. We are ready for whoever is back there. We see the ball, we go get the ball, they call the plays, we make the plays."
What's it been like getting to know Tight Ends Coach Andy Bischoff?
"Andy's a great guy. He's taught me a lot, man. He actually cares about his players and he teaches me a lot, whether it's technique, as well. He taught me a lot of technique I didn't know that's going to help me tremendously this year."
You talk about the run game, the blocking; on the defensive line, who's giving you the biggest battles?
"Defensive line, all of them guys are coming with it, all of them. You know, I have to say, 50, Jordan (Jenkins). He's coming off that edge hard. So if you're coming across a settled block, you better bring your pads."
What about DL Jordan Jenkins has been catching you off?
"Who, Jordan? Just the grit he plays with. He said he's been injured in the past and you can tell he's really fired up to be out there again and he's really ready to make a change on this defense."
TE PHARAOH BROWN
How do you feel about the way you've bene playing now that you've been activated off the Active/Non-Football Injury list?
"I feel like I'm playing pretty good. I still don't have my wind back yet. I had COVID in July and then I had some more reactions to the vaccine, so I've been having a kickoff and headaches. I still don't have my wind back. I think once I can get through that, I'll be feeling much better."
How comfortable will you be this year with Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly?
"I was comfortable last year. It's not more of my comfort, it's more of the coaches comfort. Last year I came week four, so it was just a guy off the street, they didn't know me. So I think they have become more comfortable with me."
How difficult was it with the symptoms?
"Yeah, chills, I had pretty bad symptoms with the COVID, and kind of got a few bad symptoms once I got the vaccine; you never know."
How long did those last?
"They are still lasting."
What made you decide to get the vaccine?
"I figure we all going to die one day, so it was just kind of how you want to go out. People smoke and drink and we know the long-term events on that. That's going to kill you down the road. We don't know about the vaccine but I figure I'm going to travel, so if I'm going to die, at least I'm going to die traveling. So that's why I got it."
Are you someone that the players have talked to about? Have you had conversations about it?
"About the vaccine? Not really. It's more a personal choice. I don't really talk to people about things of that nature."
What are some of the things TE Darren Fells did last year for the team that you could step into as a tight end?
"As far as a tight end, I do everything. I play football. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it. That's just me. Catch, running, fullback, quarterback, you know, I do it all."
What excites you about this opportunity?
"The opportunity here was just they didn't have a guy -- in my four years -- my first three years, I've been in the league five years but I really only count two because I wasn't playing. I was more playing politics my first two years and I was behind guys that was getting $10 million plus each year. So nothing I would do, I wasn't getting an opportunity to play on the field initially because the Texans didn't have a guy at my position that was getting that. I knew I would be able to get my fair shot and I bet on myself and I was right. I'm finally getting my opportunity."
Why did you think you were successful when you came in last season at week four?
"I'm great football player. That's just what it boils down to in this league, especially when you're undrafted. You never know when you're opportunity is going to come. Being undrafted, those opportunities come slim. They slim. So when you get it, you got to take it and I been prepared each year, you know, going into my fifth year, I only played two years, but I've been prepared each year like I knew I was a starter, I believed I was a starter and I believed I could play in this league and it was just a matter of opportunity. Just preparation -- opportunity is finally meeting preparation and that's why I'm confident and that's why when I got out there last year, you know what I mean, it was just like, stepping into it, you know what I mean."
How has the time been with QB Tyrod Taylor?
"Tyrod is great. Me and Tyrod was in Cleveland together for a whole year, so as soon as he signed here, I was happy. Called him and talked to him. He actually was my practice squad quarterback the whole year so I'm used to Tyrod. It's like a stroll in the park for me with Tyrod."
What do you think of him to be a fit as a quarterback and the situation with this team with so many new faces?
"I mean, I think it's great, whoever's out there, we going to play. All our quarterbacks are good quarterbacks. I mean, Tyrod (Taylor), he's a ten-plus vet. Deshaun (Watson), Davis Mills can spin it, Jeff Driskel, he was No. 1 quarterback coming out of high school. Like all of the guys can play. So I just think whoever is out there, we going to play. You never know."
Seemed like you're a pretty versatile group, the tight ends. What do you see in TE Brevin Jordan and how he fits into all of that?
"I think Brevin will be a great player, good route runner. He's still learning, got to learn some of the nuances. But our group, whoever ends up being that guy, we don't know who it's going to be but whoever it is, our group will be able to take him under our wings. I help him a lot and just try to get him see different things."
When they said you felt comfortable as soon as you stepped in, is there anything you wanted to do?
"I'm always just trying to compete against myself every day, trying to get 1 percent better and it's not really taking a jump. It's getting experience and doing me. I feel confident if I do me, everything else will take care of itself. I try not to could too much. I'm always trying to be myself, on the field, off the field. Just be myself."
DB LONNIE JOHNSON JR.
What did your girls think about practice?
"This is my youngest's first time coming out here. The oldest is always here. They love Daddy, so they're the reason I go hard, every day."
How much does they drive you to work harder every day?
"I've got to provide for them. Seeing them happy, that's what makes me happy the most. Going out there, practice hard, got no excuses, no complaints. I don't want to give them none. At the end of the day, I just got to go out there and do my job so they can live best life they can."
What have been the biggest differences you've seen in the new defense?
"I like it. It's working for me. It's just more like spot on, more for instinctive players. Just go out there and just make the plays, man. It's on you. I was supposed to have one today. It's just on you to go out there and make the plays and play fast."
Why did you decide to change your number?
"Because Green Bay don't like me and I had 36. No, I was just playing. I just wanted a fresh start with the new number. The new number changes with the league, wanted to be one of the first ones to do it here besides Warren Moon. Just wanted to have a little fresh start with it. Part of history with changing the numbers in the NFL on defense, so I wanted to be one of the first ones to do it."
How much progress have you made with the adjustment to safety, given your time in the system and in terms of familiarity with the position?
"Adjusting to safety last year was kind of tough because I pretty much didn't know nothing about it. But this year, like mentally, I'm ready for it. Mentally, I've been improving and that aspect of my game, and just the physical part, that's always going to be there. You can work on your technique, work on your angles, and get in certain spots, knowing route concepts and all types of stuff like that. I'm just ready to take the next step at the safety position."
How multiple is the secondary?
"It's for y'all to find out, but at the end of the day, we've got a lot of different stuff, a lot of switch-ups. And we are going to go out there and make plays with it."
Do you feel that suits you as a player?
"I can pretty much play any type of defense. That's probably why they drafted me, very versatile. But to me, it's perfect for me. I'm ready to go, and see what it'll do for me."
You never take a playoff. Is that due to your upbringing and the situation where you came from? "Definitely I've been through a lot, coming from Gary, Indiana and going through my whole JuCo process, a lot of people don't know that. So can't take this for granted. The NFL is not for long for anybody, but I'm trying to make it a long process for me and for these two."
How was it Saturday?
"It was good. Any time you get the ball, man, it's perfect for our defense, perfect for the offense. That's my job. Go out there and get the ball."
Safeties Coach Greg Jackson has NFL experience, how much has it helped to pick his brain?
"He played for 12 years in the league. He's been coaching for a long time. So him coming with that experience and helping a young safety like myself, it's meant a lot. He's been helping me with my angles, telling me where I need to be and helping me break down the film, something I've never really had before. He's a big help."
They want more interceptions, more turnovers this year. Is that part of the excitement?
"Definitely, man, this whole defense, our job is to fly around the ball and get the ball. That's what we going to do, man. We going to get takeaways for our offense, get the ball to whoever is back there as much as possible."