OC PEP HAMILTON
What do you think QB Davis Mills did well on Sunday and what do you think he can get better at?
"I think overall, we're going to play better situational football moving forward. That's going to be the difference in us closing out games and winning games. Ultimately, we feel like that's key. The key for Davis, key for everybody on the offensive unit is to understand how important it is that we convert third-and-1."
What are some things you need to do to improve the running game?
"Just keep chipping away. We'll keep chipping away. We played some really good defensive fronts and we have another good defensive front coming in on Sunday. We have to continue to have good fundamentals, techniques and come up with ways to run the football effectively."
What was your conversation with RB Dameon Pierce like after his fumble?
"Of course, we have to protect the football. Ball security is job security. We don't anticipate that it will be a problem moving forward, just double-arm wrap the ball in traffic. We always tell our guys, it's the guys that you don't see that come from behind and knock the ball out. It's important to him to run hard, protect the football, so we'll make those adjustments."
What is your philosophy in third-and-1 situations?
"We'll do whatever we need to do to be better on third-down-and-short. We come up with different ways from week to week that we feel like based on film study, we can get a yard and we'll do a better job."
How much of QB Davis Mills' struggles are getting over that mental sophomore wall?
"Technically, he's not really a sophomore. He's still learning on the job. You can't teach experience. We recognize that there's a reason that he's our starting quarterback and that goes for every position on the offense. We feel like he can do the job. We'll all get better at being more consistent at doing our jobs."
How do you tell running backs to balance being who they are (running hard) but also protecting the football?
"We don't want anything to get in the way of him being an instinctual runner moving forward. It's just something fundamentally that he'll be aware of. Scars are reminders. If there's one thing that he did once we got on the practice field yesterday for the first time since that game on Sunday, he was very conscious of ball positioning, double-arm wrapping the ball in traffic, just securing the football. At the same time, we don't want that to slow him down. We want him to be able to run hard, run smart, but protect the football at the same time."
From what you've seen, why haven't QB Davis Mills and WR Brandin Cooks been connecting this year?
"We've had a few missed opportunities. Nevertheless, there's still an important part of what we do and that's finding ways to feature our playmakers. We'll do a better job of connecting."
What were your plans for tight ends last week in Chicago?
"I think our tight ends played well without the ball. There was some production in the passing game. That's what we expect from that group. That's a relatively veteran group. We expect those guys to continue to practice hard and work hard to continue to offer us that playmaking ability on gameday."
How do you manage practice squad limitations and getting guys like QB Jeff Driskel and TE Jordan Akins involved?
"It's week to week. We feel like we have an abundance of guys that offer a skill set that can help us in a number of different ways."
Is there a certain number of games when young quarterbacks go from learning to having experience?
"The answer to your question is of course yes. You can't teach experience. I'll continue to say that. At the same time, I think the more he (Davis Mills) plays, the more all of our young guys play, they'll have a reference point for how to handle different situations even better the next time that they have to function in that space. He's working at it just like all our guys and we've got to find a way to go out and beat the Chargers."
How has RB Dameon Pierce handled the increased workload?
"He seems to be holding up pretty good."
What's the reason for having WR Brandin Cooks in the slot 20-percent of the time this year compared to 40-percent of the time last year?
"We still have a lot of football ahead of us. In time, we'll continue to move guys around and put them in the best positions that we feel like we can attack the opponent."
Do you feel like you're synced up when you're calling plays in the moment and then going back and watching film?
"Yes. I feel like I'm synced up."
Are progression reads one of the areas you mentioned that QB Davis Mills is working to improve?
"We thought he went through his progressions fairly well. As you mentioned, we felt like our guys up front were really good in pass protection on Sunday. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure that Davis (Mills) was hit more than two or three times in that game. With any quarterback, you tend to function a little better in a space where you're confident that you're not getting touched. Nevertheless, he's got progression reads. He went through his progressions. We we're able to get to the second, third progressions at times. Still, we have to be even more opportunistic and make more plays in critical situations. That's what we're looking to do."
How do you describe the importance of the 53rd player on the roster?
"It's really important. At some point in the season, Coach (Lovie) Smith always talks about, we're going to need everybody that's in the building, that's in that locker room. We feel like we have guys that offer skill sets that at some point in time, if they're called into action, they can go out and function for us, give us a chance to have success as a team, not just on the offensive side of the ball."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR FRANK ROSS
"Good to be home. Got to stack the second week together, after a nice performance last week. I thought we played well in the special teams phase. As you all know, got to win the football game. Whatever we have to do this week to stack another performance together, that's all good and well, got to find a way to win the football game. We're going to do everything we can against a much-improved Chargers unit. New special teams coordinator over there. Personnel has improved greatly from a year ago from that unit. A lot of challenges that are unique, different style of bodies and players that we have to prepare for and execute against."
Can you talk about the field position DB Desmond King II created on the punt return?
"When you put a punt return on the opponents half of the 50-yard line, it's going to give us a great chance to score. Going to do that as many times as possible. Haven't necessarily executed on those opportunities. Then what opportunities have come our way whether that's been a situation in the game when it's a rush call, etc. Finally got a chance to dial up a return and executed well. Really happy with the positioning, decision making at the point attack by all the blockers and finishing their blocks. Hopefully we can do it again this week."
What did you see from DB Grayland Arnold last week?
"Here's what I saw. I saw the same Grayland on Sunday that I've seen on a practice squad player Wednesday, Thursday, Friday of the previous two weeks. That's what you're looking for. You're looking to build depth on the roster that might not be on the active. Then you get called up, you go and you play the same fundamentals we're training in practice, did it in the preseason. Hopefully continuing the trend with everybody working on what we call the red teams in the practice periods to show up on Sundays when their number is called."
What is DB Desmond King II's impact on special teams?
"So far comfortable with not only with his decisions making throughout. We learned from a rep in the Indianapolis game when we didn't field a ball. Anytime you let the ball hit the ground, 90-percent of the time that thing is going to check 10-plus yards. Our goal is to steal a first down with every punt return. That's kind of like your rule of thumb, that's what we want to get. After that, get the ball vertical. After that, is bonus. Decisioning making by Des (Desmond King) has been greatly improved, sure-handed. When there comes a chance when you set up your blockers for you, then make that man miss, he had a great open field tackle opportunity, make-miss that he executed on and going to continue to hopefully see more of that from him. Confidence going up."
How fired up were you after the fake punt that DB M.J. Stewart converted on?
"Anytime we have to find a way to make a play, execution is the number one. You guys know that, whether it's the end of the game, whether that's third downs, red zone defense, whether that's making your kicks when the game is on the line. Midfield territory there and found a way to steal a first down, that was critical. (Jon) Weeks, great snap, good suddenness execution. You guys know when it's in the trenches we talk offensive/defensive line, that surge one side of the ball to the other, that surge was on our end there. That's what we needed to see."
What goes into calling that fake punt? Is that something you talk about with HC Lovie Smith?
"Just as an offensive/defensive coordinator go, those guys are calling the games. Everything is going to be worked out every week in preparation from Tuesday game planning all the way up through Saturday. Whatever those decisions are, however those conversations happen, it's obviously a unit effort. It doesn't necessarily catch us by surprise. 'Hey, do you think we can try this.' It's not like that. It's the preparation leading up to. Then when the time comes, if that something's we worked through, we'll dial that up."
Who gets more excited on trick plays like that, you or HC Lovie Smith?
"I'll let you be the judge. What was my vertical afterward? Fired up, but it comes down to trusting those guys to go out and execute. Those guys were so fired up on the sidelines. It's the little details. It's the kickoff coverage when every single person on that play was in a proper stance to take on a block, somebody defeated a block and they're all in their appropriate lanes. That fires me up just as much as executing a 3-yard gain. How about a 31-yard punt return, that fires you up. Three tackles inside of the 22-yard line on a kickoff. So just execution when it comes down to it. Yeah, there is going to be excitement on all that stuff."
Can you talk about DB M.J. Stewart and what he's brought to the special teams unit?
"I have a picture that I took on my phone, M.J. (Stewart) in the virtual walk-thru room just working extra on his own. Taking that special teams badge of honor. Running the personal protector position, that guy is your quarterback. He has done an outstanding job of the work. What's so fascinating about a guy who's already established himself as a pro, he's had a reset. He comes back, 'hey, what do I've got to do this week to improve or prep for the Chargers in this case.' Fired up with the way he has executed and played. He's been an impact force on the field with production standard, from a production standpoint. More than anything, everyday that he comes into work, getting whatever extra he can, asking and sending clips to him on the evenings, whatever it may be to make sure he's in every position to make a play and every position to make a correct call for protection on Sundays."
How do you describe the importance of having 53 guys on a roster when you only have 52?
"I think I mentioned it before for the development engine, these are entry level jobs. First off, when you have veterans willing to do that, that's that blue collar mentality, that's great, a blessing as the special teams coordinator to have that kind of environment. That question about Grayland Arnold, when you get a crack to make an impact on the team, when you get your number called up, you have got to have prepared throughout the week, throughout OTAs, throughout training camp, throughout whatever practice squad reps of the regular season it is. Having those guys training on a constant basis, working the looks but then working our techniques and fundamentals and questions them, calling them to make sure they're stayed up on, they're sharp on the game plan even if they're not going to rep it in the game. That way Saturday you're getting the call up, you're already ready to execute. That development is never going to stop as long as I'm here."
What do you say to your guys after a great performance on Sunday and how do you build off that?
"Do it again. That's a great question. Our goal is to achieve impact plays and create long fields for the D (defense), short fields for the O (offense). We've got to find a way to do that on repeat. The NFL is a one week, one day at a time business. You guys are asking a lot of questions about the Bears game, that's great. That is so far in the rearview mirror. We know we have in a challenge against us with this offense coming up. We have got to do everything we can to do it again, do again at a high level on repeat. Every time you slip, somebody in the NFL is going to make you pay. Hopefully that consistency is going to be at a premium for us here moving forward. Let's do it again this week."
Does your preparation change when you're going against a punter who isn't averaging a lot of yards per punt?
"Every punter in our league, these specialists are incredible. There's 32 of them in the world across the positions. We're going to study. It might not result on the paper, what that net is, etc. It might be a lack in coverage. It might be great coverage in a punter that isn't hitting the ball well. We're going to study, we're going to do as much research as we can to study how to prepare and how to attack. We're going to have our guys as ready as we possible can, whether he's kicking a good football on that game or not will also affect in-game how we address the punt return situations. Are we catching the call from the minus 20 or are we getting the ball at the 50-yard line and it's really a plus-50 punt. All of those in between nuances, that's our job, that's what I'm here to do, to make sure our guys adjust any ball we get on Sundays. Let's go do it again this week."
CORNERBACKS COACH DINO VASSO
How is the new baby?
"He's not sleeping. It's going well. Shoutout to my wife. She proved again that she's the toughest one in the family. My mother is here and my sister-in-law is here, so they're helping out as well. It's been good."
What have you seen from the Chargers offense?
"They present a lot of challenges. (Mike) Williams is obviously a big guy that can run, ball skills, contested catches. He's a guy that the quarterback trusts to throw it up there in those 50/50 balls. Keenan Allen, obviously we expect him to play. Doesn't have the big play ability, but it's death by a thousand cuts almost because he's going to end up with 10 catches for 90 yards it seems like every game. He presents some issues in the slot as well."
How do you describe what DB Derek Stingley Jr. and DB Steven Nelson have done so far this season?
"Extremely impressed with Sting (Derek Stingley Jr.). Most impressed by his demeanor on gameday, his ability to put plays behind him, be it good or bad. He's a guy that deals with success and adversity extremely well. That goes to show with his stoic personality, just doesn't get too high or too low. That's really how you judge someone's character, how they are in the highs and lows. He's showed that over the first couple of weeks."
How did DB Derek Stingley Jr. handle his matchup against WR Courtland Sutton in Denver?
"That's it. That's it exactly. Gives up a play, doesn't matter. So what, now what. Next play. Makes a play, doesn't matter. So what, now what. Next play. He just doesn't get too high or too low and I think that's the temperament you want for a corner that's going to travel and get targeted."
Where have you seen DB Derek Stingley Jr. step up on the field as a leader?
"He's a guy that leads by example more so than verbally. He's played well and he's done that over these first couple of weeks. What we do schematically and as far as technique is a little bit different than what he did in college, but he's growing. He's better in off coverage, a little bit more patient off coverage than he's been in the first couple of weeks. He's showing improvement over the last couple of weeks."
Are you noticing DB Derek Stingley Jr. be a little bit more vocal in the film room?
"Yeah. In our meeting room, he talks, I've mentioned this before. He's not a guy that's going to chirp a lot on the field, but in the meeting rooms, he's extremely inquisitive and asks football questions. He's a football guy."
What do you think about the play when DB Derek Stingley Jr. jumped over the quarterback?
"Mirror the throwing hand. Don't jump. He didn't even pump. He shouldn't have jumped. But obviously, he showed his athleticism."
Because the Chargers haven't had a good run offense, do you expect a lot of passes in this week's game?
"Our goal each week is to stop the run first. Run defense is a team stat. We've contributed to that over the first couple of weeks. We always expect teams to run the football. We've got to stop the run and then we've got to make plays when the football is in the air."
How much do you think the secondary is prepared for what offenses do pre-snap?
"That's offenses in the NFL. Everything is eye candy, pre-snap motion and distraction, so play with disciplined eyes like he did on that play. That was man coverage, so that's relatively easy. That's offenses in the NFL."
How does having a veteran like DB Steven Nelson strengthen the overall secondary?
"I've talked about Steve (Nelson) as a leader first and foremost. I've known Steve since his rookie year in Kansas City. He's not getting many opportunities in the pass game, but he's making plays when they do come. I've talked about the run game. We obviously all need to be better and he knows he needs to be better in the run game, but he has made plays on the football when it's in the air in the pass game."
When DB Steven Nelson doesn't get targeted, does that speak to the respect players have for him?
"The one game that he didn't get targeted much, they were going to (Broncos WR Courtland) Sutton who's their number one and that's going to happen if we're traveling with Sting (Derek Stingley Jr.). Now, he may not travel every game, so he's going to get some opportunities there. That game more so than any was the one that he didn't get targeted much."
How do you prepare for this game after the way the last three games have ended?
"It's the next one. That's it. We've got to win because it's the next one."
What's your reaction when you watch DB Jonathan Owens tackle and wrap up?
"More so than anything, tackling is a space and a leverage issue. Joe (Danna) is his coach. I'm not his coach, but he plays with appropriate leverage and chews up as much ground as he can on ball carriers. Ball carriers want space. It's our job to chew up that space."
How do you and HC Lovie Smith approach maximizing the 53-man roster and using all the space?
"Obviously I don't make those decisions, but if you have a uniform on on gameday, you're playing somewhere, whether you're contributing on offense, defense, or special teams. Everyone that has a uniform on, particularly in my room, is going to be contributing somewhere."