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Transcripts: Bill O'Brien Press Conference (8-15-2020)

Opening Statement

"Just to start off here, I think we're doing OK health-wise. I do think it's an unprecedented year without, like I was saying yesterday, without the offseason program and different guys on different ramp-up schedules and things like that, but I do think we're doing OK. With that being said, Duke Ejiofor suffered a knee injury in practice yesterday. Duke's been through a lot. We're fully supportive of Duke. He was having a good training camp and it's a tough blow for him, but he'll be back. It'll be a long rehab for him, but he'll be back. We'll place him on IR at some point here over the next couple of days and then we'll go from there. I'll open it up or questions."

What is different about practice for you this year since you're not calling plays?

"I wouldn't say that practice is too much different because even last year Tim Kelly would relay the play in to Deshaun (Watson) quite a bit. So Deshaun is very used to hearing Tim's voice in the helmet. Relative to my role, it's really the same. Maybe I can spend a little bit more time watching the defense and watching them, especially early in practice and things like that. So maybe that's a little bit different. But overall, I don't think it's too much of a different role for me, relative to practice."

What are the advantages of practicing inside the Houston Methodist Training Center other than weather and do you plan on practicing inside the entirety of training camp?

"We were outside before. I know yesterday was the first day for you guys, but we were outside I think three or four days before that. We'll be inside again today, but we will go back and forth between inside and outside. I think full pads will be inside, but when we go to shells or OTA-type practice, if that's what we're going to do, we'll go outside."

What do you expect from T Laremy Tunsil now that he is in his second season with the team?

"Yeah, you can already tell he's a great player. He's shown up every day, real technician, very athletic, very smart, works really well with Max Scharping on that left side. I think you just said it really well that he's been in the system now for a year. Last year when the trade took place, he really didn't have a whole lot of time to get ready for – whether it's everything from the cadence to obviously his own assignment and then working with the other guys up front. Mike Devlin's done a great job with him. Nick Martin has done a really good job and Laremy is practicing really well. We're glad. The tackle situation for us, I believe right now, is really a good one."

After signing NT Brandon Dunn to a contract extension, what do you see from him so far and what do you think he's capable of moving forward?

"Brandon, ever since he's been here, has been just a really good day-to-day, very consistent guy. He's got leadership qualities. He's been a very consistent player on the field, very tough. He's a strong player. He understands our system. He understands our culture and we felt like he was somebody that we really wanted on our team, and that's why we did what we in the offseason with him and Kennard (McGuire). Brandon just keeps getting better because he shows up every day. He gets better and better every day because he's there every day."

How much have you seen G/T Tytus Howard develop from last training camp to this season?

"Absolutely. He's much improved. He really understands our system. I think that's a tough deal as a rookie to come in, for him and Max (Scharping) to play on the offensive line, and then for Tytus to have to deal with an injury and he's come back from that. He's out there every day and like I said, I really think this tackle situation is good as long as we can stay healthy. Even our backup situation there is a good one because you know you have Rod (Johnson) and Jerald Hawkins – we just brought in – and Charlie Heck, who we drafted, who's coming along every day. I feel like Tytus is doing a really good job and glad we have him on the team, no doubt about it."

How badly do you feel for Texans fans that the home opener will be played without fans?

"Yeah, that's a tough decision. I know that Cal (McNair) and Jamey (Rootes) came to that decision because that's what's in the best interest for our fans and where we are right now with this virus in Houston and really in the country and in the world. That was in the best interest of the health and safety of those fans. But at the same time, it's tough. It's tough. It's not easy. We have – you think back to the Buffalo game last year, the crowd was such a big part of that win for us and many, many other games since I've been here that they've really willed us to win. It's tough, but it is what it is, and we'll see them soon. But we won't see them in September."

Does DE J.J. Watt still do things that surprise you or impress you?

"It's hard because I've seen a lot over the years from him. I've seen him take over games. I've seen his work ethic in practice. I've seen him – just the other day I saw him, it was a passing play and it was like a drill where it was two steps, put a move on and then chase the ball. He chased the ball about 60 yards down the field and tried to punch it out of the receiver's hands, so to say that I would be surprised, I don't know. I've just seen his work ethic and what makes him a great player day-in and day-out. But yeah, there are things that you see for a man of his size and athletic ability every day you definitely say to yourself, 'wow, that's a pretty special player right there.'"

How have you seen DE J.J. Watt evolve and change as he has gotten older and with all the injuries he has gone through?

"He's had to deal with it a lot. I think mentally he's in a great place right now. I think over the years, it's probably a better question for him because he knows a lot more about it than me. I think he's changed his workout habits, his workout routine. I think that he is somebody that takes a lot of pride in really understanding the training methods and the medical methods that are being used and what's out there for him. I think he is just a really smart guy when it comes to those things. I think he's had to adapt over the years dealing with all of the things he's had to deal with."

League wide, some of the best offenses last year were teams that used a lot of 21-personnel. What do you think is the relationship between that efficiency and defenses devoting resources to stop the pass?

"That's an interesting question and something, ever since I've been in the NFL, that you think about year to year. Really, it's a matchup league. When you put a personnel grouping out there, you're trying to think about how the defense is going to match that. If you put 11-personnel is that a good matchup versus their nickel? Or, if they play you in base or if you put 21-personnel out there, is that a good matchup versus their base defense? Is that better than your 11 versus their nickel? I think that has to do a lot with your personnel and what you think the defense will give you. I think that's what makes this league strategically just a really, really fun league to coach in and also a very challenging league. I think when you see the uptick in 21-personnel, I think you see a lot of people using that F position, that fullback position as another tight end or a fullback and what does that mean? Will that dictate base defense or will that dictate, 'hey, they're pretty good in the pass defense, we're going to see sub defense there.' I don't know if that answers your question but that's the thought process when Tim (Kelly) and I sit down, we think about our opponents and we think about, 'OK, we really like this personnel for us but what is that going to dictate relative to how the defense is going to play us?'"

With OLB Duke Ejiofor going out, what are your thoughts on OLB Jacob Martin going into the season?

"I just saw him out in the hallway. He brings a lot of energy to practice. He's got a really quick first step in his pass rush game. He's gotten a better understanding of our system. I think he's got the body type that helps us on special teams. Great guy. He shows up to work every single day. Really a good pro. Yeah, I think he brings a lot of energy and a lot of juice to our defense."

Before you traded for T Laremy Tunsil, what stood out to you about what you had heard about him?

"First of all, when you watched him on tape, you saw how athletic and how talented he was. At the time we traded for him I think he was 25 years old. For a guy 25 years old and how well he was playing in the league and how we felt like he could help us and his value. He had a lot of value in that trade, obviously. In talking to Miami and understanding his presence in the locker room, the type of person he is – really a good teammate. He's really a good teammate. Out at practice every day he's helping out Charlie Heck, he's helping out the young guys, he's helping out (Jerald) Hawkins, who's a new guy to our team, with how we do things and talking about technique. All of those things you heard about and now you're seeing it firsthand."

Can you explain how S Eric Murray has adjusted and what role you see him playing?

"He's another good pro. He's in a lot of starting packages for us as a safety. He's a versatile guy. He's played in the deep part of the field. He's played down in the box. He's been a personal protector on the punt team, he's been on the kickoff coverage team. He's had a versatile type of career and he's a very smart guy. I think he can fill a of different roles for us. We have a lot of different packages on defense where he's going to be in there quite a bit and then he's going to help us on special teams."

When you looked at undrafted free agents, what did you see in RB Scottie Phillips?

"What really stood out to me about Scottie right away was that he doesn't fumble very much. Knock on wood again. Hopefully he doesn't fumble again today. I think he only had one fumble in his career at I believe it was Mississippi State, or Ole Miss. I get those confused. Is it Ole Miss? Laremy (Tunsil) and A.J. Moore (Jr.), they get mad at me when I get those confused because of the Egg Bowl and all that. But yeah, that's one thing that stood out, is ball security. I think he's getting better. I think that he's in a very competitive position. Karan Higdon (Jr.) has been practicing really well, too. He had a couple good runs yesterday that you probably saw. It's a very competitive position but I do think that Scottie is working at it and he's improving."

Who will get more practice time with OLB Duke Ejiofor going down?

"That's an interesting question. We talked about that a lot last night. Obviously, Whitney (Mercilus) has been here a long time and we know what he can do and we're bringing him along in his own ramp up schedule. Jacob Martin, who we just talked about, his role could increase. Brennan Scarlett, obviously. You have some guys there and then Jon (Jonathan) Greenard. Jon Greenard is getting better and better. Works very hard. Long way off, though, as a rookie, just like all the rookies are. I think it's interesting because defensively we look at the different skill sets and we try to figure out how each guy fits. Duke had a very unique skillset. You could use Duke in a lot of different ways. He wasn't just an outside backer. He could do some different things. I don't know relative to replacing that exact skillset. I think it's more about what can these guys do and how can we fit it to what we're trying to do."

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