OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR / QUARTERBACKS COACH TIM KELLY
How important is it for your offense to have speed at the wide receiver position?
"Absolutely. Every time you take the field and you have guys that can run like that, you're really stressing the defense both vertically and really with the ability to get to the edge with multiple people. Different than what it's been in the past where we may have only had one person who can do that. Having multiple weapons that can get really get on you quickly is something that we're excited to have."
What is this week and game going to be like for you as a first-time play-caller?
"It's going to be like any other game. Obviously, my role has changed, coming in and being able to call the games. Throughout the time last year when Coach (Bill O'Brien) was a play-caller, I would put myself in those situations throughout the week, call the game on the sideline in my own head. Now the only difference is that I'll be on the coach-to-quarterback with Deshaun (Watson). I'm looking forward to the opportunity. Been thinking about it. I couldn't be more excited to have this chance and looking forward to Thursday night."
In last year's regular season contest against the Chiefs, the Texans were able to effectively run the ball and control the clock. Is that still a big part of what you want to do, even with all the speed you've added at receiver?
"I would guess that most offenses really come out and establish the run. I bet when you talk to coach (Anthony) Weaver later on and you ask him, he's going to tell you that they need to stop the run. Being able to run the football is paramount in terms of having a successful offense. Really, we're going to do a good job of, like coach (Mike) Devlin says, 'scratch where it itches.' If we need to run the ball to win the game, then we have the ability to do that. If we need to throw the ball to win the game, then we have the ability to do that. We're going to do a good job of trying to put our players in the best position possible to be successful, and we'll see how the game plays out on Thursday."
What is it like coaching against Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu?
"He makes it really hard. He's very instinctive. He understands offense. He understands defense. He knows how to disguise. He's a good blitzer. He finds the football. Wherever the ball is, he's going to be right there with it. It's definitely a challenge to prepare our guys to get up and get ready to play someone of that quality and we're looking forward to it."
Where can QB Deshaun Watson improve when he improvises during different plays and how do you coach that?
"There's obviously a fine line there because you don't really want to coach that portion out of him because like you said, that's part of what makes him so special. For us, we just need to continue to work on the command of basically the offense. Understanding where your outlets are. Understanding the defense and being able to better anticipate what may be coming before the ball is snapped. But those are things that I would imagine that every quarterback in the NFL is looking to improve upon, and Deshaun is no different in that area."
How important is establishing offensive tempo early on the season?
"Playing with tempo is something that we've always really prided ourselves on here, being able to do that. Really, if that's going to put us in the best position to win the game, then absolutely. Like we've talked about with the snap counts and things like that over the past couple of weeks, we're going to make sure that we're preparing our guys to be ready to go if we have to go or be ready to play from the huddle if we have to play from the huddle."
What was your reaction when Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien announced you would be calling plays?
"I found out when you guys found out at the Combine. I was in my hotel room in Indy when he came out and made that public. I was really excited. My phone started to blow up. I thought something was wrong or I thought I was missing a meeting because all of a sudden you get all these floods of text messages and I was like, 'oh no, what am I missing?' I was really excited and then immediately my mind kind of went to, 'OK, how do I get ready to do this? How do I get ready to put Deshaun (Watson) in the best position possible and to try to put this team in the best position to win as many games as possible?'"
What was your reaction to the Titans signing DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney?
"I'm more concerned about having to block Chris Jones and (Alex) Okafor and Frank Clark – the list goes on and on. The Chiefs really present enough issues that we're concerning ourselves with now. So, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. I feel bad for my brother, though. He has to go against him in practice. So, good luck, Dennis (Kelly)."
How important is it to have versatility and depth along the offensive line? Also, how happy were you to sign C/G Greg Mancz back to the practice squad?
"I'm sure you guys have heard it, but really one of the phrases, especially in that room is 'the more you can do.' The more versatility you provide, the more value you have. Having guys that can play center, guard, tackle really allows you flexibility on the gameday roster. Again, having vets, having guys that have played that are able to step in there in a moment's notice is something that we're excited to have here as far as our depth in the offensive line room. Then being able to get Greg back is really good. I look forward to continue to work with Greg. I enjoy working with him and I'm excited that he's back here with us."
Other than Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien, who have you leaned on for advice about calling plays?
"Obviously leaning on Coach, he's done it for a long time. Carl Smith has called plays in the NFL for a long time. I would always pick his brain and still do. It's just not in person, it's over Zoom. Yeah, really leaning on those two guys. John Perry, even though he hasn't called plays in the NFL, he's called plays in college. So, being able to just kind of talk to those guys a little bit about the flow of it and just picking their brains, walking them through where I'm at in terms of mentally preparing and how I would handle a certain situation or what I would do here, has been good. It's always good to be able to bounce ideas off people that know what you're talking about. Those are three guys that I would say I definitely have leaned on the past year or so."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR / DEFENSIVE LINE COACH ANTHONY WEAVER
How difficult is it to prepare for the Chiefs offense with all the speed they have at wide receiver?
"I was hoping with all the COVID protocols that maybe they give us an extra player to play with on defense, but we couldn't talk the league into that. Obviously, they have a tremendous amount of skill players and it all starts with the quarterback. He makes it all go. Then the guys they have to throw the ball to, whether it's (Travis) Kelce or Tyreek Hill, (Mecole) Hardman, Sammy Watkins. You can't have two guys on all of them. So, they present a tremendous challenge and we're going just do our best to try to keep them in front of us and limit the explosive plays that they feed off of and try to get every time they touch the ball."
Does it help you at all that the Texans offense has similar speed and can better prepare you for the Chiefs' speed in practice?
"Absolutely. Absolutely. Having to go against those guys day in and day out has absolutely prepared us as best we can for this opponent. The other people that we have, we have some running backs like David Johnson, Duke Johnson who have a very similar skill set to the Clyde Edwards-Helaire kid. Some good running backs that are good out of the backfield. All those guys we have as well as our backs have definitely prepared us to play the Chiefs."
How prepared do you feel for the first game after such a unique offseason?
"I feel extremely confident. I know it's been a wild year. If somebody told me, 'hey, you're going to get the defensive coordinator job and you're not going to have a spring. You're not going to play any preseason games. Oh, and by the way, you've got to face the two most recent MVPs in the league.' I'm still taking the job. I'm excited. I'm excited about the way our guys have responded throughout all of this, throughout all of the uncertainty and unknowns. They just come to work and they're just playing football. That's all any of us want. We want to go out there and put on a good show for our fans and try to bring a win home to Houston."
How much do you watch college tape of Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire without any preseason games? Also, what makes him a challenging player to defend?
"We had to go back and watch college tape because of no preseason games. He is a very talented back. He's built low to the ground, but he runs tough. He runs tough and strong and he's very good out of the back field. He presents problems, absolutely. He reminds me a little bit of Darren Sproles, which obviously Andy (Reid) had in Philly. So, it'll be interesting to see how they go about using him."
How different is the defensive line going to look schematically and stylistically this season?
"Yeah, we'll look different primarily because of the differences in personnel. We've lost a tremendous player in D.J. Reader, and obviously, we released Angelo (Blackson) a few days ago. But I think the young guys that we have that are going to be forced to mature relatively early have been playing well. So, you're going to see guys like Charles Omenihu out there, Ross Blacklock, who people may not know right this second but hopefully here throughout this year they're making a bunch of plays and they become household names. I think the biggest changes are going to be in terms of personnel. Schematically, you can only place them in so many spots and we're not trying to reinvent the wheel from a football standpoint. We're just trying to put them in the best position from a matchup standpoint to be successful."
What did you learn from the scrimmages you did during training camp?
"I think we have a bunch of guys who reflect what this roster was built upon. A bunch of guys that are dependable, that are tough and that are smart. There's also a bunch of guys that just love playing football and being around each other. That's what makes it easy for me to come to work. These guys give you juice. When you're down and you think you're tired because you worked a 17-hour day and you see these guys that are bright-eyed and ready to go out there and hit the field and play ball, you can't help but feed off of that. I think people will see that when we play defense on Thursday."
What did NT P.J. Hall show you that helped him make the 53-man roster?
"P.J. Hall is a guy who's obviously played for two years in this league, so it's not like he's a rookie. He has a very unique skill set. You talk about a guy who weighs 310 pounds, when he got timed for his 40 coming out it was 4.73 or 4.68 or something like that. I don't know a lot of those humans roaming the earth. He's such a unique guy in his ability and as his technique continues to grow and his confidence grows, we see there's a lot of upside there with him."
How much of an issue do you think tackling will be early on in the season due to the lack of preseason games?
"Tackling is an issue when you have those preseason games, so it's certainly something that I'm concerned about. We do everything throughout the course of practices to try to simulate those, but until you've been in that real game situation with live speed, it's just different. We emphasize it in meetings. We do everything we can to try to give tremendous effort in practice and take proper angles in practice, and you just hope it all carries over to live game situations."
Did you see QB Deshaun Watson's press conference and did you cry?
"I am embarrassed to say that I actually did not see the press conference. I am entrenched in Kansas City film and game planning right now. I was happy for Deshaun. It couldn't happen to a better guy. We're obviously fortunate to keep him here with Houston for a while."
Is part of unlocking NT P.J. Hall's potential finding the proper situations for him on the defensive line and building his confidence that he's not simply a run stuffer?
"I think he's certainly more than just a grinder. I think just because of the nature of his position and really his body type, he's going to have to do that at times. But I think he needs to know when he can just pin his ears back and go. I think we saw a little bit of that in the scrimmage last week. I think when you see those glimpses and those flashes of his unique skill set and the problems he can pose for an offense, it jumps off the tape. I think that's why we're so excited and why P.J.'s here."
When you watch Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes on tape, what jumps at out you about him?
"I think he's one of the best to have played the position. He can make every throw. His arm talent is truly special. He's out there slinging balls like he's playing shortstop. He's an athlete. He's competitive. He's poised under pressure. He checks all the boxes you want in a quarterback. The thing that encourages me is I feel like we've got one of those guys too in Deshaun Watson. I love Patrick. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his game. But I think you feel a little bit more confident when you know you've got one of those gunslingers on your sideline too."
What are the challenges you face in maybe not stopping him but not letting him dominate?
"I think that's got to be the mindset. You know they're going to make plays. That's how their offense is built but if you make them go the full length of the field, you also hope they make some mistakes. That's the game of football. It's the game of human error. We feel like if we can force them to drive the length of the field and not get these chunk, explosive plays, which they crave and feed off of, maybe they presents us with some opportunities for us to make plays."
How much do you look back at last season's two games against the Chiefs when preparing for this one?
"You have to. You have to. They're obviously an opponent that we're really familiar with. They're going to look at those two games as well. It's always a chess match. You want to show them looks that you showed in that game and maybe do something different. You want to use some of the things that you did that worked. You're absolutely studying that and most coaches I think you're going back even further than that. This is a team we've played. You watch the two Patrick Mahomes games, but we've played them with Alex Smith. I believe they played in '15 before I got here. So, you want to see schematically some of the things that Coach Reid and his staff have done."
What stands out to you when you think back to the playoff loss?
"Oh man, that's a tough question. You go back and obviously when you play these guys first, you're forced to peel back some of those scabs and relive those moments. The thing that sticks out to me most is that we need to be in the moment. We can't get too high when things are rolling well and we can't get too low when things seem bad. We just need to play in the moment and play that snap and that play for that play and do everything we can to try to be successful in it."
How are you feeling going into being a play caller for the first time?
"I feel really good, to be honest with you. To me like, what is pressure? Pressure just means somebody cares about you. That's a good thing. That's a good thing. They actually care about what you do. I feel prepared. I understand I am the leader of this defense. I am the defensive coordinator. I get that, but I know I've got a bunch of tremendous people around me to help and I'm not doing this alone. I feel confident. I am so excited about the opportunity just to go there. You're facing the defending champs, it's the first game in a pandemic. Like, what an opportunity this is for our defense and our football team. I'm thrilled."
Given the offseason changes, how confident are you in the defensive line in stopping the run this season?
"First off, our defensive line coach is awesome. He is a great guy and he's done a really good job with that defensive line. I feel good. I feel really good. We have a bunch of guys obviously that are familiar with the scheme. I know we've made changes but our leadership hasn't changed. When you have a J.J. Watt in that room and a Brandon Dunn in that room, everybody else kind of follows suit. When those guys are leaders and they show it day in and day out, not just on the practice field but also in the meeting room, it elevates your entire room. As far as our run defense, we have to improve. That has to be an area that we improve upon from last year. We have some tough opponents early, obviously with the Chiefs and the Ravens. The Ravens are a dynamic run attack. The Chiefs with the quarterback's ability to scramble, they add a new running back. They're going to pose problems, but the expectation doesn't change. It doesn't matter who they have and who we have, we have to play good run defense."
What is a quality that has stuck out to you about DE Charles Omenihu? What are your thoughts on Titans DE Jadeveon Clowney being in the division now?
"I'll start with Chuck. First with Charles obviously he's got tremendous physical tools. He has the largest – as far as arm length, he has the longest arms on the football team. That, when it comes to defensive line play provides you an advantage when you can keep those offensive linemen at arm's length and they can't get both hands on you, it gives you an innate ability to just power the pocket. The other thing you love about Chuck is his hunger to be a really good player in this league. He absolutely yearns for that and he puts the work in as a result. We asked him to put on weight, he did that. We asked him to get stronger, he did that. You see the results on the field so I think the sky's the limit for that kid. As far as Clowney goes, I don't know how he's going to look in that powder blue uniform. It'll be interesting. I love JD. We obviously had three wonderful years here together and he's back with Vrabes (Mike Vrabel). He's back with Vrabes. I know he's going to do some big things there. There's just two Sundays during the year that I certainly won't be cheering for him."
WR WILL FULLER V
Can you talk about the speed you have with the addition of WR Brandin Cooks to go with you and WR Kenny Stills and the speed the Chiefs have in their wide receivers?
"I guess we're just a little more versatile now with the packages we can run and stuff. It's going to be fun. We're going to see when we put the game plan in what we're going to do this week so I'm excited to see the game plan."
What's it like competing against Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu?
"It's always fun playing against guys who were on your team before. Tyrann's a competitive person and a guy I watched growing up when he was in college. It's always fun playing against guys that were on your team and are competitive like he is."
You talked before about your change in posture but what else have you learned about your body in terms of trying to stay healthy this season?
Not really learning anything, just staying in the treatment room as much as possible. Just keeping my body feeling fresh."
Given the unique offseason, how meaningful is it for your game to be on national television this Thursday night?
"Just personally, it means a lot. It's definitely a weird time and we're still blessed to be able to go out there and play football. I don't care if it's zero fans, 80,000 fans, I'm just going out there trying to have fun to help my team win. I'm excited to get out there and play on Thursday."
Does it help you to have WR Brandin Cooks opposite of you with the speed he has?
"Definitely. I think that we benefit each other especially with Kenny (Stills) and (Randall) Cobb. Just getting all of us out there flying around, I think it's going to be fun."
Do you view this season as a pivotal moment in your career given what you have been through in your career?
"I look at every play, every snap the same. I don't really think there's any higher stakes this year. I'm always in it to win it. I'm just going to go out there and do whatever it takes for my team to win a Super Bowl and stay on the field."
What was it like for you to see QB Deshaun Watson get paid yesterday?
"Aw man, that was awesome. I don't know another guy who deserves that type of contract. I texted him as soon as I saw it and congratulated him, told him let's go get this Super Bowl now. It's always great to see stuff like that."
Did you see how emotional QB Deshaun Watson was during his press conference?
"Yeah, I actually saw that today – this morning when I woke up. That's great too. You can tell how much he puts his heart in this game and how much that means to him that someone trusts him to give him that much."
What do you think about going into the season with new play caller, Offensive Coordinator / Quarterback Coach Tim Kelly? What can you tell us about Tim having that responsibility?
"Since my rookie year Tim has been here. I know Tim pretty well. He's one of the smarter guys that I've met since I've been in the league. I think he's going to do a great job. I can already tell from training camp and how he's installing the offense that he knows what he's doing and we're going to have some fun this year."
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
Can you talk about your expectations for Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Line Coach Antony Weaver going into this game and this season as the new play caller?
"(Anthony) Weave is a great coach. A great daddy figure. Keeps the energy alive. Brings joy to the defensive side of the ball. He's on you when he needs to be on you. He's a great coach."
As a defense how eager and hungry are you to get another shot at playing the Chiefs after the last game you played against them?
"We're going to do what we always do and play Texans defense. It's an exciting moment for us to be able to play again. It's been a long time since this defense has been put together but we're ready to play the Chiefs. We're going to do what we do best and just run to the ball, have fun and make plays."
What do you see from the Chiefs rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire?
"I've watched some college ball on him. Still watching more of him. He's a shifty back. Small, but compact. Like I said, we're not focusing on the Chiefs, it's what we got to do to win the game. We're the only people who can hurt ourselves. Whatever they do, we're going to match up with them but we're going to do our job."
What is it about you and ILB Zach Cunningham that make you such a great duo?
"That's a great question. The chemistry of me and Zach, we hang on and off the field. We text a lot. We joke about a lot of things. That's what makes us great because we know each other's backgrounds. We know each other in and out and I know what to expect on the field. Sometimes he thinks for me and I think for him and we're on the same page. It works out."
CONFERENCE CALL WITH CHIEFS HEAD COACH ANDY REID
How exciting was it for you to finally get that ring and are you wearing it now?
"I'm not wearing it. I'm not a big jewelry guy but I've got my wedding ring on. I don't have that one on, the other one, but I keep my wedding ring on. I'll wear it I guess for special occasions, but I don't have it on right now."
You are known to have the fastest offense in the league. What is the value of speed on your offense? Are you having to prepare any differently now that the Texans have a healthy WR Brandin Cooks, WR Will Fuller V and WR Kenny Stills?
"All three of those guys can fly that you just mentioned there, and they've got a good quarterback to go with it. As long as the guys know how to play with the speed, it's good. Houston's got three guys that know how to play and we're blessed to have that same thing. Again, speed ends up being neutralized if you can't change direction or understand defenses. Like I said this should be an exciting game because all these guys understand the game and they can play fast and they have quarterbacks that can deliver it to them."
How challenging is it to prepare for QB Deshaun Watson and this offense in this circumstance and is anything you used to prepare for them last season still relevant?
"Well it's crazy because the first game anything goes. That's how it rolls. Last year that's what y'all did to New Orleans. There were a lot of defensive coverages and a lot of plays. That's how first games end up going and so you've got to be ready for everything. Anthony (Weaver) was a heck of a player and he's a heck of a football coach in charge there now defensively. That's new, so you're back to anything, expect anything and you got to be ready for it. You got to be able to adjust and we say that in every game but no more so than in the first game."
How do you prepare for a healthy DE J.J. Watt?
"Well, that too. He's a pretty good player now. We go back through all the old tapes and look at him. Indy's got a pretty good offensive line and he was a wrecking crew in that game. He completely disrupted the whole game. He played his tail off against us. We've gone against him so many times and every time is the same thing. He rolls fast and furious, so we've got to be ready for that."
How do you prepare to play a team with three new play callers with a veteran team?
"I'm understating this, but you've got to be ready for everything. You obviously study what potentially went on in their past but that doesn't always matter. You bank that there are going to be adjustments in the game, and you've got to do it quickly. Four quarters goes by pretty fast so you have to make sure you can make your adjustments."
When the Texans beat you there last year, they had the ball for 40 minutes and ran three touchdowns. How much better is your run defense this season now that they are healthy?
"Both games they scored 31 points against us. They've got an explosive offense in both the run game and the pass game. One thing that is a bit different today than in the first game is the guys have been together a little bit longer. We were introducing that defense and they were kind of getting better every week with it and they got after us. Yes, you're right, time of possession was skewed and you obviously can't do that. I think our guys are probably more comfortable is what I'd tell you with the defense."
What's it going to be like in the sea of red with limited fans?
"It'll be low tide, right? But that's OK. They'll be loud. We appreciate the fact that they'll be there. We'll be OK."
How complicated is it to prepare for QB Deshaun Watson and all that he can do in a first game scenario?
"He's a great thrower and he's a great runner. He's got good targets to shoot and good guys to hand the ball to. You've got a lot of different options there that you've got to make sure that you cover. Our guys, they're going to work hard at that this week and make sure we get ourselves ready to go."
What is the difference in preparing for a season after winning a Super Bowl and after losing a Super Bowl?
"Normally – I've been through this a couple times, both situations. This is a weird one because of the pandemic. Nobody got to go out. You always worry about guys celebrating and coaches celebrating and all this, well there wasn't a whole lot of celebrating going on because we were confined to our homes. The thing I can go off of now is just the way the guys have worked and they've worked their tail off. I'm proud of them for that. They came back with a great attitude. I think everybody – probably around the league this is true, but everybody is just so glad to get back playing. There's a great energy."
How has Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire adjusted without having a regular offseason program or preseason games?
"We're lucky that he's a smart kid. That helps. We ask the running backs to do quite a little bit of stuff there. He's handled it well and we like what we're seeing. I think he'll just keep getting better as the season goes on. That's how I think he'll end up rolling. "