Head Coach Robert Saleh, 11.24

[please click photo for link to the video]

Opening Statement:

Obviously, Michael (Carter) is out. Shep (Nathan Shepherd) is limited with his elbow. C.J. (Mosley), we’re limiting him. Second half of the season, just trying to take care of his body. And then Shaq Lawson with a wrist.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: Could you just explain the decision making on Zach (Wilson), the final stages and getting him back out there?

It’s like we said, when he got fully healthy, we’d make a decision, and the decision was most likely going to be that he’s back in there. So, as soon as we got clearance that he was fully healthy and he was ready to roll and he was good mentally, we were good with the decision.


DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: On his first game back, going against the Texans, what do you want to see from (Wilson)?

We felt like he was getting better throughout the first half of the year. The time it took him to get comfortable in the game was getting quicker. I’ve said this before, in Carolina, it took the second half. And then as you get through all the way to the New England game when he got injured, that second drive, he gets to field goal range in the first quarter, the next drive we get to the one-yard line, he gets hurt. It’s just continue getting comfortable earlier in the game and let his athleticism take over and his arm talent take over, because he is a talented young man. Just step up, get better and take it one play at a time.

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: You guys talked a lot about how you felt him watching was going to benefit him once he got back out there. In what ways do you think that’ll be the case now that he is going to return?

Obviously, we’ll see. Any time you have a chance to watch something through the lens of another player or a teammate, especially seeing it through Mike (White) and then Josh (Johnson) and then Joe (Flacco) and got to see Joe through a week of preparation and Mike through a week of preparation, I think it’s very beneficial. How he’s able to interpret it all, I really think only he can answer that. I think there’s always tremendous value in that.

Zack Braziller, New York Post: Is there one thing specifically you want to see from him moving forward?

Continue to get better. He is such a young man and playing quarterback in this league as a rookie is very hard. He had progressively been getting better. Would love to see him start where he left off and continue to build from there. The good thing is the surrounding talent around him has gotten a lot better over the last four weeks. The receivers are playing faster, the o-line is protecting very well, the backs have been running very well. To slip right in and understand that the players around him have elevated, so hopefully he can take advantage of it.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: How did he look last week or the last two weeks running the practice, scout team?

He did good. It’s always a little bit difficult to run a show team because it might say a protection on there which tells you might not be hot and then all of a sudden you have a free runner and you’re just like, “What am I supposed to do with it?” The one thing we wanted to see in practice was just to see the confidence in the knee, to be able to plant, throw and do all the different things that he does. He scrambled some, he showed some good things, so he did a good job over the last couple weeks.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Do you have to still talk to him, like go back weeks, maybe talk about boring football? Some of the success that, when he was out, was going to the check downs. Do you still have to talk to him about that stuff? Do you think he understands that better now?

I think he see’s that it can be effective. I think you’re always going to have to talk about it. I mean even with Mike and even Joe in a game, it was like, hey, it’s okay. You can progress, get rid of the ball, give it to your check down. You don’t have to wait all the time. I think that’s just something that you’re always going to be taught. There’s such a balance because, like I said, you don’t want Charlie Checkdown. You don’t want a guy that is just going to look for the checkdown every time. One of his super strengths is that he can push the ball downfield and get it to any part of the football field at any time, but there is balance. Over the last four weeks, I think our offense is one of the top five units in football in terms of yards and getting themselves into field goal range with opportunities to put up points. And so, for him, just to understand that there are different ways to move the offense and to be able to do it in a style that is best for him.

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: To follow up on that, when you talk about boring football, the Texans, they play a lot of Cover Two. Obviously, that’s going to force you to kind of take what they give you, so how much of a challenge will that be for him to balance that, just, how important is that balancing act?

Obviously, Lovie (Smith), a lot of respect for him with the way he’s always run defense. It doesn’t change in terms of, (Mike) LaFleur is going to call the game. He’s going to try to attack whatever defense that he’s looking for, because it’s not just Cover Two, they’re (playing) a lot of man, a lot of Cover Three, so they’re doing a good job mixing it up. So, a call is going to go in and (Wilson) has just got to be able to decipher what’s happening post-snap and get the ball to where it needs to go, whether it’s being aggressive or short.

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: With Mike (LaFleur), when Zach, obviously, was starting previously, he was down on the field, he moved back up because Mike White didn’t care really where he lined up. Now that Zach is back, is Mike going back on the field or is Mike going to stay up top?

Mike is staying up top.

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, what’s the situation with your backup quarterbacks right now and what do you anticipate for Sunday?

Right now, we’re looking for Josh Johnson, will be the backup. You get unlimited COVID call up’s when things like that happen, so that’s why he’s able to be elevated. We’re not closing the door on Joe. Because of the holiday and all that stuff, there is still a chance where he can travel, there’s a bunch of rules with COVID. So, there’s a possibility he’d be there Sunday. We’re rolling with Josh unless, with this holiday season, something else happens. We’re just leaving that door open for Joe, find out Sunday. Expecting Josh.

Rich Cimini, ESPN: I think something that is perplexing to a lot of us, and some fans is that you traded for Joe, an unvaccinated quarterback, knowing that there were certain risks involved in that and different protocols that he has to go through. And sure enough, he was unavailable for those first two games and more than likely not available this week. So, can you just explain the thought process balancing those risks with making that trade and giving up a piece of draft capital for him?

I’ll stand by this forever. When someone offers a sixth-round pick for a player of Joe’s caliber, to me, there is no risk. You’re playing with house money. I’ve said it before, you can trade back one spot and get that sixth-round pick back in a hurry. I know we look at draft capital, but that’s an easy one. That was an easy decision in terms of, here’s a proven quarterback, a Super Bowl quarterback, a record holder, a guy who can settle an offense if he needs to step in there, which he proved on Sunday. He did a phenomenal job against Miami’s pressure system. So, that in itself is worth its weight in gold. As far as the draft capital, the thinking, it was a no brainer. A sixth-round pick is not hard to recoup.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: So, Mike (White) is definitely out. There’s no two negative…?

Mike’s out.


(follow up) What about Denzel (Mims)? What is latest with him?

He’s back in the building. He’s got to ramp up in terms of, he’s got to clear some stuff from a COVID protocol standpoint, because it’s been a couple of weeks now. So, there’s a lot of conditioning and all that that’s got to take place, to make sure he’s good health wise and that there’s no residual effects from COVID.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, Elijah’s (Moore) emergence here has kind of coincided with Zach being out. It seems like maybe he’s benefitted from some of the other quarterbacks. Do you worry at all that Zach coming back might slow Elijah’s development and the path he’s on?

No. The production is one thing. The production is a result of the fact that Elijah has been getting better. And I think Elijah will be the first person to tell you that his alignment has been a lot better, his get off has been a lot better, his route running has been a lot better, his understanding of zone and man and separation has been a lot better. And so, for Elijah, keep doing the same things, keep getting better in that same regard. Now, if the ball gets to you, it gets to you. That’s not going to be the definition of how he’s been getting better. What he’s been able to do is, when the ball is in his hands, he’s shown that he’s a heck of a playmaker. If you remember the Denver game, ball in his hands on the Jets sweep, and he gets knocked out of the game, where I guarantee you now, he won’t take that hit. He’ll know exactly how to maneuver with the ball in his hands to avoid that big hit. So, Elijah’s been getting better outside the ball getting to his hands. And so, whether it’s in his hands or not, there’s still a lot of room to get better.


Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, you made reference to how the offense has kind of played these last four weeks or so, and obviously they’ve played that way without Zach under center. The guys, line, receivers, all that, they’ve seen how this offense works, and they’ve experienced offensive success now. Is there any worry that if you go back to Zach and the success does not follow and he struggles and the offense starts to sputter again, that there could be issues?

No. And I say that because, obviously the quarterback is the big position, it’s the most important position in football, he’s always got the ball in his hands. But I think there’s also an understanding, in terms with Zach, just getting better, just keep the main thing the main thing, and understanding how to play quarterback in this league. And I think, like I said, he was getting better as the season had gone on. New England, we felt like he was about to pop off. And so, for him, just get back into the groove, get the ball to his playmakers the best way he knows how, and just trust that the rest will take care of itself.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Do you have to talk to him about not trying to do too much? Because I’m sure he wants to prove, “Hey, I can run this offense.” 

I think it’s the same for all of them. It’s for any player. If you’re focused so much on results, you’re really going to screw it up. And he doesn’t have to do anything the other guys did, he has to do what he can do. And trust that if he operates to the best of his ability, we’ll be fine. And if he’s trying to chase stats and prove that he can move the offense like they can, he’s going to miss the big picture. And that’s focus, keep the main thing the main thing, take one play at a time, go through your progressions, get the ball where it needs to go, and play football.


Joey Chandler, NJ Media Advance: What if it were to come down to that point, who would you go to in an emergency situation for quarterback?

If Zach wasn’t able to go?


(follow up) If Zach was out and Johnson, and Flacco didn’t come back.

So, if all four of them were out? (laughter) I’ll keep our secret quarterback a secret.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: How did LDT (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) do? And is he going to go again?

You know, for a first game back in two years, thought he did a good job. Obviously, there’s always going to be plays that he’s going to want back. But again, two years without playing football, at least in a game, so excited for him to get another op and another crack. Expecting him to be better this week.


Brian Costello, New York Post: What jumps out to you about Houston, Robert?

First off, on the offensive side of the ball, their offense, Tyrod (Taylor) is back. And when Tyrod’s been quarterback, they beat Jacksonville, I think they put 37 on them. They were 14-14 at halftime with Cleveland in Week Two, before he gets hurt. Comes back against Miami and struggled a little bit, but then they beat Tennessee. So, he’s clearly, they’re winning football games with him under center. He is a problem, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Tyrod. he’s getting the ball where it needs to go, he can scramble, he can do all those things. They have a discipline style of offense, in terms of the way they marry their run and their pass game. So, it’s a well-run offense, and Tyrod’s doing a really good job running it. Defensively, I’ve already spoken about Lovey. So much respect for him. And a lot of the principles that we teach, all form that same Lovey, Monte Kiffin school of football. You know, they’re doing a really good job mixing things up. They’ve got a young defense, very active front, Justin Reid, I got a chance to coach his brother, he’s pretty damn good. They’re active, they’re a good group.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What changes in the run game from the standpoint of, Michael (Carter) has been so valuable for you guys, leads you in scrimmage yards. What changes with the other two guys that are now coming in?

Nothing changes really, because Ty Johnson can run the ball, Tevin Coleman knows this system like the back of his hand. And those two guys, obviously with (La’Mical) Perine and Austin Walter having possible opportunities, those guys have been here, they know how to do it. But if you just looked at Ty Johnson and Tevin Coleman, just wanted to focus on those two, those guys have proven they can run in this system. Tevin Coleman has proven throughout his entire career that he can run in this system. So, I know those two are very excited for an opportunity.