Head Coach Robert Saleh, 11.8
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Opening Statement: Injuries, nothing new to report from the last time we spoke. We should get Tevin Coleman back, we should get Corey Davis back, we should get Zach (Wilson) back on the practice field and other than that, should be good to go for this week.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, do you have a plan yet on how you’ll handle the quarterbacks in terms of first team reps and things like that Wednesday?
No, we’re waiting some more updates as we progress over Monday and Tuesday, as we get closer to Wednesday.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, if Zach passes every test that you guys want him to pass in terms of health, just his physical ability to play. Will he play on Sunday?
If he passes, yeah. If he’s fully healthy, for sure.
(follow up) So, meaning like he’ll start on Sunday, then, if he’s fully healthy?
Yeah, but again, it’s one of those, we’ll see how he is. Based on today, I’ll just give you guys the heads up, we’ll see how it looks, but we’re not in any hurry to rush him back at the same point because of the fact that this is a two-to-four week injury. He’s going into week three and there’s a couple of things, a couple of hurdles he has to pass yet.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: What sounds like, reading between the lines, Robert, which I sometimes like to do, but it sounds like you don’t have all the information yet, but based on what you have right now, your gut is telling you that you may want to be conservative with Zach, in terms of playing this week.
Correct. Yes, Rich, that’s pretty much it. If he’s not fully healthy, guys, it would be irresponsible for us to throw him out there.
Darryl Slater, NJ Advanced Media: Robert, whenever Zach is fully healthy. Whether it’s this week or next week. Regardless of how Mike (White) plays, will Zach be your starting quarterback when he is fully healthy?
Could we go to day-to-day on this one, Darryl? We’ll see. This is also guys, I do want to take a moment on the fact that Mike, and just speak on Mike White, the fact that he has taken advantage and one of the great things of this league is you do get these guys who sometimes come out of nowhere and they get their opportunity, and they showcase who they are, and they show that they belong. I’ve got a great appreciation for what Mike is going through and I have a lot of respect for his opportunity, and I know you guys have a job to do and with regards to controversies and QB playing, I get it. But it would be really cool if you guys were able to take a moment and just kind of appreciate what Mike’s kind of going through as an individual quarterback and the opportunity that he’s been presented with and the heck of a job he’s done. Now does this mean anything for the future, I don’t know. I just know as it goes from day-to-day and game-to-game, I just think it’s really cool that Mike’s been able to take advantage of this opportunity and let’s just see how he does.
(Follow-up): So in terms of Wednesday, will both Zach and Mike be full participants in practice or will either of them?
Yeah, we’re hoping that for sure that Mike, Zach, Joe (Flacco), Josh (Johnson), all of them, will be full participants. Again, as we get closer to Wednesday, it’s looking like that will, but there’s a couple of hurdles they have to pass.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: Robert, obviously you have to divide up the reps during practice and Zach has been taking all the reps when he’s been starting. So, how does that work in terms of does he need to have all the practice reps for you to feel comfortable with him starting or is there a situation where if he can’t take all of the practice reps, he could still start?
We’ll have a decision on Wednesday once we get all the information and whoever’s starting, is going to get all the reps. They have to get those reps. But there’s also show team reps, there’s a lot of things that can be done. There’s walkthrough reps, there’s still a lot of reps to go around. I think we practiced almost 500 reps a week, for crying out loud, when you include walk through and through group install and show team and all the different things we do. So, there’s plenty of reps to go around, but at the same time, when the time comes, it’s about getting ready to play a football game.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Will you tell us on Wednesday who the starting quarterback is?
Sure. (laughter) Yeah, there’s nothing to hide. It’s not like there’s a difference in game plan.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, have you had a chance to look at all at Buffalo yesterday and what Jacksonville did to the Bills and I’m just kind of curious what you saw there and as a follow, just they have a pretty powerful offense over there, it’s kind of surprised to see them limited to six points.
Yeah, I’d imagine Buffalo’s going to be really upset after going back and watching that tape. I thought they did, defensively, Buffalo played an outstanding, obviously, they were pretty stout. Offensively, Jacksonville played about as good as you could possibly play against that offense and that quarterback. They did a really good job against the run, they did a really good job in rushing the passer. They had Josh (Allen) on his heels the entire game and just did a really good job executing their scheme. Miami, week before that, did a nice job doing some things, but quarterback got hot there in the fourth quarter. That’s an explosive offense, it can go off at any time, they’ve got talented players everywhere. They got talented backs, tight ends, receivers, (Stefon) Diggs is a problem, quarterback is not easy to bring down, he’s a modern-day Ben Roethlisberger. It is a very, very talented group and (Brian) Daboll does as good a job as anyone in terms of getting people open.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I’m curious, with the defense having given up 500 yards in two of the last three games, I know how highly you think of (Jeff) Ulbrich, but would you take a bigger hand in the defense at all this week? Would you get more involved? I don’t know what your level of involvement is right now during the week, but would you take a more active role in play calling, anything like that? Anything changes that way this week?
No, I think Brick (Jeff Ulrbich) and the staff are doing a really nice job. Are there things that we have to get better at? Absolutely. Does our youth show up on tape sometimes? Absolutely. Are there things that I think we are improving on? For sure. In between those games is our really great performance against Cincinnati. And to be honest with you, all of this happened after the Tennessee game, so I’m hoping we can get some legs back. There’s a lot of guys getting opportunities as it pertains to injuries and new guys getting opportunities. You just hope that they can get consecutive games so they can get used to playing with one another. So, there’s a lot of different things that go into play other than just scheme and players and all that stuff. There’s a lot of guys fighting play in and play out and now the biggest thing is we just have to get things tighter. Obviously, when you give up 260 yards rushing like we did, and God, I think it was almost 200 yards before contact, that’s not just on players, that’s on us, too. Those are things that we have to fix. But at the same time, players have to understand how that space was being created so we can close it faster. To answer your question though, Coz, the staff is doing a really nice job. The players are doing a really nice job. We just had two bad games against two pretty good offenses.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Your short at a couple positions, namely tight end and safety because of injuries. I think you have two tight ends on the roster, so what are your immediate plans to address those issues at both positions?
We have (Kenny) Yeboah on the practice squad, so he has some elevations left. So, there’s that. Obviously, I do believe we have a tight end work out coming in, we have a safety work out coming in. So, we’ll be able to hopefully add to it. Injuries are a part of football. The hard thing is when it happens to one group. You can handle, alright, lose a guy here, lose a guy there, lose a guy to this group. When you lose all your training camp safeties and all your training camp edge rushers and your bringing in a new group of guys, it’s awesome because those guys are getting that opportunity, but at the same time you just hope that they can get a couple of games in so they can get some continuity, they can get used to what’s being asked of them so they can continue to improve and close the space that’s being created, whether it’s offense of defense. That’s kind of what’s going through that. When you look at three positions, when you look at our edge rushers, when you look at tight end and you look at safety, those are three groups that have kind of gotten decimated over the past couple weeks.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Robert, there were some plays against the Colts, you know, when we talk about the run game, where there was an incoming of d-tackle, they’re getting double teamed and some other d-tackles, I mean I don’t really know how to explain that part, but what I’m asking is so when you see the offensive line getting to the second level, off of those double teams, what are ways to combat that. I know teams are probably start to attack at that aspect, so what are ways to combat that?
I see it, DJ, trying to get into our game plan. (laughter) That’s a very intelligent question, man. It’s all encompassing. When teams are doubling your three technique and your nose, you got to get the second level defenders to show up, to peel those guys off, so they got to get downhill and so, if we’re waiting and you’re just kind of hesitant because the run/pass keys are just off a little bit, then it can get a little hairy. But it can create space, but it goes again, the d-line’s got to hold up. That’s part of what they get paid to do. The second level has to show up, that’s what they get paid to do. So, there is a run/pass conflict at the second level that, you know, this is first year in the system, they’re getting used to all this and they got to figure out, “When can I trigger vs. when I can’t?” For sure, DJ, it’s some games the keys are better than others, where guys are getting downhill like that Cincinnati game, those felt like we really, really did a nice job against a pretty darn good back. But last game, obviously, it wasn’t nearly as good as it needed to be and hopefully, we can get it fixed.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, your better games have been at home. Obviously, not on the road. If you have a young group, is that attributable to that at all, that they just haven’t really handled the road that well and maybe the energy is better at home? Have you been able to put a finger on that at all?
We’re working on it, we’ll look at everything. I felt like we played well against Carolina, I feel like we played well in London, finishing wise, those were one-score games for a while, anyway at least in the second half. But you’re right, we’re 2-1 at home and played three pretty good games, competitive games. The one loss was a turnover fest, but we do have to get better on the road. Especially in this league, if you want to win this league, you got to get better on the road, so that’s something we’ll always look at.
(follow up) Do you think that has anything to do with the youth of the group at all? Or is that, I’m not trying to make excuses, but…
No, you first have to learn how not to lose in this league. Then you have to figure out, alright, ‘How do I win?’ and then from there, it’s, ‘How do I finish and how do I make the play to close the game?’ And youth is trying to figure out how not to lose on the road, don’t make the moment too big for you, offense there’s more crowd noise, defense it’s a little bit quieter so they can hear your calls. There’s a lot of different things from a youth standpoint, to get to that veteran stage, where you got a lot of nonverbal cues, you’re just able to operate better and then on top of it, forever and a day, your run game, your defense and your special teams, they travel. It doesn`t matter what venue it is, it doesn’t matter what the weather is, you pack you run game, you pack your defense, you pack your special teams and you trust that those three are the most consistent parts of your football team. If you look at our road games, at least our last two run games, run defense didn’t show up, run offense didn’t quite show up, special teams, we had a couple of penalties that kind of hurt us in Indianapolis. We’ve got to, and obviously defense struggled in both those games, so those three aspects of football have to show up if you want to have a chance to win on the road and those three represent mindset. We’ll get there, but it is part of youth, but at the same time it’s not an excuse.
Al Iannazzone: Robert, with Corey coming back, how important will it be to make sure that Elijah (Moore) is still involved because his two best games were kind of without Corey there.
Yeah, well, Elijah is playing a different position, so Corey won’t affect what he’s been able to get. So, really excited for Corey to get back in because I do feel like the offense is starting to hum a little bit in terms of just the route running, the protection, run game needs to improve some, but at the same time, when you really turn on the all-22 and you watch our receivers running their routes, they are getting very precise, they’re sitting in zones, they’re getting vertical with balls in their hands, they’re making people miss, the backs are getting involved. And so over these last two games, it’s been pretty cool to see the offense move and that’ll be really good to get him back into the mix to this speed at which we’re operating to see if we can get even better as the year progresses.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Mike (LaFleur) alluded to this Friday. He said the offense, the tempo has been faster the last couple of games. I think the statistics bear that out. Why is that? Is that because of quarterback play? Why is it things, the tempo is quicker?
You know Rich, it goes back to the things we talk about. I’ve explained it to y’all before. There’s football 101, which is scheme. There’s football 301, which is your technique and fundamentals. There’s football 501, which is understanding what the other side of the ball is doing to you. So, the offense has been on repeat with regards to what they’re being asked to do now, and it’s been over and over and over again, and they’ve been healthy, so there’s a lot of continuity there. So, they’re getting into Wednesday and they’re not really thinking about the game plan anymore so they’re just working on fundamentals and technique and they’re getting faster, their routes are getting more precise and they’re starting to recognize leverages and what defenses are trying to do so they’re able to put themselves in position to operate faster so there’s more confidence. They’re not thinking about what they have to do, they’re thinking about how they’re going to do it., The next stage is to not even think about how you’re going to do it, it’s just thinking about how you’re going to beat the person in front of you. But they’re moving faster and they’re showing why, during training camp, we were all pretty excited about the group collectively and it’s pretty cool to see. It’s going to be pretty cool when it’s all said and done.