Head Coach Robert Saleh, 9.21
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Opening Statement: Good Afternoon, I’m going to go injuries real quick. CJ Uzomah will be limited today, George (Fant), we’re giving him his Wednesday, he’s dealing with his knee, but it’s not concerning, just giving him an extra day to recover. Jordan Whitehead is going to be limited today, dealing with a calf. JFM (John Franklin-Myers) won’t participate in practice today, he’s dealing with his toe and quad, not concerning, just giving him another day to recover and then Quinnen Williams, dealing with his foot, he’ll be limited, and Zach’s (Wilson) knee, he’ll be limited.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Is Uzomah still you think up to game time?
Yeah, same thing as last week, he feels a lot better this week, so we’ll see.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.COM: With Zach (Wilson), is there a chance he can do a little 11-on-11 or is he mostly limited this week?
So, yeah he’s still limited, not going to get into the 11-on-11 stuff this week, but we’re going to ramp up the amount of strain, I guess you could say, from an individual standpoint.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Will you do something similar to what you did last year, kind of practice squad, scout team stuff or not yet?
We’ll see once the doctor clears him for full activity.
Ryan Dunleavy, New York Post: What do you take from last year’s Bengals game?
What would I take from it? We were coming off that beat down from New England, I remember that, and I thought our guys had just showed resolve in the way they answered the bell, especially against a hot team. Cincinnati’s extremely talented and it was a fun game, the guys fought for 60 minutes and it was a memorable game, but obviously, a game that’s in the past.
Ryan Dunleavy, New York Post: Well, that has nothing to do with this, but do you expect a different outcome, a much different contender? They’re kind of fighting for their lives at 0-2?
No, I look at the Cincinnati team and I get the narrative outside of it, I see a team that’s still playing their tails off, a team that brings it every day. I see a team that turned the ball over five times and didn’t take it away in Week One and were still lining up for a game winning field goal in overtime, which was blocked, so they’ve been on the wrong side of luck. This team, they’re still the AFC champs in my mind. They still look like the AFC champs, they’re still playing at a very high level and we fully expect them to be exactly what we’re seeing on tape, which is a really good football team.
Zach Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Seemed like both weeks there was some miscommunications on the secondary that kind of led to the touchdown this weekend, is that something that you’re concerned about?
No, it’ll iron out. Lot of new faces back there, four new starters, but when you have miscommunication in the backend, that’s a touchdown, it’s different than when the d-line miscommunicates against the linebackers, so we’ve got to do a better job obviously, but not something I’m concerned about.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: How would you assess your pass rush so far?
It’s got to be better, we all think that it’s got to be better, obviously. The first week, fully understood with the fact that we were playing Lamar (Jackson). This week, and I’m not making excuses for the guys, but just presented us with a different challenge with how much they run the ball, play action, pass, max pro, all the different things that they were doing, but when we get our opportunities for one on one’s, we’ve got to win and we’ve got to keep the quarterback in the pocket and we’ve got to play and we’ve got to be able to rush as a unit. It hasn’t been bad, I’m not saying that, you just want more. I’m d-line driven, everyone knows that, and just so, I think I’ve said before to whom much is given, much is required and so, just expecting a little bit more out of that group.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Now this week you’re facing a quarterback who’s being sacked at a record pace right now, so is this an opportunity to take?
You know what, it’s no different. I mean you anticipate them stepping up and they’ve been hearing the other side of it, right, their o-line, as individuals they’re playing pretty well. Just as a unit, just gelling together and the timing and rhythm from the quarterback and all that stuff, so I anticipate them coming in and maybe doing something different, but it’s no different. I don’t care if they’ve given 13 or none, we just expect a lot out of our d-line and just want them to play to the best of their ability and show up and win their one on ones and see where it goes from there.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, along these same lines, what have you seen from Carl (Lawson)?
He had a half a sack on Sunday. There’s a couple of rushes that I’m sure he wants back. He’s getting good movement, good pressure, and all that stuff. He’s doing a good job in the run game. Coming back from Achilles injuries, he’s warming back up and he still looks good to me and I know there is another gear in there for him and it’s coming. He’s going to be fine. All his power, all that stuff is there, it’s just getting all his timing back.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, with all the youth you have on offense, how important has (Joe) Flacco’s steadiness been to this team quickly the other day in the final minutes there?
Yeah, it is. Today we went over just fourth quarter. First play of the fourth quarter and how the great team’s sees the fourth quarter opportunities and win and teams that always are on the other side of winning, losing, always look back at the fourth quarter and God, we missed these opps (opportunities) and if you go through that sequence, the fourth quarter, early in the fourth quarter, we had that holding penalty that negated that big run from Michael (Carter). We had a drop on third down. Defensively, we just didn’t get off the field on a couple of third downs, had a couple of missed assignments. Offensively, just couldn’t get the chains moving when the defense got the ball back a couple of times and so, we lucked into a last opportunity, which doesn’t usually happen and credit to the offense and credit to our guys to seize that moment. The trick is going to be can we find a way to seize those moments earlier in the football game, so we don’t have to rely on the back end of it and that’s where, getting back to your question, Joe, he is a calming force. He’s getting the ball where it needs to go and even to expect more from himself to almost elevate in what he expects out of himself and from his group and hopefully, it trickles down to the entire team where we’re just making plays in the fourth quarter and not having to rely on an end game situation.
Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: What have you seen from the running game so far? It seems like you’ve been having success with it, just haven’t been able to do it a whole lot considering you get down.
Breece (Hall) and Michael and the o-line, they’re doing a really nice job running the football and moving people, creating lanes. There are still a lot of yards to be had too when you watch a tape and from a running standpoint, but you hit the nail on the head, we need to put ourselves in more opportunities to run the ball and it’s part of the way the games kind of shaken out towards the end. If we can give ourselves a chance to run the ball for four quarters, we feel like it’d be pretty darn good.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: With Breece (Hall), what is the next step in his development? It seems like he’s improved from Week One to Week Two.
He is, he’s improving. There’s a style to NFL running in terms of getting vertical and Breece has got all the speed in the world. He is a very, very good runner as everyone is seeing, and now, it’s just a mater of sticking his foot in the ground, getting vertical, and trusting that in the NFL if you keep going sideways, your defense is thanking you. Where in college, he was able to outrun everybody. Different world here. And I think he is learning that. He had a couple of really good NFL runs against Baltimore. A couple of really good NFL runs in Cleveland and now, it’s can he make every run a good NFL run? He is getting a lot better and he is going to be a really good player for a long time.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Are you committed to Zach (Wilson) starting as soon as he’s healthy or if you guys keep winning and Joe keeps playing well, is there a scenario where he stays the starter?
No, Zach is the future of the organization, we all know that. As soon as the doctors clear him, we will get him on the field.
Ryan Dunleavy, New York Post: I have a big picture NFL question for you. The status that there has been eight teams, obviously you guys are one of them, who have come back from ten points or who were down to win a game this year which is the most since 1987. Is it harder, maybe you’ve had this conversation among your coaching friends, is it harder now to close out games in the NFL than it’s ever been before?
From a defensive standpoint?
(follow up): Yeah, from a team standpoint.
Yeah, the quarterbacks are so much better. When I played in high school, you might throw the ball two times, throw a pop pass to me once in a while, but you weren’t lining up in spread and just chucking it all over like they do now and then you get to college and by the time they get to the NFL, the pull of quarterbacks is much deeper, the skill guys are much better. So, it is harder in that regard, but it’s no excuse, you still have to get it done. Felt good about us, we had the opportunity to go close in those 22 seconds and Ashtyn (Davis) got that interception, but it is, it’s hard, and I’ve talked about it. You get to the fourth quarter, especially the good quarterbacks, like Joe for example, I do think Joe is a really good quarterback. He has seen everything. In the fourth quarter, the game plan has already been revealed, they know how they are playing everything. So, when we got that onside kick, it was just, he knew exactly where he needed to go to the ball because he already knew what was going to happen. And the great ones can see that. So, in those fourth quarters when you have a good quarterback who is armed with all of the knowledge that he needs, that’s hard.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Were you upset with the penalties?
Yeah, you get frustrated, I think the refs do a great job. I mean it’s hard that playbook is, their rule book is pretty extensive I don’t know how they can memorize all of it, so it gets frustrating on the field, but I empathize in terms of how hard it is for them, but it gets frustrating because we talk about do right longer for our players, so don’t leave it up to them to throw a flag, just get your hat to where it needs to be. I’ll use the George Fant play, you can argue it was ticky tack, just gave him a little tug, which you can argue was happening all day on both sides and then that particular play gets called, but for George just get your head play side and win with technique, don’t leave it up to them to throw a flag and negate a big play.
Brian Costello, New York Post: One that wasn’t disputable though was Marcell Harris, that could’ve really been a costly penalty?
Yeah, you want your guys playing as hard as he does, the guy’s absolutely relentless, but you’ve got to be smart, so I promise you he wants that play back and he knows better. I think that was our, I mean we’re not a cheap team and he’s not a cheap kid, it’s just he got caught in the moment.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: One more on penalties, most of them were in the second half, just talked about learning how to win, how important is it to not have them pilling up in the second half like the other day?
That’s everything, That’s the whole thing I’m talking about in terms of where two straight weeks we’re playing really good football in the first half, we’re toe-to-toe with really good football teams, we get in the second half and then it becomes a, when the moment gets bigger, you need to get bigger and you need to rise with that moment, so that means executing to the best of your ability, no self-inflected wounds, and let’s see what happens and so that’s what we’ve got to learn. Now, we were able to dodge a bullet because we had the opportunity at the end and everything happened the way it did, but at the same time try to learn, let’s keep the main thing, the main thing and learn from what could’ve happened and you could see we just draw penalties, missed assignments, dropped balls, that’s where our youth has to take another step and our stars need to take another step in terms of we have these opportunities, let’s go win a football game.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: I think everyone understands that Zach is the future of the organization, but would there be a little wiggle room for a 37 year old vet?
Well, I don’t want to be a broken record, but I’ll be happy to answer that question a million times over when Zach (Wilson) is healthy and ready to go, but Zach (Wilson) is the future of the team.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, you had to prepare for him last year and now you have to again, the challenges of Ja’Marr Chase?
He’s an animal, he’s got tremendous body control, he’s got tremendous strength, he’s got great feel to sit in zones, he is one of the better receivers in football, and the thing about that whole team is you got two more in there when you count the other receivers and you throw in (Joe) Mixon and (Hayden) Hurst who’s a good tight end, but they got a really, really good football team, probably, arguably the best skill group in all of football, so they’re a problem and you can see it on tape, they’ve just been on the wrong end of luck, so we’re fully expecting the AFC champs to walk in here and try to do what they’ve been doing and that’s try to get a W.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Braden Mann got a lot of flak Week One after that 20-yard punt, how cool is it to see him go out there and have the game he had and win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week?
That was awesome. Like I said, not to make excuses for Braden (Mann), he was dealing with a back in that first game and as the game kicked off, it just started and he fought through, got himself right and rested, rehabbed the heck out of it, kicked for the first time on Friday and had the game he had, it was awesome, had the throw too, that was pretty cool.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Did you ever practice the fake punt last week, Robert, with him dealing with the back?
You know what, they’re off to the side throwing and catching, I don’t know what those guys do. Ask Brant (Boyer), they’re like, I don’t even know where they go when the team goes. It was two minutes, I wanted to have a field goal thing and I looked and like four fields down I was like, “ugh, forget it.”