Head Coach Robert Saleh, 9.29

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Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, just saw you sent out the news about Ashtyn (Davis) and Sharrod (Neasman) returning to practice. Are either one of them in place where they can be active this week or are they inactive to use more of that window?

You could. We’ll see how the week goes and make the decision on Friday or Saturday.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Expecting Jamison (Crowder)?

We’re expecting it. It’s trending that way, for sure. We’re expecting it.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: With Ashtyn, he’s a guy, obviously, that this team invested a decent draft pick in last year. What did you see from him when you were evaluating him with San Francisco last season, if you did evaluate him, and kind of what are your expectations for him within this defense?

We’re really excited to get Ashtyn back. We’re high on him in San Fran, thought he had great red line-to-red line speed, he’s very smart, his speed shows up on tape so he’s got great play speed. He’s a grinder, he’s a hard hitter and like I said, the mental make-up. So, he’s been fantastic since OTAs, even though he hasn’t even been able to get on the field, just his communication, asking questions in the meetings, the walkthroughs, his attention to detail. Watching him in all of his individual work throughout working with the strength crew and rehab since he’s been on IR, his movement looks fantastic so we’re just excited to see what he does here over the next week. Excited about it.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: Do you see his best position as a post safety, or more as the Marcus Maye, down by the line of scrimmage?

Yeah, we’re interchangeable. He can do both. I know one has asked to do more than the other but they’re both the same in our book. Marcus can play the middle just as well as he can play down and (Adrian) Colbert can go down just as well as he can play back. He’ll be right there in the thick of things to be able to do both.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: When you re-watch the film, do you see anything from Zach (Wilson)? Any improvements from last week?

You know the big thing for Zach, and it goes back to what we talked about earlier, it’s the footwork, taking what he’s been doing day-in and day-out and taking it to the football field on Sunday and trusting his footwork, trusting his eye placement and trusting the progression within the offense. That’s all encompassing. In that regard, he has been improving, now he’s just got to go show it. Even though people haven’t seen the improvement, we’re seeing the improvement for him. Now, he’s just got to go show the world. We’re excited about the direction he’s going in and eventually, it’s going to pop.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I know you leave the X’s and O’s with Zach to Mike (LaFleur) and to (Matt) Cavanaugh and Rob (Calabrese), but did you feel the need to kind of deliver any message to him after these last couple of weeks in terms of the big picture? That like head coach type of big picture stuff?

Yeah, there’s always stuff. We talk about understanding situational football, for example. There was a third and 13 where he got sacked, I forgot what quarter it was, but Von Miller came around the edge, got him. And he’s waiting on the big one to open up, and in that situation against a team like Denver, who very rarely gives up a third down, let alone a third and 13, you have a check down, it’s going to get down to about the 40-yard line, we’re going to punt, back him up, we’ll be in good shape. Get the ball back at the logo and let’s play the field position battle. We took the sack, he’s at the 22, we punt the ball, now they’re at the logo and the percentages just change and so just understanding that aspect from a coach’s standpoint, but there’s so many things on his mind and so there’s so many other things and he’s got this competitive edge to him, that he’s trying to make every play. Eventually, he’s going to get to that point. Like I said, we see the improvement that he’s making, and eventually it will pop on Sunday and when it does, it will be pretty cool.

 

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: The red zone and third down defense has been pretty good. I think both top 10 in the league. So, what’s led to having, you know, success in those areas of the game?

So, you know on third down, we play a much more aggressive style. You see us on first and second down and we kind of let the game come to us and then on third down we kind of get a little bit more aggressive with our coverages and the way we attack protection. Credit to the guys, we try to create as many one-on-ones as possible on third down and the corners have been doing a great job, the nickel, Michael Carter (II) has been doing a great job, the pass rushers getting home and the communication on all the different things that offenses give us have been fantastic. To that regard, credit to the players. Then the red zone, you talk about that fight. We forced a couple of turnovers in the red zone. This defense is made of the right stuff, in terms of give us an inch of grass and we’ll protect it. They take that to heart and it’s been pretty cool to watch.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, with Zach, he’s been sacked 15 times and I think it’s like 20 something quarterback hits. Is there a concern at all, because we’ve seen quarterbacks over the years who just take too many hits and it affects their mechanics, or their mindset, is there any concern that he could have some long-term implications by getting hit that often?

Not yet, but there is concern that if it keeps up, yeah for sure. I mean, I think one of y’all said it, he’s on pace for how many, 85? One of y’all said it, but that’s, again, that’s a collective thing. We’ve all got to do better protecting him, play callers got to be better protecting him, offensive line’s got to be better, the receivers got to be better. Everyone’s got to be better. He’s got to better for himself, too. Again, we see it, now we just got to make it happen on Sunday.

 

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Against the Broncos on third down, according to some stats, that they ran man like 60 percent of the time. So obviously teams are going to try to replicate that, so what do you guys have to do to be able to overcome the situation where they’re manning up and it’s just one-on-one matchups?

That’s the thing. The NFL, everything about the NFL is a one-on-one battle. When it all comes down to it, it’s can you beat the man in front of you? It’s o-line, can you beat the man in front of you? Defenses are going to create one-on-one situations where it’s you and the man in front of you. You got to win. The receivers are going to be in one-on-ones situations, backs. We had great opportunities last week to get the backs the ball for at least four explosive passes, just missed. Those are things that I think in time we’ll continue to win and we’ll continue to work those one-on-ones and those things will start to hit and when it hits, it’s going to be pretty explosive, but it’s a process and they’re there to be had on Sunday, they just didn’t connect.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: When it comes to Zach, do you find that he’s trying to do too much? Where is he in this?

I don’t know if too much is the word. I think one of the things you saw in college is this competitive nature and that he is not going to let a play die. He is so confident and he can make every single play, he can make every throw, and he can. His arm talent is ridiculous. We just have to learn is that the league is a little bit different in that it’s okay. Just because you take something doesn’t make you any less competitive, you’re just being smart. And when there’s an opportunity to gut the defense, then you pull out your knife and you gut the defense. But at this point, he’s going through that learning phase with regards to progressing and getting off the explosive play and just taking what the defense gives him.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, how would you evaluate the job (Mike) LaFleur has done through three games?

I thought he’s done a good job. When things work, you’re a genius. When they don’t, you’re an idiot. And that’s what it is, that’s the NFL, forever and a day. You look at the play calling, if you want to ever come sit down with me, I’ll go right through a game with you and just show the thoughtfulness, whenever you want. Let me know man, I’m serious. The thoughtfulness in the calls and the things that are happening and the opportunities that are out there. Now, are there things that (LaFleur) needs to fix, absolutely. There’s a couple of things where there’s no need to put the offense in a situation with a certain play call. But at the same time, he’s also put offense in situations to be successful and there’s times where the offense has belled out a call. Once it all clicks, people will start to appreciate the job he’s doing.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, the first game, (Trevon) Wesco was a big part of the offense, and the last the last two games really not so much. Why is that?

It’s all predicated on what the defense is given and the opportunity they them on the football field. We all love Wesco, he frickin’ grinds, he’s made of the right stuff, he’s old school in the sense that he just absolutely fights play in and play out. So, hopefully we get a chance to get him out there a little bit more this week.

 

Andy Vasquez, The Record: You’re obviously trying to establish a new program, a new culture here, but at 0-3 there’s a lot of negativity from fans who have been frustrated for a long time. So, how do you manage that with your team and for yourself personally?

Don’t read the media. And we respect it, we respect it obviously. People should be frustrated, they want to see success, the fans want to be part of a winner and they don’t the season to be over in September, and it’s not. There are still 14 left. But at the same time, you got to focus on what you see, the players, the coaches, we all see the tape, we know exactly what’s been talked about, we know exactly what needs to be done and we’re all holding ourselves accountable to a standard that not everyone can see. So, even if we get the frustration, we got to be able to stay within ourselves, stay positive and understand that there’s ways to get better and you got to be able to take that to the football field on Sunday and make it happen.

 

Bob Glauber, Newsday: Robert, it is still very early, but still Zach is one of several rookie quarterbacks who are struggling, which is a little counter to what the narrative has been the last couple of years. Is there anything that you see, leaguewide, that is similar with these guys?

What’s happening to the rookies, in my opinion, is normal. What happens otherwise is abnormal. Most rookies struggle in their first couple of years, you can go through the history of all the great ones. I think I was watching (Matthew) Stafford having a banner year and he’s had a great career in Detroit, in his first two games of his NFL career, he had one touchdown, 5 interceptions, and he had not a very good first season. And you can look at all the great ones. But, when these rookies get into football, when they get to the NFL, there’s a couple of things that change for them. For example, in college, the ball travels faster than the man, so they can make all these throws that are acrobatic and pretty cool because of the, not lack of athleticism, but it’s just not as fast. And in the NFL, the man travels faster than the ball. So, even though those windows might be open, these guys are moving at a much faster clip. And then what’s deemed open versus covered in college, compared to the NFL, completely changes. So, there’s an adjustment that all of these guys have to go through, and what you’re seeing out of this group is probably more of the norm than the (Justin) Herberts of the world.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What’s it like game planning and trying to stop Derrick Henry?

Have you guys ever seen him in person? Wait until you guys see this one. He is a massive human being. They’ve got great conviction in running the football. It looks like it’s simple, but actually gives a lot of issues for defense. But when this man gets rolling, he is all of, whatever height he is and size, he looks like an offensive lineman carrying the football. So, he’s  a load, he’s deserving of all the accolades he’s gotten and it’s going to be a tremendous challenge this week.

 

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: The offense at times has had some issues with quarter-quarter-half coverages too, so what are some things that you guys can do to help get past that type of coverage?

Everything starts with the run game, especially when the quarter system is kind of a catch all, it’s a good versus the run, good versus the pass, but it can open you up for a lot of explosives too if you’re not careful. So, to me, you got to run the ball, you got to run the ball effectively and it felt like we did that against New England, not so much in the first or third game. But everything, especially with the scheme, as Tennessee knows, everything starts with the run game.

 

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