Head Coach Robert Saleh, 9.26
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Brian Costello, New York Post: Do you have any information on who your quarterback is going to be Sunday?
Yeah, we’re looking for confirmation. Once Zach’s (Wilson) doctors clear him like we’ve talked about he’ll be ready to roll, but can’t really define that until we get clearance from them.
Brian Costello, New York Post: When do you anticipate the doctors giving you thumbs up or thumbs down on him for this week?
Should be in the next 24 to 36 hours. Hopefully by the end of tomorrow.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: How does that work? You mentioned his doctors, so we know they’re based in LA, is that, how does that simply, like sending an MRI to them with some technological stuff or does he have to go to get a visit?
I don’t know, I wish I had that answer. It’s more just communication, they’ve been keeping tabs with regards to his progress and his day-to-day activity and there’s been a lot of detail in his day-to-day activities, so it’s just more communication than anything I think.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, as you guys will start to game plan in the next 24 hours, will you proceed as if Zach is the quarterback or will you kind of be waiting?
There’s going to be some stuff, you’ve got your base game plan and how you do things and then you start adding based on players and all that stuff, so there’s plenty of time from a game planning standpoint to do what we need to do to get ready for Pittsburgh.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, what has Zach done? I mean we’ve seen some of it and then obviously we leave. Has he done anymore team stuff, or not at all with that?
He’s been doing, at the end of every practice we have this thing called flight school where we take all the practice squad guys and the third string guys who don’t get as many team reps, because you’re so limited in the amount you can work during the season, and we have a seven-on-seven period. So, he’s been doing those seven-on-seven periods with all those guys and still getting the reps and working through drop back and progression and all the different things that we ask him to do.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, defensively the last couple weeks the Browns and the Bengals yesterday on their scripted stuff early on kind of came out at you pretty efficiently. Has there been a common denominator at all as you’ve been falling behind early?
Yeah, the story with our defense right now is third down. Our first and second down defense is pretty good. Third down is, we gave up all three of our touchdowns on third down. Just critical mistakes at the most inopportune time. The first touchdown is third and goal from the 12, quarterback gets out of the pocket, scrambles, finds the guy at the goal line for a touchdown. Second one, on the third series, we got that third down that we’re off the field, it’s a 7-6 game where we’re about to get the ball but JFM (John Franklin-Myers), as we know, he had the penalty on the quarterback, extends the drive, we get to another third down and they hit the crosser that goes 55 yards for a touchdown on a missed tackle. Then the third touchdown happened after the sudden change, third and goal from the five, poor execution, one from a coaching standpoint, two from a communication standpoint, just need to be better in those tight moments. But right now, third down is an issue that we’ve got to get fixed. Otherwise, the structure, the defense, everything that’s happening, the run game, stopping the run has been better than it was a year ago, our first and second down defense has been better as the year, but we’ve got to get third down fixed.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: We were talking to D.J. Reed last night and he was talking about the need to maybe have a meeting with some players and coaches about the communication because there have been, you referred that, the (Ja’Marr) Chase catch yesterday and there was a miscommunication with Sauce (Gardner) last week, what’s going on there? Is that the newness of stuff, is it player communication, is it not getting directed from the coaches to the players well enough?
No, you know what, all 32 teams, there’s going to be six or seven miscommunications a game. It is what it is, there’s a lot of different things happening. We’ve been unlucky on two occasions. It’s throughout all 32 teams, now players feel things and that’s what D.J. is feeling like. What he’s feeling is there’s four new faces in the back end and the communication is not at the level we need in terms of the way we talk to one another on the field. And to be honest with you, that’s going to get better and better as the weeks go by with regards to them understanding how they’re going to play things, just being in the meeting rooms and talking through certain route concepts. We’re a lot better than we were a year ago and they’re only going to get better as the year goes on and it’s a new group that’s playing together. So, they’re communicating actually pretty good for what you’d expect out of four new guys, and I anticipate that it’s going to be a lot better as the year goes on.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, another thing that DJ said, he said maybe we need to simplify things just a little bit. Do you put any stock in that?
Yeah, you know players will speak to you with how they execute on the football field based on the layers of communication that are required per play. As coaches, we can get ahead of ourselves with regards to checks within a call and you always put your limit on three, you don’t want them thinking you want them to set it, run it. So, yes, we can bring it back down a notch so the guys can get comfortable and then as they get comfortable again we can start adding back on. So, there’s that balance, he’s 100 percent right. I always refer back to 2019 with Fred Warner and you’ve got to find the balance with your players and, with Fred Warner ,back in ’19 against Arizona, Thursday Night Football, I’ll never forget it, we put a lot of checks on him because Kyler Murray could run the ball and to this day he’ll probably tell you that was the worst game of his career because he was thinking so much and trying to talk and communicate and just couldn’t get it all across the board. As a coach, I had to scale it back for him and find that happy medium to get him back to where he could just play freely. So, as coaches we have to find that happy medium again, we’re learning together, we’re only Week Three and year two, a bunch a new faces on defense and everyone’s learning each other. But like I said, we’re going to find that happy medium and it will continue to get better from there.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, how do you get past this point, you know you’re guys keep making these backbreaking mistakes? Like you said, it’s like one, two, three, four plays here, especially this week, Week One. How do you get past that hump where you’re not making those mistakes anymore?
No, I get you, it’s time on task. It’s time on task, it’s reps, it’s learning to sacrifice what you want at this very moment for what we’re trying to achieve in the future. We had the critical penalty with JFM on third down where we could have the ball 7-6 and possession. One of the ones that kill you, we’re 11 minutes to go in the game, we’re inside the 10-yard line with a chance to cut it to a one score game with 11 minutes to go. We’re thoroughly in this football game and we get that personal foul from Corey (Davis), that pretty much knocks us out of any chance to score and those are two veteran players that know better. They’re not trying to make those mistakes, but it happens and that’s where, as we get confident and we start rolling, we’ve got to earn the benefit of the doubt in those situations and we’ve got to be able to play above the neck in those situations. They’re going to go away as time goes, like I said, part of it’s crappy luck. Like I said, there’s six or seven occasions every team is dealing with certain things where they can go one way or the other. We’ve just got to find a way to not just be so darn snake bit where it explodes back in our face.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, do you have an update on George Fant?
George is dealing with the same knee. He’s going to be day-to-day, we’ll see how he comes out Wednesday, but he’s dealing with the same thing.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Do you think at all that it might be a case where he’s been battling this for awhile, right, you’ve been resting him in camp, you’ve been resting him in practice, it might be a case where you say, ‘Let’s air on the side of caution, just give a week off?’
It could very well lead to that. Again, he’s got today, tomorrow, and he’s got the day off Wednesday, which usually his day off is on Wednesday to make sure that he’s just rehabbing and we’ll take it from there. But you’re not wrong in that question there, Brian.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How tough a spot is it, that tackle position?
You’re down to your fourth and fifth guys. At this point in the season, you don’t anticipate that. But I love the way Max Mitchell has come in and played, he’s doing a really nice job. Derm (Conor McDermott) came in on short notice and did an admirable job. Hopefully if he has to step up again, he’s played a lot of games in this league, so at the end of the day, no one cares. You got to line up, you got to play football, you got to protect the quarterback, (Mike) LaFleur’s got to find ways to protect the quarterback no different than we did against Cleveland. I got confidence in the guys that we’ll figure it out.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Following up on the tackle, with George, if he doesn’t respond within the next couple of days, is IR a possibility at the end of the week? And also, Duane (Brown) is eligible in another week to come off, how close is he to being able to play?
With regards to George, I don’t know if IR is a possibility, that one’s going to be more for the doctors, Rich. As far as Duane’s concerned, he’s out there working, he’s putting in all the work, and once he clears IR, we’re going to get him back on the practice field and see where he’s at. But again, day-to-day for him, but he looks good. So, excited for him to get the opportunity to see how he responds to everything.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How about Quincy (Williams), Robert?
Quincy dodged a bullet. So, he’s dealing with a high ankle sprain, it’s going to be a week-to-week thing with him.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: There was a lot made leading into this game about how the Bengals struggled against Cover 2. I think I saw a stat on Twitter – I don’t know if it’s accurate – but somebody said that you guys only ran one or two plays in Cover 2. What’s the thought process there?
It depends. True Cover 2, I define it as two-high. I think we played 90 percent two-high yesterday. I get PFF looks at things differently. We have two pretty darn good corners, so the design of the system was to make them throw. If you watch it, a lot of go balls down the field against our corners yesterday, which we’ll take all day if that’s where his throw was. I think they ended up completing one of them on Sauce, that big one which was actual three deep. Caught us in three deep on the first play. For the most part, we were two-high and the way we were playing it was to try and flood the zone through the middle of the field and out to the boundary and forcing them to throw out to the field. We played a lot two-high yesterday. It just doesn’t, for PFF, they don’t see two clouded corners, they don’t think it’s Cover 2. Sometimes those stats aren’t always accurate.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: It looked like you guys got pretty good pressure on (Joe) Burrow yesterday, but he kind of squirted free a bunch of times yesterday. Is that a lack of containment or how do you look at that? Is that just bad luck? How do you define that when you look at what you guys did?
That’s part of the struggle with quarterbacks that can create off-schedule. You have four rushers trying to handle six gaps. Our job to be able to rush with our eyes open and vision on the quarterback and to be able to get off those blocks and those were things that we just weren’t doing a very good job of. Early, obviously we called that pressure which set off Quinnen (Williams) which I love. Quinnen had some opportunity after that snap. I think (Jeff) Ulbrich called two more pressures the rest of the game. I felt our d-line was getting a lot of pressure, we just couldn’t corral him at certain times. After the explosive to Ahmad (Gardner), it felt like the defense really hunkered down and really did a nice job giving the offense a chance to chip away to get it to a two-score game with 11 minutes to go with the ball at the 10-yard line where we had a chance. Again, it comes back down to third down, Mark. We’re not executing on third down. We’re not getting the right calls on third down. It’s just not working for us right now, and we got to find an answer.