Head Coach Doug Marrone

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Q: How deep will you get into the self-scouting on a bye week?

A: Extremely deep.

Q: Can you give me a sense of how helpful Fred Jackson’s sideline observations have been while he’s been injured? 

A: It’s always good to hear from the players, but he hasn’t shared those with me. If they’re saying that then tell him that I’m the guy to come to. I’ll ask Fred when I see him when he’s getting treatment.

Q: Fred can see things that others can’t, right?

A: Yeah. If you get up there and you say to yourself, ‘We’re in this together. We’ve got to fix this. We’ve got to do this together,’ then obviously you have to have input from all sides. I was always big on listening to players. I remember playing a game and I was doing the run game in New York and we had four third-and-one calls in short yardage. We wound up using all of them in the first half. It was one of those crazy deals. We go into the next quarter and I said, ‘Listen, this is what they’re playing defensively. I want to run this.’ I just kind of looked at their faces on the sideline and I remember them going like ho-hum. So I said, ‘Alright, what do you guys want to run?’ They said, ‘Alright, we want to run this play.’ I said, ‘Alright.’ I knew I didn’t like it as much because the front mechanics started to change after all of those third-and-one’s. I remember Paul Hackett was the coordinator and he called down and said, ‘Where are we going with the next third and one? I said, ‘They want this.’ He said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘We’ll find out. It’s what the players want. If they want it, they’ll find a way to make it work.’ Sure enough, it wasn’t a great look or anything, but we wound up getting it. I think that’s the type of input you want, as long they fully understand the whole philosophy and the whole picture. Sometimes players say, ‘Hey, I want to run this again.’ They’ve got to understand what’s going on with the front mechanics, the secondary mechanics and things like that. There’s few players that are like that are they’re usually more of the veteran type guys that have been around. I think it’s a little bit more difficult for a younger player to come in and have that type of input.

Q: Is there some sort of connection between the Pegulas taking over and it seeming like the franchise is off to a fresh start?   

A: I’m probably the worst person to ask that question to only because, for me, it’s right there. For me, I need to have a sense of blinders and realism to all the things that we have to do. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

Q: This is becoming an older quarterback league. Why couldn’t Kyle Orton play at a high level into his mid-30’s.

A: I don’t think that’s out of the question at all. I think you’re right. We know the names of the younger quarterbacks that have survived. I think in this day and age, where we are now, when you throw them in there, it’s a very difficult situation for them. It’s not the way most people would want to train. Most people would want the veteran quarterback and then the younger guy behind him, so that he’s watching him and that’s the best way to learn. Now, we’re getting these quarterbacks and they get drafted and they get thrown in there. The ones that will be successful will be the ones that have very good players around them; a solid veteran type of group where the perimeter is trained well, the line is trained well, he’s not taking hits, not getting hit. That just gives you a chance. It’s not to say that you’re going to be that guy. I think it’s very difficult in this league to develop those types of quarterbacks. We’re going through that with EJ [Manuel]. We took a step back and he’s performed better in practice and preparation now. A lot of it’s from him and his mindset, and also, he’s able to go out there and watch Kyle [Orton] do it. When you look at the quarterbacks now, at 31, at 37 or 35, I think it’s difficult to put a limit on when it’s going to end.

Q: Are the rules in place helping too?

A: I think so. Obviously, protecting the quarterback has always been a big emphasis, or more so in recent years. I think that will help to a certain extent. I still think it’s a matter of, you look at the older quarterbacks and they just know where they’re going with the read, they knew exactly where they’re going with the ball. You don’t see them get hit as much because of all those factors, plus the protection being satisfactory. I think you get concerned with any quarterback, young or old, if they get hit.

Q: How important is it to have Kyle Orton able to focus on keeping the rest of the offensive unit sharp?

A: It’s definitely important, but more important would be the team feeling the same sense. That’s what we’ve been trying to talk to them about, but not in the sense of entirety, but in the sense of now.

Q: Why’d you smile?  

A: Because I said that to them. I think it’s important. I think they feel that and I had mentioned it to the team before we went out on the field versus the New York Jets. 

Q: What your view on the chances of this getting a lot better? 

A: Confidence is the number one thing. How you create confidence is done through your preparation. Then, going out there and actually executing as unit. Like I’ve said before, one breakdown in the run game could be a tackle for a loss. You could have everyone else doing exactly what they need to do, so you need that type of cohesiveness. It’s no different than if you turn it around the other way and three defensive lineman are getting blocked and one guy’s not, he can make that play. You need everyone there, but it’s confidence, preparation, putting them in situations where they have to understand that this is where it should excel, with certain looks, fronts, coverages and things of that nature. And how do you respond to the pressure of it? We’ve talked about it for a couple of weeks now, so all of those things factors into it as we move forward.

Q: Are yards being left out there?

A: Yeah. When you have one person breaking down or you miss a read or miss a hole or you can’t break an arm tackle – there’s multiple things that are out there – it’s execution at the end of the day. If you can’t make the block where the ball is supposed to go then you’re not going to be able to run the football. When you ask if there are yards out there, of course there are, but they’re yards that need to be earned.

Q: What do you think of Nigel Bradham’s development as a player?

A: First of all, I spoke to him and I was displeased about the personal fouls. He’s playing at an extremely high level. It’s really been a 180 for him from last year to this year. I’ve seen that off the field in just how he’s reacting. He’s been a pleasant surprise and I’m happy for him because he really did put the work in. I didn’t know which way – and he knows – he was going to go. We were fortunate that he made the decision to use his talents because he is a very talented player.

Q: What is the benefit of having your bye week right now?

A: I think, depending on the exact situation, there’s benefits for each one, whether it’s early, middle or late. A lot of it, when you first think about it, it goes to injuries and if we played this week, who wouldn’t play or who would play. I think those are the things that go into it. Where it occurs, do you like it middle? I just think because it’s right in the middle, but I think it depends on the situation. Where you are, how you’re playing, what’s going on.

Q: How much will you allow yourself to genuinely relax this weekend?  

A: I have to. There’s no doubt about it. We talked to the players today. It’s not really resting or relaxing. It’s more reloading is what we had a speaker come in and talk to the players about. That’s more the mindset; being able to reload and get ready and be prepared. If I go back and I take too much time and I just sit around and relax and not do anything, I won’t be where I need to be as a leader coming back here.

Q: Was the speaker a psychologist? 

A: No. Navy SEAL.

Q:  Are you going to be working at 4 o’clock on Sunday afternoon? 

A: Yeah. We’ll all be in here at noon. I won’t be watching the game. I promise you. I’ll be watching Kansas City.

Q:  Define what reloading meant to that SEAL and to you?

A: I think just as a professional. We’re professionals. We need to make sure that we’re reloading, getting ready to come back and being prepared. We want to come back here and we’ve got a tough task in front of us. We have to be energized. We have to be ready to go. It’s like Thanksgiving for a lot of people.. You sit around Thanksgiving and the next day, when you wake up, you don’t feel as motivated. That’s if you choose to sit around all day, but we can’t afford to do that.

Q: Did you pick this guy to come in and speak?

A: No.

Q: Who did and what’s his name?

A: It’s not a big secret. It’s just coming around; just a league situation where we bring people in to talk about professionalism.

Q: Has he spoken to your team before?

A: Yes.

Q: Is he local?

A: Nope. Everyone is jumping on this now. I should never have mentioned it. We brought in a bunch of speakers during the year. I think it’s important. You have to know who you’re bringing it to talk to them because you want it to fall in line with your principles and things like that. It was right in line and he’s spoken and knows a lot of our players, whether it be that he spoke to them in college or spoke to them in the pros.

Q: So the NFL sets this up?

A: Yeah and then we go ahead and do it. It’s part of our professional development.

Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Q: Over the offseason you guys wanted to bring in veteran guys. That’s been proven correct.

A: The plan, up to this point, has worked.. Yeah, we’re excited. The guys were brought in for leadership and performance and have done both at a high level. The biggest thing is that leadership, I think some of the other guys have really stepped up; the guys that were here a year ago and then even some of the new, younger guys that we added this year. Right from the get-go they’ve been brought into that culture of what our expectations are, not only coach-driven, but player-driven. Anytime you can get that, you’ll be more successful.

Q: How important has that been for you?  

A: That’s the business. I’ve been a big believer of when things go well, it’s the players doing well and when things go bad, it’s my fault because I haven’t done a good enough job with the players. When the players perform like they’re performing now, they are buying in and they are doing what we’re asking them to do and they’re playing at a high level. The things that haven’t gone right, I haven’t done a good enough job. I’ll always believe that.

Q: The team took a big step with making a change at punter. Explain how what Colton Schmidt does as a punter has changed what you were doing previously.

A: Really only having him for eight weeks, we still have such a long way to go to really getting a great idea of who and what he is. He’s got some great attributes in what we call the gray area and the plus 50. The hang time he’s able to generate on those kicks is rare, which has really been a benefit for us. On the minus 50, he’s strong enough to be able to get the ball down the field with location and with hang time. We’re still scratching the surface on what he is and what he can be. I think he’s really got a positive future. It’s the same thing with Jordan [Gay] kicking off. Here’s a guy that, except in some games in Carolina and going back to college, he never really kicks off. He hadn’t done it, so everything you do for him is new. Again, we’re in a learning thing. Unfortunately, we’re doing it during the season. Fortunately, we’re doing it as we grow.

Q: How well has Jordan Gay been able to justify being active every week?

A: I think very justified. We went into the last game and we were the number one team in the league in coverage giving up return yards. A lot of that is based on when people are bringing it back from seven or eight yards deep. They still may be getting 20 yards, but 20 yards when you’re taking it seven yards deep is starting at the 13-yard line. We’ll take that every single time. You couple the touchbacks with that. Without question, our job is to control field position, first and foremost. There’s a lot numbers. There’s a lot of stats. You can make a lot of things into a lot of things, based on how you want to see it, but the bottom line is those numbers of where drives are starting is all that matters.

Q: How much do your expectations with kickoffs have to change when it gets colder? 

A: My expectations aren’t going to change. You look at Sunday’s game where we weren’t getting the touchbacks, but some of the hang times generate just as much, with the other players being able to get down the field, that that’s an equal trade-off. One ball nine yards deep with 4.3 hang time and one goes two yards deep, but it ends up with a 4.6 hang time. That hang time differential gives our guys a chance to get down the field. It comes down to you have to tackle guys. We’ve seen guys the last two weeks that are pretty daggone good guys. They’re going to make some plays. We’ve just got to make sure they’re not big ones.

Offensive Coordinator Nathanial Hackett

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Q: Does it bother you to know that you’ve faced a landslide of criticism?

A: I love it. I love it. It’s a challenge. You win by 20 points. You score 43 points. I think we had five offensive touchdowns. I want more too. I hope everybody does because why else are we doing this stuff. I love it. The defense played outstanding. I’m up there cheerleading for them the whole time. I’m going, ‘Get another one. Get another one.’ It’s great. We all love it.

Q: What have the challenges been with all of the moving parts you’ve had?   

A: It’s unique. You go in, you work a whole offseason, you work the training camp and all that stuff and you’re preparing for certain people that you believe are going to be in the game. The best part about this game is that it’s always changing, it’s always moving. I’ve learned from a very, very young age when I first started in this thing that change is the norm in this game. I think you just have to embrace it. You have to rise to that challenge and you’ve got to find new and creative ways to get people rolling and get them comfortable, even the guys that haven’t played in six or seven games or haven’t played as much. That’s the goal of what we’re always trying to do. We’re trying to get the guys in the right positions, whether it’s a new offensive lineman, a new wide receiver or a new package or putting three tight ends out there, four tight ends out there, who knows. You never know what’s going to happen next. I think that we just have to be ready and fluid to make those changes.

Q: Now that he’s taken a step back, what has EJ Manuel been able to do and what have you had him doing?

A: EJ’s been great, especially put in the situation that he was in. He’s been awesome preparing and learning from Kyle [Orton] on how he handles the room, how he does things different. EJ did things one way, he does things the other. EJ’s in that process now. He gets to kind of figure out what he wants to take from that, who he wants to be when he gets his next chance.

Q: Is the presence that Kyle commands something that EJ might not have been able to pull off?

A: I look at myself, if I was an offensive coordinator when I was 23 years old it would’ve been a very unique situation with all of those guys to now being the ripe old age of 34. It’s always different. You have a guy that’s older than everybody now. I think that just demands that respect, regardless, because he’s played in games, because he has a winning record, he’s thrown for a lot of yards. I think everybody’s different. Everybody does their things different. I think EJ’s at a place where he does it how he’s comfortable and Kyle came in and he wants to do it his way. I think everybody has to just kind of adjust because that’s the quarterback position.

Q: What are some of the issues you’re seeing with the running game? What can be done to fix it?

A: That’s a great question. I think that’s something that we’re really taking a look at. We want to put ourselves in a better position to be able to run the ball. As you guys know, I want to be able to run the ball and that’s something I push towards them because I think it creates a toughness with our guys. We look back at last year being a no huddle team, it’s a different aspect. The read option is a different aspect. I think we’ve had to make some transitions with Kyle being in there as a quarterback. Kind of your whole philosophy and things kind of have to change a little bit. We just have to look at some of those things that he can bring to the table from that standpoint of checking in and out things or keeping some more two-back runs to two-tight end runs. I think we’re kind of looking at what has been the most successful and those are the things that we’ve got to try to really focus on.

Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Q: How fun was it to have that game on Sunday?

A: The game of football is fun and I don’t’ want to misconstrue that, but it never really felt that way until after the game was the over. I’ve been part of a game that was similar to that and we had to hold on to win. Tennessee Titans against the Houston Texans in 2007. We gave up like 24 yards in the first half and I think we had six turnovers in the first half. They took the starting quarterback out of the game, they put Sage Rosenfels in, he turned it over a few times and we just kept kicking field goals. Then, all of sudden, we gave up a couple late scores and they were back in the game. I’ve been around the NFL long enough to know that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. I was proud of our team for being able to come out after halftime, get them stopped in the third quarter, our offense was able to score and get that game out of reach. Then it became fun.

Q: Do you get any satisfaction out of the defense having such a great season? Tell me where you are in regards to that.

A: It’s 5-3. That’s where we are right now and it doesn’t matter how many sacks or turnovers or yards rushing or third down percentage or points allowed or anything else it is. It’s about winning the game and that’s really the only stat we judge ourselves on. Those other things can help you win a game, so it’s not like we’re going to shy away from those things. Sacks stop drives. Turnovers, obviously, stop drives and can set the offense up in position to score. There are reasons that we want to stop the run or be good on third down and all of those different things, but that’s not how we judge ourselves. We judge ourselves on wins and losses. We’re 5-3. We’ll get a chance to take a breath here and get ready for the second half. I think the story of our defense will be written in the second half of the year, not the first half of the year.

Q: Is the design of the defense set up to have those types of games?

A: It’s been different each week. The week before, against Minnesota, we brought a lot more pressure and had a little different result. Every week is a little bit different. Some weeks we don’t blitz very much, some weeks we blitz a bunch, some weeks we play a lot of zone defense, some weeks we play a lot of man defense. It’s just designed to best serve us that week, trying to matchup against particular opponents and what they do best. We try to take away what they do best and also try to accentuate what we do. That being said, I do think we have a very good four man pass rush that puts you in position that, if you can put pressure on the quarterback with four and you don’t have to devote extra guys to rush, you don’t give up very many big plays. When we’ve been at our best this year, we haven’t given up big plays. This game, I think we had a 20-yard pass – it was actually a short pass that he turned up the sideline – that I think was their longest pass of the day. We’ve had some games this year where we’ve done a good job limiting those big plays. I think, if you can do that, you’re probably a little bit better doing that with four man pass rush because you have more guys in coverage.

Q: Can you put into context what type of year Marcell Dareus is having?

A: I think I’ll say the same thing I said about being 5-3. Our story is going to be written in the second half.. He’s off to a good start for sure. He’s playing at a high level. He’s playing with energy. He hustles and he’s been effective in the run game. He’s also been effective rushing the passer. Seven sacks in a half a season is pretty hard for a defensive tackle to do, but he’s played really well. We’ve got a lot of football to go and how he’s judged on this season, how we’re all judged on this season, is going to be the second half of this year and not his first half. He needs to continue where he is, but we’re pleased with the way he’s started. We all need to continue that.

Q: Is your defensive line rotation decided before the game? 

A: We rotate a lot of players, not just on the defensive line. I think that the more players you can get involved, the better. Also, you have the ability to keep guys fresh throughout a game and also throughout a season. I look at that as a positive that we have players that we’re confident that we can put them in the game. Some positions we go in with a little bit more of a plan, but I think that in this game, we didn’t plan on 85 snaps. That’s a lot of snaps to play, so there was going to be a little bit more rotation as that was going. When some of those drives were over real quick and they were getting the ball back real quick, that’s puts more emphasis on having to rotate. You just play it as it comes, but I’m proud that we do have a lot of guys that we do trust in the game, a lot of different sub packages. We have guys in the secondary that we’ve rotated through and I think that, over the course of 16 games, it’s going to serve us well. We’ve been lucky enough to be relatively healthy, as much as you can be in the NFL. I think part of that is due to the fact that we get contributions out of a lot of different guys.

Quarterback Kyle Orton

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Q: What are the benefits of the bye week coming now?

A: I think every bye week you get away from it a little bit and take the mindset of finding out what we do best and try to amplify those and try to find out why we’re making some of the mistakes we’re making and try to fix those.

Q: Is there any benefit to it being at the exact mid-point of the season?

A: Yes and no. Anytime you win you’d kind of like to get right back out on the field and go at it again. But yeah, it’s been a long eight weeks. It’s always a good time, at the mid-point, to get away from it, refresh mentally a little bit and be ready to go for the second half.

Q: Can you speak to why you feel the red zone offense has improved?

A: I think we’ve got some good red zone players. Obviously, when you have a tight end the size of Scott [Chandler] with his strong hands and good route running ability, he can work the middle of the field really well. We’ve got a lot of tight ends. [Chris] Gragg has caught a touchdown. Lee [Smith] had one. We have play calls down there to get guys open. Obviously, Sammy [Watkins] is either going to have a favorable matchup one-on-one or he’s going to be double covered and give a lot of guys ample opportunities.

Q: How close is the skill position group to reaching its potential?

A: We’re working hard on it. I think we can kind of stop ourselves with self-inflicted wounds. We’ll have a better chance to reach our full potential. Like I said, more than anything, our preparation each week is getting better, which is going to give us a chance to play better ball.

Q: How rejuvenating has this been for you?

A: I don’t know. It’s a grind every week to get ready to play a game against the extremely good defenses that we’ve faced. Obviously, 3-1 in the second quarter. The quarter was huge for us and there’s nothing like being in the second half of the season, right there in the hunt. I hope everybody understands that these opportunities don’t come along all that often and we’ve got to seize the moment and make the most of it.

Q: Is there any reason you couldn’t continue to play at this level for several more years? 

A: I hope I play well next week and that’s really all I’m thinking about. We’ve got a huge game coming up against Kansas City. Kind of like last week, it could really give us a chance to put ourselves in great positions, so we’ve got to focus all of our energy on that and go out and play great.

Q: Are there any examples that you can point to as to how you’ve helped guys study more effectively? 

A: I don’t know. You’ve got to put the time in. I’m not saying that they weren’t the time in before, but we’ve got to focus our preparation on the right things. It’s helped us. It’s helped us on the field.

Q: Can you tell us about the early morning workouts with the wide receivers?

A: The communication between the quarterback and the wide receiver is paramount. It comes from the coordinator to me, so I know what Nate’s [Hackett] thinking on all of the plays. It’s better if the receivers are hearing from me what I expect on each play and how I see the game going. I think that communication is always big between the quarterback and the skills positions.

Q: Do you think the young guys are picking it up faster with you there?

A: I hope so. They’re playing great.. Sammy’s playing great football. We’ve got a lot of young guys playing great ball for us. I think the positives are high and they can play better.

Q: Have your experiences in this league taught you to not look very far down the road?

A: Yeah, there’s so much that happens week-to-week in this league that, if you don’t focus on a Wednesday and you let a Wednesday slip by, then you’re going to come back and it’s going to haunt you on Sunday. Focus on every day and win that day and win that drill and win that period and usually that breeds success.

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