HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Can you talk about the Brian Cushing you inherited to where he is today?
“Well, he’s healthy. He was healthy last year. He works very hard to stay healthy. He’s done a great job of adapting his offseason workouts to be able to be out here. He’s a guy who’s a heart and soul player for us. He’s a very, very good football player, signal caller on defense. Had a heck of a year last year and has picked right up here this preseason. Very important player for us.”
Can you talk about the development of ILB Benardrick McKinney from last year to where he is now?
“Definitely a much-improved player. He’s gotten better from where he was at this point last year, not thinking as much now. He’s really out there reacting, understanding the defense. We do a lot on defense. We require our linebackers to have a lot of knowledge, great communication skills. He has that. We’re looking for him to have a really good year.”
You have all but one starter returning on defense. How significant is that?
“It’s good. It’s good to have continuity on that side of the ball. You have a lot of guys that have played a lot of football together, they care about each other, there’s good trust, great coaching. All those things are important.”
What have you seen out of QB Tom Savage and his development from last year to now?
“Very improved player. He’s put a lot of time in on the field and off the field. He’s really worked hard to change his body, become stronger, become quicker, quicker release. He has a much better knowledge of our offense. It takes a while for that position. The only thing Tom needs is an opportunity. Tom is a good football player and he’s put a lot of time in to get to where he is right now.”
With T Duane Brown and T Derek Newton out, what have you seen from those guys stepping up in their place?
“No question. Chris Clark is a really good pro. Really, with those two guys out, he’s done a good job of mentoring the younger players and also going out there and playing solid himself. Kendall Lamm has had a number of reps on the other side and he’s gotten better every single day. We have a number of different guys. We can bump Jeff Allen out there. We can do a lot of different things at tackle. I see opportunities for all those guys. You never want that because of injuries, but the next man up. The next man has to step up and do well, and that’s what those guys are doing.”
What differences do you see in CB A.J. Bouye in terms of confidence and strength?
“A.J. is one of the most improved players on our defense from the offseason program to where he is now. He’s had a really good training camp. Very competitive guy, very focused guy. He’s really done a lot of things to make himself better.”
Can you talk about how much RB Lamar Miller changes things when he’s on the field?
“Lamar is a good pro. He’s a very hard-working guy. He’s come in here and learned our system really well and he’s done a good job in training camp. It’s not easy to come to a new team and learn a whole new system, but he has adapted very well. He can do a lot of different things and he will help us.”
Did you notice a difference at practice with the players coming back from a day off?
“It was a little sluggish at the beginning. I thought it picked up at the end. These guys understand that we need to keep grinding in training camp, get better every day. It’s not easy out here. It’s hot, it’s a lot of competition. It’s a competitive roster, so these guys need to bring it every drill, every play, every day. So, that’s what they’re trying to do. We have to come out here tomorrow and get better.”
Would you say you have versatile players on the offensive line?
“We definitely have versatile players. We have a number of tackles that can play guard or even bump out and be a jumbo tight end, we have a number of guards that can play tackle, we have inside guys that can play center and guard. There is definitely versatility. We have some guys at the guard or center position that can bump in the backfield and play fullback in short-yardage goal-line situations. So, we do have a good, versatile offensive line.”
RB Lamar Miller walked off the field gingerly early on and came back later in the day. Did he hurt something?
“No, I don’t think so. I think he’s fine.”
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
Do you see yourself performing better now than in the past or is this just standard for you?
“Well I think I’m just returning to the level of play that I’ve been used to for a long time and I’m obviously getting healthier every year. I feel great and I’m really looking forward to the year. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and really just kind of taking over and dominating again. I haven’t said that in a while but I really feel like I can and I can play like myself again.”
How does it make you feel to be able to say that?
“It’s a good feeling. It’s something I’ve worked extremely hard towards and always wanted to get back to. It’s a familiar feeling but it was kind of taken away for a couple of years. Any way I can help the team as best as possible is what I’m looking forward to.”
We asked Head Coach Bill O’Brien ‘what’s the biggest difference been this year for you’ and he said ‘he’s healthy’.
“Well, that’s everything. If you’re not healthy, it’s obvious, and you don’t feel like yourself both mentally and physically. Once you get back to yourself, and like I said, it’s a hell of a feeling and something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time now.”
Have you embraced that leadership role?
“Absolutely. Defensively, I’ve been here the longest on the team on that side of the ball. Guys ask questions, and especially as a middle linebacker you’re the quarterback of the defense. I see myself as a guy who never comes off the field. Any kind of knowledge or experience I can share with the young guys I’m more than willing to do so and I’m just trying to get this team to be the best we can possibly be.”
What are you specifically working on right now that you weren’t able to in the past?
“My movement. My recovery. Two years ago it felt like every two practices I had to get my knee drained or something done. None of that’s happening anymore and I’ll walk off the field and I’m looking forward to the next practice, the next workout and not worrying about my recovery so much or how my body is going to respond because I know how it is now. Just to feel good, feel 100 percent, and being able to respond like that every single day and come back out here and put some good days and good practices together back-to-back.”
With 10 starters returning on defense, should it be easier for you all to get into a rhythm earlier on in the season?
“It should be. But we have to go out there and we have to execute every day, we have to practice, we have to get on the same page and we have to trust one another. We have to figure out why last year it didn’t pick up right away. Obviously, I feel like if we correct that we feel like we’re going to be a completely different team, come out rolling right away and take care of business from the get-go.”
How honored are you that you went to the same high school as former Texans GM Charley Casserly?
“Really honored. It’s just cool. Two Jersey guys down here in Houston, and obviously he was here before me. Doing an interview with him, it’s a small world. It’s pretty cool.”
WR WILL FULLER V
Where do you feel you’ve made the biggest strides so far?
“Just getting on top of that playbook and being able to do whatever my coach wants me to do.”
Is that easier on the field or in the film room?
“I get better at the playbook just by working it out. Getting reps at each position and making it hard for myself. It’s easier in the game and in game-like situations.”
How much fun is it having guys in your age range competing at the same time in the same wide receiver room?
“It’s awesome. Everybody here is a close-knit group and everybody is out there to help each other. It’s been fun.”
Do you get caught up in WR DeAndre Hopkins’ one hand catches?
“It’s awesome seeing that. It’s great playing with Hop.”
Are you ready for next Sunday?
“I’m taking it day by day so when we get there I’m definitely going to be ready. But I’m just about to go in there and start getting ready for tomorrow.”
How do you feel your chemistry is coming along with QB Brock Osweiler?
“Brock does a good job of reaching out when he wants something done different or if you do something good he’ll let you know. So the chemistry is real good with him. He communicates so much so it’s real good for the receivers.”
Is there something you found out about yourself now that you’ve been through a week at this level?
“Not off the top of my head. I’m just coming out here working. No change, I’m just going to keep my head down and keep working.”
Are there things you know you need to work on now that you’ve been here a week?
“Just need to be a little more physical with the cornerbacks. Everybody out here is a lot stronger than in college so just being more physical and staying on top of my body.”
Is that a mindset?
“Yeah, definitely a mindset. The NFL is a big mind game so you have to stay on top of that.”
Is part of that hitting the weights and physically maturing as you get older?
“Yeah, just getting in the weight room with our strength and conditioning coach and going at it hard.”
Is it tough for you to gain weight?
“Not really. If I’m eating right and I’m working out good, I gain weight pretty good.”
What about with the heat?
“Yeah the heat, you’ve got to stay on top of that. I’m losing when I’m out here. I got to go back in there and gain.”
How much do you feel like your game from college is translating into this offense?
“We do a lot of similar things, so just still get a lot of coaching pointers from our coaches. I got to get on top of that.”
What do you do in the offseason to keep conditioned to this heat?
“I stayed here after I came here after the draft. I just stayed here and worked out.”
You stayed here all summer?
“Yeah I’ve been here the whole time.”
Have you had that moment of clarity yet that you’re at this level?
“Yeah definitely, every day I feel that way. Walking past some vets, J-Joe (Johnathan Joseph), Vince Wilfork. It’s crazy.”
How much have you leaned on WR Jaelen Strong who you go back to from your Philadelphia days?
“Yeah I’ve definitely known Jaelen a lot especially when I first got here I was staying with him, learning the playbook as soon as I came. Jaelen’s taken me in real good and teaching me things that I need to know.”
CB KAREEM JACKSON
You’re one of the vets now. How does that feel?
“Man, time flies. Like you said, I’m one of the veteran guys this year. I’m just trying to help some of the younger guys any way I can. When I was younger, I had guys that helped me. I’m just trying to help them any way I can and try to show them and be positive and just let them know everything may not go your way but at the end of the day you have to come out here, put the work in and continue to get better each and every day.”
How about the talent among the defensive backs?
“Definitely. Definitely a lot of talent in the DB room. It’s just a testament to what the coaching staff has done building the roster. We definitely have a competitive group. Like I say each and every day, we’re going to come out, compete hard, we’re going to push each other and we’ll see where we end up.”
Are you ready for next weekend’s game?
“Definitely. Definitely ready.”
RB LAMAR MILLER
Talk about vision and how that aspect of the game may be overlooked.
“I think I have great vision. I think I get overlooked sometimes and I’m just trying to come out here and showcase that. Once I get used to my blockers and stuff and see how they work then that vision will showcase more.”
Can you elaborate more on what you mean by “vision”?
“I’m talking about just going off my blockers and just seeing those little creases. Sometimes, the hole is not always big. You have to see the little creases and just try to shoot through it.”
Does that extend from your football IQ?
“Yes, pretty much. It takes a lot of film study and just learning how your guys block.”
Do you compare or model your game off somebody?
“No, I really don’t compare myself to anybody. I feel that I have my own skillset and I’m just trying to embrace that and make plays.”
Is it kind of crazy that just a little while ago you were playing against these guys and now you’re in the same uniform?
“It’s crazy. I never thought in a million years that I would be here, but I’m happy with my decision. I’m just trying to make plays here whenever my number is called and put this organization up.”
Was it one of the biggest decisions of your life?
“Of course. Living in Miami for 24 years, now just being here, it’s a change for me but so far I’m happy with my decision. The Houston Texans organization and the players welcomed me here with open arms so that’s always a good thing.”
What is it about this offense that excites you the most?
“Just how they use their running backs. I think (George) Godsey and OB (Bill O’Brien) use players to their talents. I’m just looking forward to this and I’m looking forward to the regular season.”
Talk about the one-two punch that you and RB Alfred Blue will bring to this offense.
“We just have to put in the work. Everything else will take care of itself but we’re out here competing against each other and just trying to make each other better. Whenever we get that opportunity and whenever our number is get called, we have to make plays.”
What are some ways that QB Brock Osweiler has shown his leadership to you guys?
“He’s a vocal leader. Since day one, he’s been taking control of the huddle. You can tell he wants to be great just by his mindset and how he works every day. He’s always positive, he always gets guys going and that’s what you want from your quarterback.”
Does QB Brock Osweiler organize dinners or events of that nature?
“No, not yet. But like I said, we’re just getting started. I think he took some guys out to dinner but I’m not really sure. I’m pretty sure once the season rolls around and once things start calming down, I’m pretty sure the offense will get together just to build that chemistry and that bond.”