Head Coach Bill O'Brien
OLB Whitney Mercilus
HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
What did you need to do better in the second half to be more consistent?
“I’ll just start with the offense. It really comes down to the drive starters as it relates to yesterday. The first play of each drive has to be more consistent in the second half like it was for the most part in the first half. Meaning if you gain five to six yards on the first play of the drive, you got a chance to have a successful drive. If you have a penalty or you lose yardage or you don’t gain any yards, it’s very difficult in this league to overcome 2nd-and-10, which leads to 3rd-and-10, so we have to do a better job in that regard. I think defensively and on special teams, I just think overall we just need to come out with a better sense of urgency in the second half and that’s going to be a big focus for us along with many other things as it relates to Minnesota this week.”
How much of an asset is CB A.J. Bouye?
“Good observation. He got a game ball for the game he played yesterday. He’s one of the game ball award winners. He just has length. He’s competitive. He’s fast. He’s got good ball skills. He’s instinctive. He’s become a very polished player from the first day I met him when we got here. I think he understands his role very well. He’s really playing at a high level and is going to need to continue for us to continue to have success.”
What did your defense do to keep Titans QB Marcus Mariota from hurting you on the ground?
“I think the big thing was to try to keep him in the pocket. Have those guys keep him in the pocket. I think for the most part they did a pretty good job of that. Then when he did escape the pocket, you have what you call ‘scramble rules’ for your DBs and linebackers and they did a good job of staying in coverage for the most part. There were a couple. He’s going to get his plays. He’s an excellent player. But I think overall, the defense played a pretty disciplined game.”
From a leadership standpoint and also on the field, how much do you think T Duane Brown’s return can help you and do you think he will play on Sunday?
“I think he’s making progress towards being able to play on Sunday. I think that he feels better and better about where his leg is at right now. From a leadership standpoint, he’s definitely one of the leaders of our team. He’s been in every meeting. He mentors the young guys. He’s helped a lot with Xavier (Su’a-Filo), with Greg Mancz, the new guys, Jeff Allen. Duane is definitely one of the leaders of our team. It will be good if we can get him back in there. Not sure if that’s going to be the case against Minnesota, but I think it’s trending that way.”
Do you think the Titans attacked the line a little more with RB DeMarco Murray because DE J.J. Watt was not out there?
“I don’t know about that. I think that that’s what they do. I think that coming into the game, they run the football. That’s one of the things that they were doing coming in, so we knew they were going to run the football. It didn’t matter who was in there for us. That’s their trademark right now. Coach (Mike) Mularkey I think is doing an excellent job of developing that team and the running game. They have two really good backs. DeMarco, I told him after the game I think he’s one of the best backs we’ve played over the last three years that I’ve been here. When he was in Dallas, he was tough to stop. Then obviously here, so I think that’s what they do and that’s what they’re always going to do.”
What did you do in the second half to limit Titans RB DeMarco Murray?
“Well I think one of the things we had to do a better job of was setting the edge. I think they got around the edge in the first half too many times with a couple good scheme plays. Some misdirection type plays that really helped them. I think we set the edge better and I think overall we just tackled better. Played better gap-control defense.”
T Duane Brown has been out longer than any of the other guys that have come back. What are you going to be looking for from him, specifically?
“I think the big thing with those guys that have been out that length of time is their conditioning. Even with Antonio (Smith) yesterday. How many plays could Antonio play? We didn’t think he was going to be able to play more than 20 plays. I’m not sure he even played that but I’m just saying. I think when you look at these guys that have been out for a while it’s their conditioning. Playing football is a whole lot different than running sprints or doing rehab drills to get back in there. We’ll have to see where that’s at and I know that Duane has worked very, very hard. Antonio is working very hard to get back in football playing condition, but that doesn’t just happen overnight.”
In regards to WR Will Fuller V’s yards per scrimmage and punt return for a touchdown, can you talk about what he’s done so far including yesterday?
“He’s a good player. He’s a good player. He comes to work every day. He’s a very quiet guy. He works very hard out on the field. He studies in the classroom. I think DeAndre Hopkins has really helped him. I think that DeAndre is the leader of that room. He’s done a good job of mentoring the guy. Will has come out there and made some plays. Now, there’s a lot that Will can improve upon. Overall, just better routes, better consistency in catching the football. He’s obviously made some good plays for us.”
It looked like TE C.J. Fiedorowicz suffered a rough injury to his leg. How is he doing?
“I gave him a game ball, too. We gave him a game ball. I thought he played one of his best games since he has been here. Part of it was his ability to come back from that. He got bent over backwards. Actually his leg was underneath a pile in the field goal PAT, which is a very dangerous play sometimes. Those guys are getting knocked back and their legs get hooked behind another leg. It looked bad when it happened. I was kind of focusing on that because I help coach the wings on that protection unit. I saw it. It looked bad. But he came back. I give him a lot of credit. We’ll have to really monitor him this week, but obviously he’s a tough guy and I’m sure he’ll be really working hard to get back out there and play.”
Is yesterday’s game the kind of game you want to see out of the tight ends consistently?
“Yeah. I think what we’re seeing right now is we’re seeing a lot of two-high coverage. So when you get a lot of two-high coverage because you’ve got (Will) Fuller and (DeAndre) Hopkins on the outside, your inside guys have to win and you have to throw the ball accurately. We’ve got to protect well in the passing game. But tight ends and backs, that’s kind of the nature of the deal. If they’re doubling your two outside guys, you have to win on the inside and I thought that Ryan (Griffin) and C.J. (Fiedorowicz) did a nice job in that regard.”
With your tight ends playing well, will teams try to adjust to that and should that help the outside receivers?
“I mean, we’ll have to wait and see. I think that those guys have really come a long way, those tight ends. Yesterday was a very productive day for those guys. They had long catches. C.J. (Fiedorowicz) had the touchdown. Griff (Ryan Griffin) came up with some big catches for us. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out. We’ll have to be ready for that. We’ll have to practice some of that. But it’s a whole different scheme this week. We’ll see what Coach (Mike) Zimmer has in store for us. I know he’ll have a good game plan for us. We’ll have to adjust to it.”
What is CB Kareem Jackson’s status?
“I think he’s probably day-to-day. I’m not sure what he’ll be early in the week, but I think we’ll try to ramp him up to be ready to play on Sunday.”
Did RB Lamar Miller look fresher with less carries yesterday and why was the run game more effective?
“I think he’s a very good player, first of all. I think the tempo helped him. I thought that we had quicker drives, meaning there were less plays to some of our drives. Some of that was good. Some of that wasn’t so good. Then Alfred (Blue) went in there and did a nice job giving Lamar a break. He ran the ball pretty well, had a catch out of the backfield, had a nice run. I think that helped. I think overall Lamar had a really good game. He’s another guy that got a game ball. He’s a tough guy. He runs hard. He’s got good vision. I think it was good that he didn’t get as many carries, that’s probably a good thing for him. I think he still averaged 4.5 a carry or something like that, so that’s pretty good.”
What does it say about T Kendall Lamm that he’s played tackle and tight end for you and have you considered throwing him the ball at all?
“We did last year against Buffalo, we threw it to him on a bootleg. I really have a lot of respect for Kendall. He’s another guy – kind of like A.J. Bouye, in a different way obviously – but the concept of understanding your role. He really understands his role. He takes a lot of pride in it. He’s obviously a swing tackle for us, can play right or left. Then he plays the jumbo tight end for us. He really enjoys it. He likes it. I thought it really helped us yesterday.”
Where have you seen WR DeAndre Hopkins grow as a player in your three years with him?
“I would say that the biggest area he’s improved in, I think, is leadership. I named him a captain two weeks ago. He’ll probably be a captain again at some point this year. But he’s really done a good job of leading the young players. Not just the receivers, but the whole unit over there. He helps the skill guys, tight ends, backs, all those guys. I think in addition to that, he’s become a better route-runner. Now, what we have to do a better job of is trying to get him the ball. They doubled him. Coach (Dick) LeBeau did a good job against Hop yesterday. They basically doubled him quite a bit. He had a big catch. Even though he had one catch, the catch that he had was a big catch at the end of the game. It was a third down conversion that took some more time off the clock. So it’s not like he didn’t have a productive game. He blocked well, too. He blocked very well on a number of the plays to (Will) Fuller (V), the slip screen, and things like that. But I think overall, I just think he’s developed as a leader and he’s become a better route runner.”
Do you often talk with players about being leaders?
“I try to. I’m not saying we spend hours upon hours talking about it. First thing you have to do is try to be a good leader yourself and then when you think a guy has leadership qualities, yeah you want to tell him what you see in him and what you expect from him, especially as they get a little bit older and they’ve had success. Usually leaders are good players, whether they’re good role players or they’re star players. They’re usually productive players. He’s a guy that we’ve talked a lot about his leadership ability and I think he’s really taken it to heart.”
How would you assess your defensive performance yesterday vs. the Titans?
“Those guys play hard. I give a lot of credit to our defense. Whitney Mercilus played hard. It was really good to have Brian Cushing back. Vince (Wilfork) had a good game. I think Vince is playing at a really good level for us. Benardrick McKinney had nine tackles. I thought our secondary, just the whole secondary – we really challenged them last week. We challenged them to play better. I thought, led by J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) and those guys – we already talked about A.J. (Bouye), Kevin Johnson, the safeties: (Quintin) Demps and (Andre) Hal, Kareem (Jackson), I know he was injured there but when he was in there made a few tackles. I mean, I thought that those guys really stepped up to the challenge of tackling and being in tight coverage. On (Jadeveon) Clowney’s sack, which was a great hustle play by Clowney, it was really a coverage sack. There was no one open on that play. Clowney was able to get the sack. There were a number of plays like that. I thought those guys did a good job.”
Did you decide to have less of a balance between the pass and run yesterday vs. the Titans?
“I don’t know. I like to throw the ball, so sometimes we may throw the ball a little bit more. I think you try to achieve a balance. I think you really are looking for a balance. But it’s more about what you’re seeing. It’s more about what’s in your mind as you’re anticipating the next down and distance and what the next call by the defense is going to be. That’s the thing about play-calling. Play-calling isn’t about the exact play that you call at that minute. It’s the anticipation of what’s the next play call. So if it’s 2nd-and-10, what are you going to do? If it’s a first down, what are you going to do? If it’s 2nd-and-2, what are you going to do? There’s a bunch of different scenarios in your mind. You’re thinking about balance, but you’re also thinking about what they’re going to do in anticipation. So what are you going to do to try to defeat that? That’s really how we do it.”
How concerned are you with the number of interceptions QB Brock Osweiler has thrown this season?
“Look, I think the thing about interceptions is when you study them, there have been a couple that haven’t been good decisions that we have to clean up. The decision by Brock, maybe the way the route was run, maybe the protection broke down and he had to get rid of it a little bit quicker. Then there’s been some batted balls. There was one that was batted in the air yesterday that I don’t think was a great play call. It was a drive starter right after (Quintin) Demps’ interception. I got a little greedy there and tried to call a pass to start that drive. They blitzed it, he had to get rid of it quickly. So when you say, ‘Am I concerned?’ No, I’m not. I believe that it will get fixed. I think that overall Brock has played well for us. Other than the two interceptions, I thought the guy played a good football game for us, got us into the right plays, good tempo, so we just need to stop turning the ball over and I think a lot goes into that. Not just one player.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
Do you feel like there is a lot to improve on despite your 3-1 record?
“Yeah, definitely. Not the prettiest of wins, especially yesterday. Things we should and can get corrected. More improvement always. We haven’t played our best ball at all yet. Still, we sit at 3-1 so that’s pretty impressive, but we can’t make a lot of mistakes going forward with a lot of tough opponents coming up.”
It felt like the Titans had a lot of different packages yesterday. How do you evaluate how the Texans defense did against them?
“Of course, we studied our opponents very thoroughly. When it comes to the different packages they throw out, we always break it down by package and see exactly what they love to do between those packages. Just go about it, understand it and hammer it into our brains so when we get out there on the field we know exactly what’s coming.”
What are going to be some of the challenges going on the road to Minnesota next week?
“That’s something that we have to answer. How can we play great on the road? We haven’t done that yet, so this is a great, great test for us to show everybody that we can win on the road, especially in an environment like that.”
Talk about what you’ve seen from Minnesota so far this season.
“It’s an impressive outfit, especially with some of their star players going down. But the thing is you can’t underestimate any type of opponent, no matter how bad they can be or how many people they lose. At the end of the day, it’s the NFL and even the worst teams can still beat you any given Sunday. We’ll get on the game plan later this week and continue on forward and make sure we can try to get this win this week.”
Do you have any time to appreciate what the Vikings defense has been doing?
“Honestly, I haven’t looked at their defense or anything like that. I’m concentrated on offense. I’m concentrated on the opponents we are facing each week. But they’re an impressive defense. We’ve got to come with our A game, no doubt.”