HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What do you have to do better in the next five home games than you did in the first three?
“Road, home - I think there’s some common things that we have to do better. I think offensively we have to obviously improve overall in the passing game. We have to do better versus certain schemes coverage wise. We have to continue to run the football. I think we’ve run it pretty decently for the most part. I know it hasn’t always been great but overall we’ve run the ball pretty well. Defensively, we have to stop the run the way we did against Detroit. We have to just be more consistent in stopping the run and I think on special teams we need to be more consistent in our return game, especially our punt return game where I think we can really change field position. I think in our coverage units we have to tackle better. Overall as a team, we have to make sure that we try to flip the turnover–takeaway ratio. Right now we’re, I think, 29th in the league. We’re minus seven and it’s not very good. In the past couple years that we’ve been here, we’ve been able to turn that around. We need to try to turn that around because that stat right there points right towards the won-loss record. Those are things that we need to get better at.”
Can you give us an update on WR Will Fuller V and NT Vince Wilfork coming off of the bye week?
“No question that they’re day-to-day. I’m not sure that they would be available for Jacksonville. It looks like they might. I wouldn’t know that until the end of the week.”
What has been the secret to your team winning 11 of 15 games after the bye week in the last two years and is that good for the team’s momentum and confidence?
“I think one thing that has been a common theme is basically when you go into the bye with a win, I think that helps. We beat a good Detroit team. I mean yesterday they went and they beat Minnesota. They’re a good football team, so I think our team feels good about that. They also know that there’s a lot of improvement that we can make and I think also when the bye comes right at the halfway point it’s really a good time from a health standpoint, from a recharge the battery standpoint. I think that’s been the theme over the last two years, but obviously that’s the last two years. We have to make sure that we do that again, that we play well coming out of our bye again. When you look at Jacksonville, they’ve had some very, very close games. They’ve lost some close games like yesterday. Very close. They’ve won a couple of close games. We know that this is going to be a very, very difficult challenge for us in Jacksonville. Got a lot of good athletes, fast team, and good players on both sides of the ball. We have to have a good week of practice and be well prepared for this game.”
You mentioned improving when it comes to takeaways. Is that as simple as having a better pass rush and trying more actively to force the quarterback to make mistakes or is it working to push the ball out?
“I think some of it is kind of the luck of the draw if that’s the right phrase to use. Sometimes turnovers come and takeaways come in bunches. You just get hot like we did two years ago. I think we were almost the best in the league. I think we were up in the top three. Last year we turned it around the second half of the season. I do think you can practice it. I think that you can talk about whether it’s, like you just said, strip sacks or fumbles or obviously interceptions, batted balls, things like that. At the end of the day, it’s got to happen on Sundays and sometimes there’s a little bit of luck involved.”
You made a lot of changes with your skill position players in the offseason and the offense has struggled. Do some of the issues that the offense has come from all of the changes or are you disappointed in their performance?
“None of us are happy with where the offense is at. None of us make excuses about it. I think it starts with coaching. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching. I do think there’s some key elements that are specific. When we looked at our offensive self-scout, one of the things that we need to improve upon is like in the red area. We were tied for first in the league (before the bye week) with 18 field goals. That’s a good stat for Nick (Novak), but that’s not a great stat for your offense. You got to score touchdowns down there and what’s happened to us, we’ve been in too many 3rd-and-longs. We’ve had tackles for loss, sacks, penalties. We’ve been in these 3rd-and-12 from the 12, 3rd-and-10 from the 10 and that’s not where you want to be in this league. That’s another area, in addition to a couple things we need to do better on third down against certain schemes, where we have to improve. I think if we can improve in these areas that are important, I think you’ll see a better offense. The thing that has been clear to me is this. When you put guys together that haven’t played together a whole lot in the past, that takes a while to gel and right now it’s taking a little bit too long. We need to make sure that that’s what this week is about. Today, we had a couple of 7-on-7s and worked on a bunch of things out there. As quickly as we can get these guys to continue to gel because when it’s looked good it’s been pretty good, but obviously that hasn’t been enough.”
Can you talk a little bit about TE C.J. Fiedorowicz in regards to how he has evolved and how he has been able to stretch the field down the middle?
“You have to give him a bunch of credit. I gave (Tight Ends Coach) John Perry a lot of credit the other day too. I think he’s done a good job with all those guys. C.J. when he came here was drafted to be basically a wide tight end, which is his primary role was to be a blocker. He is one of the better blocking tight ends in our league. I think most coaches would tell you that. What he’s done is he’s done a really good job in the offseason and the OTAs and training camp of really working on route running, which is totally different than college. Sometimes it takes a while. The leverages, the skill sets of the players that you’re running routes against. It’s just a different deal. The coverage looks. He’s really improved and he’s doing a good job. He’s got really good hands. Big hands. Big physical guy. Instinctive player. That has to continue because that has helped us this year.”
The statistical evidence suggests that T Duane Brown is back to his old self. Can you reflect on that?
“Having Duane back has been very important. I think injuries, you deal with injuries. We’ve dealt with a lot of injuries. No doubt about it when you look at it. But he’s a guy that missed the first part of the season, but then when he came back you could see improvement in the running game and you could see improvement in the pass protection. Especially like if I narrow it down, the way he blocked the run against Detroit at the end of the game like that’s Duane Brown. That’s what makes him very valuable to us and it’s good to have him back. He’s helped us.”
T Duane Brown’s physical performance is one thing, but can you talk about what else makes him a valuable member of the team off-the-field?
“He’s always brought that. Even when he was injured, he’d be in there. He never missed a meeting unless he had a doctor’s appointment or something to get his leg checked out. He was in every meeting. I think (Offensive Line Coach Mike) Devlin is probably the best guy to ask about that because I’m the head coach, I’m not in all those position meetings. It’s funny when you stand up in front of the team and have a squad meeting every day, a lot of these guys are used to where they sit and things like that. Duane’s been locked in from day one. Even when he knew he wasn’t going to play. I think his leadership has been there the whole time. No doubt about it, he’s been one of our leaders since I got here.”
What do you feel best about over the second half of the season?
“I’ve said this all along and I’m trying to not give you a cliché or anything. I really like this team. I think they work very hard. They practice hard. I mean, we demand a lot of these guys. We’re here early in the morning. We practice. We meet. We meet again. We walkthrough. We try to get things right. All these guys are on board with that. I think that’s what I look forward to most is just the day-to-day operation of this team and watching this team get better. I told the team this morning, when you look at this league right now I’d say there’s very few teams that are sitting in a bed of roses. I think every team has some type of, whether it’s injury or whatever it might be, there’s a bunch of teams that are within a game of each other. So it’s going to be the team that performs the best in the most critical situations. The most disciplined team. The team that can really gel the quickest over the second half of the season. Those are the teams that are going to be in the tournament at the end of the year.”
Do you guys have a different mindset when you play on the road?
“You guys talk a lot about that and the road hasn’t been good obviously. We’re 0-3 on the road, but if you look back at the Denver game, we were driving the ball there down 14-9. Hadn’t been a great night offensively, but still had a shot to take the lead, turn the ball over, things like that. It’s not like the road against Minnesota, New England. Those are bad games. We moved on from those, but I think it’s more about us regardless of road or home just doing the things that I was saying in the beginning. How we need to improve specifically in all three phases. If we do that, I think we’ll play better whether it’s out there at home or on the road.”
CB A.J. BOUYE
Is Jaguars QB Blake Bortles a friend of yours?
“No. He’s cool, though. Good guy. He hung out with his people, I hung out with my people in college. But we were teammates, so at the end of the day we’re some type of friends.”
Does it give you confidence to play against a quarterback that you intercepted a couple of times last year?
“I don’t think about it like that. Like I said, I just take it a play at a time, a day at a time. That’s the main thing I try to focus on this year, just seeing what I can do now instead of worrying about the future.”
Is it special for you to go back to Florida where you played your college ball?
“I mean, it’s just another game. It’s the next game, it’s an important game. It doesn’t matter where we play. Like, they’re going to have to come here and play us, too. So, I mean, like I said, it’s just the next game, it’s a division game, so it’s very important. They have great athletes.”
How are you feeling about how you’re playing this season?
“I could do better, eliminate some of the penalties, just keep playing aggressive, just playing with good technique and making plays when given the opportunity.”
What are some keys to being better on the road?
“I mean, just universally, like it’s always coming out fast, playing with good technique, playing to your help, just doing your job individually to help the team out. Then, just playing good, complementary ball.”
When you’re playing against a guy you played with in college and you get him couple times, does that make it a little better?
“Once it happens, it will. Once it happens, I’ll feel good about. But like I said, I have to move on to the next play because, at the end of the day, Blake’s (Bortles) a competitor. If you get him once, he’s going to keep coming back at you. That’s what he’s good at. You have to play all four quarters with him.”
What are your thoughts on their receiver tandem and the talent they have outside?
“They’re very athletic on the outside. All the receivers are athletic, good speed, good catching radius and stuff like that. So, got to play with good coverage, just play to our help and just compete like we always do.”
What do you think makes Jaguars QB Blake Bortles a good quarterback?
“He can throw. He can run, too. He’s just good at everything. He’s smart. Like I said, he’s very athletic. I don’t think people give him enough credit for that, because he played tight end in high school, too. He has a strong arm, he’s a competitor.”
T DUANE BROWN
Are you recharged and ready to go for the second half of the season?
“Absolutely. My schedule has been a little bit different so I’m only four games in. I’m feeling pretty good. It’s good to have that time off though to get as healthy as possible. I think guys here are really excited about the opportunity we have the last half of the season to get where we want to go.”
What do you need to do to play better on the road and how critical is it to play better on the road?
“I think we have to bring a lot of energy on the road, start fast, protect the ball. I think guys are keyed in to what we have to do though. We have a good game plan going in this week. I think it’s just all about starting fast for us.”
Did anything stick out to you over the first eight games of the season?
“For me, the games that I was a part of, I think the Indianapolis game showed us a lot about each other and the kind of grit and resiliency we have as a group. I think we closed the first half out on a positive note, the Detroit game. For us upfront, I thought it was a pivotal game for us the way we ended the game in the fourth quarter. We know we have a lot of talent, a lot of ability. It’s just about consistency and starting fast.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said you looked like your old self against Detroit. Do you feel the same way?
“Yeah, I felt good. I think in those kinds of games, when you know you have to run the ball and the games on our shoulders up front, it’s a great feeling to go out there and punctuate those wins with first downs on the ground and kind of win the game the way we wanted to. But that was, for me, the best that I’ve felt up to this point, which is very positive and an encouraging feeling going forward.”
Are you 100 percent healthy now?
“I don’t think anybody’s 100 percent but I’m feeling good. I’m feeling good.”
Do you feel as good as you would normally feel in the middle of the season?
“Yeah, yeah. No setbacks. Typical soreness and things like that, but I’m feeling good.”
How much confidence can the way the Lions game ended give you, especially on offense?
“It just shows what we can do. Detroit has a good front seven and the way we ran the ball, that gives us a lot of confidence going forward. We know it’s not going to get any easier. We know Jacksonville brings a great challenge for us upfront. But we just know what we can get accomplished. We have to harness what we did there in the second half into a full four quarters and I think we can do that.”
How can you run the football early in games like you did late against Detroit?
“Like I said, just starting fast and coming with energy. Being in sync with each other upfront and being in sync with the backs. Just straining and finishing our blocks. Not really feeling our way through the beginning of the game. I think myself and some of us have gotten accustomed to feeling our way through the game and then once you get used to it, then we pick it up. But we have to come out not really putting our foot in the water, but just jumping in.”
How can the team get better on the road?
“Just have to bring energy whenever we come out on the road in those environments. You kind of feel your way through those games, just kind of feeling the atmosphere, how the crowd is going to be, how they’re going to play. We have to bring a lot of energy and start fast. I think that’s kind of how you can take the crowd out of the game and also just put yourself in better position in the second quarter and on.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
What was the biggest takeaway you had from the first eight games?
“The biggest thing, I mean, stop the run. Just be a little bit more consistent all around. Things we didn’t do well, stop the run, move the ball, get field position on special teams. Those are some of the things that we just need to correct. Came in, talked about it. Just need to enhance the things that we did well and just change the things that we didn’t do so well.”
This team always had confidence it could be a good team. Have you learned anything about his group as the season has gone on?
“Yeah, definitely. We have a resilient group, a resilient locker room. So, guys who just love this game and are going to let it loose and go out there and play ball, do the best that they can. Especially it showed in the Colts game when we were able to come back from a deficit.”
Linebackers Coach Mike Vrabel talked about your pass rush repertoire and how you leave no stone unturned. What do you think you can do better now than when you first got here?
“Rush the passer a lot better, set the edge, play the run. Also, recognizing formations, recognizing plays before it happens. Just being a smarter player all around. That’s the biggest thing I think that I’ve improved in that area.”
Are you guys recharged and ready to go after the bye?
“Yeah, definitely. Week of rest, no doubt. We came in here, practiced a little bit. Guys are feeling a lot better, fresher. A lot of guys had to get healed up and get some bodies back, too.”
Does the road record matter at this point? You’re going out on the road this week.
“It’s a new half now. Pretty much we just have to show we can play on the road. First half of football is over, so this is the defining point where a team really shows what they’re made of.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien mentioned getting more takeaways the second half of the year. What can you guys do to get more of those?
“Just practice it and just doing it in practice, just making it a habit. That’s it.”
Is it random getting takeaways in the NFL? How much control do you really have over it?
“Don’t have much control, but you can do the actions to make that happen. That’s it.”