HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What have you seen from Raiders DE Khalil Mack and did you get a chance to meet with him during the draft process?
“Real good guy, lot of energy, loves football, excellent player. They do different things with him. I think that he’s been a very productive player for them. He puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He’s a tough player, plays the run well, active player and a guy that you definitely have to know where he is on every play.”
Did OLB John Simon have a setback?
“I would say that John Simon is probably day-to-day. That’s going to be something that we determine probably the morning of game day.”
At halftime of the Tennessee Titans game, some people said they heard you and QB Brock Osweiler shouting at each other. Can you address that?
“Look, I think that it’s an intense game. I think that it’s football. You got competitive guys, passionate guys about the team and about winning, you know, especially a quarterback and head coach. If there was a – what you would term a ‘heated exchange’ – that happens all the time. I’m not sure what you’re referring to but look those things happen. We’re very focused on the Raiders game and the challenge of the Raiders.”
Do you like to see quarterbacks who are intense and not afraid to express their emotions at the right time?
“I think a quarterback has to be a guy that has good poise in the game and during the game, especially in critical situations, but also at times the quarterbacks in a leadership role. That’s part of the job, whether it’s celebrating a touchdown with his teammates or maybe helping correct something that’s going on or talking to the coach. Whatever it is. What I really like are passionate, competitive guys that really love the team and are always going to do what’s best for the team. Those are the type of players I really like.”
Is there any update on QB Tom Savage?
“He’s still in the protocol so I would say that he would be out for the game.”
Do you see any difference in QB Brock Osweiler now that he is back in the starting role?
“I think that it’s a tough game. I think that the National Football League is not easy. As a head coach, every decision you make is all about in the best interest of the team and what’s the best way that we can help this team win. As it relates to players maybe being moved from starter to backup role, I think every coach and player learns from those situations. I’m sure that’s a better question for Brock. I will tell you this, he’s had an excellent week of practice. He’s been on the money with what we’re trying to do. He’s prepared just like he has every week this season, as the starter or when he was the backup. He’s a hard working guy. He’s a very prepared guy. We’ve had a good week.”
How much does it help a quarterback to have a good running game to avoid being one-dimensional?
“The running game is very important. The running game is very important in the playoffs. It’s important in January. I mean, it’s just late in the season. It’s important to be able to run the football, to be in manageable third downs, to control the tempo of the game. It’s very important. Now, when you look at Oakland, it’s very difficult to run the football against Oakland especially lately. They’ve done a good job of stopping the run. So we’re going to have to find a way. We’re going to have to find a way to stay as balanced as we can and do what we need to do to win the game, but also have a chance to run the football. That’s going to be important. Now, their offense versus our defense, look they’ve got a big, physical offensive line. A big back. They’ve got a really diverse group of backs that do an excellent job for them, so it’s going to be an imperative to stop the run. I think those two things – being able to run the ball and being able to stop the run – in the playoffs, that’s a big thing.”
Can you talk about the youth on your defensive line and how guys like DE Joel Heath, NT D.J. Reader and DE Christian Covington have played better down the stretch?
“Yeah, they have. They had a good game last week, productive game. I thought Joel Heath probably played his best game of the year. D.J. has been a solid player all year for us. He really has. He’s learned a lot about the pro game and I think he’s a really good player and he’s got a great future. Covington, there’s a lot of different ways to describe Covington. Number one is he’s a great teammate, very coachable guy, works very hard in practice, loves the game. I thought when he’s played for us this year, he’s made plays whether it’s a quarterback pressure or maybe stopping a run or a batted ball like he had last week. I think all those guys have done a good job for us.”
How do you prepare for Raiders QB Connor Cook when there isn’t much film on him? Do you look back at his college days or just focus on studying the Raiders scheme from this season?
“I think you have to look, number one, at the Raiders. What do they do? What have they been doing all year? I think you have to study some of his tape from Michigan State and some of his preseason tape. Then what he did in the Denver game. You have to look at those things and you really can’t leave any stoned unturned when it’s this time of the year, but at the end of the day, it’s really studying the Raiders offense and what they do and how they’re going to do it now with Connor back there. That’s important. That’s probably the most important thing.”
Do you expect the Raiders to try and run the ball a lot more and is that something you’re focused on?
“I don’t know. I’m not sure. We’ll have to see how the game goes and what they decide to do in the game. I know this, that they have a very formidable running attack so I think that’s part of our game plan. We have to be ready to, just like any game, I think Romeo (Crennel’s) number one key to victory in just about every game is stopping the run. I think it’s going to be important to make sure we do that because if you’re allowing a bunch of running yards, it’s going to be difficult to win the game. So stopping the run is always a big key for us. As far as Oakland’s game plan, we have no idea. We’ll have to see what that is as the game gets going.”
Why do you think so many colleges run a no-huddle offense but it’s rare among NFL teams to run full-time?
“That’s an interesting question. If you think back, there have been – if you look back at the Buffalo Bills, the teams that Mike Devlin played on, they were probably running a lot of no-huddle. But you’re right, most of us huddle and mix no-huddle in. I think that’s true. I don’t know. I think maybe that’s a question for each coach. For me, it has a lot to do with basically the rules of the game, meaning the clock rules. It has to do with the different situations that come up in a drive. Okay, it’s third-and-eight, its third-and-seven versus its third-and-two. When to huddle, when to not huddle. It’s a feel for the game, how do you think this is going? Are we in a rhythm? If we’re in a rhythm, why would we huddle? Let’s stay with it. If we’re finding it difficult to get into a rhythm, maybe we need to step back a little bit and slow it down. But it’s do you have the lead? Are you behind? I mean, there’s so many different factors that go into it. That’s some of the things that I think about.”
How can you adjust the defense against Oakland after their running backs were able to have so many receiving yards against you in Week 11?
“They were productive and they did it in a number of different ways. They did it out of the backfield, they did it from empty (set). Look, we’re studying the tape. It’s difficult. You really, from one play to the next, you can’t predict how they’re going to use their backs. Very difficult offense to defend based on all the different personnel groupings and formations and shifts that they use. We’re going to have to see how the game is being played right away. We’re going to have to a good feel for it within the first three or four series of the game and go from there.”
Are you confident that if you execute your game plan and do what you want to do that you will win this weekend?
“Confidence is a big part of it. We’re confident in our own abilities. We’re confident in our team. We’ve had a good couple days of practice here. We know the Raiders are good and we know that they’re confident. I think that’s – to me, you have to go into every game believing, knowing and confident that you’re going to coach well and confident that your players are going to go out there and play well. That’s every game.”
What do you like most about what you’re seeing from your team right now?
“I like the energy. I thought these guys yesterday were very focused. I like the focus today, very focused. I think these guys have a lot of energy. I like the way they’re paying attention in meetings. I see every set of eyes on me when I’m talking to the team and on the position coaches when they’re meeting with their guys and the coordinators. I like the focus. I like the attention to detail and I like the energy.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GEORGE GODSEY
Can you talk about QB Brandon Weeden and how you go about him being the No. 2 guy?
“We just came off the practice field. Spent a little bit of extra time with him on the reps. He’s in the back there watching. Got a few reps. Definitely spent a little bit more time with him making sure he’s set for the game plan. Feel good about his attention all season long. He’s in a tough position on some weeks where he may not be active, but he’s handled it professionally. That’s how we will continue the week.”
Do you see any positive difference in QB Brock Osweiler now that he is back in the starting role?
“You always try to find something good out of everything. That was one thing he mentioned, knowing the tempo, the way you want things done. He was able to step back and see from our perspective, too, things we were asking Tom (Savage) to improve on. He’s taking it in stride. That’s the professional way to handle it.”
Are there any things that you saw when QB Brock Osweiler went in on Sunday that maybe you had been talking about and that you were impressed with?
“It’s a difficult position when you don’t get the reps during the week. Sometimes you are a little bit more relaxed. He was in a position to go out there and let it rip and he did, had three scoring drives. Those are some things that we can build on.”
QB Brock Osweiler talked after the game about how much he liked playing in no-huddle. it. In your mind as the play caller, what are the advantages and disadvantages of it?
“The one advantage is when you get the defense rolling, you continue and keep it rolling. That’s the real big advantage of going no-huddle. The disadvantage is that you cannot get into that mode. It’s starting a drive, making a sure you get a positive play. If it’s not the first play, it’s the second play, but getting that first first down to enable you, if that’s the mode you want to take within that drive, to go no huddle. I think as you look back at the last couple of games, we haven’t really started the game fast within the first series of the game. If it’s a three-and-out, you’re not going to be able to get into that mode. That’s something that we are looking to rectify if it is the mode we are going to take by series.”
What is having RB Lamar Miller back mean to the offense?
“He’s been productive all season. He’s been a key to our offense as far as running the ball first. I think that’s kind of the mode that we want. Our line has done a good job at the line of scrimmage but Lamar has the experience and the ability to make a play once he gets to that second level. It will be good to have him back this week, give him the ball a few times.”
You all did a pretty good job against Raiders DE Khalil Mack. Talk about him and the problems he can cause?
“It’s not just the production that he makes. You read about the sacks and the tackles for loss and the tackles and the effort that’s there, but it’s the quarterback hits too that really don’t show up on the stat sheet as far as a play that can build throughout the course of a game. With one or two of those early on, you can see some quarterbacks getting rattled. He does a good job with finishing. He’s got counter moves, initial moves that do well with their game up front to free him up. He’s definitely a player that has caught our eye every play, every snap. There’s not a play taken off. He’s a player that we are going to have to account for sure throughout the whole 60 minutes.”
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
Now that it’s official that Raiders QB Connor Cook will start for the Raiders, what is it like going against a rookie who has never started a game?
“I mean we just have to approach the game pretty much the same exact way but just having the awareness that he hasn’t started and obviously played in an environment like this. Even a regular season game, never mind a playoff game, so there’s going to be a lot of communication and things that he’s going to have to get done and we’re going to try to limit it as best as we can.”
You know the Raiders are going to want to run the ball. What did you do to shut their run game down in the game in Mexico City and do you think they’ll try anything different this game?
“I’m sure it will be some different things, but you know whatever they felt worked in the game they’ll probably continue to do that with our first matchup and see what they like in certain matchups and probably try to attack those areas. But for the most part, we’re just going to try to get after them like we did in the first game as far as the run’s concerned.”
How special is it to be healthy and to have the Wild Card playoff game at home?
“Yeah. It’s a great opportunity. Obviously I’m excited to play in the playoff game and for it to be here. I think we got a great opportunity and I think we all understand that, so I mean just trying to help the team as best as I possibly can and go out and get a win.”
What do you remember about your first NFL playoff game and what has your experience taught you about how special these opportunities are?
“Yeah I mean, Coach (Bill) O’Brien talked about a little bit yesterday. You know especially the rookies. It just doesn’t happen every year and it takes a lot of work and can’t just throw it out there and you’re just magically in the playoffs, so it takes a good amount of hard work and dedication and from my first experience - just remember playing the Bengals. It was my third year and just how loud the stadium was and the energy was just incredible and then being fortunate enough to walk away with a win was just was awesome.”
How would you rate the defensive unit going into the Wild Card playoff game this Saturday and how confident does that make you?
“Obviously I mean it’s an accomplishment, but at the same time it doesn’t mean anything if we go out there and don’t execute. We got to go out there and play our best game yet and we understand that and that’s going in from here on out – we just every single game’s got to be our best performance and as a defense as a whole just not letting up and playing four solid quarters and just getting after offenses.”
Do you feel good out their when you’re imposing your will on other teams?
“There’s a certain feel and we understand that. You know certain confidence that starts building. You can see it in the other teams as well and it kind of – they feel it – and especially when we play here at home. You have the crowd on your side as well. It definitely, definitely helps in your favor.”
How much confidence do you guys have in QB Brock Osweiler?
We do. We have confidence. There’s no question about it. You know he’s our quarterback. The decision’s been made and you know everyone is behind him. We’re looking forward to a complete game from our whole team all together. Offense, defense, and special teams so we’re confident with all the guys that are starting and all the guys that are playing in other key roles that will be coming in the game.”
What did you think when you heard that NT Vince Wilfork is seriously considering retiring?
“It’s one of those things I’ll have to talk about to him after the season. I’m not sure how serious he is or not, but he’s played a long time. He’s had an incredible career but I think all our focus right now is on this game. So hopefully that’s not for a couple weeks that we’ll be talking about that so like I said, we’re just focusing on winning.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
To win playoff games, your best players have to step up. How important is it for you to have a good game?
“I know I have an important role in this offense and every team that plays us knows that as well because usually it’s more than one guy that has their eyes on me. I don’t think we plan to see something different than what we have been seeing all season from teams. When my number is called, I have to come in and help. If it’s in the run or in the pass game, but my presence out there alone helps my team.”
What did you like about what QB Brock Osweiler did on Sunday when he came in and what do you expect from him this week?
“He did a great job coming in, being a leader and stepping in forgetting everything that’s happened. He focused on winning the game for his team. He’s been a doing a great job in practice of leading everybody and being the same guy that he was when he was first in there. Nobody has seen any change in the way he’s been acting, which is what we expected of him. So, I expect him to continue his play from last week.”
What’s it like for a player to have so many quarterbacks in and out of the lineup? Do you guys have to adjust or is it just business as usual?
“It depends. Certain players have to adjust more than others, depends what position you are at. Like myself, I kind of have to adjust to things. I’ve talked about that a 100 times before, so I’m not going to get into that. But, it depends. Everybody is a pro. Everybody has to come in and do their job at the highest expectation.”
Looking back to the game in Mexico City, can you talk about their defense?
“They did some different things, some things we haven’t seen from them and some things that we have seen before. We came out and started off fast on the first play, the first drive wasn’t a touchdown, but we still moved the ball up and down the field and completed most of our third downs. This is the NFL. Game plans change from week to week. I can’t tell you what we are going to expect out of them, but we just have to go out there and execute our game plan.”
You had a lot of different receivers involved in the game on Sunday. What did you think about the younger guys making plays?
“It was great to see those young guys go out there. They have been making plays in practice every week. So, when they did it in the game, it really wasn’t anything that I didn’t expect. For Wendall (Williams) to go out there and make plays or for (Keith) Mumphery to go out there and make plays, because they practice like that every day.”
How much do you enjoy playoff pressure and stage?
“I love it, love it. You have to love it especially if you want to be the caliber team that we want to be. We want to put ourselves in this position every year. We have so far in the past two years, but this is the time that we take that next step and we know what we have to do as a team.”
CB KAREEM JACKSON
How important will it be to stop the run?
“Definitely as a defense, it definitely starts with stopping the run, so we need to stop the run and make them one dimensional. If you put it all on the quarterback, and if you’re close in coverage, we will definitely have a good chance to be successful.”
Do you try and treat this game like any other game?
“Physically, yeah. You do the same things, prepare the same way. But at the same time, stakes are definitely higher. If you win, you keep going. If you lose, you go home. For us, we have to go out - in your minds, you know that, so everything is that much more important. Just pay attention to the little details and prepare that way all week. Just have to go out and execute.”
Are you confident if you play your game, you guys can win?
“Definitely. Definitely focusing on us as a team. We feel like if we do all the little things right, we can definitely go out and be successful.”
You’ve played the Raiders several times over the years. Is it helpful to have played him this season?
“Definitely. Anytime you have a chance to face off a team early in the year and come playoff time you see them again, you kind of have learned some of their tendencies. We have film to go off of from the first game when we played them. Just kind of having a feel for their receivers and stuff. But, at the same time, you definitely have to prepare like it’s a new opponent in your sense of urgency. We will go out, have a good week of practice.”
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
Can you talk about going against a rookie quarterback in Raiders QB Connor Cook who is making his first start?
“It’s one of those times where you have to use certain things you can do defensively to your advantage with showing him multiple looks, keeping him off track, not letting him have easy access throws. Just making it a long day for him in general.”
What’s the key to prepping for Raiders QB Connor Cook when it comes to watching film? Do you watch his college tape?
“For us as defensive backs, not really. I think you have to go off the preseason a little bit and the little game film you have from last week. I don’t think in a short week like this and such an important game you can’t go back in and start from scratch and put in a different game plan and things. I think sometimes being over there on the sideline holding a clip board, you learn the best also. So I’m definitely looking forward to him coming into the game and doing pretty much what they’ve been doing all year. Probably changing some things up to make it a little simple, a little easier for him also.”
What was the key to shutting down the Raiders run game when you played them in the past?
“Getting everybody involved in the run game, the defensive backs triggering when the running backs are bouncing on the edge, guys rallying to the ball because obviously he’s an explosive runner – a big guy that can break tackles. So it’s definitely going to take more than one guy and I think as a defense we kind of went into the game with that mindset that we weren’t going to let him break off the long runs and get everybody to the ball.”
Do you try to rattle a rookie quarterback in different ways than a veteran quarterback?
“Absolutely. You don’t have any punches to hold back. Right now it’s one week at a time If you lose, you’re out of the playoffs. You win you continue to play. For us, we don’t have anything to hold back, so you definitely want to go into this game plan definitely putting it all on the line and going out there and trying to create havoc and you know get mismatches in your favor with just the pass rush or back in coverage.”
What do you remember about your first NFL playoff game and what has your career taught you about how special these opportunities are?
“They’re hard to come by. It took me 3-4 years in Cincinnati to get my first playoff, my chance to play into the playoffs and before I knew it, it was over with so I didn’t get much experience in that game. It was one-and-done and it taught me how vital it is to get back into the postseason because a lot of guys go through their whole career – you look at a guy like Brandon Marshall – never get to see a postseason. So it definitely means a lot to get back, but you definitely want to advance further than the first round also. You don’t want to be a team that just saying we’re going to show up and we’re happy to be here.”
What did you think when you heard that NT Vince Wilfork is considering retirement?
“It’s something as a player you don’t want to kind of go in and hinder a guy’s decision. I’m all for whether he’s going to come back and play or sell off into retirement because you play this game long enough we all got to make that decision some day and he’s had a great career, so if that’s his decision that he’s going to live with I’m happy for him.”
The late busts in coverage hurt you the first time you played the Raiders. What have you learned from looking back at that and how do you prevent that from happening?
“Communication. Everyone being on the same page. Self-awareness. Being alert in certain situations. We played great all game and in the fourth quarter I think they put up more yardage in the fourth quarter than they did in three quarters throughout the whole game and us as a defense being a top defense in this league – if you want to be the defense you say you are, you can’t let those things happen. You have to minimize big plays, whatever reason it can’t happen and I think we look back at that game. We gave up three or four big plays in the fourth quarter and it kind of flipped things a little bit and us on the defensive side we definitely put that on our shoulders.”
QB Brock Osweiler talked about how much he likes a no-huddle offense. From a defensive back’s perspective what are the advantages and disadvantages for an offense?
“I think for an offense if you catch a defense in a personnel situation to where they can’s substitute guys on and off the field, you can use it to your advantage to where if you have three or four wide outs in the game. I mean if they don’t have enough defensive backs in the game, you continue to keep those guys on the field or if they have lighter personnel in the game, you don’t have enough people to stop the run you can continue to keep it going. I think from a defensive standpoint, you just have to sit out there and just stay calm. You can’t panic and a lot of teams just get up on the ball. They don’t necessarily snap it as fast. They just get up on the ball and want you to show your hand first.”
QB BROCK OSWEILER
We asked Head Coach Bill O’Brien about you guys having a shouting match at halftime at Tennessee. Can you comment on that?
“I would just say what happens between Coach (Bill) O’Brien and myself, or whatever is said between Coach O’Brien and myself, it stays between us. That’s where I’m going to leave that. My focus, my full focus has moved towards Oakland.”
What does it mean to start your first playoff game?
“It’s a dream come true. These are the things you dream about and work towards from a very early age. When you’re in first, second grade and you’re playing football, you dream about playing in the National Football League and you dream about playing in the playoffs and leading your team. I couldn’t be more excited. I can’t wait for Saturday to be here. I wish it was here today. I’ll definitely be ready to go and I’m very excited.”
What did you learn from being on the sidelines the last couple weeks and how did that help you?
“I think there’s a number of things. Any time you’re able to step back and just look at things from a different perspective, you’re going to learn different things because you have a different angle. One thing I definitely was able to see, and obviously I knew it, but to actually sit back on the sideline and watch our defense play, we have a hell of a defense. Those boys are a lot of fun to watch. When I was a starter, you’re so occupied looking at pictures in between series or you’re talking to a coach, you don’t get much time to see what those guys are doing on that side of the ball. We have a hell of a defense. They play extremely hard and they were a lot of fun to watch.”
Does it help that you played a little bit in the game last week as opposed to not playing at all?
“Yeah, I guess you could say it does, but at the end of the day I’ll always be prepared. Whether I get practice or whether I’m named the starter or the backup or I get reps the previous week, to me it doesn’t matter. I feel like over the course of my career – NFL, college, high school even, for that matter – I’ve been in every different situation. I’m always going to prepare like I’m going to play and I’m always going to be ready to give my best effort.”
Does it help you much that you had some success against Oakland in Mexico City?
“It does in certain areas. I think there’s a lot of really good things that you can pull from that game and take into this game, but at the same token you have to understand that Oakland’s watching that same tape and they’re ready to show you different looks, they’re ready to play some probably unscouted coverages. I’m sure there’s going to be some unscouted blitzes that we haven’t seen on tape. That’s just all about reading and reacting on the field and sticking to your rules that you learn all the way back in training camp.”
You talked to us when you were benched and said you were disappointed but it wasn’t the first time it happened to you. Were you better able to deal with it this time?
“Obviously nobody wants to be benched but I have experienced that before, so you’re exactly right. I think I handled it much better this time than probably previously. But at the same token, like I told you guys, I always want what’s best for the team. I’ve been a team guy from the first time I started playing organized sports. That’s what makes football and other sports so special, is the team. So, the team was able to go out there and win games when I wasn’t playing, and that’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter who’s out there. It’s about supporting your teammates, being there for your teammates and helping this team win football games. My role for a couple weeks was running the scout team so I gave my best effort every single day to give our defense a tremendous look, and then come gameday I did everything I could to help out Tom (Savage) and be there when he had questions.”
You’ve played pretty well against Oakland in your career. What’s been the key to your success against their defense?
“I don’t know if it’s one thing or the other. I think you always have to give credit to your coaches for the game plans that they put together, and obviously you have to give credit to your teammates. At the end of the day, it’s just my job to find the open guy, read the coverage the correct way and hit the open receiver. Fortunately I’ve been able to have some success against the Oakland Raiders, but like I said, I’m expecting some unscouted looks, some different things from them. Coach (Jack) Del Rio is a tremendous coach. I was very fortunate to get to get to spend some time with him in Denver. Like I said, he’s a hell of a football coach and I expect a great effort from the Oakland Raiders. We’re going to be ready to go, and like I told you, I couldn’t be more excited to get this game here.”
Was it fun to be back out there when you came in against Tennessee and were you just grateful for the chance to be out there again?
“Absolutely. That goes back to when you’re pulled out of a situation and you have time to observe and just get a different perspective on things, that was one of the things I told myself: ‘If you get an opportunity to go back in, just go have fun. Get back to the joy of football. Get back to what drew you into this sport at such a young age.’ I think when you’re able to play for the fun of the game, for the love of the game, passion comes with that. So, I just ran out there, I said a little joke to the offensive lineman, everyone had a good little laugh, and that’s really what it was. Obviously, in the end you always want to win every football game, so that was very disappointing that we came out of that game with a loss, but I’m getting back to the things that drew me into this football game, and that’s the love of it and how fun this sport really is.”
What was the joke?
“I’m going to keep that one between me and the linemen.”
Where would you say your confidence level is in your ability to go out and perform under playoff pressure, and did the benching change your confidence level in yourself?
“I’m very confident. One thing being in Denver the past four season, two Super Bowl runs, in the playoffs all four of those years, I was able to observe what goes into winning a playoff game, how a playoff game is played. At the end of the day, there’s nothing different from a regular season game to a playoff game. The stakes are higher, obviously I think there’s probably some more articles written, more eyes on the TV screen, but it’s just a normal football game. I’ve had great success in this league playing football, so I’m very confident. I’m very confident in my teammates and I know we’ll be ready to go. Coach has done a tremendous job this week of taking care of our bodies. I think the mental focus has really been there at practice and we’re excited to get out there in front of this home crowd and kick this football off.”
Your coaches and some of your receivers said you seem like you were playing more freely on Sunday. Is that like what you said about getting back to having fun?
“Absolutely. There’s so many things that go into a professional football game: scouting reports, defenses, blitz looks, coverage looks, your offense, your alert plays, you’re calling two, three plays in the huddle, your checks, what makes you hot. Sometimes you get so tied up in that and you forget that it’s just a game. It’s a game that you love and it’s a game that you’ve been playing, for me, since first grade. So, that’s kind of the mentality I took on Sunday. Just take what the defense gives you and just go play football. You’ve had great success doing this for a number of years, and just have fun and go play some backyard football with your buddies. That’s really the mentality I took into Sunday’s game and I’m going to continue to carry that with me.”
When you watch Raiders DE Khalil Mack on tape, what do you think?
“He’s a stud. He’s one of the best pass rushers this game has to offer, and there’s a lot of good ones out there. He’s right at the top of the list. What he’s able to do is truly special. He’s a very strong player, he’s a very athletic player, he’s fast, he can bull rush you, he can speed rush you, he has a very high motor, he never takes a single play off. So, you need to show a guy like that respect. Obviously there’s certain things that you’re going to do in a game plan to try to help slow him down but you can never completely eliminate a player like that. You hope that you can slow him down and execute your game plan.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH RAIDERS HEAD COACH JACK DEL RIO
Are you ready to tell us who your starting quarterback will be on Saturday?
“Yeah, I can let you know that. Connor Cook’s going to be the starter for us.”
Can you talk about the reasons behind that?
“Yeah, I mean, it’s obviously not ideal. That’s why it’s never happened where a rookie gets his first start in a playoff game. But he played well last week and he’s the healthiest option, so it makes it really an obvious choice.”
Did you see some things last week that make you encouraged that he’ll be able to do what you need him to do on Saturday?
“Yes. Yes, and we’ve seen things throughout our time having him where he’s developed as a young player kind of in the background as the third quarterback all year but continued to work hard in his preparation. He won a lot of big games at Michigan State. I know this is a different level but he’s got that kind of unflappable feel about him. We’re going to trust him to go out there and lead us.”
Will Raiders QB Matt McGloin be healthy enough to be your backup?
“I hope so. We’ll still work through that as we go through the week. He’s still pretty sore.”
What are some of the challenges that the Texans defense poses to you?
“Well, Romeo’s (Crennel) a veteran coach. Done it for a long time. They’ve got an extremely talented group, and that’s even minus J.J. (Watt), which is incredible. But with (Jadeveon) Clowney and (Whitney) Mercilus and (Vince) Wilfork and (Brian) Cushing, they’ve got a really talented group and they’re playing good ball.”
What have you seen of the development of Raiders QB Connor Cook?
“I think Todd Downing’s done a great job developing that room and working that room. He’s progressed throughout the year.”
When you look at Texans RB Lamar Miller, what kind of threat is he running and catching the football?
“Really talented player. Has been a great addition for them. To me, any time a back goes over 100 yards as he did earlier in the year against us, that’s good for him and not good for us. He’s a good player and they do a nice job with him.”
What do you think Raiders DE Khalil Mack continues to get better at?
“To me, he brings great energy every day. What he gets better at or what he’s gotten better at in the two years that we’ve been here is just the fine points of rushing the quarterback and understanding what moves he wants to get to and what techniques he wants to use. His energy and his aggressiveness and his gift of size, speed, power and agility is unbelievable. The work ethic is what has really enabled him to continue to grow.”
How do you rally the team and keep them focused after an injury like the one to QB Derek Carr?
“You do the best you can regardless of the circumstances. I think, to me, it’s a great opportunity. You have these great opportunities in life to be at your best, and you get these great challenges. So, how do you respond? What we want to do is respond like men and go in there full of energy and belief and fight our butts off.”
What have you seen from Texans QB Brock Osweiler and do you think he will be different than the last time you faced him?
“That’s up to Brock. I was with him in Denver. I understand the arm strength and size, his mobility, his decision-making and all those types of things. We’ll get ourselves prepared and do the best we can. Obviously, they have a very gifted receiver outside in (DeAndre) Hopkins and (Lamar) Miller and the tight end. They’ve got a good group, so we need to get ourselves ready, make sure that we’re slowing them down enough to give our offense a chance.”
What were some things that stood out to you about Raiders QB Connor Cook during the draft process?
“I don’t really want to get into like going back and giving you draft analysis. To me, we selected him. We made that decision. He’s going to go for us. I’ll let you do your research on that one.”
What can you take away from the first game against the Texans in Week 11?
“Tough game. One that could have gone either way and several areas we’ll need to play better in to win this one.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH RAIDERS DE KHALIL MACK
What are your thoughts about playing against QB Brock Osweiler again and the quarterback he is?
“Solid quarterback. He does all the things that you want your quarterback to do to win the ball game. Manages the game, tries to limit the turnovers, big body, tall dude, can see everything. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Do you feel like you grew as a player this year and if so, where do you think you got better?
“Just my total awareness of the game, focusing in on situational football. That’s gotten a lot better this year and understanding that has kind of helped me out.”
Have you had a chance to watch DE Jadeveon Clowney and had a chance to see how he’s grown?
“You can say he’s grown, but you could tell he has that kind of capability. Just watching him last year, he was amazing against the run and came up just shy of all those sacks and all those different things. With time, you can tell that he’s been blossoming and he’s a hell of a player.”
Do you remember your connections with the Texans prior to your draft?
“Just came out there for a visit and talked a little bit with everybody out there – the coaches and everybody. That’s about it.”
How did that go? Did you have a good meeting?
“You know what team I play for, right? You think you’re going to get that out of me that I liked being with them? No, I’m playing. It was cool process to see how the NFL works and all that different stuff. I’m glad to be where I’m at, though.”
What do you think this game will come down to in order to win?
“It’s going to come down to total defense, man. Us being fundamentally sound on the defensive side of the ball, limiting big plays from the offense. That’s going to be a tough task for us seeing that they have a lot of explosive weapons over there. It’s going to really come down to defense.”
What do you think about Texans RB Lamar Miller?
“He’s a hell of a back. Talk about a guy that can do everything. He’s a complete running back. He can cut back, he has speed, power, got hands coming out of the backfield catching the ball and he runs routes you want. He can do a lot of different things. That’s what makes him a special player.”
How has Raiders OLB Bruce Irvin helped you and how does he complement what you have been doing?
“Oh, man, we’re talking about Bruce. We’re talking about one of the best in the game. He’s a hell of a player, fast, powerful. Has all the intangibles that you need a pass rusher. I’m blessed to have him over here with me.”
What have you seen from Raiders QB Connor Cook this year?
“I’ve seen consistency. He’s a rookie, but he’s still in everybody’s back pocket trying to figure out what’s going on. You can tell throughout the year that he was growing as a player based off his practice squad reps and all those different things. Just seeing him get out there and do what he did, it was cool to see.”