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June 07, 2017

Houston Texans Transcripts (6/7)



Can you tell us a little bit about your role as assistant head coach/defense?

“Basically, I’m still helping with the defense but now I have an opportunity to see a little bit larger picture, check some of the guys out on offense. Really can kind of be more one-on-one with individual players, and then the head coach will give me projects to do. I think some of it will have to do with opponent defense and what I see there. It’s going good. Like I said, I like the way the attitude of the guys who are working and what they’re doing. So, we’re excited about that and we’re going to try to make some things happen this year.”


What have you seen from Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel that shows he’s ready for this?

“I’ve been with Mike several years – as a player, and saw how he progressed that way, and then as a coach the last couple years. I think that he’s ready. He’s organized, he’s a hard worker, he’s smart. Only time will tell but I think he’ll do very well.”


What do you think it can mean to the defense to have DE J.J. Watt back?

“I think we all know what J.J. brings to the table. For opponents to try to figure out where they’re going to send their protection – do they send it to J.J.? Do they send it to (Jadeveon) Clowney? Exactly how they’re going to do all that as far as from a protection standpoint, I think that’s going to make it extremely difficult on the offense. So, if we can keep both of those guys healthy, and Whitney (Mercilus) as well, I think it will be difficult for them.”


What do you think of the job Secondary Coach John Butler has done with the secondary over the past few years?

“I think John does a very good job, and we allow him to do his job. He has a great relationship with the players. He’s demanding of the players. He makes sure that they know what they’re looking at communication-wise and the team concept, everybody knowing what to do, everybody communicating, getting everybody on the same page. They’ve done that very well. We don’t get very many balls thrown over our heads. They will come up and tackle. They can cover. We’re looking forward to being able to continue doing that.”


What made you want to stay on as assistant head coach/defense?

“Well, I like this team. That’s one of the reasons I took this role – because of this team and the players on this team. I think we have something special going and we want to be able to take it to the next level. I think we can do that. The next couple years here we’ll see if we can move forward in the playoffs.”





What would you like to see better from the special teams this year?

“Just more consistent play across the board. You got to win the field position battle every week and there were times last year (with) coverage breakdowns. You can never give up points, number one, and we gave up points last year. We turned the ball over, so there’s a lot of things to improve on and that’s what we’re here doing right now. The offseason is making the points of emphasis on what kind of unit we want to have. I feel good about the guys that we have and it’s just a matter of going out and executing on a more consistent level and a better level than last year.”


What are you seeing from returner RB Tyler Ervin in terms of ball security?

“Tyler’s a hardworking dude, and last year there were a couple ball security issues but it was something that for a rookie coming in, handling the number of balls that he handled, it wasn’t like it was a weekly thing or something. He had a couple issues and (it’s) something he’s constantly working at. He’s a hard worker, he takes a lot of pride in his role on special teams, not only as a returner but in coverage, and he’s a real pleasure to work with. I’ve got total confidence in him if he’s back there as a returner. (Akeem) Hunt also, (Will) Fuller (V), so we got some guys with some juice that can make plays and right now we’re trying to identify who that’s going to be.”


What are your thoughts on K Nick Novak and K Ka’imi Fairbairn?

“Like I said, all of the guys that we have right now, I’m real happy with the group. We have veterans with Shane (Lechler) and Nick, (Jon) Weeks, and then we got some younger guys that are pushing them and competing for the job. So, training camp’s going to tell the story about who steps up. Nick had a really consistent year last year for us. He’s a pro. I respect all our guys. They’re really a pleasure to work with in terms of their professionalism and what they bring to the table. They’ve been around for a long time and they kind of know what their job is. We have some young guys, also, that are kind of learning from them, Cory (Carter) as well, learning from Shane. At the end of the day, they’re competing but the older guys have been good about sharing their knowledge. You can learn a lot from just watching Shane, you can learn a lot from just watching Nick, and I’m sure our younger specialists are doing that.”





How are you enjoying this new role so far?

“I love it. I love being able to stand up in front of the defense and talk to the linebackers, obviously, but also the secondary (and) defensive line and trying to tie all those groups together.”


How did Head Coach Bill O’Brien and Assistant Head Coach/Defense Romeo Crennel mentor you for this role?

“Well, I think the one thing that RAC (Romeo Crennel) allowed us to do was coach. He allowed us to coach our positions and take care of our guys and make sure that they knew everything that they needed to know for practice in this spring offseason and more importantly, the games. I have to remember to try to give those assistant coaches enough time to get their guys ready for the game and not sit there and overtake the meeting and keep them in there for too long.”


How much has all you’ve done in the game prepared you for this role?

“I don’t think you’ll ever be prepared until you keep calling games. I called a few games last year in the preseason – certainly not the same. Going from a player to a coach I don’t think really does a whole lot for you because you’ve got to be thinking a few plays ahead of what may be going on. I think as a player, you’re always just trying to think about what’s going on that play, what your job is. I think as a coordinator, a play-caller, once you make the play-call, you kind of have to move on and look at what the next situation could possibly be.”


Because you played at such a high level, doesn’t that help you in this role?

“There’s been a lot of great coaches in this league that’ve never played a snap. So maybe it helps me because I did and I can somehow talk to a guy about a technique or a position or a former player or guy that I played with but as far as calling the game, I don’t know if that would necessarily help me or hurt me.”


You and Assistant Head Coach/Defense Romeo Crennel coached a very good defense last year. How do you go about trying to make it better?

“Well, we talk about trying to enhance the things that we do well and then continue, and then try to fix the things that we didn’t do well. We didn’t do a very good job of getting turnovers last year so we’ve tried to make it a point to fix it and improve on it and make it better in the offseason. We’ll see where that goes. We have to do better in scoring defense. I think we were outside of the top 10. We have to continue to play well on third down, continue to stop the run like we did late in the season and I think if we can continue to get three-and-outs like we did last year and give our offense a chance to get the ball back, we can help us win games.”





A younger player like CB Kevin Johnson, where do you want to see him go this year?

“I just want, first of all for Kevin to be healthy so that he can play at the level I think he’s capable of. Speaking to him yesterday, he feels like he’s as healthy as he’s ever been, so that’s just got to translate to a good summer, then we get out to Greenbrier and hopefully that translates to his performance on the field there. But I think Kevin, as I’ve said many times, has all the skills, he’s accepted the coaching, but he’s also one of those guys who is constantly in J-Jo’s (CB Johnathan Joseph) pocket and so hopefully some of that wisdom has been transferred to Kevin. Then it’s just a matter, like anything else, putting it on the field and staying healthy and being productive and making the plays that are there.”


What do you attribute your group’s success the last few years to despite only CB Johnathan Joseph being named to a Pro Bowl?

“I think, well we have good players that have bought into our scheme. I think the scheme we’ve kind of put together through RAC (Romeo Crennel) and now continue with Mike (Vrabel), it’s player friendly, it’s multiple, it requires players that are smart, that have ability, that can make adjustments. We have ways to protect the players so that they’re not always exposed one-on-one in coverage all the time. I think one of the biggest things is constantly hitting on the ‘we’re only as strong as we are together’ We’re always saying that and whether it’s four strong, five or six. A lot of the times in our sub defenses we’ve got six DBs on the field, that’s six of eleven guys, so they’ve all got to be playing at their best, performing at a high level. And I think they embrace that, understand that some of our best defense that we’ve played is when we have five or six DBs on the field.”


You developed CB A.J. Bouye into a good player but now you have to replace him. What goes into that?

“Well, A.J. had a nice career with us while I was here – there was a year when I wasn’t – but then for the last three years he developed very well through the next three years within this system. I’d like to think back to your previous question, that I think the system has a lot to do with that too – the players he’s playing with, the system that we’ve put in, understanding where the strengths and weaknesses of the system is so you can’t be exposed. But, as far as the next person up, that’s kind of what we evolve on so if somebody gets hurt, somebody goes to another team, whether it’s a corner or a safety, it’s just about the take advantage of the opportunity and competing at your highest level and taking the coaching and transferring it to the field. Hopefully those guys that are here now see the success that A.J. had and take that as an opportunity so that maybe they’re the next one up.”


What do you seen from CB Robert Nelson and CB Denzel Rice individually?

“It’s hard to comment on those guys now. Robert obviously did a nice job as a fill-in player for us last year, during the season came up, had a nice interception against the Colts, both in the first game and in the second game played well in Indianapolis, played for us in a playoff game. So, he’s done some nice things for us. Denzel’s a guy that’s continuing to develop. I think he’ll have an opportunity to compete for a job. Obviously with a guy like Denzel and anybody else that’s in the mix, the rookies, it’s how they’re going to perform in the preseason, just training camp, but also how they’re going to perform in those games when there’s people watching and they’re keeping score and those types of things. I think the next step for those guys, while everybody’s had a pretty good OTA, is what are they going to do in the preseason, what are they going to do in those games?”





G David Quessenberry’s trying to do something that’s never been done or been done very seldom. How do you look at his transition to come back and play again?

“I got to tell you, I shook my head the other day. I mean, I couldn’t believe it because he goes out there, and he hasn’t played in forever, and through the support of all the medical people in that world and then the organization hanging in there with him and his work ethic and heart, he goes out there – and our defense is obviously very complicated to block – and he’s a very natural, instinctual player. Just excited to have him out there. Things are coming along for him and I think the more he plays the more it’ll come back. He loves the game, there’s a passion for it. Unfortunately he went through that (cancer) and now he sees it so he really can talk to these young guys about what it takes to stay in it, be in it and (be) like, ‘Hey, it’s not always going to be here.’ He’s the walking poster board for that, so it’s great to have him in the room.”


How much could C Nick Martin help after missing last season?

“I’m really excited about Nick. That’s why we drafted him. He’s a smart kid, size, length. Now you have (Greg) Mancz who also played for you. So, what I feel like is we’re creating this depth, competition, and that’s what you always want with the offensive line every year – depth, competition. That’s what’s all creating right now. I’m getting excited to see them with the pads on.”


Can you talk about having young players on the line who have experience?

“Like I was saying, ideally, when you’re building an offensive line you always want to keep churning the back end and then that way it creates depth, competition and the cream hopefully rises to the top and you’re always getting better and better and better. I feel like, since I’ve been here, this is the first year now (where) we have all this depth and competition and all these little battles that no one’s seeing that’s going to make us better overall.”


What differences do you see one year later with C Greg Mancz?

“It’s amazing when you start 18 games, whatever it was, 22 altogether. When you play like that it just accelerates what you do. He’s going to be valuable in all kind of fronts. In the end, I think all roles will be defined when the pads come on (and) you start hitting people. But like I said, we’re creating depth, competition, and that’s exciting to me. They see it and they work for it.”





What have you seen from ILB Zach Cunningham so far?

“So far so good. We’ve obviously thrown a lot at him. He’s been here a couple months now, six weeks. We just look for him not making the same mistake two days in a row, and he’s been good at that. He’s getting better every day. I’m excited to have Zach.”


What have you seen from some of the young linebackers like ILB Dylan Cole, who looks like he has flashed a little bit?

“He has. Along with some of the other guys, too. Dylan’s doing a good job himself. He’s learning the defense right now and he’s playing fast and doing a good job.”


How much easier does it make your job when you have ILB Brian Cushing in the room?

“It’s always nice having Cush out there. He knows this defense very well. The way he plays, the example he sets. He’s just a leader out there. So, it’s nice to have him.”


How far has ILB Benardrick McKinney come over the last couple years? It seems like he keeps taking the next steps.

“He does. He can still get better, too, as he would tell you, too. We’re expecting big things out of him leadership-wise and playmaking-wise.”


What have you seen from OLB Whitney Mercilus in terms of development as a pass rusher?

“He can beat you several ways. He can beat you with speed, he can beat you with power, he can also drop, he can rush over the center, the guard, the tackle. He’s just a hard matchup and he’s a true pro, too. He really studies the game and he’s a good football player.”





How much can RB D’Onta Foreman and RB Dare Ogunbowale learn from a guy like RB Lamar Miller?

“They can learn a lot. Lamar’s been great for the group. Lamar’s going into his sixth season now and he talks to the guys a lot about things he’s doing to take care of his body and maybe some of the struggles he went through when he was a young player. He’s a great sounding board for those guys and I’ve really seen him kind of take a leadership role this year.”


Is it more important to establish a running game when you have some young quarterbacks?

Yeah, it’s more of a passing camp that we’ve been doing these last few weeks in OTAs, so we are looking forward to running the ball a lot more in training camp. But it’s just been good just to kind of have everybody work on their craft in the passing game and take things from there, but yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to some opportunities to run the ball.”


Is this one of the deepest groups you’ve had since you’ve been here?

“It is, and it’s probably the most competitive group that we’ve had since we’ve been here, and it’s a really diverse group. You have guys that we consider three-down backs, we have some first- and second- down backs, we’ve got guys that can really help in the passing game. So, it’s a really diverse group that as coaches we have to find a way to maximize each other’s skillsets.”


Do they all understand that catching the ball is a huge part of being a running back in this system?

“Yeah, they do, and we ask the guys that do a lot in this system. Maybe more than some other systems as far as protection and route running and stuff, so they all have a good understanding of that. They all catch the ball well and it’s what we’ve been working on mostly during these OTAs and they’ve done a good job doing it.”


How hard is it to teach the system so they can understand it?

“I think being a coach you have to kind of figure out the best way that each guy in your room learns. Some guys may be visual guys, some guys may have to walk through it, some guys you may be able to tell them once and they can learn it there. I think you as a coach, you have to figure out which way your players learn best and you may have to curtail something that way to teach a certain player, but it’s my job as a coach, how do they learn and the best way to teach them.”





What does Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan bring to the table?

“Well, it’s exciting working with Sean because the background. Sean’s worked with Eli Manning. He’s got a couple of Super Bowl Rings. Instant credibility there. From the day that Sean got here as receivers coach, I think we’ve bonded pretty well. We share a lot of the same views on things and I think having us both in the room is a positive. We seem to really work well together. It’s a really good room, like Coach O’Brien says, with Brandon (Weeden) and Deshaun (Watson) and with Tom (Savage). It’s a good group of guys, a lot of productive things are getting done in there.”


Are you happy to see QB Tom Savage get the opportunity he has right now?

“You really have to credit Tom. Tom, when he had the injury, he was having a great preseason a couple years ago. Had the shoulder injury against Dallas, and that was a tough blow to him, but to his credit, he really was willing to put in the time. And I had just got here, too, so a lot was going on with the quarterback situation and who it was going to be and the line and Brian (Hoyer) were here. So, Tom and I spent a lot of time not only working on the Xs and Os but kind of working on the approach and being a pro and kind of creating the plan for kind of this opportunity he’s getting now. It’s kind of neat. We spent a lot of time talking about it kind of in the background, so to see Tom getting an opportunity to do his thing is really positive, and he’s a great guy, so it makes it a lot easier.”


How much has he grown from when you first met him to where he is now?

“Yeah, he has grown a lot. He’s been through a lot, not just the injuries, but he’s seen a lot of quarterbacks come and go here. The thing that really is positive for him is that this is his fourth season, and in college he was with three different teams, three different systems, maybe more, maybe different coordinators. But he’s been in the system going on four years now and he really has a good knowledge of what’s expected of the position, not only from on the field standpoint but from as far as what’s kind of after that position here. And so Tom’s really taken that blue collar approach to it which is appreciated, and he’s certainly done a good job so far.”


What is the one thing that stands out about Deshaun (Watson)?

“The first thing when you meet him is the poise. He’s a really poised man and I think talent-wise it’s everything we thought and more. And I really like his approach, his approach to the process which is a day-to-day process of learning to be an NFL quarterback and the many things that come with that. Really, it starts with the Xs and Os of our offense. So, it’s one day at a time and then each day there’s studying that goes on that he has to come back and be able to process that information and then make it come out organically on the field, and I think thus far he’s done a really good job doing that.”





How is it making the move from coaching tight ends to receivers?

“Coaching is coaching. I’m really excited about working with the group that I’m working with, but the coaching part of it is really the same: the obligations and the time that we put in and everything like that, and the preparation we try to put in for the players. That’s all the same. But like I said, I’m really excited about working with this group of guys.”


What is it like coaching WR DeAndre Hopkins and what have you seen from him so far?

“One of the things that’s really impressive to me is just the kind of effort he puts in. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s been here every day’ and all that. Been here every day? This guy has never taken a rep off, not a day off. He hasn’t taken one rep off. One day we had five receivers out there and he’s working with the first team and the second team, taking every rep. He comes to work every day just trying to get better, and that’s really impressive to me.”


What do you hope to see from WR Braxton Miller this year?

“Billy (Bill O’Brien) always talks about the jump from the first year to the second year, and one of the things is – I was talking to Braxton the other day and the thing that really helped C.J. Fiedorowicz last year was recognition of coverages. That’s what I’ve been really trying to spend a lot of time with Braxton on. I think that’s going to be – it’s much different when you’re under center recognizing coverages as opposed to being out wide and recognizing coverages. When he knows who he has to beat, he’s very good, but he has to keep working on that coverage aspect of it. You’ll see a lot more improvement there.”


Skillset-wise, what do you like about him in the slot?

“He has the quickness and the speed that you’re looking for in there. The thing that’s really intriguing is that he’s generally a larger guy than most slot receivers, but he does have that quickness and speed to go along with that. That’s something that’s really valuable and gives him options to play on the outside and do those things, too. He’s fighting to try to get on the field in a lot of different ways.”


What does Offensive/Special Teams Assistant Wes Welker bring to your group and the staff?

“Wes has been great. Wes gives you that insight of the player’s aspect. One of the things that he’s been really helpful with me on is like when I present some things with him, drill-wise, drill work, he can give you that perspective of, ‘Yeah, that’s really realistic’ or, ‘Maybe we should think about doing this.’ It’s been great working with him. I think he’s really trying to figure things out and he has done a great job.”


How does WR Will Fuller V take the next step and become a better catcher of the football?

“He has really taken a lot of ownership of that. You’ll see him pre-practice, he comes out and does a lot of pre-practice work on his own, and that’s been impressive to me. And then he has stayed after practice a couple times, and we’ve done some deep ball drills with him, which is really important. I think one of the things you look at is it’s just a matter of tracking the ball, and when he does that he catches the ball really well. It’s just the few times where it was a little more difficult for him to track. We just have to keep putting him in all those different situations that he saw last year. I watched the tape with him when he came back and we tried to recreate those scenarios again for him to put him in realistic situations.”





How’s the transition been for you?

“It’s been good. I like it. I mean I did it in New York, for a couple years I went from receivers to quarterbacks for two years in New York, so I think that helped me having that experience. I kind of knew what to from the quarterback room, in terms of the conversations that go on, the challenges that come up for the quarterback position, so I think that helped me and I’ve really enjoyed it. The guys have been great. They work hard. They’re dedicated guys, so that part of it that’s been really enjoyable for me.”


Can you describe the quarterback room a little bit?

“It’s good. The one thing I would say to you if you said describe it is there’s a lot of give and take that goes on in a quarterback room, which isn’t necessarily in the case in every single position room. Some of it is more the coach is up there, and in the quarterback room it’s really a give and take. You’re talking football. That’s been one of the most enjoyable things for me about it is really just interacting with these guys and just talking to them about what issues come up for them and how they’re looking at things and how they’re seeing things. That’s probably the best thing, is the give and take that goes on in that room.”


Has QB Deshaun Watson been right in there or has he been quieter and just learning from QB Tom Savage and QB Brandon Weeden?

“I think he does both. I think he’s done a great job – as a young player, in my opinion, he’s done a great job of kind of coming in and certainly ask questions when he has them, because he knows he’s going to go out and do his job, so if he’s got a question he’s going to ask it. But he also has been feeling things out and knowing when to interject and when to listen and learn, and I think he’s got a really good feel for that. I think it’s something he’s done a good job of, not only in the quarterback room, but I think he’s done it in the locker room too which can help him with the team.”


How much has QB Tom Savage adapted to where he’s at right now?

“I think he’s done a great job. I really do. He’s just come in with a very down to earth work ethic with it. If he’s thought about it a lot, it hasn’t come through to me, in terms of what his role will be or how it’s changed from a year ago. I think he’s just coming in every day saying, ‘You know what, I’m going to work to get better, I’m going to work to have an even greater understanding of the offense, a greater understanding of defenses and what they’re trying to do to us and how that affects my job. So, I haven’t seen a big change in that other than the fact that the guy shows up every day prepared. He goes out, he can really lead the offense and I’ve been impressed by him.”


Does anything in particular stand out about QB Deshaun Watson?

“Yeah, like I said, for a young guy coming in, his professionalism and his real dedication to what he does, his profession, and just being real serious about being good at what he does has really stood out to me. I think he understands what it takes, his work ethic has been very impressive and I’ve really enjoyed him so far and I think from day one he walked in here and really has just done a great job in terms of that, of just showing up serious and going to work every day.”





What have you thought about the growth of DE Jadeveon Clowney?

“It’s been tremendous, and we’re still just scratching the tip of the iceberg. He has put in the work, he’s dedicated to his teammates and I’m just excited to see where he goes from here.”


How great can he be?

“I told him he can be a Hall of Famer. Now, there’s a number of things that have to happen. You’ve got to stay healthy, you have to be consistent and persistent. But he has all the qualities and athletic attributes in order to do that.”


What do you expect of NT D.J. Reader this year?

“We have very high expectations of D.J. I think you saw just a glimpse of what he’s capable of a year ago. He’s another guy that since he’s been back, you can tell he’s – and I think I speak for the whole defense, they all have a little bit of a chip (on their shoulders). Were we happy with what we did a year ago? Sure. But we all know what the ultimate goal is and I think everybody that walks into this building day-in and day-out, they come with the mindset of like, ‘How are we going to get over this hurdle? How are we going to get to where we want to be?’ And D.J., I think, he epitomizes that every time he walks in this building.”


What do you think about where DE J.J. Watt is now?

“He looks great. He’s gaining confidence every single day. And the one thing I noticed in particular with J.J. is he seems to be having a lot more fun, which is good. This is a kid’s game. This is a kid’s game and we get paid a king’s ransom for it and I think when you’ve reached the heights he has, sometimes you start to feel that pressure. I like to think once you get away from it for a year, maybe you start to appreciate a little more, you start to realize all the blessings you have and he’s going out there each and every day and having fun and getting better doing it.”





You could have gone to a lot of teams when you decided to get into coaching. Why the Texans?

“Coach (Bill) O’Brien and I, we were together back in ’07 when he first came to the Patriots and that’s when I first got there. We kind of grew up in this offense at the same time and I believe in this offense. I believe in Coach O’Brien. I played with Mike Vrabel and Larry Izzo, two of my really good friends. I think I knew the type of people I was going to be around and the type of situation it was going to be and the type of football and competition that we were going to have on this football team. I was just excited about the opportunity and luckily Coach O’Brien gave me a chance.”


What have you thought of the transition as a first-year coach?

“Still transitioning but it’s been good. Just going out there and trying to learn every single day. It’s almost like being a rookie all over again, just in a different aspect. Just going and trying to learn from all of the other coaches who have been doing it for a really long time and pick up a lot of that stuff and at the same time learn how to turn on a computer.”


After playing so long at a high level, how is it trying to teach what you know to these guys?

“It’s different. I always look back at when I was a rookie and coming from the air raid offense. Nothing really translated to the NFL. I always try to put myself back in their shoes and back where I was at that time where I really didn’t know anything. I think there’s some key things that you just kind of try to emphasize and try to stay on top of them. Some people learn faster than others, some people have a feel good for things and then others, you just have to stay on and keep on telling them, keep on telling them. It’s going fine, though.”


Did you know you wanted to be a coach for a long time or did it just kind of happen?

“I think I kind of knew, even while I was playing and stuff. I always looked at it like, oh, those coaches put too much time in, they have to work too long, all that stuff. I think if I would have jumped into coaching right after I was done playing I probably would have felt that way. Taking the year off and realizing how much I love the game, how much I love being around the guys and really just learning and having some laughs and being able to compete is something that I really live for.”


What do they have you doing?

“Data entry. I’m starting to get the hang of that stuff but a lot of the guys up there are years beyond I’ll ever be, probably. A lot of that stuff, breaking down film. Just whatever they really need as far as any of that stuff. Whether it’s the Visio stuff or anything. It’s an entry level-type position. I’m just trying to help and do whatever I can to help the team get better and win.”




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