Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel
OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What do you look for in a left tackle?
“There’s a lot of different skill set that goes into being a good left tackle. I think intelligence, toughness, length, athleticism, being able to play both sides, being able to bump over to right if you have to. That’s one thing that goes a long way. I’ve been around all different kinds. I was around, obviously Duane Brown here – excellent left tackle. Matt Light in New England, Nate Solder in New England, Kendall Lamm here, Chris Clark here. Everybody comes in with a little bit different skillset, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to toughness and intelligence.”
When you look at your front seven, especially with DE J.J. Watt back, do you get a sense of how good that unit can be?
“I think they’re good. I mean, look, let’s just say it like it is. You’ve got J.J., Whitney (Mercilus), JD (Jadeveon) Clowney, D.J. Reader, (Benardrick) McKinney, (Brian) Cushing. It’s a good front seven.”
Could you talk about NT D.J. Reader and what you like about him?
“First of all, he’s a great guy. Excellent teammate. Just a really good, fun guy to coach. Good sense of humor. Tough. Comes to work every single day. He’s built low to the ground. He’s got fantastic leverage. Strong hands. Very, very strong football player. I have very high expectations for D.J.”
What kind of things did you notice with NT D.J. Reader over the course of last year to where he is now?
“We played him in the beginning a bit. Right from the start – look, it wasn’t perfect right from the start, but you could tell this guy was going to be a good pro football player. He didn’t get moved off the line of scrimmage. He gave us something in the pass-rush game, which, I would say, maybe that was something that we didn’t totally expect coming out of college. He’s a very good inside pass rusher. The biggest thing on double teams going against really good guards, centers, he didn’t get moved. In fact, a lot of times he moved them back. And he had a good instinct for playing the position. So, it just got better and better every week.”
When you played QB Tom Savage in the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars last year, what did you see from him right away that gave you some more confidence?
“Good poise. He got in there – it’s not an easy situation, when he came into that game. Obviously, we weren’t playing great at that time. So, he came in and I thought he showed good poise. Again, good command of what we’re doing relative to the play call. Just the operation of the play. I think people focus a lot on obviously when the ball snapped and what happens when the ball snapped. That’s obvious. How is the play run? But, a lot of it, from a coaching standpoint and from a playing standpoint, is what leads up to the ball being snapped. The efficiency of the operation. The snap count, the communication of the blocking scheme, the communication of the formation, the motions, all the different things that go into a play. I felt like in that game he showed that, that he had good command of all the things that we do.”
Can you talk about the challenges that QB Tom Savage had to overcome in that game to do what he did?
“I think – again, going back with Tom, a lot of what happened to him early in his career was injury related. So, you may not have seen him but he was behind the scenes doing a lot of different things. Pat O’Hara spent a lot of time with him. George Godsey did an excellent job with him. He has very good knowledge of our offense. Then when he finally got his chance to play, he plays pretty decently. I’m not saying he lit it up, but he played good enough for us to win in big games. So, I think now, with the whole offseason, with really all the starter reps that he’s gotten since he’s been the starter, which is a lot of reps. You’re talking coaching sessions, OTAs, training camp, all the preseason games – three of them, obviously. But, I think he’s, like I said, he’s ready to go and he’s got good command of what we’re doing.”
How important is it to have TEs C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin as part of this offense?
“It’s important. I mean, you have two guys there that are big targets, six-foot-six guys. They can run, they can block and they’re big targets in the passing game. They proved that last year. Both guys catch the ball very well. Stephen Anderson’s had a good preseason. So, look, at the end of the day, we all have to go out there and execute our jobs, but those guys have had good camps.”
What do you think about the job your secondary did this preseason?
“Good. Yeah. Look, we have a lot of good players back there. Our safeties, (Andre) Hal and (Corey) Moore, I thought they had good preseasons. J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph), everybody knows what he can do. Kevin Johnson, coming back from last year, he’s really done a good job. I think Kareem (Jackson) – Kareem does a lot of different things for us. Plays nickel, plays corner, plays safety. He’s a versatile player, so I feel pretty good about our secondary.”
What did you think about Jaguars T Cam Robinson during the draft process and what have you seen from him in the preseason?
“We spent a lot of time with Cam down at Alabama. We spent a whole day with him down there. Smart guy, leader down there. Coach (Nick) Saban, I’m sure he would tell you that this guy was definitely one of the captains of that team, which says a lot. That’s a good football team that they had down there when Cam was there. Length, athletic, good player. Very good player.”
You have a lot of players who can play different positions. Compared to 10 years ago, how different is that for defenses?
“It’s amazing to me even in 10 years how much defenses have changed. They’re so multiple. They’re just as multiple as offenses are. When you – not to flip the script on you – but when you look at Jacksonville’s defense and all the things that they can do on third down, they do a lot on third down, they do a lot in the red area. They do a lot on first and second down and it’s because of the different types of players that we all have now. If you go back to our team, we have guys that aren’t just three-techniques, aren’t just defensive ends, aren’t just outside (line)backers. They can do a lot of different things and they’re very smart, so you can move them around and they can pick it up in a heartbeat as to what their assignment is. So, it’s athleticism, it’s intelligence, it’s toughness. All that goes into it.”
Do you think that the NFL is shifting back to more of a running-priority than it has in recent years?
“I would say that the guys, for the most part, the two positions that make the most money would be the quarterbacks and probably pass rushers. So, I think as long as that’s the case, I think it will always come down in some way, shape or form to the last two minutes of a game and how well you can throw the football. In the meantime, what is your team set up to do? That’s what we’re all trying to figure out during training camp and then in the first two or three weeks of the season. You’re trying to (figure out) what is the identity of your team? And you strive for balance, but at the end of the day you have to do what’s best and what you’re most productive at doing. We have a pretty good idea of what that’s going to be and let’s see how it plays out on Sunday.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE VRABEL
Can you talk about Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette?
“Leonard (Fournette) is a big back. He’s a downhill, powerful runner. Somebody that we have to key on and we have to know that he’s in there to run the ball and pound it and control the down and distance and get him in third and short.”
Can you talk about DE Joel Heath?
“We like Joel. Joel’s a young, ascending player. He’s got good size. He plays hard. Continuing to improve. Trying to build on what he did last year. He started some games for us. He played in probably 12 games for us. So, just good to get him back healthy. I think that he missed some time but he fought to get back like most of our guys that are injured. He worked hard to get back. We’ve had him back out there the last couple of weeks.”
How do you feel about your secondary?
“We feel good about all of our players. That’s why they’re here. If we didn’t have confidence in them to go into the game and perform at a high level, we wouldn’t have them there. That’s what we tell our frontline starters. We tell our practice squad guys that our practice squad guys are here not just to play on the show team, but to go out there and eventually play in the games for us. That’s why everybody’s here.”
What do you see in S Corey Moore? It seemed like in preseason he had gotten better and sharper.
“It’s never easy to play in the back part of the field and have a lot of calls and a lot of checks in our defense. He’s developed. He’s put a lot of time into it, effort. He’s an athletic player. He’s a young player. He’s got great energy. Loves football. He flies around. He plays fast. Hopefully, he can continue to improve and Dre’s (Andre Hal) helped him back there. I think Dre’s presence and calming effect has helped Corey a little bit.”
How much are you looking forward to getting out there in a regular season game and calling plays for the first time?
“I think in the first game it’s always important to get our guys lined up. I think that they’re going to play fast, I think they’re going to play aggressive, regardless of what I call or what we choose to call. Defensively, I know that if we can get our guys lined up and they know what to do, then they’ll play fast and aggressive.”
Talk about DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney and what he’s able to do now that you have him at outside linebacker and how he’s handling both spots?
“We try to put our best players in different sports. Guys that we feel can handle the magnitude of where they’re supposed to be. ‘Hey, I’m a defensive end this, play I’m an outside linebacker.’ So, as long as he can handle it, we’re going to try to move him around. We’ll put him in different spots, just like we do J.J. (Watt), we do Whitney (Mercilus), we do B-Mac (Benardrick McKinney). A lot of guys play a lot of different positions for us.”
What’s the biggest challenge when you’re trying to get ready for a season opener, where you’re not 100 percent sure what a team does?
“You never are really sure. I think that this first couple of games, as a coach, you spend a lot of time covering ghosts. They could do this, they could do that. What you have to remind yourself is that you have to hope that the preparation in the offseason and what you’ve shown them that the base fundamentals of our defense and what they know carry out to the first game. Make sure we have clean operation. No silly substitution errors. No silly penalties. No busts. So, make sure that you’re not trying to tell them too much, but that you’re trying to give them a little bit like, ‘Hey, they may do this or they might do that.’ But you really never know.”
How unpredictable is Jaguars QB Blake Bortles?
“I think we’ve seen both sides of him. We’ve seen a guy that has been accurate and stands back there and delivers the ball and finds his receivers. They have great receivers. We have a lot of respect for Allen Robinson and then (Allen) Hurns and (Marquise) Lee and all the guys, the young guys that they have. And then he can run. He can run. That’s an element that we’re well aware of, that he can scramble if something’s not there.”
When you said you move guys around and see if they can handle it, how do you draw that line to where if you keep pushing him he’ll figure it out or he’s not figuring it out, we need to figure something else out?
“We’re pretty close to the game, so if they haven’t gotten it by now, probably going to throw it out.”
What will your emotions be for Sunday’s home opener?
“I think we’ll all be excited. I’m excited to watch our guys play. I love our guys on our defense. I’m excited to watch every single one of them play. D.J. Reader, Dre (Andre) Hal, guys that have improved over the course of a season and an offseason – JD (Jadeveon Clowney), Whitney (Mercilus), B-Mac (Benardrick McKinney), Cush (Brian Cushing). I could name every single one, but I’m just excited, as well as our staff is, just to watch them go play, have fun in front of a home crowd that we know is going to be behind us.
How important is it to start strong defensively?
“When we play hard and we make plays, our crowd is behind us. Obviously, they’re going to be behind us this week. It’s the season opener. We understand the magnitude of the game with what people have dealt with in the city, the way our players have tried to respond once we were able to get them back here from Dallas, the support that they’ve tried to give. But, obviously, our first responders, the people that are here, the people at the shelters – just give them a game, give them something and we’ll play hard for them.”
OLB/DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY
What are the challenges of working at two different positions for you?
“Just learning the playbook, learning what’s going on, knowing our defense, knowing what to do is all the challenges there is. Moving around is great for us and great for the guys (to) help us and keep the offense thinking a lot about where we’re going to be each play.”
Do you like that better than just playing at one spot?
“I love it.”
What do you think the emotions will be in the stadium this Sunday?
“I think it’s going to be crazy. I hope everybody comes out and is supportive. I think it’s going to be real big. You give the people what they’re waiting for, a great season for us. We’ve been working hard all camp for this game and the opener, so we’ll come in here and give them a show.”
Will it be hard to contain those emotions?
“No, I’m ready to play. I’ve been waiting a long time to come out here and get back going for this season. I’m looking forward to it.”
How are you looking forward to building off what you did last season?
“I’m building off of last year. I’m expecting big things out of myself and this defense and just overall team. It starts Sunday.”
Do you have specific goals you’re trying to reach personally?
“No. Just be better than I was last year. I think I’m going to do that this year, so I’m looking forward to that and try to be good. Team, just try to get to the Super Bowl like every year. It starts with the Jacksonville Jaguars. We have to go out there and beat them on Sunday.”
What do you see of Jaguars QB Blake Bortles?
“He’s an athletic quarterback. He can run.”
What else about their offense stands out?
“They’ve got some great running backs and some great receivers, some good receivers. We’ve got to go out there and do our job like always, stop the run and cover the guys up, win on third down and try to get off the field.”
How much better can this defense be than last year?
“We’re going to be as good as we want to be. We just got to work to keep getting better and better and I think the whole defense right now, I think we’re doing that. All the guys come together and work every day and we’re getting better. We see that out of each player. Everybody sees it in each other, so we start Sunday.”
How can you get better?
“Come and work and keep working on everything you’re not good at. Learn more about the guy beside you and people you’re going up against. It’s going to make you a better player. Film studying and everything.”
Where do you think you improved?
“I improved a little bit everywhere, I think. Taking care of myself, in the study room, learning more about the people I’m going against, my opponents, and learning more about my own game and what I need to work on, like using my hands better. So, I’m looking forward to going here, showing it out. I worked on it this offseason and try to show fans what I’ve been doing.”
What is it like working with Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel?
“Oh, it’s great. Vrabel’s a good D-coordinator. He’s a smart man. It’s kind of crazy when you listen to him talk. He talks so fast but he knows so much football. He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around.”
You had him on the sidelines the past couple of years.
“Smart. He’ll tell you where to look for keys and kind of give you a heads-up on (what) certain plays look like, each formation. When you have a coach like that, you go out there and slow the game down for you, so you see certain formations, like only three plays they’re running out of this. I love him. I love having him right here.”
What do you think about NT D.J. Reader?
“Oh man, big piece of this defense. I think he’s underrated. If you don’t know that by the end of the year, I think D.J.’s underrated. He comes to work and grinds every day. And nobody’s moving that guy. He’s a big piece of this defense, to start with him in the middle of our defense. You have to come all the way around him and I think we’re all going to put it together this year and try to do something special.”
Nobody’s moving him?
“No, nobody is moving D.J. (Reader). He’s a big guy.”
Are you guys going to be looking at Jaguars rookie T Cam Robinson and how do you scout a rookie?
“We’re just trying to beat all of them up front, not just him. I don’t care who we line up in front of. I think guys around us, we can beat any one of them. We’re just going to go out there and try to do our job and get it done, get a win.”
How eager are you to just unleash for four quarters?
“Oh man, I’m very excited about it. We haven’t played a whole game since last season. Getting these couple of plays here and there during the preseason’s kind of hard. You get going, you build up for a couple plays, then you want to play the whole game. But it’s coming up fast Sunday and I’m looking forward to it and going against Cam Robinson and whoever else they put out there in front of me.”