Head Coach Bill O’Brien
CB Kareem Jackson
OLB Whitney Mercilus
NT D.J. Reader
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Can you talk about the improvement of the offensive line in the second half of the game last Thursday?
“I think they improved the whole game. I think that those guys played a much better game. Again, I would say the big thing is, I think this is something we always say, that it’s an improvement league, so we have to keep trying to get better. It’s a different challenge this week.”
How did C Greg Mancz and T Chris Clark play?
“Good. I thought they played solid. I thought they played pretty solid, tough. No MEs. Mancz did some good things in there and Mancz, more than likely, will continue to be the right guard.”
What did you think of the job DE J.J. Watt did Thursday night?
“J.J.’s (Watt) presence – a lot of people focus their blocking on J.J. (and) that opens it up for other people. When they don’t and he’s one on one, many, many times, like you said, he forces quarterbacks out of the pocket, doesn’t matter who it is. It’s tough to block him one on one. That’s why when they focus their attention on him, it opens it up for other guys.”
New week, new challenge. What’s the message to the team this week?
“It’s a big challenge. Obviously, the Patriots played really well yesterday. It’s a road environment. We’ve got to be able to go up there and handle the road environment. Obviously, they don’t lose too often at home. (They’ve) got a great team. But look, we came back and played better the other night on a short week. We’ve got a resilient bunch of guys here and I’m glad that we have a little bit longer week so our guys can get healed up and ready to go. We’ll have a good practice week and go up there and play hard.”
You guys have played the Patriots a few times and practiced with them this preseason. Will that be helpful much as far as preparation?
“Zero. I mean, we haven’t beaten them, so it doesn’t really help too much.”
How important is the offensive line to the development of a young quarterback?
“I think it’s important. Look, I think any time – I don’t really care if you’re young or if you’re a veteran quarterback, you need guys up front that are blocking well for you (and) give you time to throw the ball. And like I said, I thought the other night, it wasn’t just the line, I thought the backs helped. The backs did a great job of helping on the edge and Lamar Miller did a nice job picking up blitzes. Tight ends, also. We had Evan Baylis last week. Hopefully get (Ryan) Griffin and (Stephen) Anderson back this week. But all those guys combined, if they can give the quarterback a little bit of time, regardless of whether he’s a rookie or a veteran, that’s big.”
What did you see from ILB Benardrick McKinney in terms of pass rush productivity?
“He’s done a good job in that area for us. He’s got good length. He’s got good athleticism. He understands the blocking schemes. (He’s) got good guys around him that forces a lot of one-on-ones relative to him. Sometimes they’re doubling this guy over here, 99 (J.J. Watt) or they’re doubling 90 (Jadeveon Clowney) or they’re doubling 59 (Whitney Mercilus), and that frees him up so he’s one-on-one with a guard or one-on-one with a tackle or a center. We line him up all over the place, so I think he does a good job of taking advantage of that.”
Why does a defensive lineman rotate in and out all the time but you can’t do that with the offensive line?
“I go back and forth on that a little bit. I think that a lot of times the chemistry and the communication of the offensive line is a little bit different relative to having five guys that play together that really understand, you know – hey, they almost speak for each other – meaning they see it through the same set of eyes. It’s a little bit different. They have to see the whole picture sometimes, maybe more so than a defensive lineman. A lot of times, defensive linemen are basically maybe one-gapping or two-gapping and it doesn’t require too much communication. I think it has a lot to do with the communication of the offensive line. You try to keep the same five guys together. But, at the same time, when I say I go back and forth on that, I’m going to play the best five guys. I’m going to play the guys that are playing the best. That’s what we’re going to try to do moving forward and make it competitive in practice and try to put the best five out there.”
What did you think of ILB Zach Cunningham and ILB Dylan Cole?
“They both got game balls for special teams. They did a nice job. Zach (Cunningham) did a nice job (and) had a couple of big tackles, one I can remember right now at third down, about third-and-3, tackled a guy short of the first down. Dylan (Cole) was all over the field on special teams (and) did a nice job. Both those guys, they just need to keep getting better.”
Special teams and coverage, what are you seeing from that?
“It’s a little inconsistent. We’ve had some different guys in there. Look, I think, again, that goes back to the first question of, relative to the offensive line, I think early in the season it’s all about improvement. So, watch the tape (and) what do you have to get better at because when it all works together. When the punt was really good, which was a lot – Shane (Lechler) did a nice job, overall, punting. When the punt was directed properly and put where it needed to be, the coverage was excellent. It all kind of works together. So, sometimes if you leave it in the middle of the field, it’s tough, but when it is directed, they have to cover. It doesn’t matter what’s happening over there to the punt team. If there’s good hang time and it’s directed properly, they have to get down there and cover. That’s where we have to get better, just more consistent.”
What impact does having a downhill runner like RB D’Onta Foreman have on the team?
“He’s a tough runner. I thought he had a decent game last week. He’ll continue to play. He’s got to help us on special teams. He’s going to continue to play on offense. It’s good to have. Look, I think Lamar (Miller) does some things, both inside and outside. I think D’Onta (Foreman) does some things. They’re different backs. D’Onta’s a little bit bigger, things like that, but I think both of those guys are a good combination.”
Are you seeing some strides out of RB Tyler Ervin?
“Yeah, I think so. I think he’s getting better. I think he’s a very hardworking kid. Every game for him, relative to receiver especially, something new comes up that we can teach and we can work on the following week. He just works. He’s a very, very diligent guy and because of his work ethic and his athletic ability, he’ll continue to get better.”
Does it help that QB Deshuan Watson played in a lot of really big games in college?
“I think so. I think anybody that’s played in the type of games that he’s had to play in – look, it’s different, obviously. It’s the National Football League. But, he’s played in some National Championship games. He’s played in big games relative to the ACC in college. Just the environment, dealing with the noise, dealing with the big-game environment, I think that’s important. Now, dealing with the Patriots defense relative to a college defense, that’s a whole other thing. So, I’m just talking about noise level and things like that. The thing about Deshaun is he doesn’t get nervous. I asked him before last week’s game, ‘Are you nervous?’ He goes, ‘No, I don’t get nervous.’ And I see that. So, I don’t really concern myself too much with that.”
Now that QB Deshaun Watson has gotten that start out of the way and has more time to prepare, what are you going to look for in this game that he wasn’t able to do in the short week?
“I think that’s a good question. He’s been in here already this morning and I think the more reps he gets – the game reps, obviously, but the practice reps, he’ll get the bulk of the first-team reps now. And I think, just based on that alone and his film study and learning from week to week, he’ll get better and better.”
Are there any limitations on what you can and can’t call with a rookie quarterback, especially starting so early in the season?
“I don’t feel any limitations. He’s a different quarterback, so I think that it’s relative to what each guy can do, and with Deshaun (Watson), he can do some different things. So, relative to what his skillset is and what he knows and what he can do, I don’t think there’s any limitations.”
Have QB Deshaun Watson’s legs and mobility opened up a totally different part of the playbook for you?
“I mean, that’s obvious, right? I don’t know about the playbook, I’m just saying his legs – he had the longest run that we’ve had here in a while. So, I think his legs probably give us something.”
How do you get the running game going as quickly as you can?
“It’s going to be interesting to see how it goes. We’re going to have to do what we can do to take what they give us. We can’t just go in there and pound our head on a wall. We’ve got to try to do a good job of staying balanced and take what they give us and yeah, their offense – I think Tom (Brady) threw for 177 yards in one quarter or something like that. So, you’ve got to do the best you can to, obviously, keep them on the sideline, but at the end of the day, it’s all about moving the ball, doing your job on defense, doing your job on offense, doing your job on special teams and hopefully being in it in the fourth quarter. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
Did you see a different look in DE J.J. Watt’s eyes on Thursday night?
“I see the same look every game with him. Look, I think he’s a guy that’s always going to be very hard on himself relative to his level of play. He’s the best defensive player in the league, so I think that his standard of play, even just with himself, is way up here. So, when he doesn’t think he plays well, he’s going to tell you guys that, but I can tell you that, from our coaching standpoint, we all look to improve all the time. But, that’s a guy that plays at a very high level all the time and I see the same look in his eye every day, really, to be honest with you.”
CB KAREEM JACKSON
Can you tell us about your Dinner for a Difference event coming up and how special it is for you?
“It’s very special for me because it’s a cause close to me and my family’s heart. We were affected by it years ago. My sister being a survivor of leukemia and my mom being a two-time survivor of breast cancer. It’s definitely something where I kind of told myself when I got a chance where I could kind of help some families or in a situation where I could do some things in the community to help other families and put smiles on kids’ faces and stuff like that, I definitely want to take advantage of that.”
You’ve seen QB Tom Brady play a lot lately. Does that help much?
“Oh, definitely. Definitely. Arguably the best to ever play the position. He’s done some great things over his career, so any time we can see him, whether it’s preseason (or) practicing against them, it’s definitely going to bring out the best in us as a team. We’ll have to have a great week and we have to be ready to go.”
How do you feel about how you’re playing right now?
“Well, it’s just the second game of the season. (There’s) a ton of football left to play but I feel like I’m in a good spot physically. I think I’m doing what I need to do to be a contributor to help the team win. For me, that’s my main thing – to be healthy and to be out there and help the team any way I can.”
How big is the loss of CB Kevin Johnson?
“Definitely tough losing a guy like Kevin, being that he’s one of the major parts of our defense and in our secondary room. But, for us as a team, we kind of pride ourselves on the next man up. Like I said, the next guy has to step in, has to have a great week of practice and we expect him to go out and perform just as good as Kev does.”
What did it do for you guys as a defense to come back and play like you did last week?
“It means a lot for us to go out and play the way we’re capable of playing, especially after the way the first game went. It’s just about us going out and doing our jobs. All 11 guys all being on the same page and all having the same goals in common. It kind of shows what we can be and the way we can play if we all do it right.”
What did you think of OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney being tackled by Bengals QB Andy Dalton?
“Jadeveon told us he used to play offense in high school, but on that play – he showed the speed, but he did get tackled by the quarterback. We’re definitely going to give him a hard time, but great return by him, being in the right place at the right time to put the ball into the redzone for the offense. That was great for us as a team.”
Will some of your teammates be supporting you at your event?
“Definitely. I hope all the guys are able to make it out. October 2 at The Briar Club. Like I said, I hope all the guys are able to come out and definitely help out and see all the fans and stuff there. It’ll be for a great cause.”
It seems like you really embrace the physical aspect of the game. How much do you like hitting?
“That’s one of the aspects of my game that I kind of pride myself on. One of those guys that’ll get in and get dirty, tackle, do whatever I have to do. To me, I like being physical, so any time I can come out and be physical and kind of create some turnovers, maybe slow some guys up, I’m all for it.
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
What are the challenges of going against Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“Man, he’s a great quarterback. He’s very smart about the game, understands what schemes that other teams are trying to do against him. He’s done a great job of that. Obviously he’s been playing for so long and that’s why they call him the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time), no doubt.”
Does it help that you’ve seen Patriots QB tom Brady a number of times?
“Of course. I mean, it’s just like when we face the Jaguars or Tennessee, you get a feel for what those teams like to do, things like that, what kind of players you’re going to be up against. Things of that nature. So, we’ll prepare the best that we can this week and definitely truck forward and try to go get that W.”
What are some things you want to do different against Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“Man, honestly, I couldn’t even tell you right now. We’ll see what the coaches got cooking up or what they’ve been cooking up. We’ll see exactly what the game plan is this week.”
What’s it like having a player like CB Kareem Jackson that has a lot of pop?
“Oh yeah, definitely. He’s always had that. Kareem, he’s a great player, honestly. He’s got a lot of spunk to him. Great guy to play with. I’ll always want that guy in my trenches. All day.”
What do you take from the good defense performances against the Patriots last postseason and what do you try to replicate from that game?
“Obviously we’ll try to do some of the things that we did last year, but obviously they’re expecting it. No doubt. And also what you saw from KC (Kansas City) from Week 1. Obviously they’ve gotten better, obviously from the game from yesterday, so, like I said, we’ll see what the coaches are cooking up and we’ll go from there.”
NT D.J. READER
You’ve seen Patriots QB Tom Brady a number of times. Does that help for this upcoming game?
“Yes, a little bit. He’s good, though. He’s really good. So, you’ve got to prepare for him, you’ve got to get ready to play. He’s going to make plays so you just got to be prepared to go out there and play good defense.”
What’s the challenge of going against a guy like Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“He knows everything. It’s a big challenge. We’ve just got to go out there and prepare, prepare for the game and play hard and just hopefully we get the win. Go out there and just compete against him, make him make some plays.”
What’s it like going against Patriots QB Tom Brady, who you’ve watched your whole life?
“It’s crazy. It’s surreal, finally getting here and getting to play against him. You want to go out there and compete. He’s the best. You want to go out there and compete against the best of the best and go out there and put on a show. We’re going to go out there and try to get after him.”
Did you guys show yourselves something Thursday night?
“I think we got back to what we knew we could do, playing defense hard and getting out there, giving the ball back to our offense (and) letting them make plays.”
How do you contain Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“He doesn’t really move around a lot. You go out there, you put pressure on him and – he’s going to make plays. That’s just him. That’s the nature of playing against Tom Brady, but you just go out there and you rush hard and play good defense, play tight coverage and make everything tough on him.”