Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel
WR Will Fuller V
WR DeAndre Hopkins
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Who are you rooting for in today’s game, the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox?
“Astros, all the way. I’m not that dumb. No, seriously, (Houston Astros manager) A.J. Hinch, I’ve texted with him a few times since he’s been here. He’s a very smart guy, great manager and they’ve had a great year. We’ve had those guys over here to practice – Carlos Correa, (José) Altuve was out here at a game last year. I’ve been to several games there with my son and my wife. My son and wife are at the game right now.”
How does QB Deshaun Watson’s ability to extend plays help the receivers?
“Look, I think any time that you have a quarterback that has the ability to make plays outside of the pocket, I definitely think that that adds another dimension to your offense that’s hard to defend. Now, teams are going to do different things to keep him in the pocket and I have a lot of trust and confidence in him that he’ll do a good job in that situation, too. His ability to extend plays has helped us.”
Can you talk about the different things that defensive coordinators will throw at QB Deshaun Watson?
“Everybody’s different, so every week’s different. From Cincinnati to New England then to Tennessee and now to (Kansas City), the fronts are different, the personnel are different. If you look at Kansas City, they’re in a lot of substituted defense. They play a nickel package, they have a dime package, not just on third down, which is different than what the previous teams did and they do different things out of them. So, we watch film and then a lot of these guys, they’re so good at what they do – I’m talking about the Bob Suttons and the Dick LeBeaus and the Bill Belichicks. Whatever you see on film, it’s going to be something different on Sunday. I think that that’s what we have to do a great job as coaches, of making sure that we’re communicating that different scheme properly to Deshaun (Watson). He does a good job of picking it up. He’s very focused. He understands what you’re talking about right away, but we have to do a good job of explaining it.”
What are your thoughts on NT D.J. Reader?
“D.J.’s a good player. He’s got a great build for that position. Very strong player. He’s got good juice in the pass-rush game too for a guy that is an inside tackle. He’s not just a run-stuffer. He can play on third down and make plays, press the pocket. So, he’s done a good job for us this year.”
Does QB Deshaun Watson’s mobility affect how you coach the offensive line?
“I don’t know about that. Look, I think that there’s some basic tenants that we have with our offensive line that will never change. So, there might be some different things that we do, but it doesn’t change the way we coach them, if that makes sense. Their steps are the same, their splits are the same, their landmarks are the same. So, I wouldn’t say that that’s the case at all.”
What do you feel has changed for you since taking over the play-calling on offense?
“I mean, I would say that there’s no doubt about it. I really try to get better every day. I really do. I think that in order to be a decent play-caller, you have to be your own harshest critic. You have to be willing to adapt, you have to be willing to change. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to suit your players’ skillsets. And then you have to do a good job of understanding of the timing, what’s going on in the game, the timing of the play call in the game, what’s the right thing to do in a split-second decision you have to make. So, I think I’ve got to continue to get better and better.”
How does having a player like QB Deshaun Watson affect the playbook and how you call plays?
“I think it’s definitely been a process. It’s funny, everybody asks me about how does he learn, it’s the same thing for me. How am I learning about coaching him? How is Sean Ryan learning about coaching him? That’s the type of guy he is. It’s really a fun – like I said yesterday, it’s a very fun guy to coach because there’s a lot of good give and take in the meeting room. Like I said, we don’t have a suggestion box and he leaves all of his suggestions in the box at the end of the day. It’s more about ‘Hey, look, what do you think about this play? Do you like opening this way or would you rather, are you more comfortable doing it this way? Do you want to be in the gun on this or under center? What’s comfortable for you on this play? What suits you the best?’ And there’s a lot of good give and take on that stuff because he has a good memory of what he’s done in the past also.”
Has QB Deshaun Watson helped make you better?
“I think there’s a definite correlation between good players and good coaches. There’s no correlation between good coaches and bad players. None.”
Can you talk about the challenges with making tough in-game decisions?
“I think that there’s no doubt that there’s some decisions that you have to make at a moment’s notice. You have a lot of help in that regard, too. There’s assistants on your staff that help you, whether there’s a guy on the sideline or a guy up in the press box. It’s certainly not me. They give you maybe a forewarning, meaning like, ‘Hey look, be ready for this coming up when you get the ball back,’ or just different things that come up maybe at the end of a half or at the end of the game. It’s not just all one guy making that decision. There’s a lot of input and then obviously I have to make the final decision, but look, every situation that comes up in a game is usually new. There’s very few that you’ve seen over and over again. It’s always something new that you have to be able to think and understand how to handle it.”
Who do you lean on for game management decisions?
“I have guys on the sideline, Timmy Kelly and Johnny Perry help me quite a bit. Upstairs, Jimmy Bernhardt, Romeo (Crennel), those guys definitely help. So, yeah, there’s guys that help me in those regards, but like I said, at the end of the day, it’s on me to make the right decision and a lot of them are new. It’s not anything that you’ve seen before so you have to make a good split-second decision. I think for the most part, I believe that we have done that over the years here, but yeah, there’s been times where we’ve made mistakes, and that’s me, not we. That’s me and I’ve always tried to improve in that area.”
Which NFL head coach is the gold standard with game management?
“Well I think a lot of that has to do with who’s out there on the field for you, too. I think a lot of that has to do with, offensively, who’s playing quarterback for you and defensively, who’s playing middle linebacker for you, who’s playing safety for you. At the end of the day, they have to be thinking the same way you are in that situation. So, I think when you have the veteran quarterbacks in the league, I’m talking about the vets, that have seen these situations over and over again with these great head coaches, I would go to some of those pairings that are really good at handling all the situations that come up in a game. I think as we grow here with Deshaun (Watson), he’ll be very, very good at being the on-the-field guy to handle those things offensively and then I think Benardrick McKinney does a great job on the other side of the ball of handling those situations. On special teams, Shane Lechler is very good with situations.”
Can you talk about new acquisition ILB Ben Heeney?
“We signed Ben Heeney. We had seen him at the previous stops that he had in Oakland and New Orleans and liked him as a productive special teams player. Great reports on him as a guy, so let’s see how it goes.”
How similar would you say you guys are with Kansas City?
“I think there’s some similarities. I think at certain positions, there are similarities if you look at our offensive positions and their offensive positions and vice-versa, defense and their defense. But I think at the end of the day, the matchup is going to be relative to our defense being able to stop the run, because they’ve run the ball really well with a rookie running back and a good offensive line, being able to understand where Travis Kelce is all the time, Alex Smith and the things that he can do. And then on our side of the ball, Justin Houston. How are we going to deal with that? That’s a great player. Derrick Johnson, Dee Ford, Marcus Peters, who does a great job at corner, Terrance Mitchell. So, I think it’s more about the matchups than it is about our styles being similar.”
Coming into the season, did you mark this three-game stretch as a measuring stick for your team?
“I don’t look at it that way. I’ve always looked at it as 16 one-game seasons and really trying to improve every week. I never really say like ‘these’ three games are going to determine the season because after this week, there’s a lot of football left. There’s 11 games left. So, I think it’s more about one week at a time. I know that sounds such coach-speak, but it is the truth. It’s a very focused occupation that we have. It’s what are we doing on Thursday relative to third down and kickoff and kickoff return for the Kansas City Chiefs. And then we move to Friday, now it’s red area, it’s goal-line, it’s some of the things that we do on Fridays. And building towards Sunday, being in peak position to hopefully go win a tough football game. I don’t think about three games in a row and what that means. That’s not the way we operate.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE VRABEL
How does a guy like RB Kareem Hunt have so many long runs in the NFL after running a 4.6 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine?
“One thing I think they do is they commit to the run. A lot of those big play runs have occurred in the second half late in the game. He got 16 carries in the second half and it looked like they bottled him up early and then even against Washington he broke a couple 15-yarders late. But certainly a home-run hitter. I think that a lot of defenses, once you get through the first line, really, sometimes you’re talking about beating the post safety. He does a good job of running in the open field, of attacking the guy’s leverage, making the guy sit down. As opposed to just looking for the sideline, he’s attacking the guy and then making a break. So, it’s a huge challenge for us and obviously we’re preparing all week, we’re trying to prepare for the running game.”
What do you see from S Marcus Gilchrist as he gets more comfortable?
“Just continuing, like a lot of guys, to develop and learn our system and play in some different spots. We ask guys that are capable to be versatile and know more than one position. He’s playing safety for us, he’s playing down low a little bit for us on third downs. So, just continuing to get better every week, hopefully like a lot of guys.”
Last year you shut down Kansas City Chiefs WR Chris Conley, WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce. What did you do then that you have to do now?
“I think we have to know where they’re at. They all line up in different spots. (Tyreek) Hill’s usually where he’s at. He’s going to be behind the quarterback or he’s going to be next to the quarterback. So, that’s where he’s at most of the time. Excuse me, that’s with (Kareem) Hunt. And then, as it relates to the receivers like you mentioned, they all have big-play potential, they all have great ability. They do a great job of lining them up in different spots. Kelce could be out, he could be mid, he could be flexed, he could be a single receiver on the backside. So, I think number one, it starts with awareness of where those guys are. Hill could be in the backfield, he could be in the slot, he could be out wide. So, as long as we start out by knowing where they’re at, I think then we have at least a chance to cover them.”
The Chiefs had a fumble on the first play of the season but haven’t turned it over since. What do you think about that?
“Well-coached, disciplined team. I think as you watched things that happened on Monday night, they drew the Redskins offsides, got free yardage that way. They’re not jumping off, they’re not making a lot of penalties and they’re not turning the ball over. That’s a good recipe for – and then running the football – that’s a good recipe for success in this league.”
Your offense was on the field a lot during the game against Tennessee. How does that help the defense?
“It’s huge. I mean, guys are over there looking for exercise bikes to ride, we’re running out of bikes to ride and get warmed up. When our offense can do that, that’s amazing. Our guys I think played maybe 40 snaps total. That doesn’t happen very much in the NFL. We’re not expecting that on Sunday night.”
What was the key to the nice bounce-back game from your secondary against Tennessee?
“I mean, I think you referenced the secondary (but) I’d like to reference the entire defense. I don’t think it’s just one thing. I think we talk about the eleven guys out there. There are eleven starters. Whatever package we’re in, whether you’re a first-year player, you’re a guy that is a backup player, you’re a starter and you’re expected to perform well. So with that being said, continue to make a huge emphasis on ball disruption, trying to find ways to get the ball out, keep mixing coverages, keep mixing disguises and guys going to make plays on the ball. Dre (Andre Hal) made two great catches, going and high-pointing the football, catching it with his hands, securing it, coming to the ground. Marcus (Gilchrist) had a great pick. So, those are – and Dylan (Cole) caught the one they threw him. So, it’s just an emphasis and then making plays on the football and catching the ones they throw to you.”
What kind of blocking schemes have you seen opposing teams throw at DE J.J. Watt this year and how do you feel like he’s adjusting so far?
“I think every week, everybody’s going to have a plan for how they feel they need to block our better players on defense. Whether they try to double them or they try to chip them on third down. There’s different philosophies week to week and J.J’s (Watt) starting to recognize that and we have to understand that we’re going to have to put him in different spots or he’s going to have to use different techniques. We’re 2-2 right now. We’re coming off a great team victory. We have a huge challenge ahead of us. We’re going to need everybody’s best effort, J.J. (Watt) included, JD (Jadeveon Clowney), Whitney (Mercilus) – could name every 24 guys that we have on defense. We’re going to need everybody’s best effort.”
What was the key to containing Chiefs QB Alex Smith last year and did playing Titans QB Marcus Mariota last week help you prepare for him?
“Yeah, you know, because he can run. They may run the same zone-read plays that Tennessee ran, they certainly can. You look at his scrambles. He took off and he basically won the game with them with a scramble for a first down where he turns the corner, the closest guy to him is the coach on the sideline, and then the play extension with the scramble on the two-minute to get the ball downfield to (Albert) Wilson. So, those are what we have to understand that he can kill us. He had one out here a couple years ago that got called back with a holding call, but that was a 50-yarder where he just scrambles back on a drop-back pass and we give him a scramble lane and he’s going to try to circle up the defense.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien mentioned he listen to feedback from his players on offense. Do you listen to your defensive guys?
“Absolutely. I think that whatever we do, our players have to be able to like it and understand it for them to play fast and aggressive. And, if they don’t, we have to throw it out and we have to do something else because if there’s too much thinking going on and if there’s too much gray area or they’re not sure, we just got to go with what they know and making sure that they’ll play it fast.”
How hard is it to prepare for an offense coached by Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid?
“Every week in this league is a challenge. I think that’s the thing we try to tell our players every week is that you go from the Patriots to the Titans to now the Chiefs. Win or lose, you have to turn the page and you have to move on to the next opponent and then you turn the film on and it’s like, ‘Man, they’re doing this, they’re doing that.’ They do a lot of different stuff, and then they’re good at it. So, they’re well-coached, they’ve got good players, so it’s difficult. You have to have a plan and you have to get the players as many looks at it as they can with different personnel groups, with the different plays that come out of each personnel group.”
What have you seen from ILB Dylan Cole and ILB Zach Cunningham? Do you have an affinity for linebackers since you were one, and what do you remember about being a rookie linebacker?
“Well, I wasn’t a rookie linebacker. I came in as a defensive lineman. I played all six positions in Pittsburgh. Eventually moved to linebacker. But, affinity – I’ve coached them here for four years now. So, they probably can’t stand it, but that’s what it is, that’s what it’s going to be. Young players in our system, in anybody’s system, we’ve talked about this before, you just have to keep developing, get better. And those guys are playing well for us. They’re running around, they’re active, they’re young, they’re not afraid to go in there and make contact and make big plays for us in all our victories. They’ve had good plays, and then like anybody else, they’ve had plays they wish they could have back.”
How do you guard against overloading a young linebacker mentally?
“I think that you always have to be careful of that. If you’re quizzing them and asking them questions and they’re not really spitting it back to you as fast as you need it to, then you probably ought to tone it back. So, we’re trying to gauge that every week to see what they can understand and what they can comprehend.”
WR WILL FULLER V
What would you like to do to build on your performance from last week?
“Just go out there and get a win. I think that’s all we want to do, is win. I love winning, so whatever that takes to help the team win.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said you and QB Deshaun Watson spent a lot of time together. How much did that help?
“It helped a lot. Whenever I was able to go out there and run routes, we were out there plenty of times just working on timing and doing things that are good.”
Did you feel rusty at all last week?
“No, I didn’t feel rusty at all. Like I said last week, I still got conditioning things I’ve got to take care of, but I felt good out there.”
How good does it feel to have your presence on the field open things up for teammates?
“Real good. It’s not just me though, it’s the whole offense, the game plan the coaches put together. It made us fit together real well.”
How important is your speed to the offense?
“I think that helps a lot. I guess it keeps the defense honest because a big play can happen any time of the game. It keeps the defense honest.”
How good does it feel for people to compliment your route-running and not just your speed?
“It feels good because I just got fast in college, so I always worked hard on my routes. I felt like I was a good route-runner coming out of college.”
How far do you think you’ve come with your hands with year?
“Just running routes consistently and catching the ball consistently and doing everything I can just to be the best receiver I can.”
Did the JUGS Machine help you or just catching the ball?
“Just catching as much as possible. Whether that’s JUGS or with the quarterbacks, it doesn’t matter. Just catching a lot of balls.”
What do you think of Chiefs CB Marcus Peters?
“He’s a good player but we’re up for the task.”
How much better do you think you are from last year to this year?
“I’m a lot smarter, so I just know a lot more about defenses and how we run stuff around here. So, I’m just a lot more comfortable.”
So it’s a lot more studying that helps you get better?
“Just being more comfortable and not playing so reckless. Just knowing everything I’ve got to do and just doing it as fast as possible.”
How did your collarbone feel after last game?
“Yeah, I came through pretty well. I didn’t even feel it during the game, so that’s a good thing.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
How does QB Deshaun Watson make you better?
“We all make each other better. Him getting the ball to me, where it needs to be, just getting the ball to his playmakers. He makes the whole team better, not just me.”
Is that so important to have in your quarterback?
“It is. You want a quarterback that’s a general on the field, and off the field as well. That’s what he is.”
How does it feel to work with a player like QB Deshaun Watson?
“It gives us a little bit more confidence, especially on the offensive side of the ball.”
How was your thumb in the first two weeks?
“It was fine.”
How do you keep the performance from last week going this season?
“Just coming out and practicing and doing what we do best. Keep building chemistry, young offense. We’ve got some young players, we’ve got some veterans. We’re just putting everything together and basically just building off what we’ve done the last three games. Came up with some wins, came up with some losses, but still just building and getting this thing rolling.”
Can you take us through what practice is like?
“It’s just conditioning. It’s everything. Just that mindset where you know you’re going to go out and score no matter what, no matter where you are. Just having that mindset and practicing. It’s just repetition, just doing it over and over and expecting results.”
Is it exciting to be part of this new offense? Do you feel like a rookie?
“I do, I feel like a rookie. When you’ve got a guy like Deshaun (Watson) out there that’s doing things that I haven’t done since I’ve been in college in that offense, just scrambling with a quarterback that can make plays after the play is considered dead. It’s a good feeling just knowing you have a guy that’s going to keep plays continued. A guy like Deshaun, it’s the same offense but still, we have to do what he does best.”
What’s your reaction when you see the game plan each week?
“Same reaction. Let’s make it work. Let’s make this game plan work.”
In what ways does QB Deshaun Watson insert himself as a leader?
“Just the way he carries himself, not just on the field but outside of the field as well. Just everything that he does, from not going out, not doing the typical things you would think a rookie would do. Just the way he carries himself and comes in to practice every day.”
Does the fact that QB Deshaun Watson can keep plays alive add excitement to your game?
“To everybody’s game. That’s an attribute that he has. That’s the reason we went up and drafted him.”