Head Coach Bill O’Brien
OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney
DE Christian Covington
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Can you talk about DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus’ injuries?
“Two good players, obviously. Great players. Obviously, we all feel terrible for them individually, personally. It’s tough to put in all the work that they put in, pour their hearts and soul into the thing and then to have their seasons cut short because of an injury. It’s tough. But, and that’s a big but, this football team understands that it is the ‘next man up’ philosophy. It’s going to take an effort by a lot of different people to fill those roles. There were a lot of plays in last night’s game that we’re going to go teach here around noon where we can get better, and we will get better. They’re not canceling the season. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season. We feel like we’ve got a good football team. We’ve got to sure some things up but we’re looking forward to getting ready for Cleveland.”
Have you ever been in a situation of this caliber, having to figure out how to work without players such as DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus?
“The places that I’ve been, obviously we’ve had injuries to major players, like in New England in 2008 obviously. But, look, I think at the end of the day that’s why you try to put together as good of a roster as you can and then you have some guys that can come in there and do the job. And it’s not going to be one guy, it’ll be multiple guys, it’ll be schematic, it’ll be all different things that go into it, from a coaching perspective and a playing perspective. But, like I’ve said, we’re excited about the fact that we’ve got a lot of season left and we’ve got a lot to teach after this film and we’re looking forward to getting going.”
Is that when you take a look at the versatility of the guys you have?
“Everybody has a different skillset up front. You have guys that can do different things, they can play inside, they can play on the edge, they can help you on special teams. There’s just a lot of different things that guys do. So, like I said, that’s what we’re getting ready to get going to do this afternoon.”
Do you have a timeline for DE J.J. Watt?
Last year when DE J.J. Watt was out with an injury, you leaned on OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney. Will you do that again?
“There’s no doubt that JD (Jadeveon Clowney) will be a guy that we count on to play real well for us. He plays very hard, he’s been practicing well and obviously he’s a guy that, whether J.J. (Watt) and Whitney (Mercilus) were there or not, he’s a guy that we really rely on to play at a high level and that’s not going to change.”
Are DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus out for the season?
How do you feel on a personal level about DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus missing the rest of the season?
“I feel bad. I can’t express it any other way. I’ve gotten to know this guy, these guys, over the last four years. They mean a lot to me personally. I’ve asked them to do a lot of different things. I’ve asked them to be leaders, I’ve asked them to put a lot of time into this thing, I’ve asked them to play different positions, I’ve personally asked them to be here in the offseason and be here every day and they’ve done it. I owe a lot to them for buying into that and they’ve played at a very high level for us. Like I said, the deal in this league though is that the train doesn’t stop moving. The train keeps going and that’s the deal with the league. That’s what makes the NFL what it is. These guys that are there, they’re going to have to step in and like I said, it’s going to be multiple guys. You don’t replace J.J. Watt or Whitney Mercilus with one guy. That’s just ridiculous. It’s going to be a lot of different guys that are going to chip in to help and I think the coaching staff needs to do a great job, too.”
Is it encouraging to know that the defense was one of the best last year, even without DE J.J. Watt?
“Well I think, look, at the end of the day, last year was last year, but I do think that we’ve got a very strong coaching staff here, we’ve got a lot of good players in that locker room, a lot of good role players, a lot of guys that really understand our defense. So, we’re expecting our guys to go out and play well.”
On the 3rd-and-longs yesterday, was it as simple as Chiefs QB Alex Smith getting out of the pocket?
“Yeah, it really was. I think we’ve got to do a much better job of keeping these, especially these mobile guys, in the pocket. We let him out of the pocket probably 10 times, and it wasn’t just on 3rd down. When you let guys out of the pocket, they’re very dangerous guys. We’re seeing it with our team with Deshaun (Watson). You get these guys out on the edge that can throw and run, it’s hard to stop, and we’ve got to do a much better job of that.”
ILB Dylan Cole and ILB Zach Cunningham were all over the field. Is that something that will see more of an active role now?
“I think both those guys are playing pretty well. For young players, it’s their first year in the league, both those guys really understand our defense, they both can run, they both can hit, they play very hard, they help us on special teams. So, yeah, I would expect those guys to continue to improve and play a big role in our defense.”
Does QB Deshaun Watson make you feel like you’re never out of a game?
“There’s no doubt about it. When you have a guy like that, and look, I know he’s only a 22-year old rookie and he’s learning every day and he’s got the poise and the demeanor that he has and the ability that he has. I think our team needs to understand that and to understand that you’ve got this guy under center and at shotgun out there playing for you, you’ve got a chance in every single game. No doubt about it.”
Can you talk about Will Fuller V these past two weeks?
“Yeah, he’s played well. He’s worked very hard in the offseason, then he got hurt and he worked very hard to get back from the injury. Worked very hard to get back. I mean he had a pretty significant injury there with the collarbone and I give him a lot of credit. He’s a really good route-runner, he’s worked hard in the weight room to be stronger, to improve his hands, and he’s got great speed. We’ve just got to continue to try to move him around, do different things with him, but he’s playing at a very high level.”
What are your thoughts about the sequence of QB Deshaun Watson escaping pressure and completing the deep pass to WR Will Fuller V?
“He’s a very instinctive player. We have to protect better, and there were times where we protected really well, and he has to read the route better. So, there’s give and take on both sides, but on that particular play, I mean, he’s a very instinctive guy. He can keep his eyes down the field while avoiding the rush, which is a very, very hard think to teach, it’s a very hard thing to do, and then he has the confidence in his arm and in his receivers to put the ball where they need (it) to be able to go make a play. Especially on almost a 50-yard play right there. So, it was a great play by him and a great play by Will and really a good play to build off of.”
With all of the players in motion and misdirections on offense, is this maybe a throwback to your time at Georgia Tech?
“I’ve personally been coaching for 25 years or 24 years, whatever it is, and Mike Devlin’s been coaching about as long as me, John Perry as long as me. We all kind of got into coaching at the same time. Mike was at Toledo, Johnny Perry’s been in a lot of different places where they did a lot of different things, New Hampshire (was) one place in particular. Obviously the places where I was at with Ralph Friedgen, some of the things we did with him. Even Mark Whipple, some of the things we did with him. So, we’re kind of drawing from a lot of different things and we’re not trying to do too much, we’re just thinking back to where we’ve been and we’re also trying to take advantage of the skillset of Deshaun (Watson). We’re trying to make sure that we maximize the things that he can do but not overload him. We’re also looking at some of the things he did where he’s been, obviously. Hopefully we can continue to improve on that.”
Do you think option concepts are a common theme spreading across the NFL? The Chiefs are doing a lot of that.
“The Chiefs do a great job, give them a lot of credit. Andy Reid’s a great football coach, great play caller. They do a lot of different things with Alex (Smith) to be able to get the ball on the perimeter of the defense, but also still have an inside running game. It’s very difficult to defend and there’s no doubt that there’s teams throughout the league doing it. I know Dallas is doing some of it with Dak (Prescott) and there’s a lot of teams really doing a great job with that stuff.”
How concerned are you with some of the breakdowns in coverage?
“I think a lot of it comes down to just making sure that we get back to combining the rush with the coverage. I think sometimes when you’re off in one area, maybe you have good coverage but you’re not getting home and you can’t cover them forever or vice-versa. You’re rushing the guy but the coverage is a little off. I think that’s something where we have to communicate better and we just all just have to do a better job, coaching and playing. We have to have a really good week of practice this week to get all those things cleaned up.”
As a play caller, what does it mean to know you can make explosive plays now?
“I think we’ve got to figure out a way to win. That’s one thing, so I’m not happy, but there are certain things that I think we can really build on with this football team. I think it’s my job to make sure this football team understands that in all three phases. That being one of the phases that you’re talking about, I really think this offense can really get cooking if we can shore some things up and get people really focusing on doing their jobs, I think we have a chance to be pretty good. I mean, we’ve been good but not consistent. We have to be more consistent.”
Is consistency on offense the main thing?
“Yeah, I think consistency’s big. I think we’ve run the ball well with some of the things that we’ve been able to do running game wise. I think our passing game has looked really good at times, but other times, a little bit off. I think we’ve got to get more consistent with our passing game, and that involves me. Starts with me, and then me getting the players to really get on the same page and be a little crisper in all areas, protection, route-running, reads, all those different things. But I think if we can clean some things up in both areas, run game and passing game, I think we can really get going.”
Can you talk about how QB Deshaun Watson can keep you in games and is poised under pressure?
“I think he’s, like I’ve said from day one with him, he’s got an excellent demeanor. He’s a very poised guy, but I think at the same time, he’s learning all the time. I mean, he’s only played in four and a half games basically and we have to understand that. When I say what I said, I’m not talking about overloading him with 180 plays in a game plan, I’m just saying that this guy’s a competitor, he never believes that the game’s over and he’s all about winning. He doesn’t care about stats, he cares about one thing, and that’s winning and getting his team in the end zone. And that’s really what you mark a quarterback by. You judge a quarterback by the amount of times they can get their teams in the end zone and how much they win, and I think that’s what he’s all about.”
OLB/DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY
What’s your immediate reaction to losing DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus for the season?
“It hurts. It’s a big blow to the team. A lot of our game plan was around those two. We have to find a way to regroup. We have a lot of season left.”
Do you see yourself elevating your game like last year?
“I’m going to half to pick my game up. We’re missing some leaders so guys have to step up.”
Do you feel any pressure to play as well as you did last year, or better?
“I don’t have any pressure. I just have to keep playing my game. There’s a lot of season left, like I said. We have a lot of improving to do, Cleveland coming to down. Lot of preparation this week (to) get ready to go.”
What are some things you learned from DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus since you got here?
“Every day is a work day. No day is off. They practice the way they play. Taking care of themselves and practicing hard. That’s what I took from those guys.”
Does something like that remind you how fast things can change?
“I’ve been there before. I was hurt when I first got here, my first game out. I texted J.J. (Watt) last night and said, ‘Man, I know you’re one of the strongest guys I’ve been around so I know you’ll be back.’ It’s a long process.”
What do you think will be the biggest key for this defense moving forward and being successful?
“The guys up front. We still have to play, regardless of who’s out there or not. A lot of guys need to step in and step up.”
DE CHRISTIAN COVINGTON
Now that you’ve had a chance to sleep on it, how bad do you feel for DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus?
“You still feel bad, especially to find out that they were season-enders. That’s always tough, it really is. Our heart goes out to them. Our prayers are going to be with them. I pray for speedy recoveries for the both of them. It’s time for us to step up now.”
Knowing how hard DE J.J. Watt worked in his rehab to return, is there any doubt in your mind that he’ll be back?
“No doubt in my mind. It’s J.J. He’s a resilient guy. He’s tenacious with his work ethic. It’s unmatched by anybody in this league. So, just having a teammate like that, I already know he’s going to put the work in to be able to come back full-go, and that’s the same with Whitney (Mercilus). That’s another guy that’s really an underrated guy in this league who’s just been a tremendous, tremendous guy, an asset on this team. I know he’s going to come back with full force, too. He’s going to be ready to go as soon as he can, too.”
Can you talk about the role you and other guys will have to take on to replace DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus?
“We’re all going to have to step up. We’re going to have to do our jobs, and not just do our jobs, we’re going to have to excel exponentially. With that being said, everybody knows it. Everybody knows what it looks like with the guys that went down and at the end of the day, it goes back to the ‘next man up’ mentality. We know what’s at stake and we know that we have to elevate our game that much more.”
Will you become more of a vocal leader on the defensive line going forward?
“I’m just going to try to do what I can. I’m going to do what’s asked of me. At the end of the day, I’m just going to let my playing do my talking and whatever’s asked of me, I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities as well.”
What are some things you’ve learned from DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus since coming into the league that you think can help you in this situation?
“Just really how to be a true professional in this game. Those are two class acts, two of the best players I’ve ever been around in my life. Two of the best athletes I’ve ever been around in my life. They’ve taught me how to truly be a professional in this game, how to attack every single work day as if it’s your last day playing this sport. I’m going to take what I’ve learned from them over these years and try to apply that with every situation every single day.”
As a human, how do you embrace the ‘next man up’ mentality in a situation like this?
“You take it with stride (but) at the same time, you have to calm yourself down and not overthink it. Football is a beautiful game, it’s a brutal game, it’s a game unlike any other. It’s one of those things where you just have to calm yourself down and truly just take in everything that’s going around you and know that you’re in this position for a reason, you’re in this league just like everybody else and whoever’s that guy to step up, they have to know that they’re confident in their play and that they’re going to be able to go on that field and make plays.”