Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel
OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney
WR DeAndre Hopkins
RB Lamar Miller
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
I know there’s a ‘next man up’ mentality in the league, but how do you overcome injuries like the ones in the last game?
“That’s what it is. This is a game where it’s a contact sport. Guys are going to get injured. Thirty-two teams deal with injuries. I was looking at the injury report for every team that we get every Monday, I mean, everybody’s dealing with it, got starters on IR. It’s not just one team. So, look, like I said at the beginning of the week, it’s tough, especially with the guys that you’ve been around a long time. But, at the end of the day, sometimes an opportunity arises for another player to really come on strong and help the team. You’ve seen that. You’ve been around a long time. You’ve seen guys that get chances in October through January and make big plays for the team. So, it is really the next man up. It’s a professional sport, everybody’s supposed to come in here every day and do their job. We’ve had two good practices. The proof will be in the pudding on Sunday.”
Do you talk to players about getting that opportunity and do you use examples?
“Oh, yeah. I mean, last year. We didn’t end up where we wanted to last year but we won the division and we dealt with some big injuries.”
Do you include C Greg Mancz as one of the guys last year who got the opportunity to step up?
“Yeah, no question. Mancz having to step in and play for Nick (Martin) early on. Unfortunately, J.J. (Watt) was injured last year and there’s examples throughout the league, throughout the history of the league of teams really doing a good job of dealing with that and really coming to play every Sunday and winning games.”
Are you expecting OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney, ILB Benardrick McKinney and CB Johnathan Joseph to play on Sunday?
“I do expect them to play. My expectation is for them to play, but we got a couple days until the game. But, I do expect them to play.”
With injury management in terms of practice time, does it change when you have significant injuries and there’s the idea of preserving certain guys? Does the mindset of when to practice certain guys change?
“Yeah, I think you always – look, I think the one thing about practice is you have to get your practices in. You have to get your reps in, you have to understand that you have to see a big picture view of that. The team needs to practice, but then within that big picture, there’s certain guys that maybe you do watch their reps of maybe you give them a day off here and there, but that just gives an opportunity to another guy, a younger guy, a practice-squad guy, a guy maybe that’s a core special teams player but maybe he could help us on offense or defense. So, you still get your reps in practice but maybe some other guys have more opportunities to show what they can do on film.”
RB Lamar Miller said he feels a difference in the offense this year from last year. How have you seen your hands-on approach affect the offense?
“I appreciate Lamar (Miller) saying that but I give credit to the players. The players have worked very hard, they have a strong belief in what we’re doing, they enjoy what we’re doing. I think they have fun in the meetings, meaning like it’s something new every day, and I think they’ve really bought into it and I give Lamar and all those guys a lot of credit.”
What are your thoughts on the type of season WR DeAndre Hopkins has had and what he’s been able to do?
“Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) is a great player. Since the day we arrived here, he works very, very hard. He tries to do everything we ask him to do and he makes plays in games. I have a very, very strong bond with DeAndre Hopkins. He’s meant a lot to me while I’ve been here. We try to get him the ball as much as we can, we move him around, people double him, people throw coverage his way and he still works hard to get open. He’s got great hands, great jumping ability. He’s a great receiver.”
Is there any particular reason WR Braxton Miller has been inactive recently and what’s the confidence level in him?
“We have confidence in Braxton. I think sometimes, relative to the teams that we’re playing and special teams comes into play a lot, how they practice on the practice field, Braxton is giving good effort. He’s really coming along. He missed some time during training camp with a sprained ankle, missed a lot of time and came back. Took a while to get back into it. He’ll be back in there at some point. I think that he’ll have a chance to help us win games here, whether it’s this week or next week or whenever. I haven’t lost any confidence in him. Up until now, we’ve had a fairly healthy team, and so you have to pick the best 46 you think you need to go win the game.”
Is there something you’re doing differently as a play-caller this time around as opposed to the first?
“Again, I have a tough time with the question. I appreciate the question but I really try to do the best I can for the players and try to put them in the best position to make plays. It’s a very humbling league. We just need to keep to try getting better. Our players have done a great job of buying in, bringing energy every day and our line’s getting better, a lot of guys are improving, and it has to keep going because in order for us to win, we’re going to have to keep improving on offense.”
Do you have a lot more offensive firepower to work with than you have in the past?
“Every year’s different. I think that this year, because of a lot of different reasons, obviously the players and how we’re using them, whether it’s receivers, tight ends, running backs and obviously the quarterback, we’re trying to do things that suit everyone’s skillset, if that makes sense. We’re trying not to do too much but keep it moving so that nobody can get a beat on us. That’s the issue, that’s the hard thing, is that you cannot keep repeating yourself every week or they catch up with you. We have to keep changing and our players need to keep learning and growing and I think if they do that, we’ll be OK.
What scares you the most about the Browns?
“I think they have a lot of good players. I really think they have a great head coach in Hue Jackson, a very creative coach. A coach that is not afraid to take a risk. I’ve always had admiration for Hue from the time that I met him when he was in Oakland. We had to be on our toes when we played him when he was in Cincinnati and now in Cleveland. They’ve got a lot of good players, offensively, skilled players. Defensively, some of the things that they’re doing, Gregg Williams’ package on third down – we were working on third down today. I mean, it’s impossible to predict what Gregg Williams is going to do on third down, to give you an example. So, it’s going to be a very challenging game. A very challenging game where our players need to show up and be ready to go.”
Is it easier to sign a veteran off the street to replace an injured player as opposed to find a younger and less experienced player actively in the NFL?
“I think the first thing – there’s two scenarios. You’re looking at your practice squad – we feel really good about our practice squad and sometimes you want to promote guys from your practice squad. I think eventually we will, some of the guys that we have on that practice squad, but then there’s guys out there that have played. They’ve played in a similar system, they’ve had success in a similar system. Maybe somebody on our staff has coached them before or has knowledge of them, so sometimes that outweighs it a little bit and you just try to, again, you try to make the decision that’s in the best interest of the team, and that’s what we tried to do with Kendall (Langford) and Lamarr (Houston).
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE VRABEL
Can you talk about OLB Brennan Scarlett and what your expectations are for him?
“A guy that we targeted last year in free agency, watching him play. He was a defensive lineman. He played four-technique. He transferred from Cal to Stanford, he played in, basically, their 3-4 system. Watched him, and what you do is you try to watch these guys and how they play with their hands, what their pad level looks like, what their body, the balance looks like and their body control inside, and you look at the body type and he doesn’t have the body type to play D-line and so you watch his workout and he had lost some weight and he moved around pretty well. So, you have a vision for him and it was – hey, we had John Simon, we thought he could be a guy that similar to John Simon. He’s physical, good with his hands, smart, smart player, can handle a lot. So, we recruited him, we targeted him in free agency and we were lucky enough to get him and we try to keep developing him and he plays a bunch of different spots for us.”
Does Browns QB Kevin Hogan throw well on the run or is he just a really good runner?
“I think that any of these guys that are mobile, they obviously cause problems out of the pocket, and if you come out of coverage and leave guys open, yeah, then they become a little bit more accurate. If you’re able to stay tight in coverage and then get somebody to come and force him maybe to throw off balance or with somebody in his face, then he’s maybe not as accurate. But, I think that any of these guys that are out of the pocket, they become accurate when there’s open space, there’s free windows, you’re not matching a guy in coverage or you don’t have anybody at least pulling him up.”
How important is consistency?
“I think that consistency – we talk to these guys every week about staying humble and staying consistent. That’s the National Football League. Don’t be so high one week and so low the next. There’s a process, and you have to go out and you have to show him the good plays, you’ve got to coach the bad ones, then you go from there. But, consistent is just about the guys knowing what to do, playing fast and aggressive and not worrying about being perfect, worrying about playing fast and as a unit and together.”
What are your thoughts on the loss of two of your significant starters, DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus?
“Those guys are a big part of our football team. They’re still a part of our football team, but this is what the National Football League is. There’s guys that are given opportunities, there will be guys that will step up and you’ll be like, ‘Man, I didn’t know that that guy was there,’ or ‘I didn’t know that that guy could do that.’ And that’s the great thing about this league. You can look around a lot of years. When guys get their opportunity they make the most of it and next thing you know, they’ve got an eight- or 10-year career. And so, we’ve talked about that at length about the guys that are stepping up. They’re expected to go up there and play and play well. That’s why they’re here.”
Can you address how difficult it is to bring a guy in, get him acclimated and ready for Sunday and what OLB Lamarr Houston and DE Kendall Langford specifically bring to the table?
“Two veteran guys who have played in this league, that have made plays in this league, that have been on teams that have won games in this league. And so, it’s a challenge, but that’s why that we’re coaches and that’s what they pay us to do is get these guys ready to go in there and play in some capacity and help us out on Sunday. That’s what we’re doing and that’s what we’re trying to do with practice and the meetings and giving them a certain package and maybe it’s not the whole thing, if and when they play, but enough that we can go out and play with them.”
Was it a strategy to go after veterans to fill the roster spots vacated by DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus as opposed to a younger player?
“Certainly that’s on Rick’s (Smith) side of things with the, basically, with the talent and the player acquisition. But, you look at the guys you have, the guys that we’re developing on the practice squad, do we feel like they’re good enough or are they at the point now where they can go out there and play? I think you look there. I think that’s the process. Then, you see who’s available at this point in time in the league. Then we’re working guys out – I think you guys see that, the release and we’re working guys out to see who’s there, who’s available, what guys look like, see who’s still maybe in shape or who could play football. And then you kind of make that process and they sign the guys on Tuesday and then we figure out what happens after that and then we just coach the guys that come in.”
With the adjustment to you guys scoring a lot and scoring fast, how much does that affect the defense?
“Our job is to stop them. Our job is to play well on first and second down, get off the field on third down. That doesn’t change. They could score as fast as they want, that would be amazing. We just have to play a little better in situations and hold them when they do. There was a sudden change the other night, I think we held them to a field goal, which is good, a field goal attempt, and then there’s times where we have to be better in the redzone. So, they can score as fast as they want and we’ll go out there, we’ve got to play defense and just get off the field on third down.”
How much has your years as a player helped you help your players during a situation such as this one where you lost two of your starters?
“I mean, you just try to tell these guys, OK, we’ve signed guys before, I’ve seen guys get opportunities that have gone out there and taken advantage of their opportunities. Whatever it may be, if these guys are veterans that were on the street, this may be their last go around, this may be their last chance to get signed with a team and play a couple more years. And then, same thing goes with the young guys. This may be their chance that they’ve been working for. Everybody’s got to be ready to play, we tell that to everybody in the room whether it’s a practice squad guy or a guy that we just signed. We’ve got to know what to do and we’ve got to be ready to go out and play on Sunday.”
What is the challenge for you to try to offset some of the extra attention OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney will get with DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus out?
“I think that we have to be careful at times of doing too much. Right now it’s about getting back to being physical, playing fundamentals, playing hard, all those types of things. We still do things with JD (Jadeveon Clowney), it’s just how much do the guys around him that may be new, how much are they able to process? So, we’ll take that into account today, we’ll see what this looks like on third down as far as practicing and preparation and then we’ll see all the different spots that we can put JD in.”
Does finishing with the best defense in the NFL last year without DE J.J. Watt give you confidence that you can do it again?
“Everybody says that every year is a new year. Every team is going to look different. Every season is different. So, I don’t even think that we even could draw any comparison to what happened last year as it relates to this situation. We’re going to play with 11 guys, hopefully, on every snap and they’ll know what to do and we’ll go from there.”
How much will scheme help offset the loss of DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus?
“I think you just have to be sound in whatever you’re doing. Always have to be sound. So, I think there’s a balance between scheme and just going and playing a game. Guys going and making plays, calling a call and guys executing the call, somebody whipping somebody and making a play. So, I think there’s a fine line. There’s a good balance. I think you want to have some things that you think will help you scheme-wise, but then ultimately, you’ve got to beat the guy in front of you, you’ve got to cover him, you’ve got to whip him and make a play.”
OLB/DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY
Do you look at the Browns game as a must-win game?
“We just want to win them all. We prepare just like we do every game. We want to win against every team we play. That’s our goal. Just another team to play this week, so we got to win no matter what their record (is). They’re 5-0 to me.”
Given the injuries on the Texans defense, do you think teams will put more attention on stopping you?
“I don’t know. I don’t really care. Our job is still to go out there and do the same thing on defense – get stops and get off the field. We’ve got to do that as a collective group no matter who’s out there. I think we got the guys to do it, we just got to go and get our job done.”
What’s the transition on defense been like to having a fast-paced, high-scoring offense?
“We still got our job to do regardless of what their job is on that side of the ball. As a defense, we pride ourselves on not letting other teams score no matter how many points our offense puts up. It could be 50-0. I think that’s a good look for us no matter what it is. Our job’s still the same no matter whether our offense is putting up points. That’s a good thing for us to get off the field but we still got a job to do.”
How different is the Browns offense with the quarterback change?
“Both of them still can run. Both of them run, both of them throw the ball about the same. I think coming into this game, we just really have to contain the quarterback. Last game, we let the quarterback run for a lot of first downs. So, we had them stopped on first and second down, we won first and second down, lost third down a lot and really changed the whole game. So, this game right here, we need to win on third down. We don’t want to do what we did last week.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
What do you think about how this offense is growing and developing?
“We’re improving every week, so that’s all we can ask for. Come out and improve. Left some things on the field but that’s what practice is for. Hopefully we can keep improving.”
What is surprising about what you guys are doing right now?
“Nothing surprises us. The way we practice, the way we handle ourselves in this locker room and meetings, nothing really surprises us on what we’re doing.”
What have you thought of the Browns secondary?
“They got some young talent over there. Jabrill Peppers, obviously the drafted him. He’s talented. They’ve got some veterans in (Jason) McCourty that can make plays, so you just have to go out and play every play hard with those guys.”
Do you feel you can really test yourself and see how good you can be with Texans QB Deshaun Watson?
“You have to thank OB (Bill O’Brien) and Sean (Ryan) for calling the plays, and the players execute. So, just them giving us the chance to go out and do the things that we’ve done so far.”
How much fun are you having right now playing with Texans QB Deshaun Watson with how the offense is moving?
“A lot of fun. The points we put up are obviously something that we haven’t done here in a long time, franchise records and stuff like that. But still, at the end of the day, all that matters is wins.”
You guys didn’t quit on the last drive even though you probably weren’t going to win the game. Is that no-quit mentality something Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien instilled in you guys?
“Of course. That’s the way we practice. We go hard no matter what the scenario is. That’s just our mindset. We’re going to go out and work on something, even like you said, if we’re down and it’s zero points on the board, we’re still going to go out and see if we can improve on something.”
RB LAMAR MILLER
Do you look at the Browns game as a must-win game?
“Yeah. I feel like every game is a must-win.”
Does this game in particular feel like a must-win?
“I think we just got to go out there and try to finish strong before the bye week and then just take it from there.”
How big is it to finish strong before the bye week?
“It’s real big. We had a tough loss last week. We just got to try to move forward this week and just try to find a way to win so we can be 3-3 heading into the bye.”
Are you happy to have a stable quarterback situation with Texans QB Deshaun Watson?
“Yeah. Deshaun, he’s been doing a great job since he took control of the offense. Not having a quarterback’s kind of tough. I don’t know their (the Browns) situation because I’m not over there playing, but I’m glad we’ve got a quarterback. So, we don’t have that problem.”
Does it feel like the identity of the team has shifted to a fast-paced, high-scoring team?
“I think everybody’s just doing their assignments and everybody’s clicking on all cylinders. We’re out there playing fast, everybody’s making plays when their number is called, and we just got to keep building off that. This week, we just got to find a way to start fast. Last week, we started off slow and we put up points in the second half, but we just got to put it all together and hopefully this should be good.”
Does it feel strange to be in a shootout and do you feel prepared to play in that type of game?
“Yes. We have that mindset every time we step on the field as an offense, we’ve got to put up points. So far, I think we’ve been doing a great job of moving the ball down the field. We just got to find a way to keep putting points on the scoreboard.”
Do you see any frustrations in the opposing defense because Texans QB Deshaun Watson is a dynamic player?
“I mean, I don’t see it, but I’m pretty sure it’s hard for them because we have a guy who can make plays on his feet and make plays with his arm. All of us keep the defense on their toes and I’m pretty sure it’s tough to stop.”
How much fun is it to be playing in this offense right now?
“It’s real fun. Just knowing that you can put up points at any given moment is always good. We just got to keep building and just try to find a way to win some ball games.”
How do you feel about your season so far?
“I’m having an OK season. I feel like, me personally, I got to break some more runs, long runs. I don’t think I’ve got a 20-yard run yet. Me personally, I feel like I still have room for improvement and I just got to keep getting better every day.”
What differences have you noticed in practice from last year to this year?
“I just think, this year, everybody’s out there having fun at practice. So, I think that’s transferred over to the game. Everybody’s out there doing their assignment, what the coaches have been telling us throughout the whole week. We have walkthrough before practice, so that gives everybody that step ahead to go out there and play fast on Sunday.”
Did you not have the same type of practice environment last year?
“I mean, we had it, but I think this year, everybody’s buying in more. I should say that OB (Bill O’Brien), he’s just making sure everybody’s doing their assignment and I think everybody’s just out there having fun doing it. So, they’re making everybody play better.”
So you think Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien being more involved in the offense is making practice more fun?
“Yes, I think so.”