Assistant Head Coach/Defense Romeo Crennel
Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel
Special Teams Coordinator Larry Izzo
Secondary Coach John Butler
Offensive Line Coach Mike Devlin
Linebackers Coach Bobby King
Running Backs Coach Charles London
Offensive Assistant/Quarterbacks Coach Pat O’Hara
Wide Receivers Coach John Perry
Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan
Offensive/Special Teams Assistant Wes Welker
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSE ROMEO CRENNEL
What is it like having this big responsibility of assistant coach, but not quite the same responsibility when you were on the field?
“Well, you know, it’s still football and it’s still in my blood and I like football. So, you get anxious about the games, you get anxious about the preparation and make sure that everything gets covered that needs to get covered so that hopefully on Sunday, you can go out and perform at a high level. So, that’s what we continually work to do.”
What has surprised you about Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel’s defense this year?
“I’ll tell you what, Mike (Vrabel) is a very studious guy. He’s smart, he’s organized and he gets them to play and they’re doing a good job. They’re seventh in defense in the NFL and able to get it done without some key guys, too. So, that’s a positive. So, now we just have to keep going and continue to build on what we got started.”
From the years of watching old fashioned film to now tape, what is it like when you’re sitting down and watching QB Deshaun Watson and who do you compare him to?
“He is an exciting young player. He’s still learning and has got some things to do, but I like what I see and I think that he’s going to get better as he goes along. So, definitely I’m pulling for him. But, making comparisons, I’ve never been much of a comparison guy, but he does things well. He can hurt you with his feet. He can hurt you with his arm. He’s a good, calm guy under pressure and he gets a lot done. So, I think that that’s going to bode well for him in the future.”
Can you describe the “it” factor that a guy like QB Deshaun Watson brings?
“You can’t describe the ‘it’ factor. Guys who have it, they have it and you just know it when you see it. But it’s hard to tell what it is. You take a guy like J.J. (Watt). J.J. has the ‘it’ factor and his ‘it’ factor is different than (Deshaun) Watson’s ‘it’ factor. But you know it when they got it and you see it.”
How do you think Head Coach Bill O’Brien has grown as a coach?
“OB (Bill O’Brien) is a football guy, and that’s one of the reasons I like him a lot. He’s all about football and I think as you get into this business and you work through the things that you work through when you’re sitting in the seat that he’s sitting in, you learn a lot. I think dealing with the players and the idiosyncrasies of pro football, he’s getting that done and getting guys to play hard and be competitive. That’ll bode well for him.”
Can you remember a time when you were calling plays that you lost so many players that were so essential to what you do, such as the case this year with DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus?
“No, not me calling plays that I can remember because injuries are a part of this game and all coaches have to deal with them. But, I remember when I was playing with the Jets and the first game of the year we lost the quarterback, Vinny Testaverde. We had a lot of aspirations for that season, about what was going to happen, and then the first game, he’s gone. So, you’ve got to pull yourself together, tighten that belt and keep going. So, I think that’s what we have to do here as well.”
Could you elaborate on your role as the assistant head coach?
“Well, my role is to help when he needs it or when he asks for it, and if he does, then I give him my opinion. We talk about things, game management. We talk about strategy. We talk about defense. We talk about offense. We talk about a lot of those things during the course of the week. Then, if my opinion is wanted or needed on gameday, I’m there for him.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE VRABEL
What’s it like to lose DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus for the season?
“It’s honestly business as normal. Every day we’re trying to just find ways to help the team win. We’ve got a great group of guys. They play hard, they come ready to practice, they try to execute the gameplan to the best of their ability, so we’ve got to put our focus into those guys. (We’re) trying to make them better and improve every week. Guys like Carlos Watkins, Brennan Scarlett, Ufomba (Kamalu), Zach Cunningham, Treston Decoud, Joel Heath, all these young players that are getting opportunities now to play. It’s our job to develop them.”
How long did it feel for you to be comfortable as defensive coordinator and not Assistant Head Coach/Defense Romeo Crennel?
“Well, I don’t think when Romeo was in position as coordinator or head coach, I don’t think he ever thought of himself as the man, and I’ve learned a lot from him as a player and as a coach. I would never say that I was the man that was in charge of the defense. I think we have a great staff with Romeo, with John Butler, Anthony Midget, Anthony Weaver, Bobby King and Shane Bowen. Those guys all contribute to the gameplan, they all contribute to thinking about, ‘Hey, this call may work right now,’ and we do that. We’ve always done that since I’ve been here.”
Do you see any similarities between your former teammate in Patriots QB Tom Brady and Texans QB Deshaun Watson?
“Everybody wants to be like them or be with them, I guess. It’s pretty special to play quarterback in this league, just the guys that I know from playing in the league and obviously coaching against a lot of great ones. They carry themselves a different way, they act a different way and they prepare and ultimately they perform. It’s fun to have. I think there’s a lot of energy around Deshaun.”
How would you assess the defense at the bye week?
“We’re three-and-three. I think we’ve had some good moments, I think we’ve had some OK moments and I think we’ve had some bad moments. That’s all of us included, through the coaching staff and the players, and we just have to have more good moments and less bad moments.”
Can you remember a time, as a coach or a player, where you’ve lost such important players to what you do?
“I honestly don’t even think back like, ‘Oh, remember when so-and-so got hurt?’ We really just kind of move on. We’re really about who’s going in and what we’re doing as opposed to who was there and what we did.”
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR LARRY IZZO
What was it like against Kansas City to play really well and then see Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill return a punt for a touchdown?
“Well obviously it was not fun to watch, giving up points. You go into the game, point of emphasis, obviously he’s the most dangerous returner in the league. Yeah, we had him hemmed up pretty good the first time, minus-seven yard return and then it didn’t go so well later in the game. Again, the punt, location, distance, it’s all got to match up. A lot of times when we don’t get that, it’s going to result in – someone’s going to be out of position, so they have to adjust to that and they’re in a defensive mentality, they’re not on the hunt. So, that was a case where we had a little bit of that.”
How do all of the changes on the team affect the special teams unit?
“That’s part of it. That’s what we’re constantly doing, is plug and play. That’s the NFL. You’re going to have to do that. They do a great job here of bringing guys in, finding guys that we can utilize in the return game or in coverage. Our challenge is to find out what they can do, identify that early so that we can put them in the right place.”
Can you talk about the season P Shane Lechler is having and the impact K Ka’imi Fairbairn is having on kickoffs?
“Shane is, No. 1, a joy to work with. He’s great to have. It’s great for Ka’imi to have a guy like Shane, working with him every day in terms of things that he can help him with, how to handle pressure, things of that nature. And then Shane, he still has as strong a leg as anybody in the league. (He) takes a lot of pride in trying to put us in the best positions. He’s done a nice job with his directional punts, which we want, and there’s times where we need it to be better and he knows that. But there’s times at the end of the day where we just got to go down there and tackle the guy with the ball, so it doesn’t matter what you get as far as the punt. Whoever’s got that ball, you’ve got to get them down on the ground, so that starts with the start of the play, getting a good release at the line of scrimmage, gunners getting down there and making plays. It’s a combination of a lot of things, but as far as Shane, it’s great to have him. He really calms things down out there, especially for the young kicker.”
Can you talk about the consistency LS Jon Weeks brings in his eighth season?
“He’s a pro. He’s great to have. He does his job, takes a lot of pride in it and he really does a nice job of giving us consistent snaps, which is a whole part of the operation. Shane (Lechler) is a great holder, and that’s been a big part in Ka’imi (Fairbairn) coming in and doing his job and having a good start.”
Have you decided whether WR Will Fuller V or WR Chris Thompson will be returning punts for the rest of the season?
“Well, he (Will Fuller V) brings a lot as far as his speed and play-making ability and he’s done a nice job when he’s been back there and we’ll continue to try to use him whenever we can. And then we have (Bruce) Ellington and Chris that have also shown that they’re playmaker-types with the ball in their hands. They can make some plays, they can make people miss and they got the speed and quickness that you look for. We feel good about those guys back there as far as punt return, and then Chris has been back there as far as a kick returner, (Jordan) Todman. So, we’ve got a few guys that we can plug in there and feel good about.”
SECONDARY COACH JOHN BUTLER
How tough has it been to have stability at cornerback outside of CB Johnathan Joseph and CB Kareem Jackson?
“I think, one of the most important things, we do have some key veteran guys that give us some consistency, give us the ability to kind of create some comfort level for the new players that come in. Obviously it’s a challenge for both myself and Anthony (Midget) to get anybody ready on a short week’s notice. We’ve had to do that a couple times. Thankfully the players that Rick (Smith) and his staff has brought in have been able to learn and able to kind of adapt to what we’re doing, whether it’s (Johnthan) Banks, whether it’s Marcus Williams, whether it’s Marcus Burley – if I’m missing anybody, help me out. Whoever it is, it’s our job to get them ready, that’s pro football, in a short week’s notice and hopefully we can get them ready and get them playing well.”
What was going through your mind when you saw what CB Johnathan Joseph did on Sunday?
“Well, I’m happy for him because, however many years he’s got in the league, 12 or 13, to see that level of production. He seems to have pretty good games against the AFC North teams. I know he has a lot of familiarity with Hue Jackson’s offense having played in Cincinnati for a long time. Teams still do try to stay away from him. He doesn’t get targeted very often and when does, it’s good to see him make the production and make the plays and help us win.”
How have you seen CB Kevin Johnson make progress?
“Honestly, he’s been with the doctors since he got hurt in Cincinnati. All I do is I see him in the meetings and then I kind of get some feedback from him. Whatever the injury report is, whatever Bill (O’Brien) has told you guys – I’ve learned in the NFL that if they’re in my room and I’ve been told to get them ready for a game, I do my best. Otherwise I keep my head and my eyes focused on the guys that are there. Obviously we’d love to have Kevin back as soon as possible, but when that is will be hopefully soon.”
What’s it like to coach such a versatile player like CB Kareem Jackson?
“I think versatility is a huge part of our defense. I think versatility’s a huge part of our secondary, meaning that not only can you play multiple positions – Kareem can play corner, safety and star – he also has to be able to cover man-to-man, play zone, blitz. We always point out that Kareem’s a great tackler in the run game. He made a couple great plays that people don’t even really notice in Cover-2, tackles at the line of scrimmage and really sacrifices his body for the good of the team. I love coaching Kareem, he does bring us great versatility and hopefully him and J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) continue to give us the production they’re giving us.”
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH MIKE DEVLIN
How has C Nick Martin’s development been? This is basically his rookie year.
“I’m real happy with how he approached, actually started last year when he couldn’t play. Learning the system, his communication and then really being his rookie year, his week-to-week preparation. Really his communication with Deshaun (Watson). I think they’re really bonding that way, and that’s helped.”
What have you thought about your group so far?
“I’m proud of these guys because of the way things started out. We talk about it every week. This is where we started and where do we want to be at the end of this? That’s really all you can do as a unit and try to keep progressing every week. Try to get a little bit better every week. Every week is a tough matchup. Every week they have great players, defenses do. These guys know where they are at. I love coaching them because every week they come out to prepare (and) to try to get better.”
When G Jeff Allen is healthy, what do you feel like he does for the team?
“I feel like he’s being more consistent this year, more physical, better on his pulls. I feel like both him and (Chris) Clark relative to last year have taken the coaching and the criticism, if you will, and tried to improve on those areas.”
How is G Xavier Su’a-Filo doing?
“Same thing. ‘X’ has tried to improve on those areas to which we all see it and everything else. That’s what I like about them. They are real honest with each other. They don’t go in there and they don’t think like, ‘Hey, we are this.’ That’s why I like coaching offensive line. There’s no egos. There’s none of that. That’s the life we live.”
Does T Breno Giacomini add some toughness to the group?
“I had him with the (New York) Jets. He’s old school. He’s going to defend his own. He’s going to fight. He’s a brawler-type and really the thing that a lot of people don’t see is how he practices. I think that helps everybody in the grind of the season when you go out there and practice with some enthusiasm and love and passion for the game. It helps.”
LINEBACKERS COACH BOBBY KING
What do you think of the performance of ILB Zach Cunningham and ILB Dylan Cole so far?
“So far, so good. Obviously there’s going to be some growing pains with young players but they don’t make the same mistake twice, usually. Their growth’s been good and they just have to keep getting better every week.”
How tough is it to replace OLB Whitney Mercilus?
“Any time you lose anybody, it’s tough. Yeah, it’s always tough to lose players that you start off with. But we’re focused on getting better this bye week and then focused on Seattle.”
Are you excited OLB Lamarr Houston?
“I am. He came in and did a nice job. He played nine plays and he came in and did his job and did what we asked him to do and was productive.”
What do you think about your depth if ILB Dylan Cole has to miss some time?
“Well, we are a little short-handed right now. Some people are going to have to step up. (Brian) Peters. But we like the room and we like where it’s going.”
How do you feel like OLB Brennan Scarlett has developed?
“He’s another guy that’s solid. He does a lot of things well. He can drop, he can rush, he can run the pass-rush games that we try to do. He’s just a solid guy that’s getting better.”
RUNNING BACKS COACH CHARLES LONDON
What have you seen from RB Lamar Miller and how does RB D’Onta Foreman help him?
“I think they’ve been a good combo so far. We’ve taken a few carries off of Lamar. He’s averaging somewhere between 15 to 18 carries a game. D’Onta’s kind of picking up the slack from there, but I think he keeps him fresher toward the end of games and hopefully fresher in December and January.”
What do you like most about RB D’Onta Foreman so far?
“He still has a long way to go but he’s coming along. He runs hard, he gets pads down. He’s getting better and better each week. He’s still learning how to be a pro, but you can see progress, I think.”
Can you describe RB D’Onta Foreman as a runner?
“He’s a downhill, north-south, violent runner. He’s always falling forward. He runs tough. He gets better with the more carries that he gets, so hopefully that continues as the season goes on.”
Does that skillset complement RB Lamar Miller?
“I think it does. I think taking a few carries off Lamar each week has been a good thing. Lamar does such a great job for us in the pass game that I think it has really helped him there.”
OFFENSIVE ASSISTANT/QUARTERBACKS COACH PAT O’HARA
Is there something that stands out to you about QB Deshaun Watson in the classroom, the meeting room or on the field?
“The thing that really impresses me, and I think we’ve talked about this before he started playing, was the poise. He’s just a really poised man and at 22 years old, just turned 22, the poise and his ability to handle his success, his ability to stay even-keeled all the time – I think that’s what’s most impressive about the young man.”
What is your relationship like with QB Deshaun Watson?
“It’s good. We have a good room. I know we’ve talked about it a lot, but we really do. There’s a lot of support from Coach (Bill) O’Brien and Sean (Ryan) and Tom (Savage) and myself. It’s a good room. It’s a room that enables a lot of communication, a lot of learning that’s going on and it’s been really positive. I think we all enjoy coming to work.”
Have you noticed a difference with Coach O’Brien being so much more involved with the offense, especially the quarterbacks?
“It’s been great because Coach O’Brien’s one of the best communicators and listeners I’ve ever been around. When you have those two kind of traits, it makes you a really effective leader. I think Deshaun’s (Watson) really developed a great relationship with Coach O’Brien, in my opinion. Certainly Sean (Ryan) has done a great job with him as well. It’s been fun. It’s been fun, but it only gets harder. It really does. Each week is like a season into itself and the preparation’s got to continue. The more film that’s out there on Deshaun, the harder we have to work, but we enjoy it.”
What have you seen with how QB Deshaun Watson handles the wide receivers?
“He’s never changed who he is. I think he just has a presence about him that people want to follow and work with him. The receivers have tremendous respect for him and he can deliver the ball. I don’t know how much really Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) and Deshaun (Watson) ever even played together at Clemson, but they’re Clemson guys. There’s good personalities. Will’s (Fuller V) kind of quiet and having him back has been great, too. That helps Hop as well. So, it’s just been a good situation thus far. Again, we have to continue to improve, though, and work hard each week to make sure we’re putting on a good plan.”
WIDE RECEIVERS COACH JOHN PERRY
How impressed have you been with what WR Will Fuller V has done in just three games?
“Will’s an impressive person. It started back in OTAs, when he would come to me after every practice and be like, ‘Coach, can you just throw me 15 deep balls because I want to be able to catch those better than anybody.’ He took that upon himself, and we would do that. Then, he did that again in training camp. When he went down with the injury and then four or five days later he’s back in the meeting room, I was really surprised about that. But he wanted to be there, he wanted to learn. He was always asking questions. He was always saying, ‘Can you challenge me from a mental standpoint?’ So, when you have a guy like that and he takes that approach, you have a smart guy who’s willing to work hard, the success is going to come. That’s really a credit to him.”
How great is it that WR Will Fuller V desires to get better?
“It’s huge. He’s always one of the first guys in the meeting room. He’s one of the first guys to answer questions. If you ask him questions, he’s going to have the answer. If he doesn’t, he’s going to go search it out. It’s great to be around a guy like that. That helps as a coach.”
What is WR Will Fuller V like in the meeting room?
“He’s got a great personality. He’s good in the room. DeAndre’s (Hopkins) been a great leader in our room and just watching him, how he’s brought out the personalities in everybody in our room, I think that’s helpful. I think we’re a much more cohesive unit because of the way DeAndre’s taken on that leadership role, and he’s really brought out the best in everybody, including myself and I’m appreciative of that.”
How has WR DeAndre Hopkins been able to get back into his form and be so productive?
“I don’t know that he’s getting back. He’s really a guy who just continues to work hard every day. He had a great work ethic, like I said, in the spring. Didn’t take one rep off until he had the injury in training camp. The big thing I had talked to him about was the leadership, and he’s been an unbelievable leader. He’s brought out the best in every guy and that’s important. When you have a unit like we have – because one of the things that’s great about our unit right now is that we have a diverse skillset. We have guys who can do different things and challenge the defense in different ways, and Hopkins really has embraced that role as a leader and that helps me, it helps the unit.”
Is WR Bruce Ellington a bit of a pleasant surprise?
“Bruce has been terrific. It really was surprising for me how quickly he could pick it up in terms of jumping in and just getting reps. When he came in training camp, he pestered me after meetings like, ‘Coach, can you stay and go over this route? Can you go over these plays again?’ When you have a work ethic like that – you’re always a little leery when you throw him in because I think it was the second day we just threw him right in with the ones, but he picked right up and never missed a beat. I’ve been really impressed with Bruce and he’ll continue to get better as well.”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
How fun is it to marry the college option concepts with pro-style offenses?
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun. It just makes game-planning more fun because it’s creative. You get to kind of change things up. It’s not the same week-in and week-out. You are looking at different things that you can add. It’s been fun.”
Everyone talks about how athletic QB Deshaun Watson is, but what about how smart he is?
“No question. I think sometimes guys talk a lot about his mobility, his athleticism – it’s all valid – but the other thing, too, is the guy stands in the pocket can deliver the football. He understands defenses and what they’re doing to him. He’s done that, too, and I think sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle because he is so athletic. But, he’s a smart football player.”
Is there still more for QB Deshaun Watson to improve on despite his productivity so far?
“No question. There’s no doubt that we’ve got to continue to get better. It’s about ball security, it’s about reading defenses, making great decisions. There’s always room for improvement. We’re scratching the service. We just have to keep going.”
Right now, these are like Pro Bowl numbers. Is this beyond everyone’s expectations?
“I don’t think we ever focus on it. Certainly you’re trying to just perform offensively at a high level. I try not to look at the numbers, to be honest with you. The only numbers that matter are in February. We’re trying to keep that in perspective and not focus on it.”
OFFENSIVE/SPECIAL TEAMS ASSISTANT WES WELKER
What has it been like going from a player to a coach?
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment, especially on the family and the hours you put in and all those different things. But, it’s been good. We’ve been adjusting pretty well.”
How much of Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick do you bring with you?
“A lot. A lot. I learned a lot from all those meetings and all those years of being there and really trying to pick his brain and see his thought process and some of the moves he made and why he made them and different things. So, definitely take a lot from that.”
What similarities do you see in QB Deshaun Watson that reminds you of Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“He has a great demeanor about him and a great work ethic. Obviously, he’s got this factor to him, just kind of being a winner. I think it shows up in his attitude and the way he approaches every day and does a great job of that.”
What’s the commonality that QB Deshaun Watson and Patriots QB Tom Brady both have?
“I think just their competitive attitude and what they bring every single day on the practice field and understanding that you have to be prepared, especially at that position, and go out there and give your team the best chance to win and having the attitude of we have to go win the game.”
How have you seen WR Braxton Miller developing since you got here?
“He’s coming along. It’s always difficult whenever you’re coming from a quarterback to a receiver position. He’s just been trying to work on that. I think he’s coming along. He’s just got to be more consistent with it, but he does a lot of good things out there. We just have to find that consistency.”
Can you talk about what WR Will Fuller V has done for you in just a few games?
“Any time you have somebody out there with that kind of speed and he has good knowledge of the game and understands how to attack the defenders. When you put all those combos kind of together, it’s a pretty deadly factor to have. So, it’s been great to have him back and have him out there and really being able to use his speed.”