Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel
WR Will Fuller V
WR DeAndre Hopkins
ILB Benardrick McKinney
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What are some of the challenges of preparing for Rams WR Tavon Austin who was a high school and college running back?
“It’s very challenging. Obviously a very fast guy, got great quickness. (They) put him in a lot of different places, get him the ball in a lot of different ways. He’s an explosive player, no doubt about it.”
Everybody talks about Rams DT Aaron Donald, but they have five No. 1 picks among their front seven. Who besides Donald has been playing the best?
“Donald’s a great player. I talked about that a couple days ago. He’s a great player, but like you said, they have other guys – Robert Quinn, (Michael) Brockers, (Alec) Ogletree’s playing great. They’re a very explosive outfit. They’re tough to handle up front and then in the back end they’ve got good size, they’re doing a good job of communicating back there. Mark Barron up front, that was the name I was trying to remember, the WILL linebacker. Obviously you guys are familiar with Connor Barwin, he’s in there. So, they’ve got a lot of really, really good players.”
Does Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips do anything defensively, because he’s been around forever, that gives you an idea of what he’s going to do or does he always mix it up?
“I think he mixes it up. I don’t think you can say from game to game that you’re going to see the same thing. I think you have to kind of understand how he’s played you in the past and you got to look at what he’s doing this year. (He) gives you a lot of different looks on third down. Yeah, he mixes it up, no doubt about it.”
What can you talk about your front seven and the way they’ve been playing?
“I think they’re doing a decent job. Obviously some guys are a little bit newer to our system, but I think – start with D.J. Reader on the inside, the true inside, I think he’s doing a nice job in there. Then obviously (Jadeveon) Clowney outside, inside, all the things that he’s able to do. Lamarr Houston’s been a good addition. B-Mac’s (Benardrick McKinney) doing a good job. Zach Cunningham’s had a very good rookie year for an inside linebacker to do some of the things he’s done. Brennan Scarlett’s come in there and made some good plays for us. I think they play hard, they play together and I think they’re doing some decent things.”
Since the Jacksonville game, you’ve given up 87 yards a game rushing. What has been the key to shutting down the run?
“I think they just went back to doing their jobs. I think they’ve been doing a good job of setting the edge and building a wall and good communication. I think everybody’s just gone back to really just kind of honing in on what their job is and not trying to do too much.”
What have you seen from K Ka’imi Fairbairn? Obviously he’s only missed one kick on Sunday but overall what have you seen from him?
“He’s done a nice job. He had the one miss last week, but other than that, like you said, he hasn’t missed and he’s got a very, very talented leg. Kickoff-wise he can direct the ball. He can kick it through the end zone. He can do whatever you want him to do. He can make every kick. He’s got good range as a field goal kicker. He’s got good accuracy. He’s got a good demeanor. Great guy in the locker room. Yeah, he’s a good guy.”
Has this year been especially challenging coaching-wise considering everything that’s piled on?
“Every year’s a challenge. This year it seems like we’ve had a few different things going on without going through the list of them, but I think every year since I’ve been a head coach has been a challenge. That’s part of being a head coach. There’s things that come across your desk every day that as an assistant you would never experience that. Until you’ve sat in that chair as a head football coach, you have no idea what it’s like to be a head football coach. You just have to deal with it. You have to make the best decision for the team as it relates to coaching, because that’s what I do. I just coach the team, try to make the best decision relative to the gameday roster, relative to the plays that we’re running in all three phases and try to go out there and coach as good as I can.”
How do you stay positive and move forward when it seems like every week there’s a star player going down?
“I think that’s a very interesting question and here’s how I would answer that – you’ve been given an opportunity to be a head football coach in the National Football League. No matter what they throw at you, that’s an incredible privilege and it’s something that I love to do. Yeah, there’s certain things, epically when you see injuries to players that you really care about, those are tough to deal with. As far as being positive, I mean, we walk in here every day, I mean, think about this, they’ve given us an opportunity here to coach and I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us. Look, things are going to happen that you have to deal with but it’s not hard at all to be positive with these players that we have, this coaching staff that we have. It’s just a great bunch of guys.”
How do you explain how well P Shane Lechler is punting at age 41?
“He’s really changed his style of punting in some ways. He used to be a guy that, in his younger days, that would really just basically smash the ball. It was all about gross punt and not necessarily as much about net, and net is the key. If you can direct it, it’s really good, and we have some good gunners. Chris Thompson and some of the guys on the outside have done a good job, so he’s been able to direct the ball with hang time and obviously distance. The last two games – I mean, in the Seattle game, I think it was 51 yards per kick and then we only gave up a 3.3 (yards) return average, and then last week it was in the high forties and similar stats. I think he’s done a great job. I think it would be better to ask him how he does it at that age, but he’s does a great job.”
Do you think teams are going to try to prevent WR Will Fuller V from being able to beat them with a punt return?
“I think he’s smart back there. I think any time he’s got a chance where we can get some type of return – we have a lot of different ways to return it, I think he has a great feel for it. So, I think he does a good job of understanding, ‘Hey, this is a fair catch situation,’ or, ‘Hey, I got a chance right here to take this back.’ We also have other guys. We’ve got (Bruce) Ellington, who’s done a nice job in practice at it. Chris Thompson can go back there, so we’ve got some guys back there, not just Will. But I think teams are probably pretty smart to try to cover Will as far as that goes because if you go for a block and we pick it up and there’s a lot of separation between him and the coverage people, he’s got a chance to take it to the house.”
Do you anticipate T Juli?n Davenport starting again this week?
“I don’t know. I would say no.”
Do you want to keep getting T Juli?n Davenport playing time?
Are there any other young guys you want to get playing time?
“Yeah. You want me to name them?”
Would G Kyle Fuller be a young player you want to get more playing time?
What do you like about G Kyle Fuller?
“I like the way he approaches practice every day. I like the fact that he’s been healthy for a while now. I like the fact that he’s a versatile player that can play center and both guard spots. I like his intelligence, I like his toughness and I think he’s got a good future. I’m not sure if it will be this Sunday, though.”
Will QB T.J. Yates get any more first-team reps and is there a chance he plays on Sunday if things go how they went against Indianapolis?
“I think every player that’s on the gameday roster should be ready to play. There’s no doubt. Every player. Doesn’t matter what position. And he got a similar amount of reps. Usually in a practice, the number two guy, maybe they get between six to eight reps per practice, and that’s what he got both days.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE VRABEL
What do you see from the Rams running game, specifically RB Todd Gurley II?
“It’s fifth in the league in rushing. Downhill, cutback runner, great speed, great vision, good balance, runs hard. They do a nice job. They mix plays for them. They do a nice job. They put (Tavon) Austin back there, got package plays for him that we’ll have to be aware of. So, they’re doing a nice job of running the football and it’ll be a good challenge for us.”
Is this the ultimate case of earn the right to defend the pass? People seem to come out of there saying that you have to stop the run.
“I think what happens a lot of times is they’ve gotten up in games, and then it’s just they’re running the clock out in the third quarter. So, goal for us is just to play great defense early, make it competitive and then try to win the game in the fourth quarter.”
What have you seen from Rams QB Jared Goff now that he’s had a year under his belt in this system?
“I think he’s got a good idea where he wants to go with the ball. They’re doing some things to help him. The running game certainly helps. But he’s mixing in intermediate passes with the shots down the field. You’re just seeing those guys get down the field, get over top people, hitting some big plays. They’ve got 40 plays over 20 yards, so it’s going to be critical as it is every week for us to defend the shots and obviously limit the big play runs. But, 40 plays over 20 yards, pretty impressive.”
Can you talk about S Eddie Pleasant and how it seems that over the years that he’s been here, when he gets the chance, he gets it done?
“Eddie’s (Pleasant) been a valuable member of our team since we’ve been here. Competitive, tough, plays hard. We blitzed him last week and we’ve blitzed him before, but he does a lot of different things for us and he’s got some versatility.”
What have you liked about what OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney has been doing in the past couple of weeks?
“Hopefully he can continue to do what he’s been doing for us, which is trying to be disruptive, trying to affect the quarterback, doing a good job in the run game. So, it’s important that he continues to study. Every opponent is different each week. Where he may be going, where JD (Jadeveon Clowney) may be lining up, he needs to continue to study, but it’s going to be important that he plays at a high level to help us.”
Before the Rams hired Head Coach Sean McVay, there were reports that you had been lined up to interview for that position and then you were promoted to defensive coordinator here. Can you reflect on this offseason, what it has meant for your career and your aspirations in the future to be a head coach one day?
“I think first and foremost we were trying to defeat the Patriots in the playoff game and then got word that it wasn’t going to happen, the interview. They hired Sean (McVay), obviously a great choice. Then things, how they happened here, Bill (O’Brien) made me the coordinator. I think I’m just trying to do the best job that I can, get these guys going, getting the guys that have been filling in that have stepped up, getting them ready, getting them to play. The challenge is each week is a new week. Whatever Indy did or whatever happened there, it’s a new week, it’s a new set of plays, it’s new calls for us. So, I really haven’t gotten caught up too much in aspirations. I’m trying to do the best job that I possibly can here for our defense and the guys that we have in our room.”
Since Head Coach Bill O’Brien hired you back in 2014, how important have he and Assistant Head Coach/Defense Romeo Crennel been for your growth and development?
“I think first talking about Bill (O’Brien), I think he’s been a coach as a young player in college and then he was a 37-year old G.A. for the Patriots, or intern. So, he’s seen a lot of different things, he’s coached for a lot of great head coaches. So, I think he’s got great perspective on keeping things balanced as far as the highs and the lows and what may happen and just trying to keep some consistency to what we do. It’s certainly been great. I haven’t worked under that many head coaches. I’ve worked under essentially (Ohio State Head Coach) Urban (Meyer) and Coach O’Brien. And then with the relationship with RAC (Romeo Crennel), I think that that’s always been there since him and I got to New England in 2001 with our first year. He was my coordinator and then he was my coordinator in Kansas City for a year and I’ve been on his staff and then now we’re kind of working together. He’s just a great guy to lean on about perspective. He’s seen a lot, tells a lot of great stories. We were talking last night, it was a story about the (Bill) Belichick and the (Bill) Parcells, going from the Jets to the Patriots and RAC’s situation in the whole thing and he was under contract with the Jets. So, there’s just a lot of great stories that I think he shares and can put a lot of great perspective into things. He’s seen a lot, good times and great times and then some not so good times.”
With the injuries to DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus, do you find that you’ve wanted to move OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney more than you had initially planned or less?
“I think there’s a fine line about getting lined up, being ready to go, knowing what to do, playing fast and aggressive. Right? And then there’s also, ‘Hey, do we want to try to scheme some things up and put guys in different spots?’ That may be good for those guys, but that may not be so good for guys that have a lot on their plate or are playing different positions now. So, I think that there’s a balance there.”
WR WILL FULLER V
How much pride do you take in being able to take the top off a defense with your speed?
“I take a lot of pride in that. I know I’m a good deep threat, so running and getting other people open, helping the offense any way I can, I feel like that’s my job and I’m going to keep doing it.”
Can you talk about the mindset of the locker room as you guys press forward and try to make a push?
“We’re real confident, especially on offense. I know the defense is confident, too, but we know we can go out there and put a lot of points in the board, so why not go out there and play as hard as we can. You never want to play thinking about the season, just go out there playing one game at a time and try to do the best you can.”
What kind of confidence do you have in QB Tom Savage given that he entered the season as the starter?
“I wouldn’t say turn it around. He’s a great quarterback. Like you said, he was our starter in camp, so he knows all the assignments. I have a lot of confidence in Tom. I like playing with him.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
What are the differences of catching footballs from QB Tom Savage and QB Deshaun Watson?
“It’s a football, so it’s really not too much different. Both of these guys know the offense. One might throw a little harder than the other one. That might be the only difference, though.”
Do you learn to adjust to quarterbacks in practice?
“Yeah, for sure. At practice is kind of where you get that timing down, seeing where things need work on. For sure, practice is where the timing happens.”
Is it real smooth to transition back to QB Tom Savage since he had the all of the offseason and training camp reps?
“I mean, it’s practice, so it’s not always going to be the best out there. We’re not always going to get the looks or the balls, the catches the way that we want them because everybody’s practicing, everybody’s going hard. You’ve got other guys on the defense as well working for a job, so it’s not always the smoothest, but that’s why you have a couple days before the game.”
How tough does it make it for QB Tom Savage step in for QB Deshaun Watson on a Thursday and try to get ready for a game on Sunday?
“We’re professional athletes. That’s our job, to come out here no matter who’s at quarterback, to make them right, especially at my position. Speaking for the receivers, that’s our job, no matter who’s at quarterback, to make them right and not really make excuses about who’s back there.”
You backed QB Tom Savage and had confidence in him to be the starting quarterback before the season. What is it about the way he plays that gives this team confidence in him when he starts?
“I’m a big believer in every single body in this locker room, not just Tom -- just to kind of put that out there. But Tom is a leader. Even though we didn’t get what we wanted and put the points up, he was still on the sideline cheering himself on, cheering us on, for us to have a chance on that last drive to be able to win the game.”
How can you help QB Tom Savage?
“Catch everything he throws at me.”
How valuable is it to have QB Deshaun Watson around and on the sideline even though he can’t play?
“It’s good just to have a different aspect from the sideline, especially from a guy who’s out there who knows the coverages, who’s studying still in the film room with those guys. Not just Deshaun, but T.J. (Yates) as well on the sideline talking about things that he sees.”
What is the conversation like with the quarterbacks on the sidelines?
“Just talking about things we feel can help us win the game.”
What do you see from QB T.J. Yates?
“I played with T.J. before. T.J. is a guy that can go out and sling it downfield (and) do whatever, really. He wouldn’t still be in the league if he wasn’t capable of winning games for a team, so T.J. is a guy, he studies hard, he practices hard and he’s a communicator as well, even when he’s not in the game or in practice.”
Is there a way to see that the team can still be an explosive offense regardless of who is at quarterback?
“Of course. Even though losing Deshaun (Watson), that was a big point for this team, for this offense especially. You can’t trade a guy like Deshaun. He’s a special talent, but we still can get the job done and we know that we got the guys on defense, we got the guys on offense, we just have to play one complete game together, offense and defense.”
Do you think you, WR Will Fuller V and WR Bruce Ellington know each other well on the field and that can help QB Tom Savage?
“Yeah, of course. And it kind of helps Tom (Savage) as well, being on the sideline watching Deshaun (Watson) doing what he’s done and just kind of seeing things that specialize that can get us the ball, seeing things that we’re good at. Because everybody’s different, each one of us is different. But having that aspect of being on the sideline and seeing that, I feel can help Tom.”
What has led you to the success you’re having this year?
“It’s my offensive line blocking, coaching staff giving me the ball and the quarterback making it happen. I can only do so much. I can’t throw the ball to myself, I can’t block for myself. I can win the one-on-one battle or one-on-two, but it’s my quarterback and my offensive line giving me time.”
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
What have you seen from Rams WR Tavon Austin on tape?
“Change of direction. He’s a fast back. They like to give him the ball on jet sweeps, a lot of outside plays. Just got to do our job and just run to the ball as all 11 men.”
You would have to stretch pretty well and get those hamstrings loose before to chase Rams WR Tavon Austin, right?
“Oh yeah, they’re going to be loose. Everybody’s hamstrings (are) going to be very loose. Just going to do our job and just fly to the ball and get him down.”
Stopping the run is always a point of pride for a defense. The way that the Rams do it where they come out want to punch you in the mouth, what kind of opportunity do you guys feel like that is for you all as a defense?
“I mean, we’re just going to do what we know we can do, is be physical and just get all 11 men to the ball.”
What do you see from Rams QB Jared Goff and the way that he’s spreading the ball around, is that a particular challenge for you guys to make sure that everybody’s on the same page with communicating?
“We’ve just been working all week on communicating, everybody being on the same page, me setting the front, safeties talking, what coverage we’re playing. And, like I said, just have fun and just do what we do best. Just play football.”
The way that the defense has changed with all the injuries you guys have had and the personnel that you’ve brought in, where do you feel like the defense is today as opposed to the start of the season?
“I think we’re getting better every day – communicating, next man up, all the guys stepping up, guys like Lamarr (Houston). We’re just going to take it day by day as we continue to get better.”
A lot of the replacements on defense have been younger players, but then you bring in a guy like OLB Lamarr Houston. How much has he helped, being a veteran?
“He’s doing a great job helping a lot of guys out, doing a lot of talking, getting them in, getting them to understand the defense better. He’s been doing an unbelievable job just being a leader out there and just making some plays.”
Has having a veteran like OLB Lamarr Houston out there made your job easier?
“Oh yeah, most definitely. I mean, everybody on this defense does an unbelievable job communicating and talking. It makes it easier for me, it makes it easier for Zach (Cunningham). Us just being on the same page and just doing our job.”
Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel was just talking to us about the importance of starting well and having a chance in the fourth quarter. Do you see what the Rams do to teams earlier where they score so many points and then during the third quarter, a lot of times, they’re running out the clock?
“Yeah, I mean, they do an unbelievable job getting ahead early and then third and fourth quarter running the clock out, but we just need to start fast and just play it down by down and just finish stronger.”