Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan
T Breno Giacomini
QB Tom Savage
OLB Brennan Scarlett
Conference Call with Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What do you want to see from the running game and how do you get the team to run better?
“We need to establish the run a little bit better. I think we’re still in the top five or six in the league in rushing but the last two games haven’t been great, so we just need to do a better job, starting with me. Just do a better job of running the ball throughout the game.”
How important is it to stop or slow down Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson when it looks like he hasn’t slowed down?
“Oh yeah, there’s no doubt about the fact that he still has it. I mean, you think about his workout regimen in the offseason here in Houston, it’s legendary. He’s another guy that’s defying age, especially at that position where basically the history of the game tells you when you’re 30 years or older, that’s about it for you. That’s really not the case with him, obviously. He’s big, he’s in great shape, he’s tough. They’ve given him the ball almost 60 times in the last two games. He’s hard to handle.”
What have you seen out of ILB Benardrick McKinney as a player and as a leader?
“I consider Benardrick McKinney one of the captains of our team. I think he’s one of the big-time leaders of our team. The way I define Benardrick McKinney is he is what you’re looking for in a pro football player. He loves football, loves his teammates. He’s a tough guy, plays banged up and I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s a hell of a player.”
In your mind, what is a good number of rushing attempts in a game?
“I would say it’s more about trying to strike a balance. So, I don’t know if there’s a definite amount of carries and even if there was a definite amount, I don’t think I would tell you. I do think that there’s a correlation between rushing for 120 yards in a game and winning, especially if you don’t turn it over. I think turnovers are the big key, penalties are important, third down’s important, but I think that being able to run the football and gain significant yards like we were doing for a while, is something that’s important to winning.”
Did WR Will Fuller V crack his rib and do you expect him to miss a game?
“I’m not sure about whether he cracked it or not, but yeah, I would say he will miss the game. Yes.”
Are you moving WR DeAndre Hopkins around the field to get him the ball as much as you can?
“We move him around a lot, yeah. He knows all the positions, so he could be anywhere definitely lined up. I don’t know if it’s necessarily to get him the ball on every single play, but clearly he’s our number one receiver and he’s having a great year. He’s on track for big numbers and that’s what you expect from him. He’s got great hands, great route-runner and he’s got an incredible ability on the sideline, which is huge for us. So, yeah, we definitely move him around because of his intelligence and his ability to know all the positions.”
Do you think that injuries have had an effect around the entire league?
“Yeah, I think it’s a great question. I’ve heard it talked about a little bit on the TV when I have the games on in the background. Look, when you lose star players, it’s a tough deal. I’m talking about around the league like you’re saying in a big picture sense, it’s a tough deal. It’s just the way it is some years. I don’t know how to explain that. When you lose some of the guys that we’ve lost around the league, whether it’s the different quarterbacks that have been out or obviously J.J. (Watt) being out and Whitney (Mercilus). I consider Whitney a star player. I mean, I think Whitney’s a hell of a football player. Like I said, around the league with the Cardinals dealing with Carson Palmer being out, for instance. Those are big losses and it is the next man up, but it is unfortunate that it’s happened kind of the way it’s happened this year.”
Do you think star players being injured could be why TV ratings are down?
“I don’t know about that. I think the TV ratings, I mean, people probably don’t really care what my opinion is on this because we’re 3-6 but I would tell you that I think people are watching the game’s in a lot of different ways. I have nieces and nephews that are between the ages of 15 and 25 and they’re watching games on their phones or watching games on their iPads. I think that has to be taken into account. I don’t think people are necessarily just watching the games on their big TVs at home all the time. I think it’s America’s game, with all due respect to baseball. I think people love football. I think people are passionate about football. The Houston fans are passionate about their team and when we’re not winning, they’re not happy, and neither are we and we understand that. I think we really have to dive deeper into the ratings and how we look at that.”
How much will it help to have DE Joel Heath back?
“He was back there today. Looked like he did some good things today. It’s good. Any time you get a big body like that back on the inside, especially with what we’re going to see this week, it’s just been unfortunate for him. He’s dealing with a hamstring earlier in the year and just hasn’t really been able to get over the hump. Hopefully this is the week he gets over the hump.”
Can former Texans WR Andre Johnson serve as a motivating factor for the team this week with all the festivities occurring?
“I mean, I think so. I think any time a guy like that’s on the sideline, which he’s been on the sideline for several of our games, I think it means a lot to our players. I know it means a lot to Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) having been a rookie and a second-year player with him. I know he learned a lot from Andre and I know that it’ll be a big day for Andre here and I’m just happy, like I said, to be a part of that. I think it does mean a lot to our team. I just think also, though, if you need motivation to play in an NFL football game, I think you should probably look for a different line of work.”
When you see WR DeAndre Hopkins, do you see any similarities or traits learned from former Texans WR Andre Johnson?
“Absolutely. DeAndre Hopkins is basically always out at practice running the routes the way we ask him to run. Good work ethic, does everything we ask him to do. Andre was the same way. Are they different in some of their skillsets and some of the things they do? Yeah, but there’s similarities in their size and their hands and their toughness and things like that. But I definitely think that a lot of what Andre taught Hop obviously early in his career when you’re in the same meeting room and practice field with a Hall of Fame receiver, I mean, that’s a good thing for you.”
How much of a boost was it to get CB Kevin Johnson back?
“It’s a boost, and he’s playing pretty well. I thought he played well against the Rams. He’s a very energetic player, very quick player, quick to diagnose plays, good tackler, very active player. I can see him really shedding some of the rust from having not played for a long time. I think it’s definitely a big help to our team.”
Do you expect TE C.J. Fiedorowicz to be more involved in the offense with WR Will Fuller V likely missing the game Sunday?
“I think that C.J. – it’s hard to correlate Fuller being out and C.J. being more involved. C.J. will always be involved. I think Stephen Anderson did some really nice things against the Rams. I think both those guys will be involved. C.J., having been out for a while, I think is coming off of a long layoff and I think he’s going to play better and better for us. Stephen, like I said, made some big plays. Other guys are going to have to step up. Bruce (Ellington) is running good routes. Bruce needs to get the ball more. Bruce Ellington, he’s doing some really good things out there. Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) is Hop, everybody knows what he’s doing this year. Hopefully Braxton (Miller) can contribute in some way, shape or form at receiver. So, I think there’s some different guys that have to step up in the absence of Fuller.”
Do you see rust on players when they haven’t played in a while, especially for TE C.J. Fiedorowicz after the eight weeks he was unavailable?
“Yeah, I think any time you’ve missed that amount of time and you haven’t been able to be in pads playing football, you’ve just been running on the side, riding the bike, getting treatment, whatever it is, even though you’ve been in the meetings, there’s no substitute for actually playing football. So, I think no matter how good you are, whether you’re No. 1 guy at your position or not, it takes a while to get back from when you’ve had a long layoff.”
Does Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson cover the top receivers or stay on one side?
“No, he usually matches the top guy.”
So do you expect to see Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson on WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“I would – I mean, I’m not in their heads, but I think so.”
You’re a coach, but you’re a fan. When you watch two elite guys like WR DeAndre Hopkins and Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson, is it fun? Can you enjoy it or are you too wrapped up in the winning and losing part?
“I appreciate it, let me say that. I’m not sure how much fun I have when I see some of these guys. It’s a great battle. I mean, you think about the battles that (DeAndre) Hopkins has had with, whether it’s ‘Pacman’ (Adam Jones) or Jalen Ramsey or maybe Patrick Peterson or last week with, was it (Trumaine Johnson). Those guys, those are big-time battles and it’s definitely something I appreciate, the talent of those people going against each other, no doubt about it.”
Is it a challenge to you to move WR DeAndre Hopkins around and try to do what you can to help him get open as a playcaller?
“I think so. I think you have to move him around. I think you have to know the skillset of who’s matching him, you have to understand that too, like ‘How does this guy play? Is he a press guy? Is he an off guy?’ All the different ways that he’s being played by different corners. But, I think it’s important that we move Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) around, which is what we try to do.”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
Can you talk about the need for QB Tom Savage to hold on to the ball, cut down on turnovers and make better decisions in certain situations?
“I think those types of things, in terms of upper body mechanics and where the ball is, in terms of in his carriage, and doing that type of thing, you can always work on it. You can always work on it, correct it. I think it’s going to be an emphasis of the week. We always do a little bit of it pre-practice, but I think when you’re coming off a game where it was an issue, you certainly concentrate a little bit more on drills, you talk about it. So, you can always correct those things.”
What is the line for QB Tom Savage to walk between focusing on improving those areas but not dwelling on them?
“I just think you needed an honest evaluation of your performance. You know what I mean? In other words, you look at it and you know there’s certainly room for improvement. I think he’s very honest about that. At the same time, you can’t lose sight of some of the things that you did well. There were some things that he did well. There were some throws that he made that were pretty impressive throws, especially in that first half of the football game. And I just think it’s important that you look at yourself honestly. The things that you did well you continue to build on and continue to do well. The things you did poorly, you’re honest about it and you’re ready to work on it.”
What have you seen from QB Tom Savage in terms of holding the ball?
“I just think at times there’s a certain – in our offense, our routes have different options for guys to do different things based on coverage. I think sometimes we need to do a better job from the quarterback spot – and I need to do a better job of preaching it and working it in drills – of anticipating it. You know what I mean? So, the ball is out in a little bit quicker time, and I think that that’s part of it. So, it certainly starts with coaching, it starts with me and working on those drills and getting those things done and then being able to cut it loose on Sunday.”
Do you feel that QB Tom Savage will play better this Sunday?
What makes you feel confident that QB Tom Savage will play better?
“I just think the guy works, he works very hard, it means a lot to him and I think at the end of the day – and he’s got the arm talent like we’ve talked about in the past and the smarts to get it done. And I just feel like that combination gives him a good chance to really to fix things and to play better.”
In your coaching career, are there players that you’ve seen that have been better in practice than when they hit the field?
“I think in terms of, and not one guy stands out to me that I can think of offhand, but I will say with young players in general – and this is one thing that you have to remember, Tom’s (Savage) got experience in our offense, he’s been here for four years, which is a positive, which we talk about being a positive. In terms of playing experience, Tom is a young player. Tom is a young player. I’ve seen young players who have gone out there and it’s a different deal when it’s real and it’s live on Sundays. The speed of it’s different, the look of it is a little bit different and those guys, they need game reps and experience in games to be able to carry that over. So, I’ve seen it from young players and I think that’s part of it. I think it’s good that he’s able to keep getting these reps and continue to get better. I thought in the first half last week he did some very good things, he made some good reads and made some good throws. We’ve got to build on it and make sure that it continues to go that way with the more experience he gets.”
What do you see from WR Bruce Ellington in terms of skills that you guys like and what he can do for you with WR Will Fuller V likely to be out on Sunday?
“I think Bruce (Ellington) brings certainly his athleticism in the way of his change of direction allows him to run certain routes that are pretty clean in terms of a good, quick read of separation from defenders because he’s got that, being able to stick his foot in the ground and separate like that from his quickness. I think he gives you that. That makes him pretty quarterback friendly. You know what I mean? Because you can get a pretty clean, quick read off of ‘Hey, this guy’s going to be open when he breaks out or he breaks in.’ He brings that to the table. I think having that, and then he’s got the ability like you saw the other day to run after the catch and obviously short throws and long runs, that’s a quarterback’s good friend right there.”
How valuable is it to have someone like WR DeAndre Hopkins out there for QB Tom Savage?
“Incredibly valuable. I mean, it’s a guy that you trust, that you’re going to go to in those situations where you have to have it, and you feel great about that’s our guy and that’s where we’re going to go with the ball and if you put it in his radius and give him a chance, there’s a very good possibility that that guy’s going to make the play for you. So, it’s really valuable.”
T BRENO GIACOMINI
How do you make sure you stay consistent?
“We’ve got to stay on track .We’ve just got to keep getting better, keep learning how to finish. We were right there in the second half and more importantly, take care of the ball. That starts with everybody, it’s not just one person. Better ball security and we’ve got to finish better.”
What’s the key to finishing games?
“You’ve just got to go back to work. Like today, go back to work and we emphasize it. Ball security, high and tight. So, it’s just practicing it over and over. That’s how I have always learned how to do that. Just go back to work.”
What’s the communication like on the offensive line?
“The offensive line’s pretty cool where every room that I’ve been in, including this one, every guy prepares as if they’re the starter. During practice, a lot of guys switch in and out, so the communication is always the same. The technique might be a little bit different where my guard is a little bit heavier set or maybe he’s a more athletic guy. So, that changes, but as far as communication, that doesn’t really change much.”
What were your expectations on how you’d fit in when you came to Houston?
“I was trying to get healthy, and I did. My expectation is always to win, to come out and compete and give this team what I have. I feel like I’m doing that. I do feel like I have to get better, so just keep getting better and keep fighting because they’re fighting for me. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve always done.”
How do you get the offense back to scoring points?
“We’ve got to go back to work. We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to finish better, we’ve got to take care of the ball better. Like I said, it starts with everybody. It starts with me up front. I’ve got to pass block better to give him more time, so you can blame the turnovers on me. We’ve just all got to get better as an offensive unit and go back to work and go fight on Sunday. These are games that we’ve been in. We haven’t been blown out. Maybe the first game, but we’ve just got to finish better and take care of the ball.”
Do you even look at the standings at this point of the year?
“No. We’re worried about Arizona. That takes care of itself. Sometimes it goes to Week 16, 17. If you start worrying about that, you’re in trouble. We try not to count them, we make them count.”
QB TOM SAVAGE
Can you talk about how important it is to get the running game going?
“I thought we were fifth in the league in rushing. That’s what I was told. I actually don’t know the stat of the top of my head, but I think everyone’s been doing a good job of trying to execute. Obviously (the) running game’s important for a pocket quarterback, just to kind of get the defense off and it helps with some of the play-action. I think we got two really talented running backs or three or four, however you want to look at it. They’re doing a good job.”
What do you like and don’t like about what you’re doing at this point after looking at the tape?
“I think the one thing I feel like I’m doing well is not looking down at the rush. I’m throwing the ball down the field, but obviously you have four turnovers so you don’t want that. It’s not good.”
What completion percentage number would make you happy?
“I think anything over 75 percent. I mean, I know that’s high, but that’s what every quarterback really wants. I don’t know where I’m at, I don’t really care where I’m at. I’m going to just worry about this week and go from there.”
Do you feel like your play is trending in the right direction?
“It’s just kind of like low standards to say. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what I say right now or how I view this upcoming week. The only thing that really matters is just winning, and that’s it. I can sit here and tell you all day that I want to throw 75 percent or I feel like I’m getting better – that doesn’t matter. No one cares about any of that stuff. What matters is winning, and that’s what we’re going to try to do this weekend.”
What has to happen for you to put together a full game?
“I don’t know. I just think it’s consistency. I think I have to consistently get the first play to be a positive play in the drive. I think if you look back, when our first play’s a positive play, we’re usually in a rhythm, we get going and that’s what happens. I was watching the film and we’re down 9-7 and then the interception happened and it’s just like those things are momentum killers. I think whatever I have to do to stop that – because we were in the game. That’s the reality of it. I know the game was 30-something to seven and I get that, but if you really watch the film, it’s like we’re in the game, I just got to show some consistency with this offense and not play catchup the whole game. I think that’s really important for this offense.”
How valuable is it to have somebody like WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“I think it’s really valuable. I mean, in my opinion, he’s one of the best receivers in the league and I think that’s pretty much everyone’s opinion. I think it’s also important that I feed the other guys the rock, too. A lot of the guys are getting open, like Bruce (Ellington) and those guys. He’s been running really good routes for us, and C.J. (Fiedorowicz), and it’s good to get the backs involved in the passing game. I think everyone’s really doing a good job. But obviously it’s DeAndre Hopkins. You’re going to feed him the rock. He’s the playmaker, he’s getting paid the big money and you’ve got to let him go earn it.”
Is it possible that you’re too tough on yourself?
“No. I mean, I think after the game, the old quote, ‘It’s never as bad as it seems and it’s never as good as it seems,’ after a good game. I think I watched the film and kind of took a deep breath and I was like, ‘You know what? We’ll just move on from this.’ I’m not going to sit here and beat myself up the whole week and think about that game. I think I did some good things, I think I made some good throws. Obviously you’re never going to win a game with four turnovers, so whatever I have to do to fix that, whether it’s tuck the ball away if I’m getting hit or know when the play’s over. I think there’s a lot of times where I see pressure and I see it and I’m trying to throw it and sometimes a guy gets to me too quick and I’ve got to be able to tuck it and hold on for the team.”
How many similarities do you see between WR DeAndre Hopkins and former WR Andre Johnson?
“I just think their work ethic. Their work ethic, it’s up there. They’re always constantly working, they’re competitors, and I think that’s kind of where they’re at.”
Do you think the injuries on this team and around the league have been significant?
“It’s a shame and it’s kind of weird that a lot of the guys are getting hurt. I mean, it’s a contact sport, so that’s what happens. I think this league is just about how you respond and we have to find a way to win some games.”
OLB BRENNAN SCARLETT
How does it feel to play as much as you have lately?
“It’s feeling good, after the past couple weeks of just being out there more and feeling more comfortable, understanding the defense, understanding what I’m seeing in the offensive formations. The coaches are putting me in the right position to be able to make plays and guys around me (are) communicating and helping me out. It’s been a good process.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said the defense was out there a little too much against the Rams. Did you feel like that was the case?
“We can’t point fingers. It’s not because the offense had the defense out there too long. The defense, there’s things we could have done better and executed down the stretch.”
What about Arizona concerns you?
“We’re just getting into preparing for them today. They have a strong run game, great back in Adrian Peterson. We have to make sure we stop him and also Larry Fitzgerald out there, obviously. Those are two great players. Probably Hall of Fame players in my book. So, we’re going to do all we can to prepare and stop them.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH CARDINALS HEAD COACH BRUCE ARIANS
What are some things you need to see from QB Drew Stanton to see if he’ll be able to play on Sunday?
“The biggest thing is if he can protect himself and move around. He’s got a brace, he’s been fitted for a brace and we just continue monitoring his ability to move around the pocket.”
If QB Blaine Gabbert does have to play, what are some things he does well?
“He can really spin it. He’s not been in the offense as long as Drew (Stanton) but he’s a very bright guy. We’ll tailor it to where he’s comfortable when he goes out on the field. He’s very athletic and it would be fun watching him play.”
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald has a lot of longevity for you guys and has been very consistent late into his career. What does he mean to the team and how impressive has he been?
“I think every time when you start to talk about Larry, you start to talk about the person off the field. Walter Payton Man of the Year, the example he sets in the locker room for our younger players on how to take care of yourself, what to do off the field and how to be a pro. And it all carries out on the field. You know you’re getting 100 percent every time he steps out there.”
You guys added RB Adrian Peterson to the backfield in the middle of the year. How hard is it to implement a guy into your scheme in the middle of the season?
“The one thing about him is he’s carried the ball a lot in his career, so it’s just a matter of learning terminology, and the biggest thing is the passing game. With the pass protections and the routes, flare controls, those types of things. Handing him the ball, that’s kind of easy for him. Each week, it’s kind of been a rollercoaster. Big week, bad week, big week, bad week. So, hopefully we have a big week.”
How much does RB Adrian Peterson to the team mean on and off the field?
“Again, adding a pro. He runs in the walkthrough. He’s just one of those guys. He’s the ultimate professional as far as how he prepares and how he takes care of himself.”
What do you think about the type of season Texans OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney is having and how difficult is it to prepare for him?
“He’s having a fantastic – he’s having an All-Pro season. Maybe an MVP season. And it’s hard to (plan for him) because they’re doing such a good job of not knowing where he is, so you can’t really game plan for him. Each guy on the offensive line may end up having to block him, and that’s a heck of a chore.”
Both the Texans and the Cardinals have been struck by significant injuries. How difficult is that as a coach and how important is it to adjust and keep moving forward?
“Well, you know they’re going to happen, you just hope they don’t happen to as many of your star players as both of us have lost. But they’re not throwing pity parties in any other city for you. You’ve got to line up and play and give your guys a chance to have a game plan that they can execute and win with.”
The Texans will be honoring the career of former WR Andre Johnson on Sunday. Do you have any memories of him as a player and what he meant to the NFL?
“Oh gosh, yeah. I mean, I actually had the honor of coaching him in the Pro Bowl one year. Again, the guy that you want to build your franchise around and show all your young players, this is how you do it. This is the person you want to be.”
Do you see any similarities between former Texans WR Andre Johnson and Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald?
“Oh, a ton. A ton. Big receivers who were explosive young and then learned to play the game in different ways as they got older so that they could still be very productive.”