Posted: 9:42 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013
By David Fucillo
Do you have anything to add about the field?
"The field? No."
When you look at their offense, what kind of leaps out at you about how they've evolved from the beginning of the season?
"Well, they've made a lot of improvements here in the last few weeks. I think in the first four games, they were averaging about 220 yards a game. And then their last three games they're averaging over 360, I believe. So, the evidence is on the tape when you watch it. And then the evidence is on paper when you look at their stats. And part of that's coincided with the return of [WR Justin] Blackmon, too."
And the quarterback is doing a pretty good job?
"Yes, he's played well. I think the last few weeks they've moved the ball much better. And they're a much improved offense right now when you compare them to earlier in the season."
Have you had to send the message, forget the record, this is a legitimate team?
"Well, anybody in the NFL is legitimate. They've got really good players. They've got really good coaches. This is the NFL. It's a fine line between winning and losing. And we've got to approach this as our eighth game in the season, just like we've approached the previous seven."
What have you seen in RB Maurice Jones-Drew?
"Well, what you've always seen. Obviously the low center of gravity with his height and his build, 220 pounds or more packed into that shorter-type body. But, runs extremely hard. Very good on contact. He's a good cutter. He's a tough guy to play against. He's so different than most running backs that you see. Most running backs that are shorter are quicker and darters, and this guy, he's big. If he was six foot, he'd be 250 pounds."
What did you see from DL Quinton Dial in his debut the other day?
"He did OK. It was good for him to get his feet wet. He didn't get a lot of plays in the game. But, it was really good just to get him out there and get him in game situations so he knows what that's all about, what it would feel like. And think he'll improve little by little as we go."
He's 320. Are you impressed by how light he is on his feet, able to play defensive end? Looked like he played that mostly against the Titans the other day?
"No, that's what we saw when we drafted him. We liked obviously his size and thought he moved well for a guy his size. And we thought his best football was in front of him. I think he's done a good job since he's gotten here of improving his body. I think [head strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama] Uye and the guys in the weight room have done a really good job of, he's in much better condition now than he was when we drafted him, in all aspects. Just his body, his conditioning, his ability to move. And he's still got a long ways to go. But, I think he's a guy that will eventually get there."
How can you tell the difference between a guy that maybe you look at and you go, he's pretty much topped out as opposed to somebody like Quinton where you go, OK, he's got a high ceiling?
"Well, he's got the physical attributes of the body that we've talked about and don't feel like they've been fully developed to this point. He's a guy that I think spent a year or two in junior college. I only think he was at [The University of] Alabama total for a year and a half or so, or maybe two years at the most. So, he just hasn't had the perfect world in his football adventures that some of these other guys have had to this point. And just feel he's got a lot of room to grow."
Will DT Justin Smith's shoulder injury be something he has to deal with all season like DT Ray McDonald and his bicep injury? Or do you expect him back at full practice like for the rest of the season whenever that's healed?
"Well, I don't know that it'll ever practice full practice when you get a guy that's 34 years old, although he's in tremendous shape and not like your normal 34-year-old. You take care of them during the week so they can be at their best on Sunday. So, I don't think he'll ever have a full-practice regimen say like Quinton Dial would, or even some of the other guys. And I don't have much concern there. Justin knows his body better than anybody. And I really don't concern myself with it too much."
This is a long way to come for a football game. How are your guys dealing with the travel and change of environment and all that?
"I think they're doing fine. It is a long ways to come. It's just a longer plane ride, obviously, than what we dealt with when we stayed in Youngstown the two previous seasons. But, once we got here, it's pretty much the same type of operation. And little bit less, more seamless with everything being at one location, we didn't have to go to Youngstown. So, we're kind of used to it. But, the plane ride was the biggest issue."
Back to Justin, did you see a jump in his play last Sunday?
How does CB Eric Wright look in practices?
"Better. He's getting better and better. And put him in there yesterday with some of the defensive stuff. Last week he primarily did the scout team work. This week we've put him in there with the defense, snaps, few snaps here and there. And he's done well. Obviously he's not comfortable in the system yet. But, he's a guy that we think once he kind of grasps it, he'll grow leaps and bounds quickly because he's played in the league. He's done a lot of the things we do. He just has to learn to work with our guys and our lingo."
And he can play slot or outside?
"Yes, that's what he's done during his career."
And have you had him slotted yet?
"Yes, he's played some on the slot."
But, the situation's kind of unique for you. You have some guys who are playing pretty well. It's going to be tough for him to get on the field, isn't it?
"Could be. But, eventually there will be a spot for corners and slash nickel/dime players that they'll eventually work their way out there."
Meaning what? Just attrition, just injuries?
"Sometimes it's attrition. Sometimes if he shows that he can play better than who we have playing, that's the guy who will play."
Is it a foregone conclusion that he's going to be on the 53-man roster at some point?
"I wouldn't say it's a foregone conclusion, no. I don't know the exact rules he's under either."
As far as DT Tank Carradine, similar thing, you noted obviously his injury is much more severe than Quinton's. Based off what you've seen, can he play this season do you think?
"I think he can eventually, I do."
He's looked OK?
"He's looked OK. I still think he's got to come a little bit more. But, I think he's there. I think getting him practicing the last two weeks helps. Giving him a measurement and us on exactly where he's at. And I think he'll eventually be able to get there."
Was it evident that some of the strength returned to Ray's arm from the Arizona week to the Titans week?
On film you saw that?
Is it the thought that there's going to be even more improvement?
"I don't know that. You'll have to ask [vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg on that. But, he definitely played a lot better this week than he did last week. And I think part of it too was just confidence. I think he had a little bit of the unknown in his mind the first game after exactly what he can and couldn't do. And it think he's more comfortable with his situation now."
How much of a factor is that soggy, slippery Wembley field when designing the game plan for this Sunday's game?
"How much of a factor is it?"
"Well, it could be. Do you know that it's going to be soggy and slippery?"
It could be. But, do you need to take into account like maybe design a backup game plan if the field means you can't do what you want to do on defense?
"It could be. I wouldn't say when you say a backup game plan. It's just the game might take on a different personality than it would be if the field was normal. They may run a different type offense. So, we've got to adjust our defense and call it a little differently. But, I don't think you adjust your whole game plan."
What fields do you prefer back in the states, natural or artificial? What is easier for the coach?
"Well, compared to the practice field here, it'd be the artificial. But, I always like the grass fields more, better."
Is there anyone on their offensive line that kind of jumps out at you that is doing a good job?
"Well, [C Brad] Meester is still a damn good player as their center. And he's been there a pretty long time. I think it's either 13 or 14 years. And he's still obviously when you've played that long, really knows the position extremely well. Senses things good. Can still move, get to the second level, still has some quickness. And he's still an impressive center."