Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
Does Dez Bryant have similarities to other punt returners that you've faced? (Ed Lee)"Similarities? Well, I don't like to compare returners, because each one of them has their own characteristics, and I think we all see in Dez Bryant what a fabulous athlete he is. He's a big, strong, fast guy that can change directions, and so, in this league it's very rare that you get a week off in punt coverage. Every week there's really a good athlete back there that's got the ball in his hands, and that's why punt coverage is so important, the team aspect of it is so important, that the gunner is fitting with the punter with the net, and this week is no different. We have to do a really good job with this player, because he's capable of great things."
Are you looking at, since [Bryant] is a starting wide receiver, that maybe he'll be a little bit tired when he's taking returns? (Ed Lee)"We're expecting his best; that's kind of the nature of this league. You go out there and you expect everything that they have, and I'm sure he'll summon up enough energy to run the ball if he gets it."
**Jerry, how do you evaluate the return game so far, and what do you say to Deonte Thompson when you see a ball hit the ground? *(Ryan Mink) *"Well, ball security is very important to all of us; it's a part of our team, it's a part of the way we play football. And the return game so far has been not as good as we want it to be. We continue to work on it. The one thing that we're really uplifted by is there are so many good individual blocks and so many good things going on when we turn the tape on, and that's really where you make your judgment is, 'What's the tape look like?' And we're confident that all the good blocks we're getting and all the good setups that we're getting are going to pay dividends as we go down the road. And when we watched that particular return that you referred to, there were so many good things on that particular piece of video that we're going to reinforce the positive and correct the things that we need to correct and go to the next opportunity and look forward to a better result."
Do you anticipate David Reed getting back in the mix of the return game when he comes off the PUP list? (Jason Butt)"David Reed has shown that he can return the ball; he led the National Football League in return average when he was a rookie. So, we're going to give David every opportunity, just like we do all of our other returners. We'd like to have multiple returners on our team, so when David comes back, he'll certainly have that opportunity."
The Cowboys practiced yesterday without both of their punters. Without commenting on their situation specifically, what kind of impact can it have on practice if you don't have a punter available? (Ed Lee)"That's why they make JUGS machines, I guess, so they can shoot them down there. *(laughter) *But from our perspective, you have a right-footed punter and a left-footed punter, so the good news is we have the ability in our practice to practice against both. We have the machine that shoots that ball either direction with either spin on it. And so, again, I don't really know what their practice situation was, but we're prepared for either."
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
You're going to face [defensive coordinator] Rob Ryan. Is there kind of a common thread to the Ryan brothers when you see one of their defenses? What's that like? (Aaron Wilson)"Obviously, they are well-coached and they're multiple, and obviously, they probably play more fronts, more coverages, than any team we've faced at this point. The good news is we see a lot of that in practice every day in our defense and have since we've been here. Preparation takes on a little different element, and then you add the fact that they are coming off a bye – they had a little extra time. I'm sure they are tweaking things that they are doing, and then they have some things that we'll have to adjust to."
Is there a common attitude to the Ryans' defense? (Aaron Wilson) "Rob and Rex are a little bit different, but the bottom line is they have good defenses, and you just have to do a great job of preparation, and you just have to make sure everybody comes ready to play."
Cam, I know the red zone stalled out … Were you more pleased with the schedule … You mentioned last week there were way too many second-and-longs … (Bo Smolka)"That creeped up again, and our guys, it's like anything else – you emphasize it. You don't want to be first-and-15. Or what were we at, first-and-17? You don't want to do that, because eventually, it's going to get you. It could have gotten us this past week, but I will give our guys credit. Now, our four-minute offense, which we maybe struggled a little bit with, we were able to take the last four minutes and 30 seconds off the board and put the game away. So, I thought we ended on a positive note; I think they were a lot of positives. We just have to get all 11 guys playing their best each and every play. Right now, we just have a breakdown here, 10 guys and maybe one guy has a breakdown. There's no one guy having multiple breakdowns, but it doesn't take that on offense. One guy – a missed assignment, missed technique, a little thing here – just gets you off schedule, but we do have to eliminate those pre-snap penalties. But again, I was proud of the way our guys finished the game."
Is there any consideration to prepare having Bryant McKinnie start at right tackle? (Ed Lee) "I guess. What's your thinking there?"
How come … You're with Michael [Oher] and K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] right now as the tackles. Do you feel like if you put Bryant in there maybe it would help solidify the offensive line or change some things schematically? (Ed Lee)"[I] really like the way our offensive line is playing. [I] really like the way our young tackles play. We're thrilled that we have Bryant McKinnie here, and our O-line is getting better and better. We've gone up against some good fronts. We're just going to keep getting better. That's our plan. It's still early in the year, as you well know. I'm sure if we need him, he'll be ready."
How do you defend [OLB DeMarcus] Ware? (Bo Smolka) "I think balance is a big word that's used a lot – run and pass. I think this is one of those guys were it really comes into play – where you have to mix run and pass, because if he knows it's an obvious passing situation and you're in that situation a lot, he's tough to handle. And obviously, you do what everyone else does, whether you double him, you triple him, you put four guys on him if you had to. He's that good. We just have to make sure that he doesn't know when it's run and pass. We have to make sure that we run at him and that we throw at him. There's a lot more to this defense than just him. A lot of times one guy gets a lot of attention because he's around a lot of other good players as well. This is an outstanding defense from top to bottom – one of those challenges that we are really looking forward to."
*You mentioned the balance; can you just elaborate a little bit more? Is that a situation where you just want to keep them off guard so they don't know what's coming because he's such a talented pass rusher? *(Garrett Downing) *"Yes. You said it. I can't say it any better than that. *(laughing) I agree with you completely. It's easier said than done. That's the ideal scenario; we all know what the ideal scenario is, and we all know what a great feeling that is, 'Oh, I thought they were running, oh they're passing. I thought they were passing, they're running. I tell you, we really have them off balance.' That's the ideal scenario. Good defense sometimes makes that hard, but obviously, that's something we'd like to try to do."
Cam, being able to get in the end zone the last couple of weeks and not getting into the end zone in Kansas City, is there any concern? (Bill West) "At this point, you wouldn't say it's a concern. We had tremendous respect for that defense going in. I remember last week this time we were talking about Green Bay going in there when they were leading the league in scoring and lighting everyone up, and basically, almost got shut out. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We are always trying to get better. We had three opportunities to score. The good news is, we want touchdowns, but we always want to preserve a field goal. If you don't get a touchdown, you have to get three. You have to keep the momentum and you have to get our defense back out there in good situation after the kickoff. It wasn't what we wanted to get down, something we have to get better at. Until it becomes a trend, we just keep plowing forward."
Bernard Pierce and Anthony Allen, is it difficult sort of pressing out who is going to be the first one to get in behind Ray [Rice]? (Ed Lee) "No, actually we have a real specific plan by situation at this point. With any young players, it's ever-evolving. As Bernard grows, and as Anthony … Anthony is just a super, super smart football player, and there's certain defense where they create more problems for a running back mentally and, obviously, Anthony is a year older, one year longer in the system, a little more experienced. So by game plan, we may choose to use that, but you see that we have a lot of confidence in B.P. [Bernard Pierce]."
Do you take a different approach to your game plan when you are going up against a veteran front four that's 30 years old or older? (Kevin Richardson) "You could, if in fact, but age … The one thing that I believe, you have to be careful looking at a guy's age. I remember Darrell Green when I first came into this league; Darrell Green was older than I was and played like he was in his 20's. So really, it's each guy individually. If it was a bunch of older guys that you thought were aging or on the backend, obviously, everything you are alluding to would be accurate. I don't see that in this defense at all. I don't see … There's some experience in this defense, but I don't see anybody in this defense that's aging. I know that becomes a topic of conversation for everybody. Every guy, be careful how you look at those ages. It's basically on how they play."
**Sunday is Matt Birk's 200th career game. Can you just talk about how valuable he has been for this offense? *(Ed Lee) *"I just remember when we lost Jason Brown and they were saying, 'We have a chance of getting Matt Birk.' I said, 'You have to be kidding me. This is one of the great centers of all time.' He's one of these guys that you look at his age, but then you watch him play, and I don't think anyone is saying that this guy, you are going to take advantage of this guy because of his age. He plays young. He's young-minded. We are very fortunate to have … No. 1, I love being around him. It's one of those cases where it's an honor to be around him and coach him. He sets the table for everything we do. I think he and Joe [Flacco] have tremendous chemistry. Joe can probably speak to Matt even better than I can. He's a coach's dream to have at center and leading your offense."
Joe's been really, really good at home so far. Is there any key to that that you've been able to see? (Garrett Downing) "Our expectation is that, obviously, you want to play well at home. You want to play well on the road, too. I think you know that. There are no better fans in this country that I've seen than our fans, and I think we all coach better, we play better, and obviously, we want to do the same thing on the road but … Our fans are special, and our players acknowledge that. Maybe that's just the extra that we all have in us, because we want to get the job done for everybody that comes to watch us and support us. You'd have to ask Joe probably, but that's my gut feeling on it."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Can you talk about Dallas' offense? In the past three weeks, they haven't been able to score 20 points in a game. What sort of offense are you expecting on Sunday? (Ed Lee)"I think the biggest reason they aren't scoring is they're turning the ball over. I think they are moving the ball. We know [Cowboys QB Tony] Romo can throw it. They have talented wide receivers, have a good running game. The biggest key there is they have had some very inopportune situations when [they] are turning the ball over or getting penalties in certain situations. A lot of times on offense, that's always a problem. It's not that they are not talented and not a good offense. They just really had some bad situations happen to them as far as turnovers."
Are you surprised that DeMarco Murray isn't getting nearly as many touches as people have assumed he would? (Ed Lee)"I don't know. You never know what's going on with an offense or with an offensive coordinator or the team. You just never know all the circumstances with the offensive line, so it's always hard to say what you get there. All I know is he is a very, very talented back, and we expect him to get some carries this week."
How do you account for Jason Witten, and just your thoughts on him in general? Also, with Ray Lewis, what do see from him in terms of resiliency, even when he is having maybe a rough half? (Aaron Wilson)"The first question is Witten is still a very dominant force. If you really look statistically at some things … I don't really always look at overall number of catches. Sometimes I look at the situations and when a guy is catching the ball in certain situations. Is he a go-to guy in a crunch situation? If you look at those situations, he is still that, which tells you how important he is to them. A guy may only have two catches in a game, but if it is on critical third downs, the stats don't look like he is catching the ball very much, but they were critical third downs. He is still a dominant force. He is still a good run blocker. He is still one of the best tight ends in the league.
"As far as the second one on Ray, I don't see anything in the resiliency or anything else. I am assuming you're saying the first half of the last ball game is what you're alluding to. If you watch the film, I wouldn't put a lot of that on No. 52 [Lewis]. Two things happened to us in the first half of that game in the running game, which we can't allow to happen again: We started to pressure them, which we wanted to go against [Chiefs QB Matt] Cassel. They had a good game plan, as they weren't going to let us pressure him; they were going to run the ball with No. 25 [Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles]. So, it wasn't hard to figure that out about half way through the first quarter. Tendencies are out the window right now – they are running the ball. We did a couple of other things with some fronts that did not help us, and they really hurt the linebackers. Sometimes you look out there, and you see a corner, and you think the corner gets beat deep, but it might have been the safety that really should have been over the top making the play, but because the corner is close, you assume it's the corner, and you blame him. It's the same thing up front. If the offensive line is coming off and getting to the second level on the linebackers, we are not in a good system here. We are not playing good technique then up front. So, a lot of times you can say whatever you want about the linebackers; it isn't going to matter if the guy is coming off and has him sealed. I don't care who it is. It could be [former Bears LB] Dick Butkus, it isn't going to make a difference. So, that to me was the biggest thing there. Watching that film, I didn't see anything with Ray. I know the comment has been made, something about [him] losing weight. It has nothing to do [with that]. Absolutely nothing to do with his weight. Nothing."
What made you guys so successful in the second half? Was it just adjustments? (Jim Forner)"Thank goodness, we had a couple other things up our sleeve in the second half. What we did is we really made a very slight adjustment. It was not a big adjustment. The biggest thing that we got settled down at halftime was going out and playing technique. 'Here is what they are doing to you, and this is why it's happening.' A little bit of it is the fact that knowledge can be a good thing, and you can use it, and sometimes you can abuse it. We had some good knowledge on them in the running game, and unfortunately sometimes we overplayed that knowledge. When you overplay it, something bad happens to you somewhere else. If I tell you, 'OK, the ball is going to be run to the right.' If the whole defense runs to the right, there's a chance he might cut back to the left, and somebody better be back there. We did a little bit of that in the first half. In the second half, we played much better fundamentally. We made a couple of adjustments at halftime, which were not big, but little and subtle, and it was effective."
Dean, who are some of the key players to defending TE Jason Witten as a receiver? (Bo Smolka)"Well, really all linebackers and the safeties. There are very few times you are going to have a corner really matched up on him. It's going to be the safeties and linebackers in there. All of them are going to have to have a part in it. The biggest effect that we can have on them is affect No. 9 [Tony Romo]."
Dean, what about the secondary? You have WRs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, who tend to go down the field. They are his two targets that really open up the field, hurry up and then go down the field. (Bill West)"They have all three receivers [who] are good. [Miles] Austin is a very, very talented guy. If you look at some crunch situations, he is also a guy that they aren't afraid to go to in a critical situation. We're just going to have to do a good job of mixing it up. Whether it's coverage-wise, whether it be pressure, going man, zone, whatever. It's like anything else. You have a good quarterback, and you have talented guys. We have to do a good job of not giving up big plays. No. 2 is we have to keep the quarterback a little bit off balance and the receivers off balance in what we're in."
Dean, you guys have done a good job of getting turnovers so far. What do you feel like is the main cause of that? Is that something that you can kind of rely on going forward, that some teams are just good at getting turnovers? (Ryan Mink)"No, I don't think you can ever say that. Here's why teams are good are getting turnovers: When teams are tough and fly to the football, they get turnovers. It always kills me when I hear guys commentating on TV talking about strip drills and tip drills, 'Oh, they practice that every day.' We haven't practiced the tip drill in 20 years. I mean, come on. First of all, who wants to go out and teach a defensive guy to tip it? Don't you want to teach him to catch it? We're all going to go out and teach a guy how to bat the ball up? I don't think so. What it is, is if you are hustling to the ball, and you are tough and you are hitting hard, the ball is coming out. That's the key thing, is when you watch teams that really are good at getting turnovers, there are a lot of guys around the football. It's just like the other day when they fumble on the one-yard line, take a look at that picture and see how many heads are in there. You have Haloti Ngata in there, 'Kemo' [Ma'ake Kemoeatu] is in there. Ed [Reed] ends up scooping out of the back and stuff, but they are all in there. Same thing when that one ball got tipped by their receiver, there are three DB's around it. Well, if everybody is running to the ball and playing hard, good things are going to happen to you, and it's usually turnovers. But, I had to say that about the drill. That has always slayed me. I have been doing this 40 years, and probably practiced two tip drills in my lifetime, and that was when I played in high school." (laughing)
Dean, yesterday LB Ray Lewis and DT Haloti Ngata were comparing QB Tony Romo to Ben Roethlisberger's ability to keep plays alive. What is the challenge in trying to contain Romo? (Brett Hyman)"Well, there are two things about that: It's not only containing him, [but] this guy is very elusive. He is athletic. Again, it's the same thing with Roethlisberger. There's a Seattle play that really sticks in my mind. They had him dead, and he spins out and [Miles] Austin runs downfield, and they throw an over route for 20 yards. That's what happens usually on plays like that. They end up being big plays because guys kind of lost their coverage a little bit and the receivers are good at knowing that's the kind of quarterback they have, so they get open. Pittsburgh has always been good at that. A lot is Roethlisberger, but a lot is the receivers knowing, 'I have this kind of quarterback back here, and I can get open.' The second thing is that he is elusive enough that you can't always bring him down. So, he is not really looking to run on a scramble, he is looking to pass on a scramble. That's the biggest thing; just being able to contain the guy. The other part of that is if you are in coverage, what it has the tendency to be is if I am in man [coverage] in the back, and I kind of go up to man the back, and then he starts scrambling and I look at him and all of the sudden he takes off, my back is open. That happened to us in Philadelphia twice where we really had [Eagles QB Michael] Vick fairly corralled, but the guy that was covering his guy didn't think we did and took his eyes off his man, and he hits a big wide-open tight end out there in the flat, which shouldn't have happened. So, we have to be very disciplined in doing that."