*THURSDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: Week 11 at packers
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg & Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
**Given his speed and desire to get the ball, has there ever been talk of placing WR Breshad Perriman as a kick returner? *(Bo Smolka) *"Well, he's a little busy right now. We try to divide up the duties. He's taken some reps back there in the past, but that's not something that's at the top of our list at this point."
The team released RB Bobby Rainey a few weeks ago. After his performance on special teams, can you lobby to keep him around, or how does that work? (Ed Lee)"I'm not sure 'lobby' is the word that I would use, since it sounds like it's political, and it's really not. It's a personnel decision. The beauty of working for this organization is [that] I am asked my opinion. But, I don't make the decisions; I support the decisions. I had a great conversation with Bobby on his departure, and he's such a great football player. We knew that when he arrived here, when he was a young, undrafted free agent. We got him in the defensive drills as an offensive player, as a running back, and he was one of the best tacklers we had. There was no question in my mind that he was going to make a living playing football. He's done that; he's proven that. He'll be playing again – maybe for us, maybe for someone else. He's got so many skills, and he can bring so many different things to the table. I think we played him in the previous game in four different spots on the kickoff team. That gives you an idea of the kind of talents he had. He understands football. When you ask him to do something, he can just go do it."
In regards to P Sam Koch's fake punt, the throw that was made, to me, looked like a quarterback, not like a punter playing a quarterback. Have you ever worked with a punter that has had that kind of skill set where he could do that? To borrow the phrase, would you lobby to have him do that more? (Pete Gilbert) "There's nothing really that Sam does that surprises a whole lot. He's an extraordinary athlete. I mean, he's the [locker room] cornhole champion. (laughter) That pretty much says everything!" (Reporter: "But have you ever worked with a punter who could do that?") *"Oh! Answer the question? That's what you're saying. *(laughter) One of the things that I have learned over the years is that I think punters are some of the best athletes in the game. Now, they're not the fastest, necessarily, but they can do so many things, because the hand-eye control that they require to do their job in the first place is extraordinary. Sam is like that. He can throw, and he can run; you've seen him. Hopefully, he doesn't have to chase down too many returners, but you've seen him chase returners before, and he can run, and he's strong, he's flexible. He has all those attributes. Now, I've worked with some guys that can do a lot of different things – yes. Sam, in my view, is amazing in a lot of ways. His ability to throw the ball is quite extraordinary. Hopefully, he'll never have to be an emergency quarterback, but I think he showed everybody how well he can throw the ball."
**When the weather gets colder, when kickoffs might not go as far, is there different things you have to prepare for – weather, the ball not go as far? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"You're right on. This is the time of the year where the percentage of kick return goes way up. Also, punts aren't going to travel the same distance, with the same accuracy, as they do earlier in the season. This is a time to really button down your skill players to be able to kick in wind, and to be able to handle catching the ball in the wind and the weather. Also, one of the reasons we work so hard on fundamentals, and our practices are competitive, is because this time of the year is when you see it come out. As you mentioned, the percentage of return opportunities typically go up in the kickoff return game. You can't kick touchbacks like you want to early in the season, if that's your choice. We hope that all that practice will pay off in the months of November and December."
**How would you characterize DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr.'s value? *(Ed Lee) *"One of the things that I've talked to Anthony about the last 'x' number of years is that you can't just be a special teams player; you have to be a football player. You have to make yourself a really good, valuable defensive player. That's good for everybody. One of the things I think he's done as a special teams player is make himself valuable for the defense. He goes in there and has a strong role. I think he has a couple sacks this year, if I'm not mistaken. But, they're comfortable putting him in, so that helps us on special teams because he's going to be up, active, and he has a role on this team that goes beyond just the kicking game. So, that's the biggest improvement I've seen in Anthony, and that's a really important factor."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement: "OK, recapping the bye week: [It was] an excellent time to get a review, find out what you're good at, find out what you need to get better at – some of it is crystal clear, some of it's a little bit more in depth. So, that's what we did. The fellas are doing some things very well; other things we need to get better at. So, that's what we've emphasized. Now, going in to this game in Green Bay, [there's a] great opportunity to go in there, [but] a great challenge as well. A heck of a team, heck of a defense, and our players are right in the middle of the preparation – and the preparation will be key. So, we'll open it up to questions."
**So, what do you need to improve on? *(Mike Preston) *"Well, there are a lot of things that we need to improve on. I don't want to get too in-depth here, but yards per attempt is a big correlator here, both in the run and pass, to winning. There are several things – turnovers, yards per attempt – so we need to get better there. So, how do you do that? First of all, schemes; second of all, getting some big fellas in some space; third, breaking tackles or making the big play down the field. So, we've emphasized that."
You mentioned yards-per-attempt. What you did with WR Jeremy Maclin after the first quarter in Tennessee, he had eight catches on nine targets for almost 100 yards. Does that intermediate portion of the field – that 11- to 20-yard range – the biggest key, as far as making the passing game more productive? You can take shots over the top, but it seems like that's the area … (Luke Jones) "That's a good point. You're exactly right. The whole gamut is important, but that is one of the keys. We believe in all of those things that correlate with winning. That's one thing that we, intermittently, we've done pretty well. In the games we've won, it's been a little bit better, and in the games we've lost, it hasn't been. [It's] a point of emphasis, a point of focus. So, we'll get better. Let's see what happens; let's see what happens here. [We have] great confidence in our players, great confidence in our players. They have great confidence. So, let's see what happens."
You have a couple running backs coming back healthy. How do you plan on using them in the scheme? (Mike Preston) "We'll see how healthy they are first. This week of practice is important for them. Everybody we can get back will certainly help us." (Reporter: "Will Alex Collins still be your featured guy?") "Yes, he's done a good job. He's gotten better every week, and he's getting better at the details, as well. So, we can utilize him in more ways. Yes, certainly a featured guy."
Is the offense tailored to be more aggressive? Is that something that you've been working on?* (Ed Lee)*"We always want to be aggressive. There have been a few times we've tried to be aggressive, and it's blown up on us. There have been other times we've tried to be aggressive, then we were up by two or three scores, and so … We need to be more consistently aggressive and be aggressive in a real smart way, as well. So, that was one of the things coming out of the bye week [that we looked at]."
Specifically though, last week Dennis Pitta said that QB Joe Flacco has one read and then has to check down. Does Joe have the authority to be more aggressive? (Ed Lee) "Oh, sure. Dennis is one of my favorites – he really is. He called and everything, and I think he was trying to explain something – maybe used a couple too many words, I guess. I don't know that."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
You have been asked about the play of your cornerbacks throughout, but what is the luxury they provide when you have the confidence in them on the outside? Not just the confidence, but also you have had the same guys, which has obviously been rare around here. (Jeff Zrebiec)"It has been great. I think they are playing at a very good level. Answering your second question first, it has really been great having the continuity. It is kind of like each week that you go in there you can take something that maybe you did the week before and you can tweak it a little bit, just change it. It is still the same thing, but you just change it slightly. Everyone has an idea on how they did it before, and so, they kind of understand what you are trying to get accomplished by just changing it a little bit. Before, a change like that with somebody new was all new. The continuity has really, really been helpful. Secondly, just in calling a game, if you are not trying to hide somebody or if you are not trying to overcome or not put somebody in a really tough spot, if you really feel like we have a chance to cover them … Whether we do or whether we don't, you feel confident the guys are going to do it, [so] it is a lot different calling a game. You are not trying to … You are just calling it. You are calling it what you feel like calling out. I think we have been much more aggressive, as far as pressure and things like that, just because I felt like we had the ability to cover out there, whether it be man or a zone pressure."
How excited are you to see more from OLB Tim Williams? He has dealt with some injuries and is getting himself back. You could potentially use him more in the second half of the season. (Garrett Downing)"Really, it will be great to get him going in the second half of the season. It just seems that every week we kind of … We would come out of our Monday meeting on a game plan thing, and we would say, 'OK, here is an area where we …' You kind of are always trying to figure out your personnel and where you can use them and stuff like that. We would talk about Tim, and there would be some little injury, whether it be the migraines or whether it be the hamstring, whatever it might be. Then, it kind of went out of the plan for a week, because you have to get ready for whoever is going to be there. Coming off this bye week, knock on wood, I hope he stays healthy through this week, and hopefully, we will have a chance to use him and use him through the rest of the season."
What have you seen out of Packers QB Brett Hundley? (Pete Gilbert)"Strong arm, really mobile, good athlete and the thing of it is, he's not a rookie. Everyone keeps talking about him like he is a rookie. He is not a rookie; he has been in this system for a while. It is like this morning, I pointed out something [about how] [Aaron] Rodgers always had a certain way to escape. I played against him for a lot of years. As long as he has been around, he has always had a great ability to kind of be mobile in the pocket, move around and kind of has a certain way to escape. I don't know whether Mike [McCarthy] plans it that way or whatever, but all of a sudden, I see Hundley doing exactly the same thing. So, he has learned under a very, very good guy. The system is not going to change. They may change the way he calls the game or something like that, but Mike is not going to change his system, and I think the guy knows the system. He has been in it long enough now. The only thing he had not had is he has basically three-and-a-half games of really starting in the league, and that is probably his only shortcoming."
You have been going through a stretch of playing quarterbacks that at the beginning of the season you probably didn't expect playing, including this week with Packers QB Brett Hundley. How much have you had to change your preparations or your game plans because of the different quarterbacks? (Jamison Hensley)"It just depends on how much film we have on him and how long we have the ability to get ready for them. You kind of know in the offseason who the quarterbacks are going to be, so when you do your summer reports … You don't go into a lot of depth in the summer, but you kind of have those reports of, 'This is kind of what we are going to kind of be, and this is what we are going to kind of do.' It is kind of an outline for them. What happens is when there is a change, that can really change drastically. It is not necessarily the signal caller. A lot of it depends on how long the coordinator or the head coach who is the coordinator has been calling plays. If all of a sudden you have a new coordinator, and then all of a sudden you have a new quarterback, it is really difficult sometimes to get ready for them. I don't think sometimes everybody understands that this is a little more difficult than … Even though the other quarterback was the starter and is real good, you kind of had an idea of what he does. Sometimes playing a backup – especially if he does not have a lot of game footage – is sometimes hard, because you do not know all the habits and things that he has and how he is reading things. Then, you kind of go to the coordinator and say, 'OK, does this guy have a system that he is never going to change? Or will he change it because of this guy?' If a guy has been playing for four or five games, no longer is that to me the case. But if he has been playing for one or two, or if all of a sudden, you have a new starter, that is what really becomes harder than everybody thinks. Everybody thinks, 'Oh, you are playing the backup; that is no big deal.' It is a big deal. I go all the way back to New England when we went down to play Atlanta one time, and I got ready all week for [Michael] Vick. All week. Everything I had done in the summer, everything I had done was getting ready for Vick. Then, all of a sudden, [Matt] Schaub shows up. I'm like, 'Who the heck is this guy? All of a sudden, I have both edges coming because of bootlegs and waggles and all this kind of stuff and this guy is a straight dropback guy. That was a nightmare. We won the game – thank God – because of the offense, not because of the defense. Sometimes, it is a headache."
It seems like the defense is as healthy as you could possibly hope for this time of the year. The run defense has been really good the last couple games coming into the bye. Do you feel like your defense is in a good position to maybe take it to the next step and be not just good, but great? Maybe they could be more consistent and finish games as you talk about.* (Luke Jones)*"I'm hoping. We are always trying to be great. You are trying to do the best that you can, and I feel like we played well in the last few games. What we have had is just one or two plays where we just can't have if we want to win. The Chicago game – the overtime – we do a great job up until then, and all of a sudden, we give up a big play and put them down there. We get them stopped again on third down and just kind of gave up a play. Two weeks ago when we played Tennessee, we had several opportunities. In that last drive that they scored … Well, actually, when Sam [Koch] had that bad kick, we go in there and we are really ready to go three-and-out and we get a roughing the passer penalty on the sidelines. That would have been a field goal instead of a touchdown, and they end up scoring. Then, on the last touchdown that they get, we get two guys that run into each other in man coverage. Our own guy [knocked the other one down]. They didn't pick us; we picked us. It is nobody's fault. We just have to get rid of those plays. Other than that, I would say we had a really, really good day if we were able to take those two plays back, but I can't. I can't take the play back in the Chicago game, so we just have to eliminate those things. If we can, then I think have a chance to really be an outstanding defense. I think we are playing more consistent. We just have to get rid of those couple plays a game."
The Packers may have to rely on their No. 3 running back, Jamaal Williams. Are you anticipating that they might do some "Wildcat" stuff with WR Randall Cobb back there? (Ed Lee)"They do a lot of stuff with Cobb back there anyhow, if you guys have been watching the film. They will go … Normally, you will say, 'OK, they have five wideouts in the game. That is going to be an empty set, right? They don't have any running backs.' Nope, '18' [Cobb] lines up back there. He has played quarterback; he has been [in the] Wildcat formation. They put '17' [Davante Adams] in the backfield. One thing about Mike [McCarthy] is they have guys who will play everywhere. '88' [Ty Montgomery] is back there. You think '88' is at wide receiver, and he is really at running back. They have guys everywhere. They can do anything. I just think they have enough talent on offense, and I think Mike has such a good repertoire in his offensive playbook … He can build a formation out of any group. There are times in [the meeting room] I showed this week, I said, 'You guys tell me what personnel group they are in right here. You do not know.' It could be base personnel with two backs in the backfield. It could be two backs, it could be one back, it could be no backs, and it all looks like the same formation. He has a good handle on it, and he can run his offense from it."