Opening statement:"OK, good to see everybody; I appreciate you coming out. We just had meetings, and a full day and a half of game-planning for Atlanta. We're preparing for a very physical, tough game. [It's] going to be cold weather. It's going to be a big challenge for us; we're going to have to be at our best. [It's a] very important December game. These games are individualized – one game at a time, high stakes games. We recognize that, and we're excited to play in a meaningful game in December, and we can't wait to get started. What questions?"
Do you expect QB Lamar Jackson to return this week? _(Jamison Hensley) _"I knew you were going to ask that, or somebody was. There are probably a couple other injury questions coming up, and I think I'm going to climb behind the barricade of it's probably not the time to put a lot of information out there on our injuries, just for competitive purposes. So, we're just going to let that develop and see where we go with it and not try to walk the tight rope of what we say."
The last we saw RB J.K. Dobbins was a 37-yard rush in the third quarter, and he didn't get a carry in the fourth quarter. Did he suffer an injury or a setback? _(Kyle Barber) _"No, we were down by 10, got the ball right with maybe 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. It wasn't that we were opposed to running the ball, but when you run the ball, the clock runs, and we were looking at how many possessions we were going to get. [We] called more passes. We didn't run the ball in the fourth quarter once we got after 11 minutes. So, you look back at that real hard and you say, 'Yes, we could have run it.' We were hitting them with some good runs, and maybe we would have popped a few runs because we were doing well. That conversation is one that we had yesterday, but by the same token, you're down two scores and it's going to be two possessions, probably, to have the chance to get it back. So, you want to make them as quick as you can. I know we did want to get the first score before we would have to onside kick. That was kind of one part of the discussion. So, once we got to that second possession, at that point in time we were definitely throwing the ball. So, I think we're talking about that time, 11 minutes to maybe eight minutes, where we could have done some runs at that point. And, we talked about that."
You talked after the game about the passing game needing to be better, and it's no secret that since early in the season, it hasn't really been firing at a very high level. Have you considered tweaks internally with the staff, if someone could take on a bigger role as it pertains to the passing game? To build on that, what gives you confidence that offensive coordinator Greg Roman is still the guy that can get the passing game to the point where it needs to be? _(Luke Jones) _"Two things; first of all, we have confidence in everybody. We have great coaches and great players at the highest level who are battling every single day to get everything as good as it can be. I can remember three weeks ago, all the questions that I got were about the run game, 'What's wrong with the run game? What's wrong with the run game? Why can't we get the run game going?' So, you go to work. You go to work on that stuff, you tweak things, you tweak schemes, you move guys in and out, you get guys back, you do all the things you have to do to try to get it rolling. Here we are, sitting there where the run game is good, and now the questions are about the pass game – which you're right – has not been where we need it to be for certain reasons, but that doesn't mean that we're not going to keep working on it. So, absolutely, all of our coaches, including [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] and everybody else, are fully capable of understanding the pass game and what we've got to do to get it done and scheming it up and all that kind of stuff. We can do things a lot better, we can look at how much we're calling, how much motion and stuff we put in, all the football-related X-and-O stuff, we're definitely looking at really hard … The volume of what we do, all those kinds of different things, and – to your first question – who's out there doing what. So, who's out there doing what is a big part of it. What are they capable of doing? Some roles maybe don't fit certain guys; certain routes don't fit certain guys. Sometimes, you get in the game [and] you have no choice; you call a play and some guys are just out there because that's the way it's rolling and that's who you have. You expect guys to be able to do everything to a reasonable standard, but what personnel groups we put out there and how we go about approaching our X-and-O plans the next couple weeks are everything we've been talking about for the last day and a half. We'll roll it out there on Saturday and expect it to be really good."
What progress have you seen QB Tyler Huntley make, and what areas do you talk to him about improving on? _(Todd Karpovich) _"Just look at the game; you go play by play. So, to sit up here and give you some overall analysis, scouting analysis of any player right now is kind of hard to do. There are things that we have to do better at. As a team – offense, defense and special teams – you're always chasing communication, you're always chasing being on the same page because that's what leads to execution. Then, you're chasing execution. As a coach, you have to dial it back and say, 'OK, who are we doing it with, what are we doing? Is it the right things, and is it too much or not enough?' So, then you have to look at who you're playing against and say, 'What's going to work against them? What do we have to handle and deal with that they give you trouble with, and what can be effective against what they do and then when do you call it?' So, that's the process. It's a pain-staking process that guys work really hard at. That's what we're in the middle of that right now; we're grinding on that gameplan right now."
You talked about changing personnel roles on the field. Even in terms of coaches, have you guys talked about changing roles as far as different responsibilities amongst the coaching staff? _(Cordell Woodland) _"No, we're not getting into all that. You guys can talk about all that; I respect that. I love the fans talking about everything they can talk about. We're together, man; we're a team. We're in here, we're spending all of our time getting ready for the Atlanta Falcons with every ounce of energy and fiber we have, with a bunch of very good people at what they do [and] who understand everything about our team better than anybody else possibly could. We're getting ready to play the game, so all the other stuff, we don't have time for that. As [Patriots head] Coach [Bill] Belichick said, 'We're onto Atlanta.' We're on to Atlanta, and all the end of the bar-type conversation is for the people sitting at the end of the bar. We're going to work hard to do the best we can and give them something to celebrate come Saturday afternoon; that's our goal, because we want it to be great, and we want our fans to be happy with it and be excited about it. But, I also know this; look around the league; it's December football; it's crazy. Did you watch the games? You did, right? It's crazy. It's like that every year; it's like that every week in this league; that's why it's the NFL. So, it's not all going to be smooth sailing. There are going to be times, and you're going to go out there and you're going to have a bad day. We don't want them … Nobody's more ticked off about it or can't sleep about it more than the coaches and the players, but the thing is you have to pull yourself off the mat and go win the next game. We don't have the luxury of waiting until Saturday to go win it; we have to win it on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in our preparation. So, that's what we're doing; that's where our focus is."
After the game, OLB Tyus Bowser posted a video on social media of papers that said, "Fire Greg Roman." Did you talk to Bowser about that, and what's your social media policy with your players? _(Bo Smolka) _"Yes, we talked about that. You can talk to … Ask Tyus [Bowser] about it; he'll tell you. He was great about it when I talked to him about it, and I think he talked to [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] about it. But, yes, just ask Tyus about that. That's something that … When stuff like that happens, you communicate with one another, and you find out there's really not much there, in terms of what people are thinking and all that, and that's it. I could go on a social media rant – maybe not a rant. But I don't know why anybody lives there. I don't live there; I don't care about any of that. I'm not foolish enough to live in that world. It's just not for me. So, I'm not worrying about it. But if it affects us as a team, then you talk to people about it, and you find out. We've got great guys who have good intentions all the time, and if they didn't, they wouldn't be here; we wouldn't have them here. So, you're talking about Tyus Bowser, specifically; Tyus Bowser is a great guy who wants to win and has good intentions and wants to be a great teammate, and we talked about that. He's in a good place, and we're past that."
Are you interested in how the papers were placed at the entrance of the facility? _(Jamison Hensley) _"I don't care how they got there. I don't care. I'm not security. Security has got to worry about that. It's paper – paper."
Are you also "climbing behind that barricade" with regards to CB Marcus Peters and DE Calais Campbell, or do you have any updates on them? (Bo Smolka) _"Yes, they [Marcus Peters & Calais Campbell] would fall into that same category – absolutely. _(laughter) That's actually mainly where the category is."
Has it been disappointing that with the success of the running game the pass two weeks, the play-action passing game really hasn't correlated to the amount of success that you expected? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Yes, again, I'm not making any grand statements about it. We hit a nice scissors route on the sideline to Mark [Andrews] at the end of the half. [On] other ones, we didn't execute as well for whatever reason. So, you expect those things to pop open, and we'll be looking to try to get that done on Saturday, for sure."
Do you know the scenarios to clinch a playoff spot this week? (Jamison Hensley) _"I have not been apprised of that yet by my crack staff over there, but I'm happy to hear them." _(Reporter: "You have to win, and two of the three teams – Dolphins, Jets and Patriots – have to lose, in conjunction with your win, and you get intothe playoffs. … And there's a bunch of tie scenarios.")"Well, the thing I would take from that is that we have to win – we have to win – so that would be our focus. And then this next thing I'll have to learn, just from a strategic standpoint, is win versus tie, and it'll be something that we'll want to know going into the game – if there's a meaningful difference in that."
Obviously, OLB David Ojabo made his debut. Was there a particular checkpoint that he hit to finally get on the field? He didn't play a lot, but what do you think he did with those snaps? _(Childs Walker) _"That's a good question. It was circumstances, in terms of having one less DB [defensive back] available for the game, and we had an opportunity to get him [David Ojabo] up. And then the next opportunity is to try to play him more. And I was hoping he'd get five, six, seven plays. We've got a lot of healthy outside linebackers right now, so it's hard to get those guys enough snaps. Our discussion among those guys right now is, 'We've got a lot of really good players; when you get out there, play with your hair on fire,' which those guys want to do. And I think David Ojabo adds into that mix. So, it does mean, if he takes more snaps, it's fewer snaps for other guys; that's just the way it works, because they all play the same position. And the incredible thing is look at the difference between early in the year when we didn't have any outside backers, and I think when 'JPP' [Jason Pierre-Paul] got here, he played 53 snaps his first game or something like that. So, it's a good problem, but it's challenging, because there are going to be guys that aren't going to get as many snaps [and] you might say, 'Wow, he could use some more snaps; we'd like to see him.' And definitely, David falls in that category."
WR James Proche II played three offensive snaps, and on two of them, he was targeted on fourth down. Are those plays that you just had with Proche II in mind, specifically? _(Kyle Barber) _"Yes."