Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
The past couple of games, RB Justice Hill has had some 15-yard penalties. What do you try to tell him? How do you go about instructing him to limit that going forward? (Jamison Hensley) "That's one thing we always try to limit, is our penalties. I thought early in the year we had done a great job at it. He [Justice Hill] has had two penalties the past two weeks. Quite honestly, what happened last week was really 'a cost of doing business.' I stress big time, 'Play through the whistle. Play through the whistle.' He was getting held up, he didn't see the fair catch, and he went to wrap the guy up. If that's our penalty, I can live with that. Those aren't foolish penalties; those are guys just trying to find their way through, play through the whistle and try to make a play. I can live with those. It's the penalties that … The blocks in the back, the holding, those things you can't live with as a coach. So, I'll just keep coaching him. We don't want to have penalties. We want to eliminate any penalty we possibly can. We'll keep coaching them, and we'll keep on playing hard."
S Geno Stone played 19 snaps on special teams last week. How do you see him developing into that role and contributing? (Todd Karpovich) "Geno [Stone] is doing a good job. I've been excited for him, and we have to keep him going. This is only his second game playing this year; he didn't have any preseason games. He's trying to do everything right in practice, and I think he's going to continue to get better just like all those rookies. All those rookies that are playing for us, we're seeing growth. He's going to continue to grow, and we're going to keep giving him opportunities so he can grow."
Yesterday, you guys made a waiver claim – CB Davontae Harris. He's got extensive special teams experience. What do you know about him, and how do you think he can fit in with your group? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Quite honestly, I'm just waiting for him to get in the building. Making that [waiver] claim, I think you know what we've been going through as far as injuries. I think he can come in, hopefully, he comes in, [and] he helps us continue to play to our standard. He's done a great job. I had an opportunity to watch him on tape, and I'm looking forward to just talking to him, and just kind of figuring out what he knows and how he can help us once he gets here."
WR Devin Duvernay had the first kickoff return for a touchdown this year, but WR Cordarrelle Patterson had one over the weekend, and he just tied an NFL record with 8-career kickoff return touchdowns. Is there anything you can learn from that? Is there anything Devin can learn from the way Cordarrelle does it? (Kirk McEwen) "Obviously, Cordarrelle [Patterson] has been doing this a very long time. Every time he touches the ball, there's an opportunity for him to score. Just everything about him; the way Cordarrelle runs, his makeup, how strong he is. And when you watch Devin, he's got the speed, he's got the physical running style. We just have to make sure that when we get those opportunities, we have to have some creases for him and kind of let him make those plays. You just tell him, 'Hey, protect the football, and let's go get it.' Devin's going to be alright, and we're going to be alright as a kick return unit. We just have to make sure when we get our opportunities, we take advantage of them."
There have been 71 field goals made from over 50 yards this year, and there were 11 last week. Are we just seeing stronger legs in the league? Coaches willing to try the long ones? To what do you attribute all these successful long-range field goals? (David Ginsburg) "I just attribute it to guys going out and understanding what they can do. I think this time last year, we had the most field goals missed, probably, in NFL history. So, I just think you're seeing guys who are really locking into their details, and just kicking the ball and having confidence that they can make those kicks. I don't think there's anything different about it. You're kicking in this league for a reason; when the coach puts you out there, you're expected to make those kicks."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
I know I'm kind of stating the obvious here, but what kind of a challenge – especially if you don't have your two starters up there in DE Calais Campbell and DT Brandon Williams – what kind of a challenge is it to stop a [Titans] RB Derrick Henry? (Jamison Hensley) "It's a challenge no matter who you have, first of all. Going into this game, it's one of those things, I told the staff that [Hall of Fame collegiate coach] Lou Holtz always used to tell us … With Calais [Campbell] and Brandon [Williams] – you just don't know whether or not who's going and everything else. Lou Holtz always used to tell us this: '90% of the people in the world don't care about your problems. The other 10% are glad you have them.' And that's the way this league is. I think the way we drafted, the free agents we signed, and everything else, that they need to step up, and play their role, and what's expected of them. Obviously, it's a challenge, but we're just the men for it."
Do you expect Tennessee to challenge your linebackers in a similar way that the Patriots did with a combination of the power runs and then the play-action? (Childs Walker) "No doubt. Both of those offenses are very similar. New England, coming into the game, was one of the best rushing teams in the league, and so is this one. Ryan Tannehill is playing at a high level, and especially off the play-action. There's a stat that's out there that they're the best first and second down offense in the National Football League, and I believe it when you watch the tape. I haven't run the numbers or anything else [on that stat], but analytics tell you that. I think they're playing at a really high level, and I think [offensive coordinator] Arthur Smith has done a really nice job with that offense."
ILB Patrick Queen was on with us not too long ago, and he was pretty honest about how he didn't think he measured up physically against the Patriots. He's had some ups and downs as a rookie, like you'd expect, and he's bounced back. What have you seen from him, how he's approached this week, and how much do you trust his ability to bounce back when he has sub-par game? (Jeff Zrebiec) "First of all, trust in his ability – I have the utmost trust that he'll bounce back. It was a different style game for him. It was his first time [playing] really old school football in the National Football League that he's seen so far this year. He'll make the adjustments. He'll get his eyes right. He'll do all those little things that are going to help him. I told him, 'Hey, you either win or you learn in this league.' Obviously, Sunday, he did a lot of learning. We'll get him right. We'll have him going. I have the utmost confidence in him."
Obviously, probably, no NT Brandon Williams, no DE Calais Campbell [for this week's game]. DT Justin Ellis played a ton of snaps – DT Justin Madubuike, a rookie. Are those two ready? (Kirk McEwen) "Oh, yes. Yes, without a doubt, they're ready. I have no doubt that they're ready to do what they need to do to help us win this game. There are different things that we looked at, and there are other things. You know, Derek Wolfe played really well actually in that New England game, and I'm expecting the same thing for this one. The sky is not falling. We'll be fine, and we'll be ready to go come Sunday."
Going back to the linebackers – how beneficial would it be to get ILB L.J. Fort back? Just with the experience he brings compared to some of the other younger guys you have in that group, how challenging has it been without him the last couple of games? (Luke Jones) "You said it all with your question. Any time you can get the full rotation and have all your people there, it helps. It helps just in number of snaps. The good thing is, after the [Week Nine] Colts game, those guys played more snaps, and they played really well – I'm talking about Malik [Harrison] did, and Chris Board. All that does is help you play in this type of game, and I just expect them to continue. L.J. [Fort] played really well last year against Tennessee. I'm expecting him to do the same this week, and it helps because you've got your full bullpen there, if you will."
Just because it was your last game and the way it ended last year, have you watched that Titans tape from last year, maybe more than you would a typical game? What did you learn from it, if so? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Last year was last year, first of all. [In] 2020, we've already talked about how crazy this year has been. You always look at your opponents, especially if you played them last year. That's part of all your cut-ups that you look at. So, yes, I watched that tape. But you have new players playing in new spots, and everything else. You look at it, but that's just it. I did the same thing before we played the Bengals – I looked at last year's tape. There's nothing bigger than that, though."
When we asked John Harbaugh on Monday about ILB Patrick Queen, he said New England was a new kind of test for him. He's seen new stuff every week. There was a play early in the third quarter where Patriots RB Damien Harris went for 25 yards. It looked like Patrick Queen should've had the 'A' gap. He, maybe, got fooled by some eye candy. Was that a play where just he has to learn the hard way? (Jonas Shaffer) "Without a doubt. Yes, it sure was. Yes."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
We have seen a lot of change and creativity from your offensive formations. How do you handle the criticism when sometimes it doesn't work out? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "Formationally, we're pretty multiple. I'd say, we probably vary our formations more than anybody in the league; that's probably a fact. So, that is what that is. And we're always trying to week-to-week evolve [and] change a little bit, but you don't want to get too far away from what you do best, either. So, we'll definitely mix it up and do what's best for the team."
How do you replace a guy like TE Nick Boyle? And what kind of challenge is it given all that he did? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Nick [Boyle] has been a very integral player for us. His understanding and knowledge of the offense, and all the adjustments, goes without saying. His attitude, toughness, and what he brought every single day really should be emulated. He's a valuable player, and he's going to be fine. It's going to take him some time to get back, and he'll be better than ever. But in the meantime, it's just a great opportunity for others to step up, and we'll kind of forge a new identity moving forward. That's just how it goes sometimes. But Nick is probably one of the – if not the – best blocking tight ends in the league in my estimation. So, obviously, things will change a little, and you just have to make those adjustments. But it's an exciting opportunity for others to step up."
Can you just talk about what RB Gus Edwards adds to your offense? (Gabi DiPaula) "Yes, Gus [Edwards] is playing at a very high level. He's a really physical, big back that has gotten better every year. He's very valuable to what we do, and it's not just limited to downhill runs. He really kind of runs everything we do, as do all our backs. So, we really like all our backs, and specifically, your question about Gus, he's an ascending player. He's doing a great job and always looking to get better. He's a very important piece for us."
How has WR Dez Bryant progressed? And I know he's on the practice squad, but do you think he could be a factor or earn a larger role in the passing game going forward? (Jamison Hensley) "Dez [Bryant] is doing a good job. He's really getting caught up, [and] he's working hard at practice [and] in meetings. It's good to have him aboard. We'll just keep working, and we'll see where that leads moving forward. I don't think there's any real timeline right now, but I do think that if Dez keeps progressing, he will definitely become a factor in what we do."
Understanding you guys are in shotgun or pistol formation about 97% of the time, when your center is struggling to snap, and when the elements are as poor as they were Sunday, was there a consideration to go under center more frequently? And in a general sense, because you're in shotgun and pistol so much, is it even viable to be under center that much? (Luke Jones) "We generally operate out of that, and that's what we work on all the time. I've been in that very same stadium one year, in the same conditions, when we literally had to get out from under center and into the shotgun because of snap problems, and that ended up well. So, really, the weather and whatnot really doesn't factor in as much as people might think – to a shotgun snap – as far as rain. But we certainly can get under certain quite a bit. That's something we practice – shotgun snaps – every rep of ball-handling and whatnot. When something like that happens, it's extremely unfortunate, and it's just like any other thing that happens on the field. It's not positive. We have to get it corrected."
I'm hearing that the offense has been a bit predictable due to personnel on the field. Have you heard that? Is there anything you can do about that? Is that valid? (Kirk McEwen) "I think that's probably a little overstated. We're fairly balanced. There are a few tendencies, for sure, and that can be a good thing moving forward. But when you have all your big blockers in there, you're probably going to run it or play-action. That's probably what most teams are going to do. I do think there's quite a bit of variety over time that we do. I don't know how valid that is, quite frankly."
I've seen some analysts suggest that you guys are seeing more man coverage this year, partially because teams are recognizing that QB Lamar Jackson makes really good reads against the zone. Have you seen that? Do you feel like that's been the case? (Childs Walker) "It's really week-to-week. I could go into it, but I won't – the different thought processes. But we see a good mix of both. And some weeks, it's heavy zone; some weeks, it's heavier man. But we definitely see some different things week-to-week. Every team has their own little different spin on how they want to play it. So, if you really look at it, we're probably seeing more zone than man overall, but it is week to week, and there's definitely a mix, just like there usually is."
Given the conditions, and the fact that you guys were making some ground in the running game with QB Lamar Jackson, the wildcat play, is that one you kind of look back on – with the wet conditions and a center that was struggling with his snaps – that you kind of regret a little bit? (Jeff Zrebiec) "When things don't work out, you always say, 'Geez, maybe I could have done something different.' But I have full confidence in those guys to execute, and that's a play we practice quite a bit. Unfortunately, that was a play that we had a bad snap on. So, it is what it is, and we need to correct it and move on. When something like that happens, you just have to get it fixed and move on. But that's kind of the age-old question; should it have been a good play, would it have been a good play? So, you can go back and second-guess yourself forever on things, but you can't do that. You have to evaluate it, fix it if it's not working, and move on."
LB Patrick Queen
What kind of a challenge is it going against RB Derrick Henry? Have any of the players who have gone against him on the team let you know what it's going to be like going against a physical guy like him? (Jamison Hensley) "Just from watching him, you know [that] he's a great 'back around the league; you don't win rushing titles for no reason. So, we all know what kind of game it's about to be. Just to be able to go up against a 'back like that, it's a big challenge. I think we're going to step up to it."
Do you feel like there are lessons you can take specifically from what happened in the Patriots game and apply them to Tennessee, given that Tennessee seems to come at you with a similar approach in some ways? (Childs Walker) "Of course. The game … We started stressing, trying to make plays and stuff, and stuff kind of went left. We just have to all stay in and stay tight, like you heard 'Phee' [Pernell McPhee] say on the sideline, and just play together. That's what we did the last quarter, and we got three stops, back-to-back-to-back. So, as long as we just stay together and keep playing the way we played that quarter, we'll be fine."
Everybody knows you're a great player. You were just a step behind on that RB Rex Burkhead touchdown. How frustrating is it for you learning on the job, knowing people are going to come after you a little bit and just being a nick away? (Kirk McEwen) "It comes with being a rookie. So, I was going to get tested regardless; no matter if I was playing good coverage this whole year, or not. This year, so far, my coverage has been a little bit shaky. So, it's something that I need to improve on; I know that teams are going to keep trying me on it. So, just everyday I'm going to come in and keep trying to improve on the stuff that I'm getting tested on."
I know you guys have other good players up front, but what does it mean when you're missing DE Calais Campbell and NT Brandon Williams? What does that look like for you when those guys aren't in there? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Of course, we're missing two key players, big, great players with Calais [Campbell] and 'Big Baby' [Brandon Williams]. We miss those guys, but at the same time, we all have a job to do. We're all here for a reason, so that next guy is up. We don't blink [and] just have to play the next play."
One thing I noticed about the game, it seemed like you were playing an extra yard or two off the line of scrimmage. What goes into that? Was that something you were instructed to do or feel? Could you just explain that a little bit? (Luke Jones) "It was just something for me to actually be able to diagnose and see if it'd be faster. [It was] just something to try to help me out a little bit. So, we were just experimenting with that." (Reporter: "How did you think it went doing it that way?") "Good, I just have to be more physical when I come downhill. That's the bottom line; just be physical and that will take care of everything else."
When you have coverage busts, or whatever you want to call it, has there been a common denominator or common thread between all of them? Or is it just a case-by-case situation? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think they're all common. Like I said, I just have to improve on what I'm doing. I'm there, [but] I'm just not there at the same time. I just find myself in an awkward situation, and not taking advantage of the opportunity that's been given to me when they throw the ball my way. So, it's just something I have to improve on. I just have to want it more."
I know it's game-by-game and week-by-week, but you don't really have that luxury coming up with Sunday to Thursday. How important is this week when you kind of start to think about big picture toward the end of the season and who these opponents are and how quickly they're coming at you? (Morgan Adsit) "Of course, this is a big game. We all know what's at stake with this game. We know what happened last year, and we know that nobody wants that to happen again. Really, every game since the first game of the season has been a big game for us – that's how we always treat it. Each week is a big game. The reason why this week is such a big week is because it's just the next game."
If they are going to continue to throw at you, how much is it in your mind, "Well, this is also an opportunity for me to make some plays if they want to attack me that way?" (Cliff Brown) "Just go back to doing what I do. Everybody knows that I was that type of guy in college, and that's what really helped me get where I'm at. When an opportunity is thrown my way, I'm just going to take full advantage of it and go back to the old me."
It sounds like you've been kind of your harshest critic and you understand that you're going to get tested as a rookie. Did you feel like Sunday against the Patriots you weren't physical enough with some of the things you've said in this press conference? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Of course I wasn't. I found myself trying to be more right than more physical. I felt like that just kind of threw me off a little bit. Like I said, I have to go back to the old me – just coming downhill, playing physical [and] playing my style of ball."