Transcript of media sessions following Tuesday's Buffalo Bills practice at One Bills Drive: Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, quarterbacks Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel, wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Provided by the Buffalo Bills.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Good afternoon. Just got done with camp, got the team put together and that allows us to turn our focus to a very good Indianapolis Colts team that has appeared in an AFC championship game last year, not an easy game to get to. So obviously they have had some success the last three years, making the playoffs. We are really just now getting a hard look at them. We have had a few additions, a few changes, from personnel standpoint. Thought our guys came in today, kind of had a shorter day, a little bonus day, in our weekly preparation did a great job and looking forward to getting out there this week and trying to get the right plan together. Any questions?
Q: With Matt Cassel coming back was this a situation with the coaching staff being uneasy with having two inexperienced people at quarterback?
A: I think the same thing holds true. We like all three guys. Tyrod [Taylor] is our starter, really like things about Matt [Cassel], really like things about EJ [Manuel]. Think it is the best interest of our team that we have three. I think we are very strong at that position. Really expect a lot out of all three of those guys and I really feel they have all afforded themselves very well up till now. I just think you can never have enough good quarterbacks.
Q: How much does the read-option threat of Tyrod sit in opponents minds?
A: You know I kind of had that tool in my bag so to speak. People know the plays I will run with him and what not at times. It is something that you do and something that you don’t do. I think you have to be pretty selective on when you run those types of plays. I do think a quarterback with athletic ability that pulls the ball down on a passing play or a designed run for. I remember back when, a long time ago, 20 years ago, when Steve Young was playing, and I was coaching with the Carolina Panthers and you have everybody covered, you have Jerry Rice covered somehow, and all of a sudden he pulls the ball down and gets a first down. The list go on and on, but I think there are going to be times when Tyrod is going to be able to tap into that athletic ability. But as far as the read-option stuff, we have it in our offense. We ran it a little bit in the preseason but it is definitely not something we are going to live and die by.
Q: Did he win this job because he can function in the pocket?
A: I think he won the job just based off everything. When you really add it all up, in the pocket, out of the pocket, in the classroom, on the field. Just when you add it all up the net some of the parts I think he… everybody made it a very tough selection you could make arguments in a lot different ways, but we feel great with him as a starter.
Q: What did you see from Matt Cassel to elevate him to number two over EJ?
A: I think Matt [Cassel] he would probably be the best suited at this moment to be our backup quarterback. But I have a lot of confidence in EJ [Manuel] as well. Two different styles of players at the position. I think to function as a backup it will probably be Matt right now and then we will just see where that goes down the road. We feel very good about Matt going in at any point in time.
Q: Your skill position starters did not play together a lot at training camp any concern?
A: Yeah it is definitely a concern we a had a long stretch there where I think our top five running backs and top five receivers out. I don’t know if I have quite encountered that type of attrition before. Thing about it is they worked extremely hard to get back in a timely fashion and they are out there right now building that chemistry. But that always is a concern.
Q: Do you have two game plans one with LeSean McCoy and one without?
A: I think you have to plan for both scenarios, and I think that goes for any point during the season. It is not like, he might break a shoelace sometime and not be able to be in the game. I think at all times you have to plan for that type of stuff. I think there is a lot that goes on that may or may not see the light of day but you got to prepare for all those different types of contingencies that could happen and sometimes just do happen, you just don’t know when they are going to happen.
Q: Are you holding your breath to how his hamstring will respond when he gets out there?
A: I think in conjunction with our training staff, I think when he ends up playing he will be a 100%. You can’t dip your toe in the water, you got to go. I think we all know that. When that time is, we will be happy that day when it comes.
Q: How do you characterize that group of skill positioned players you have as a whole?
A: I think it will evolve as the year goes. When we get more time to build that chemistry, we missed sometime this summer. I think that is a very positive thing because I really, really like this group of skill players. Really to a man I think it is hard to say we are just going to let, double this guy or take this guy away. I don’t think teams can do that and not have to worry about what they might have to deal with. That is a huge advantage for us, because I have been in situations where hey they are just going to focus on this guy, and they are going to basically man up everywhere else and what are you going to do now. I think we are sitting in a pear tree there.
Q: The diversity of this group rank up there with all these guys being able to do different things?
A: I think we have that capability we just have to go out and do it. I think you have to go out and do it and I think we are working our way towards that. Sunday is going to be the first opportunity for us to do that. I think the sky is the limit. My expectations are that it will just continue improving as the time goes on.
Q: Is it anymore nerve racking with everyone keeping things close to the vest or do you have things up your sleeve as well?
A: I think the first week we’re going to be…it is going to be…there is not going to be a lot… we are going to focus on basic football for 60 minutes. I don’t know that we are quite at the point yet that we are going to unravel all the tricks and this that and the other. Our big thing is to get out there and function well as a unit and execute for 60 minutes. I think against a team like the Colts you are never too far ahead. So I think you just go to go out and really put drives together. To finish points at the same time keeping their offensive on the side line is part of the equation as well.
Q: The situation behind LeSean is more up in the air now with Fred’s release. Do you see someone rising up to take that spot?
A: I think it is going to be… everybody is going to have a chance to contribute. However that sorts itself out week to week, might be a little different week to week, situation to situation. But I definitely think if they are active on game day they are going to have a role in the game.
Q: How important will ball control be just to start off the season?
A: Yeah I think it is, certain weeks factor in more than others. But against a team like the Colts the more you keep your defense, I think every week you are trying to keep your defense fresh. At the same time certain teams dictate more of a certain type of style. They definitely rank up there as one of them.
Q: Of the three back up running backs which one has a leg up on pass protection?
A: I feel good about all of them really. I don’t feel like there is a concern with any of them.
Q: Who has the leg up?
A: I would probably put them pretty even.
Q: Can you compare and contrast Tyrod and Colin Kaepernick?
A: I really don’t compare guys. But Tyrod is a very athletic quick, he is quick and fast. I think he has a good head on his shoulders. He spent four years really developing himself as a player in this league, quarterback in this league. Which I think is very beneficial. For us at this stage he is not seeing a lot of this stuff for the first time. He has seen a lot as the backup in Baltimore. I think he has the ability to play in the pocket, outside the pocket, command the huddle, and love his preparation. So that is kind like check, check, check, check, I mean not a lot that I don’t really feel great about with Tyrod.
Q: His time in Baltimore, how critical was that?
A: Yeah I think under Cam Cameron, Kubiak, and Flacco, and Harbaugh. All that time learning the pro game I think is critical. I think we are lot of really good quarterbacks in this league that have spent a period of time in tutelage so to speak. Apprenticeship if you will, that have really benefited from it. I mean you can pick out some pretty darn good ones can’t you. So I think that is just how it has played out for him and we are certainly glad it has.
Q: The one check mark on your list that Tyrod doesn’t have is starting experience how big of a concern is that?
A: Not at all. It is just a football game. You chalk up the field wherever you want and go out and play. I think that is what he will do.
Defensive Coordinator Dennis Thurman
Q: How long would you say you have been game planning for this game?
A: Basically this morning, we started game planning for the Colts. Had to get through preseason, get through the cuts, and get our final roster together, then it is off to Indy. They are a formidable team, they have a great quarterback, very skilled guys at the wide receiver, running back, tight end so our hands are going to be full.
Q: How much different are they going to be with their offseason additions?
A: Like I said earlier they have some talent at the skill positions. Andre [Johnson] has been in this league a long time, been one of the best receivers in this league for a long time so you have to deal with him. Phillip Dorsett the kid out of Miami is a good player, has great speed, some wiggle after the catch, and you are dealing with T.Y. Hilton who is fast becoming one of the better receivers in this league. You are talking about Frank Gore a work horse type running back who has had a lot of success running the football. Then you go to their tight ends I mean they have guys who can catch the football and get down the field, so like I said, our hands are full this week.
Q: Have you been satisfied with the play of your secondary?
A: Yeah I mean we had our rookie have a couple of tough nights, but that is to be expected in this league. You come in, you are not going to set it on fire right away. The thing I love about him is he has the right temperament, he goes out he works at his craft, he is going to be a good, he is already a good one he has a chance to be a great one. If he continues to work, study, and understand exactly what he has to do.
Q: How do you prepare him to go against the Colts passing attack?
A: He has got to go out and play. We don’t have a game plan for him, there is a game plan with the game plan, and all players have to understand that. So he has to formulate his own game plan, he knows his talent, we know his talent, he has got to go out and perform up to his talent. If he does we will be fine.
Q: Can you comment on the cat and mouse game of everyone keeping things close to the vest?
A: Well that is part of the intrigue that is week one. Is that you don’t exactly what they are going to do, what they held back, you have to rely on things they have done in the past. So you will go back and look at some tape from before and hope you are prepared for everything that they are going to do. But that is why you have to make in game adjustments as well. Part of our job is to be able to make the necessary adjustments that we need to make once the game starts.
Q: Safe to say you might have somethings up your sleeves too?
A: Right now the only thing I have is sweat up my sleeves. Other than that no.
Q: How eager are you to see what this defense can really do?
A: Well we are all eager. This is what you practice for, this is why you go to training camp, you have all these guys lifting these weights and doing all of this running it is to get to the real games. They are opponents now. We are excited about the season. We are excited about the opportunity that we have in front of us, we have the chance to go out and match up against one of the best teams in the National Football League in the first game.
Q: How aggressive is this defense going to be?
A: You have to wait and see. I mean if I was to tell you today I might be telling Indy something. Now we are going to do what we do. We have system, we have a scheme, and we go out and we prepare every week to try and take advantage of the things we feel like we can take advantage of. Like I said they are talented you can’t give them anything. Our job is to prevent, so that is what we are going to try and do
Q: When you are trying to prepare for Luck what is the greatest challenge?
A: He can do it all. I mean he can throw the football, short, intermediate, deep. He has great vision, keeps his head up, when he is in the pocket he is always looking downfield. He appears to be able to read the entire field, so you are dealing with a young guy that is on his way to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in football. We have to go out, we have to perform, we got to get after him, we have to do some things schematically to hopefully confuse him a little bit. Once the game starts we have to go out and execute our defense.
Q: With this defense to make its first statement against that team, that is probably a hell of a challenge?
A: No question. We have known that, but every week is a different challenge regardless of your opponent. Just so happens they have some of the better skill players in the national football league playing, that are coming in here this Sunday and we are going to have to be ready for them.
Q: The defense has flown under the radar with some of the other stuff that has gone on?
A: That is fine with us.
Q: Why is that?
A: Because you have to do it on the field. Nothing is written, nothing is said that is going to go out and win a football game for you. So you have to go out and you have to perform. This is a performance based business, we have to go out and get our job done. If we do that, if we feel we execute our defense we feel like we can go out and compete against anybody.
Q: Aaron Williams said nothing sort of finishing as the first overall defense is acceptable.
A: Remains to be seen. You got to go do it.
Q: What does Corbin Bryant do for you?
A: You know he has gone out and he has performed well. That is why he is starting. You don’t get a chance to start in the National Football League unless you are performing. He has gone out, he is performing, he has done his job, we are confident in him that he will go out and get it done, just as Marcell [Dareus] would have gone out and gotten it done. We don’t feel like there will be much of a drop off, if any. We expect him to go out and perform at a high level.
Q: How critical is the pass rush against Andrew Luck?
A: The pass rush is always critical--I don’t care who you are playing. If you are playing pop warner football, if you can get a pass rush the quarterback…you want to hurry him up, speed him up a little bit. So it always crucial it is no different this week than any other week. It just so happens that this guy can throw the football if he has time, but all quarterbacks can usually throw the football if they have time. For us it is really no different.
Q: How effective is he picking it up pre-snap?
A: Well yeah, he’s gaining in experience. Like I said earlier, it appears to me he can see the entire field. If a guy is open somewhere he usually finds him. That is rare, not all quarterbacks can do that. Again the challenge is to go out and compete against the Colts offense, because it is not just him. He is the trigger man but they have other guys that can hurt you as well.
QB Matt Cassel
Q: One of the wilder weekends of your career?
A: Yeah, I would say it is probably the number one for sure. It was a crazy weekend, but the end result is I am were I am supposed to be. I am happy to still be a Bill and happy to start the season and get ready to go.
Q: Why is this where you are supposed to be despite you not winning the starting job?
A: Right, you know what, there are a lot of factors in life you know what I mean. First and foremost my family comes first. My wife is eight months pregnant, and while football is something I do for a living, they are number one in my life. Obviously there were opportunities to go other places and everything like that, but at the same time when you look at the situation and the hard work that went into it, throughout this entire offseason I thought it was the best place for me.
Q: It is a bit unusual to get cut and brought back in and have the backup job can you walk us through that?
A: You know it is a long story and I think it would be better if they explained it, I was caught a little bit off guard myself. Like I said at the end of the day we were able to resolve it and I am able to be here. Now the important thing is for us to get ready, for me to help Tyrod [Taylor] and get this team ready to go to play Indy.
QB EJ Manuel
Q: Are you disappointed with the depth chart Rex Ryan put out?
A: Yeah, sure. I think for me it is still important to continue to get better. I did what I was supposed to do. That was have a good preseason and play well in the games and this is just what it is.
Q: Did you have any sign that Matt Cassel would be returning?
A: I didn’t know. Like I said those things aren’t up to me. I heard he had got released, obviously I texted him and told him thanks for all the stuff he has done for me. But they re-signed him this morning so just got to go with it.
Q: What was that roller-coaster of emotions being the number two of two to them bringing him back in?
A: Yeah, my focus is still getting better. Personally obviously continue to get ready for the games in case something happens to [Tyrod Taylor] or Matt [Cassel]. My biggest focus has just been getting better so all other stuff that happens doesn’t really bother me.
WR Sammy Watkins
Q: Physically Sammy how are you feeling?
A: Feeling great. I took a whole week and half, two weeks just to get in shape. My thing is that is kind of what helped the injuries and helps me now just participate. And now I feel great.
Q: Are you game ready?
A: Most definitely. I think I am ready to play. For the most part just getting mentally and physically prepared for this game. It is going to be a physical battle so I think I am in shape, I am ready to go.
Q: Is there a concern about being on the same page as Tyrod?
A: Not at all. I think the other day we ran about 30 routes, kind of got in a rhythm. He knows what I like, and I know what he wants and the ball placement and he just works every scenario of how a DB can play me. I think we’re definitely on pace. Like today, we run a great route he couldn’t even see me he just believed in me and trust me to be in that spot and he let the ball go.