Opening Statement: Well, we’ve got news. Dan Carpenter got the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, so that was impressive. I got nothing else to say, so I figured I’d start with something. Had to go somewhere
Here’s the injury update, guys. These players are not expected to participate today: [Robert] Blanton with a foot [injury]; Charles Clay, knee; Robert Woods, knee; and then these two players will be full today: Shaq Lawson, thumb; Tyrod Taylor, right shoulder – and we put him on the list because he’s a little sore, but he’s fine. Guys that were limited today: will be Lorenzo Alexander, ankle; Corbin Bryant, shoulder; Jerry Hughes, hand; LeSean McCoy, thumb; and Sammy Watkins, foot. So with that, go ahead and fire away.
Q: Sammy [Watkins] being cleared to practice but still on IR, just give an assessment of where you think he is and how realistic is it to see him on the field Sunday?
A: You know, I really don’t know. We’ll know a little more today. Obviously, we’re encouraged by the fact that he has been cleared to participate. I think that’s a good sign. He feels good, so we’ll see how it goes. We’re not going to run him until his tongue’s hanging out. We’ll be smart with him in how many plays we do. We’ll limit him today, but then we’ll see how he progresses. Is there a chance that he could play? I hope so.
Q: What’s bigger for Buffalo sports: Sammy Watkins coming back or Jack Eichel being back on the ice?
A: Well Sammy Watkins, for me. As much as I love Jack Eichel, he’s not paying any bills for me. Technically, [Eichel] is paying for somebody else in the organization though, isn’t he? But I think, [with] my season tickets – I’d like to see Eichel play. It’s a great question. Obviously, Sammy is such a great talent for us, but man the Sabres need scoring. Tough call.
Q: Your passing game, obviously, has really struggled. You’re dead last in the league and you don’t have Robert Woods. Is it kind of imperative that you try to get Sammy out – even if he’s not 100% – just to get him out there and maybe cause the other team to have to be concerned with him?
A: I think the health of Sammy is the big question. Whether Robert is healthy or not, make sure Sammy’s ready to go before he’s out there. As much as we want him – obviously he’s a difference-maker when he’s out there – so I get it. You know, 32nd in the league? Again, stats sometimes – we’re also number one in rushing, so there’s going to be a balancing thing there. We expect to be better than 32, but we don’t have to be if we’re able to run the football. So, we’ll see.
Q: Rex, over the last eight weeks, what has Sammy been doing? Has he been here, in meetings? Has he been elsewhere rehabbing? What exactly has he been doing for the last eight weeks?
A: Well, I can’t speak for the entire eight week cycle or whatever, but he’s been here. He spends a ton of time with Sanjay [Lal], and then he’s been rehabbing his injury the entire time. He’s been doing everything that’s asked of him.
Q: Four games into his career now – Shaq Lawson – we see the two sacks and he’s getting playing time, obviously. It seems like he’s been getting more. Can you assess – I know it’s only been four games – but where the kid is and are you getting what you hoped you would get, given his injury situation?
A: I feel really good about him. I think, you know, you’re right. He’s going to get more playing time as we go. It’s down [on the injury report] as a thumb – he made that tackle for a loss and it kind of hurt his thumb and it bothered him during the game. He probably would have played more. But I’ve been pleased with him. I think, if you will look at point production per play, he may be number one on our team in the plays that he’s had, so that’s a really good sign.
Q: You said a couple of weeks ago that you are seeing what you saw at Clemson, in terms of [Lawson’s] getting after the quarterback play. Why? Why do you think he’s been able to do that?
A: Well, I see this in his overall play. He’s got a great motor, he’s more physical and plays with more power than maybe he looks like he’d play with, but he’s fitting right in and he’s doing a good job. He’s definitely not out of place. Sometimes you’ll get that – you know, with his situation, to me I never really knew exactly what we’d get because you’re a rookie and all of a sudden, now these are grown men that you’re going up against – and he hadn’t practiced. So it was like, “we’ll see how he does.” He looks just fine to me.
Q: In assessing LeSean McCoy – now, I get with Sammy it’s a run-of-the-route and seeing how he does – with a guy who’s got a bad thumb and has to handle the football, albeit it’s not in his right hand, how do you go about that? What are you looking for? What are going to be some of the telling signs to know if he can go for Sunday?
A: Well, I think we’ll just lean on him and we’ll also keep watching him as he goes. I think the big thing is making sure his thumb doesn’t get infected. That’s the number one thing. If that stays clean, then there’s no issue there. I think he’s going to be okay.
Q: Is it safe to say that catching the ball might be a little bit more of the issue just because of the [wear-and-tear] on it?
A: I honestly can’t tell you. I don’t think it’s like that pitcher from Cleveland (Trevor Bauer), when he came out there. If it’s like that, he probably won’t play as much.
Q: When you go back and watch, how do you think Marcell Dareus played, overall?
A: Oh, forget it. The guy played great. That’s what we’ve been expecting. When you look at our defense and how Wells and I – we talked about building this defense, one of the central pieces was that nose tackle and having that big man in there as a dominant player. Well, he dominated that game. There’s no question about it.
Q: Is [Lorenzo] Alexander going to be limited on special teams again?
A: Yeah. The only thing – you know, will you see him on kickoff? I’d say you’re definitely going to see him on kickoff. We weren’t as good last week in that area and this team, with [Marquise] Lee back there, I think he’s averaging over 26 yards a return. It’s a big threat, so we’ve got to put him out there. I think with taking some plays off of him, we played him too much last week. We played him 70 snaps on defense and that’s too much. We need to get Shaq more into it on defense – whether he’s backing up Jerry Hughes, backing up Lorenzo Alexander, all those guys – that could also give [Alexander] another opportunity to help us more on special teams as well.
Q: [Alexander] has been your MVP, considering all that, hasn’t he?
A: Yeah he has. No question.
Q: I’m probably thinking too much of this, but it’s kind of like a quirk in the schedule. Last year, you played Cincinnati and Jacksonville back-to-back and this year, again. Last year, you lost both and it seemed to be a critical juncture of the season – same thing now.
A: Yeah, well hopefully we win both. That’ll be a switch. We need this game in the worst way. Our preparation, guys – we had some good meetings today. We’ve got to move forward. I know having Thanksgiving on this Thursday will alter our schedule just a little bit. We won’t have afternoon meetings, but we’ll have our morning meetings, our practice – everything will be business as usual. Albeit, we’ll take out those things but we will catch them up on Friday. We’ll extend our meetings on Friday to make sure we make up for everything. But everything is about this. It’s great to have Thanksgiving and all that – some family time – but this game is far too important for us not to put everything into it, and the preparation’s got to be tight.
Q: When was the last time you and Rob [Ryan] were together on Thanksgiving?
A: Oh, I won’t be with him on Thanksgiving. No chance.
Q: In retrospect, how big were those two losses back-to-back last year, when really looking at your schedule? It seemed to be a critical juncture at the time.
A: Yeah, I mean – what’s that thing in Casa Blanca? I can’t remember that, but it’s – obviously you lost two games in a row. That was a big loss for us and obviously, that’s way behind us. It’s all about this year.
Q: Why is Jacksonville the best two-win team you’ve seen?
A: Just from a talent standpoint. Usually, you think, “Hey, a two-win team. Maybe the team would be short on talent.” Well, not this one. This one, right here, is loaded. You’ve got three really good receivers – two of them were in the Top 100 last year, voted by the players. You’ve got two excellent running backs, and you’ve got a franchise-type quarterback. So the skill level is there. And then, on defense, they’re loaded on defense. They picked up the kid from Denver last year, [Malik] Jackson. You’ve got linebackers that are speedy-type guys that can run and hit. You’ve got [Jalen] Ramsey – one of the best players in the draft – so this is a very talented roster.
Q: Coach, what did they do last week? They really locked it down against the run against Detroit, but they had been a run defense in the bottom third of the league. Did they change anything dramatically last week compared to what they usually do?
A: No, I think they’re playing a lot of young players. They’ve got three rookies starting in things, and sometimes, it looks like they’ve got a good feel of what they’re doing right now.
Q: Rex, there’s been a lot of talk lately about some technology changes maybe to help out some things that have happened recently. Fixated cameras down the sidelines because of some of the calls in some of the games, and maybe a chip in the ball to help out with first downs and things. Do you think we’re to the point where maybe that technology needs to start happening in the league?
A: Well, I think certainly the ones – if you can put a camera on the goal line – that would be a great thing as long as it’s not – I would think we would be able to do that. I think that would be a huge one. You know, the chip? Who knows. Whatever it takes, man. What are you going to – what, put a chip on both ends of it or something? Beats me. Somebody with a lot more intelligence than me figures all that stuff out.
Q: What are you expecting from the Bills crowd, especially with the return of Doug Marrone for the first time?
A: I don’t know him. I know the team played hard when Doug was the head coach here. How things worked out – I don’t know. Doug’s not this team’s coach anymore. I am. I’m blessed to be the coach here. It’s a measureable experience for everybody. We want to win, man. I think our fans are – this is as loyal of a fan base as there is. It’s going to be – we want to create that measureable day for people. The fans are a big part of it.
Q: When you took over as head coach here, you made comments along the line that you wanted to be a coach that the fan-base deserved here. You intimated that the last guy willingly walked away. Would you ever imagine a scenario where you would willingly walk away from an NFL head coaching job?
A: Nope. I don’t know all the particulars of things but I can tell you this spot right here, like I really know the fan-base. I grew up—I spent eight years in Toronto, my dad was coaching with the Jets—I am very familiar with the fan-base here and the loyalty and just the spirit of this fan-base. That was one of the big reasons that attracted me to this job and let alone Kim and Terry Pegula. That’s why I wanted this job and they’re going to take me kicking and screaming out of this place and one of these days it’ll happen and I’ll be doing it that way, but I’m not worried about that because that’s not going to happen for a long time.
Q: How big of a step back would it be to lose to them again?
A: It’d be a big step back because we can’t afford to lose, really. We know what we want to get done this year and obviously whether it’s them or anybody else, we can’t afford to lose any games. We recognize that and we’re just focused on this one.
Q: You coached Chris Ivory. What kind of running back is he?
A: He is a man-child. He’s a load. He packs it in there and he’s tough. That was one of the best moves that we made when I was there. We were able to trade for him. What a power back and he loves it. Just give him the ball, he’s as physical as it gets. We know what we have there.
Q: Defensively, how do you address a team and quarterback that turns the ball over a lot? Do they give the ball away or are they forced?
A: Well some are forced. I think sometimes you get behind, sometimes you’ll force an issue more. They’ve also had some bad luck man, let’s face it. I think they had two interceptions that were kicked, so they’ve had that, but with that being said, we’re going to attack the football, there’s no question about it and hope we get some opportunities to make some plays.
Q: With Sammy being the designated-to-return injured guy, Aaron (Williams) will not return. Any thoughts on his long-term plans?
A: Really, no idea. I think the main thing is just getting him healthy and as this thing goes through, the young man, first off, has to decide what does he want to do with it? Does he want to continue to play football, whatever. That’s going to be up to him but right now, it’s about him getting healthy and I think that’s the biggest step.
Q: Has he been in the facility? Is he around here?
A: I haven’t seen him lately. I’m not sure if he is or not.
Q: To what degree does the loss to Jacksonville last year still bother you?
A: Well I think first off, I don’t know what the turnover is, but there’s probably a third of the guys, the roster probably turned over a third of the players and it really means nothing right now because it could be like hey look, we lost to them, we thought we should have won the game, there were some contributing factors that went along with it but we got beat, that’s just the way it is. What we’re trying to do now is just make sure we don’t get beat this game and so our focus is on this opponent, this year’s opponent and find a way to get a win.
Q: In what ways has that offense changed since they changed coordinators?
A: There’s some subtle differences but I’ll say this; they’re getting the ball more to (Marqise) Lee, so they’re finding ways to get him the ball more, get him more involved. Maybe checking the ball down more than they have in the past, but it’s similar.
Q: What challenges do they present?
A: Big challenge was, I’m not going to get into specifics, that’s probably not the smartest thing to do. I think there was a little bit more no-huddle than what we’re seeing out of Jacksonville now. We’ll be prepared for it, but that was something that seemed to be what they wanted to do. I think the challenge, back in those days, (if) we don’t turn it over seven times we might have a better chance to win. I think that was part of the issue.
Q: You said you wanted Lee when you were with the Jets. What did you like about him and what prevented you from getting him?
A: Well it’s where he picked. So he got picked in the early second (round), we were picking behind. We couldn’t get it. We tried to move up, we couldn’t get anybody that would really do it. But he’s a real talent. I really like the kid. You can tell he loves to play and he can run and he’s competitive. I think all their receivers, maybe the biggest thing is the way they compete for the football. The way that (Jarvis) Landry kid at the Dolphins, (DeAndre) Hopkins (Texans), I’m not saying they’re as good as those kids because I don’t think they are, but they’re pretty darn good.
Q: Is there a specific difference between the three wide outs or all they all pretty similar?
A: I think Lee has a little more speed and I think the other guys—obviously Robinson has got the size. The other two have got more size but they all go after it.
Q: How will the safety spot go this week?
A: We’ll see how it goes through the week but we’ll have plans for all the guys.
Q: Monday I think you referenced the (Nickell) Robey-Coleman pass-interference call last year. Does it linger with you?
A: Oh yeah. Anytime you get a loss, you’ll remember all your losses, specifically one that you think is—it was ridiculous. We all know it. I mean it’s third-and-15, so now it’s going to bring up a fourth-and-15. You get off the field, the game is basically over, and so that was a tough one. There’s no question. You go all the way to London to get that? Have it come down to that, you battle all the way back, yeah, it’s still in there for me, I’ll tell you that much. And I see the guy that made the call. I still see him and you’re never going to assault somebody, but you think about it.
Q: Did you hear from the league about it?
A: I’m sure we did. It’d be hard not to.
Provided by the Buffalo Bills.