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What He Said: Bills coach Sean McDermott on QB rotation, O-line and more

Head Coach Sean McDermott

Monday, August 27, 2018

Q: Have you made a decision on who is going to be the starter at quarterback?

A: No. That’s fair, I expected that. [There are] no further quarterback developments from last night at this point. We’re still coming off the game, and again, [it is] a little bit unique [having practice] the next day and not having a day off, so we’re still coming off the game and going through and processing all of that information right now.

Q: What about who might start Thursday?

A: Again, we’re still going through that. [We] want to get through this practice first and then certainly make sure we have our ducks in a row for this game and then move forward.

Q: Sean, with the way the starters on both sides of the ball played, traditionally in the fourth preseason game most of those guys don’t play at all. Would you possibly think of altering that plan just to get them so that way they have better feelings than what they left yesterday with?

A: Yeah, again, we’re still working through that. I could see why you’d say that, and I agree in some ways. At the end of the day, we’ve got to make sure we’re healthy going into this season as well, so there’s a delicate balance there.

Q: Coach, any update as to the level of participation for AJ [McCarron] today?

A: He’ll be out there; he’ll be working like the other quarterbacks. [He] should be ready to go.

Q: From a health and safety standpoint, what is the philosophy or meetings that you’ve been having regarding two games in five days?

A: That’s what’s on the schedule, [so] that’s what we’ve got to do. Hopefully, we can be smart with the guys that are going to play in the game. With respect to practice today, [we’re just going to] take it in a very teaching type of pace and tempo. You’ll see us out there just in baseball caps and slow it down, teach, and allow them to recover. We’ll give them an off day tomorrow and then really [have] a small practice Wednesday before we fly out [to Chicago].

Q: Do you then have to keep an extra close monitoring because usually during the preseason, you have several days in between to evaluate and go through injury reports, but now you have to fly? Have you talked to other coaches on how to pull this off?

A: It’s not unique like we’re the only team that’s ever gone through it. I was around it several years ago in Carolina when we played, I believe, Baltimore maybe. Was there three games yesterday? [There were] two games yesterday, so there are four teams that have to do a similar turnaround. Number one [of importance] is player safety, I agree with you. Number two is handling distractions or potential distractions as a football team. This is good practice for us in that regard [and] to an extent. We’ve got to make sure that we’re organized and ready to go. It’s a great opportunity for some players to put their best foot forward as well and show us what they can do.

Q: Sean, did you hope to have your decision on [who will be] the starting quarterback by this point in the preseason?

A: Well, I think the ultimate goal is that you know who your starting quarterback is when you come into the spring and into the fall camp; that’s the ideal. We’re still working through that with our situation, which is to be expected a little bit with drafting Josh [Allen] this year and having a young player in Nate [Peterman] and then AJ coming in through free agency. There’s been good competition there and all three have played at a high level.

Q: Having gotten a chance to watch the film from yesterday or last night, what went wrong with the pass protection, especially the first line?

A: You know, it’s never one guy. There are a lot of hands in that cookie drawer where it’s [the fact that] the ball’s got to come out on time. We’ve got to work in sync [with] the ball coming out on time, protection, running the right route. There’s a shared type of result when it comes to what you saw at times along the front. Now, there’s times when the front, we need to block them better, too, so there’s multiple hands in that jar.

Q: How much do you think [that the] shifting along the interior of the [offensive] line played a role in that?

A: It should be very little. The shifting was intentional because that could be realistic for the season, where we have an injury and then someone, because of the 46 and active, as you know, has to move over just because of sheer numbers. That’s why we did what we did; that was planned before the game. That would be an excuse if that were used as the reason.

Q: What worry do you have given, from what we saw, you’ve seen the film, but just given how some players on the offensive line were just pushed around by the Bengals?

A: That’s a good front; that’s a really good front, and I think [that] it shows that we have plenty of work to do. There’s one way you go about it: you go about it by working hard, going back to the drawing board and correcting techniques, correcting fundamentals, correcting communication. That’s why we continue to do that and we’ll continue to do it when we take the field here in a few minutes.

Q: Sean, you’ve had 36 penalties called against you in the preseason, including 10 false starts. Why has that been such an issue so far in these three games?

A: It’s unacceptable. The only word for it is unacceptable. You can’t do that and expect to stay on schedule and move the football, in particular, against good defenses. Cincinnati, yesterday’s example, was a good defense. We have to stop hurting ourselves. Before you win, you have to prevent yourself from losing. Pre-snap penalties or penalties overall don’t allow you to play on schedule football offensively.

Q: How do you make sure that doesn’t bleed over into the regular season?

A: Continue to work on it; continue to work on our discipline, focus, our concentration, our techniques in practice. You play the way you practice, and we’ve got to practice the right way if we expect to play the right way.

Q: As difficult as it looked on offense, how valuable of an experience was that to Josh?

A: It was very valuable. Everything from the week leading up to the game and then his experience in the game, all of that he can draw from at some point in his career as we move ahead here. [It was] very valuable I would hope. There are some things he learned and plays that he would like back and some things he did well also. Overall, I know the numbers didn’t really show a great performance necessarily, but again, to the questions earlier, there are a lot of things that go into that as well. I did like his poise in the pocket to an extent. I thought he got us in and out of the huddle for the most part and managed some highs and lows of the game, most of which didn’t go our way early in the game, and that’s all part of playing that quarterback position and leading a football team.

Q: Coming off a subpar offense and defense performance, do you kind of want to maybe let these guys go a little bit longer than you normally would in the fourth preseason game just to let things get right?

A: Well I was asked [a similar question] earlier, [and there is] a delicate balance between that and keeping guys healthy for the opener as well. We’ll try and pick our spots to continue to grow and develop our football team without, hopefully, putting them at risk.

Q: Sean, did you notice a little jump in Tremaine [Edmunds]’s play after watching the film? It seemed like he was a little bit faster yesterday.

A: Yeah, I absolutely did. He played well. You saw the game come to him a little bit more in that third game and he made some plays behind the line of scrimmage, made some plays whether it was in the run game or the pass game. [He] almost had that one interception there, so he showed up. I thought that was a positive that we had last night, one of the positives.

Q: How has John Miller been performing compared to your expectations?

A: I think, just like our whole unit up front, there’s been some good plays and some plays that John would like back. John’s one of the guys we’re counting on; he sets a tone for us. He’s played varsity snaps before, if you will, and we have a lot of confidence in John.

Q: Coach, this is obviously your second time going through the cuts as a head coach, but how difficult is that, and I know it’s part of the job, but how difficult is that from a human standpoint to send three dozen guys home?

A: Yeah, that’s one of the toughest parts of the job, honestly. You get to know these guys, build relationships, which are key, and you care about them. You hope those relationships continue regardless of if they play here or this is their last stop or hopefully they play somewhere else and their career continues. That’s one of the more challenging parts of the job and it makes it very real when it comes in about less than a week or around a week now.

Q: Is there any update on Julian Stanford and were there any other new injuries coming out of yesterday?

A: Yeah, just Julian is going to be week-to-week at this point. We’ll just see. We’re still gathering information right now, so we’re a little bit early on that. Other than that, no real changes in the other injuries that you knew going into the game.

Q: How has AJ’s ability to throw evolved over the past few days?

A: It’s improved dramatically, it really has. You saw him out there, I believe, in the warmups yesterday and the last couple of days. He looks good to go.

Q: [He’s] not limited in any way? I’m not trying to [speculate] over semantics, but we don’t get to see practice exactly. Has he been unleashing them?

A: Yeah, you’ll see him out there today.

Q: Would he have been 100 percent good to go yesterday if you needed him?

A: That’s a question for AJ. Look, he’s been going through some treatment and coming off the injury still, guys, but he’s sore. That’s what happens in the game; you get sore. Is sore 100 percent? That’s, I guess, in the eyes of the beholder at that point. He was coming off of an injury there, so who is 100 percent, right, at this point in camp?

Q: Why didn’t he play? Was it because he didn’t practice during the week?

A: Yeah, and because he wasn’t where he needed to be. He was sore and wasn’t out there practicing at full strength. [He] put in about a good day and a half before the game and felt like he needed more exposure to practice time before we put him out there.

Q: But you haven’t solidified- you mentioned that there was an open competition for that cornerback spot with Vontae [Davis] last night I believe, if I saw the quote sheet correctly. Since you haven’t solidified that spot, is that an area of concern this late into the preseason?

A: Well, you know [I think it’s] yes and no. The good part is that we have Phillip Gaines and Vontae [who] both did some good things in the game yesterday and there were some areas where they can both improve, just like our football team. There was some good to that that they’re pushing one another. Then, there are other areas where [you think] we have to play better at this in order for us to be a better defense.

Q: This is a Josh Allen question: when there’s a concussion spotter, this is something that is new and evolving. To see it actually happen in a game is new. Once he gets the green light to return, is that it in terms of his evaluation? Do you need to come back the next day and do anything with that or once he’s cleared right there in the locker room and that’s the end of it?

A: Well, for that moment that’s the end. Our medical team does a really good job of following up on things like that. I’m always going to yield to [a] player’s safety and whatever our medical staff, however they inform me, that’s the direction that we’re going to go. That’s the most important thing, not the football end of it at that point.

Q: Sean, why this game for the offensive line rotations? Do you expect the starters to get more snaps? In terms of moving guys around, center and guard? Moving [Ryan] Groy and Miller?

A: In this past game? Well, in some ways, we used it as a mock rehearsal for a real game. You kind of say, “these are the 46 and we’re going to have to use these guys.” It could come up in the game in Baltimore, who knows? You try and do some of that in this game. Sometimes, you’re able to do it before, but we just felt like it was the right time to do that and move some pieces around and see how it looked in how the guys communicated. [We wanted to see] how it looked like overall up front, including the overall offense.

 

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