Initial comments …
"We have to have a great week of preparation, obviously. This game this week is with Oakland, who's won two of their last four games. They lost a fairly close game to Kansas City and lost two other close games, so we have to be (prepared). The Raiders have obviously had a lot of people (play) throughout the season, but it seems like they've settled on some of the people now. The quarterback (Derek Carr) has done a nice job protecting the football all season long and doesn't put the team at risk that way. Defensively, they've settled in with the guys who are playing now. I thought it was impressive what they did in the game against Pittsburgh. They just kept playing all the way through the game. They were down a little bit in the game, but they made plays, drove the ball, scored, came back, stopped them and obviously were able to drive down for the winning score at the end. They did a nice job converting two fourth-downs there late in the game, so they made big plays throughout."
Have you received any news about how WR A.J. Green's surgery went?
"It went well."
Does that mean everything was successful and on track?
You have a unique circumstance on Sunday, where you'll be coordinating the defense and the guy who was your defensive coordinator last year will be on the other sideline coordinating their defense. What kind of coach was Paul Guenther for you?
"Paul did a fine job here. Since he came here with us in 2004, he hustled, did a lot of different things here and did a good job at all of them. They've morphed around defensively this year with the things they're doing, but they've kind of settled in. Obviously he had great experience coaching against Pittsburgh, so I thought they did a nice job of getting guys to understand, and they played well."
The offensive line for the Raiders features some big bodies …
"They're a big, physical group of men on the offensive front. They have the two young tackles (Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker) that are going to be really fine pros. They're big men at 6-8. The guards are big and physical. (Rodney) Hudson is a physical player on the interior. Doug Martin is a physical runner, which is what he's been throughout his career in the league. They have that group going. (Jared) Cook is as impressive of a tight end as you'll find in NFL. It's like having a big wide receiver out there at tight end."
You're getting some plays out of your young defensive tackles, Niles Scott and Christian Ringo. It seems like they've been giving you a shot in the run game …
"They've done a nice job of getting an opportunity. Christian has been bouncing back and forth between the 53-man rosters on clubs, and even being here with us before. Then you get an opportunity. You've been sitting in the back of that room waiting for your chance, and you want to prove good when you get it. Both guys have taken full advantage of those opportunities in a hurry. It's to their credit, and to Jacob (Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney) and Matt's (Bengals defensive assistant/assistant defensive line coach Matt Raich) credit for getting them ready to play and make meaningful contributions."
Niles Scott doesn't come from a big pedigree, but he seems to have embraced that …
"As I said, 'Look at me! I want my shot too.' They've taken full advantage of it."
The Raiders have some players on their defense who were here previously. What kind of impact did Raiders S Reggie Nelson and CB Leon Hall have on some of the guys that are still here, as far as mentoring, when they were in this building?
"Obviously Leon and Reggie came out of the same draft. We got Reggie here in 2010, and Leon here in '07. They had a huge impact on the Darquezes (Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard) and Dres (Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick) of the world. Those guys were great mentors as pros, but now they're both on IR. Frostee (Rucker) is still playing — he came here in 2004. Emmanuel Lamur (was here) in 2012. They have some guys playing who have been here. (Justin) Murray, who was here during training camp and the end of last season. They have quite a few ex-Bengals."
Frostee seems to just be rolling along …
"Frostee should write (former Bengals DT) John Thornton a check and say, 'Thank you, John, for keeping me going and helping me learn how to be a pro' (laughs). You have to give Frostee credit. I'm telling you, he's worked his tail off to be still playing like this. You're happy for him. We picked the right guy, obviously, for him to still be playing like he is right now. But going back to talking about mentors, John Thornton was a great mentor for Frostee."
So when you drafted him, what were the odds that he would play 150 games in this league?
"The league was going to make it even harder. Everyone was trying to make it harder. But to his credit, he overcame it. It's what you do once you're here that counts. I think that's important."
What do you know about the Oakland Raiders?
"It's a team coming off a big win, beating the Steelers. They're going to try to carry that momentum over. It's a young football team that has a lot of talent. But it's a team we matchup good against. We're going to put a plan together to attack what they like to do and try to create some explosive plays. They're definitely a talented group."
Did you have any form of relationship with Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Gunther when he was on the Bengals staff?
"Not too much, just casually passing by (saying), 'How are ya?' Things like that. Cordial. I didn't have much interaction with him or any defensive coach for the most part. That's just kind of the deal in the league — you interact with your position coach and coaches on your side of the ball more. We're definitely familiar with what they're trying to do, and like any other week they're going to have wrinkles and have some things to change some things up. Their core (defensive scheme), we've been seeing it over the past few years in the offseason and training camp. There will be some stuff we've seen before."
Now that you are into your third week of starting, is the game slowing down for you?
"I think so. It comes with reps, and I have a decent amount of reps now under my belt. It will continue to slow down, and I'm going to keep preparing and making sure I'm ready come Sunday. I feel confident and excited to get out there this week again and finish the season strong at home."
How do you keep morale high when you're riding a five-game losing streak?
"It's tough. There's definitely been some tough times, but at the end of the day that's where leadership and character has to take over. I think we have the right guys on board to be able to do that. It's definitely not an easy thing to do, and it's just something we have to be able to continue to do, and be excited for practice and be alert for meetings. I don't think that's ever been questioned in this building. We have to keep continuing to be excited to come to work every day and know we still aren't out of this."
Does it help to have a guy like Joe Mixon, who likes to hype up his teammates?
"Absolutely. He's a high-energy guy. He's somebody that brings it day in and day out. He's definitely somebody who we can all lean on."
Hue Jackson was brought in a few weeks ago to help with the defensive side of the ball, but he has a lot of experience as an offensive coach. Has he helped you at all?
"He's been more on the defensive side. In the few conversations that I've had with Coach Jackson, they've all been awesome. He's a great person and a great resource to have around the building. It's been nothing but a positive experience for myself."
Is it helpful having Andy Dalton on the sidelines?
"Absolutely. He helps during the game, but even more than during the game he's in the meetings during the week. He puts his input in there and gives me some keys and things like that. Having him around is invaluable, and it's awesome. It's awesome to have him around, and I really appreciate all the help he's giving not just to me, but the rest of the team."
WR Tyler Boyd is closing in on a 1000-yard season. How has he helped your transition, and how special of a season is he having?
"Andy and I were talking back in OTAs and training camp, and we were saying every day, 'Man, Tyler looks awesome. Tyler's going to have a huge year." All the momentum that he built up in the offseason program really carried over this season. He's been a huge playmaker for us. He's made tough plays all year long, and he's going to continue to do so. He's had a great year, and he's a guy we want to get the ball."
What would you tell the fan base who might be on the fence about coming to the stadium and supporting the team on Sunday?
"As players, we can't do anything about who is showing up. All we can do is put in the effort during the week and play our tails off on Sunday. That's what we're going to do — continue to compete, continue to not just play for the people in this building but for this city as well. We're not counting ourselves out, so we hope the people in the city aren't counting us out either. We're excited about the rest of the games, and I hope the fan base can get excited as well. We understand we need to prove that on the field."
What has this transition been like for you, being on the podium each week and being in charge of the offense?
"It's been different. You learn something new every week, but it's becoming more routine. Having been a backup here for a couple years before this, I've watched Andy and how he handles himself on the field and off the field. He's been a great guy to watch and learn from. He's a great guy to look up to and a great resource here in the building. It's been different, but at the end of the day I knew that with being a quarterback in the NFL, that's part of the job. It's been a great experience."
Is Andy enjoying not having to do weekly news conferences?
"I doubt it (laughs). I highly doubt that. He's a competitor, and he wants to be out there with his team. I can't speak for him, but I highly doubt it."
Not the game, the podium part…
"No, that comes with it. I'm sure he would rather be sitting here right now."
What about Tyler Boyd's game has made it easy for you guys to get in a rhythm together?
"I don't think it matters who the quarterback is. The routes are still the routes, the progressions are still the progressions, and the plays are still the plays. It doesn't matter who's in there at quarterback, he does a good job at getting open, so that's why the ball comes his way a lot. The more you get open, the more trust the quarterback is going to have in that receiver. He's been a great option for us, a great target for us all year. He's been so consistent week in and week out. He's an easy guy to try to get the ball to."