After going back and watching the tape of last Sunday’s game against Denver, did you feel better or worse about how you played?
“It was kind of what we felt (on Sunday). There in the first half, we got behind the sticks, and that makes it tough on third down to stay on the field. I felt like we moved the ball and everything, we just didn’t stay on the field enough and score enough points. That’s what it comes down to. We’re looking forward to getting back out there this week and scoring more points is what it comes down to.”
After talking to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, do you feel you guys have a better idea and plan in place for you moving forward?
“Any time you get more game reps you’re going to be more comfortable, and that just comes with it. At the end of the day, we just have to stick to the plan. We got away from the plan a little bit, especially in the first half with getting behind the sticks. That made it tough, especially for the play-callers. We just have to clean some things up, whether it’s mentally or technique stuff, to stay on track and really give ourselves a better chance.”
Is it any easier going through this second week as the starter, now that you’ve already been through one week as the starter?
“I think so. Each week is different, for sure. You have a totally new game plan, a totally new film to look at and things like that. I really know what to expect now. I have kind of been there and done that and know what to expect. In some ways it’s easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s a lot of work to be done, and on lunch time on Wednesday we feel pretty good with what we’re doing. We’re looking forward to getting out on the practice field to tighten some things down and see what some of our concepts and plays look like.”
How much different is it preparing for a game knowing that you won’t have A.J. Green out there, as opposed to losing him in the game and having to adjust on the fly?
“Yeah, that’s huge. Losing A.J. is a big deal. At the end of the day, we have other good players out there, and the coaches are going to do a good job of getting those guys in position to make plays. We have full confidence that whoever is out there playing receiver is going to make those plays. It’s definitely different and you have to draw some things up a little bit differently and move some people around. We’re going to have to overcome and make some plays out there in his absence.”
Do you think WR Cody Core’s touchdown on Sunday can jumpstart him and give him confidence?
“Yeah, I think so. He hasn’t played a ton either. Any time you get more reps — like with me — you’re going to be more comfortable, and I think that’s going to come. We have full confidence in him, and he did make a great play on that touchdown. He ran a great route and finished in the end zone. That’s something that can bring some confidence, but we have total confidence in him and around him.”
Is it easier for you to have chemistry with some of the receivers toward the bottom of the depth chart that you spent time throwing to in training camp and preseason?
“At this point, it doesn’t really matter how many reps I’ve had with any of those guys. You’ve got to go out and perform. The reps we get during the week are huge, and you don’t get that many of them in the NFL. That’s just how the practice schedules are set up. I’ve had reps with all these guys now, and there’s no excuses about timing or anything. We just have to go out and perform. That’s what it comes down to.”
Was Andy Dalton able to help you out at all during the game Sunday from where he sat in the coaches’ booth? Was there any way to communicate with him?
“No, I didn’t speak with him during the game. He wasn’t around early last week, because he was recovering from his surgery. But he’s been around, and I’m open to him helping me out in any way he can. He’s been a huge help, and having him around is going to be big for me, and for our team as well.”
What’s the biggest thing you learned from your first start?
“You have to put in the work early in the week. Once you know what to expect, you have to flip from, ‘What are we are doing schematically?’ to, ‘I have to go execute now.’ That’s something I’ve done in the past in college, but everything is totally new at this level. I thought I had a good week of preparation last week, and I’m going to have the same routine this week. I’ll be ready to go this week, for sure.”
What do you see out of the Chargers’ defense on tape?
“They have good players. It starts with those two guys off the edge in (Melvin) Ingram and (Joey) Bosa. They’ve made a lot of plays this year. They’re not a very complicated defense, but they’re good at what they do. We have some stuff to attack what they do. I just have to take what the defense gives you. They’re kind of a ‘bend but don’t break’ defense. We just have to approach each snap that way.”
Last week, you faced Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, and now this week Melvin Ingram III and Joey Bosa. Does that make some of the game-planning similar to last week, as far as how to handle two quality edge rushers?
“We have some carryover. It’s a different structure of defense, but there’s still those two premier guys on the edge, and we’re aware of that. We’ll have to have some stuff to handle those guys, but we have to win our matchups. That’s what it comes down to. We know they’re going to make some plays, but at the end of the day we can’t let them ruin our day. We’ll have a plan for them, and we have full confidence we’ll execute that plan and get it done.”
Would you like to run more?
“It just depends on what the defense is giving you, and the flow of the game. Sometimes those things just happen naturally. There’s a few that are designed, but a lot of those big plays that you see in the quarterback run game just happen naturally, and that will happen. I’m just going to keep playing on time, playing within the system and let the big plays come.”
Initial comments …
“As we look forward and prepare for the Chargers, obviously they’ve really hit their stride. They’ve won close games and been up in games, so they’ve had the tale of both sides of those. They’re playing really well on offense, whether it be running the football when (Melvin) Gordon or the other back is in there. Then obviously with what Keenan Allen and Phillip Rivers are doing in the pass game, it’s very impressive right now. We’ve got another hot offense we’re going up against. On the other side of the ball, defensively, what they do, they do very well. They have their young safety (Derwin James) doing a great job of fitting in and making plays both in the pass game and even pressuring, blitzing and in run game tackling. We know with their outside rushers in (Melvin) Ingram and (Joey) Bosa what they bring to the table each and every time.”
How do you guys switch up the schedule to handle a west-coast trip? Are you going out early on Friday after practice?
“Yeah. We’ll just leave Friday after practice. Basically, we always try to keep our schedules as normal as possible and keep the players’ familiarity with the timing of everything so that it’s not a very big change for them.”
What makes Phillip Rivers so good as a quarterback?
“His understanding and study of the opponent’s defense. He tries to know you as well as you know yourself. His ability within their offense to attack what they feel is the perceived weakness.”
You’ve seen him since the Senior Bowl in 2004. How has he changed? Do you remember him back then as a gangly guy from NC State?
“I don’t think he’s changed. He was a very confident player. He was on the other squad during the time spent there around those guys (at the Senior Bowl). They were very impressed with him, but I think it’s his confidence and his ability to make accurate throws. He’s a smart guy and he’s a great leader. He has all of those attributes. It seems like for a while there (the Chargers) were in our division, because we were playing them every year.”
He had those attributes back then?
“Yeah, I think so. That’s what the people saw in him there.”
When A.J. Green went out with an injury in 2016, Cody Core stepped in and played pretty well. He’s struggled this year, but do you think that touchdown last week could be a jumpstart for him?
Other than catching the ball, what do you need to see more of?
“He has to be more consistent. You have to be where you’re supposed to be when your opportunity comes. You have to free yourself, whether it’s man coverage, zone coverage, whatever it is, you have to get to the right spots. If the quarterback’s progression leads you there, you have to be in position to make the plays.”
Once A.J. comes back from his injury, will he be fine, or is that something with his toe that could linger throughout his career?
“No, I think they feel very confident that with his injury — albeit the same one he had a month ago — whatever they decide is the best course of action, he will be healed and will be 100 percent.”
Is it something where he could be back by OTAs?
“I think so. They’ll know more once he continues to see the people opining on what the best course of action is.”
So they haven’t decided yet if he’s going to have surgery or give it time to let it heal?
“It’s a matter of them making a decision, and A.J. making a decision as to what the best course of action is.”
What have you learned about CB William Jackson this year?
“William over the last three or four weeks is really understanding what playing cornerback is all about. There’s more to it than just lining up on your guy. You have to understand the changes that occur within the play, the scheme and the coverage. He has to keep adjusting to that throughout. He had a chance on a big third down last week, and the guy pushes him by. We have to understand the situation and have to play strong in those things. That’s an opportunity for him as he goes forward — to understand a situation like that. It’s something we hadn’t seen from that positioning, but yet it can happen, so you have to be at your best all the time.”
For him right now, are the mental nuances of the game the key to him taking the next step?
“Yeah, it’s part of any development for a young player. William missed his first year, so then you’re kind of getting everything on the fly. Through last offseason, and now this season being out there, he’s fought through injuries. He dealt with a lot a year ago. I shouldn’t even say that (laughs), but just to be out there each and every day practicing and doing those things is great.”