Initial comments …
“After watching the tape a few times, I’ll reiterate some of the things I said yesterday after the game. In all three phases of the game, we made critical plays at critical moments in order to keep progressing, whether it be the runs for a first down, a throw-catch-and-run for a first down, special teams plays, stops (on defense), etc. They were big. We had a couple of penalties that set us back quite a bit on offense that we have to eliminate. We had an (illegal) procedure, a block in the back and a hold. We had some insurmountable third downs there at a point. We are starting to set a record for those bad boys. Defensively, we have to continue to play through. There were a couple times we miss-fit in the run or miss-fit in the pass. We have to continue to eliminate any errors that way. They had the three explosive plays on the day.”
Geno Atkins had as good a fourth quarter as anyone has had in a while…
“It was great to close the game out the way he did. The coverage and rush matched, and that was good.”
Does WR Tyler Boyd have a chance to play this Sunday, or could the knee injury he suffered yesterday shut him down for the season, since it’s toward the end of the season?
“A decision will be made on that through the week as he goes, once they get a good idea how injured he’ll be.”
Does that get tricky at the end of the year, with trying to decide whether to come back with only two games left in the season?
“If he can come back and play, he wants to play. That’s not really tricky. It’s a matter of if a guy is medically able to come back and play. You can’t judge it any differently, this is what they do.”
Of course they want to play, but two years ago WR A.J. Green was shut down toward the end of the season due to an injury…
“That decision was made medically. It always has to be based on that.”
So the jury is still out on if Boyd will play?
“The jury is still out, until we make a move one way or another.”
Does being officially eliminated from the playoffs change anything? Do you try and work younger guys into games to try and get a look at them?
“Where? Who’s not playing (laughs)?”
G Christian Westerman didn’t play at all yesterday…
“He has to be one of the top five (offensive lineman), I guess. You know what I’m saying?”
You can’t rotate more offensive linemen?
“The offensive line has to work together, just like the defense. With the offensive line particularly, it’s a group of five guys working together all the time. You can’t just go in and inter-change guys all the time and think it’s going to work right. We’ve had enough change throughout the football team to put anybody at risk or jeopardy for that matter. Guys have had a lot of opportunity this season. We have a lot of young guys playing a lot. They’re getting opportunity. Chris (Christian Westerman) has played some, and he’s done some good things. But we aren’t going to for the sake of it. I know who can play, who needs to and when. You earn opportunity, we don’t just give opportunity.”
Do you have an update on LB Malik Jefferson’s injury?
WR John Ross has seen a lot of snaps recently. What do you need to see from him developmentally, in order for him to take the next step?
“Every opportunity, John grows a bit. Every snap, field zone, every opportunity in the game based on time — every situation in the game, he has a chance to grow. Every time there’s an opportunity to evaluate him on tape each and every play, there’s an opportunity to grow for John. He’s still young — a very young guy. He’s very impressionable and coachable that way. He has to keep absorbing it and keep making the changes, or revisions I should say, in what he’s doing. He’s had the opportunity to be here with a couple of great young mentors that played as young players, in Tyler (Boyd) and A.J. (Green). He has an opportunity to learn from them throughout, and with how to go about it. They stay in his ear, which is good, and he should respect that. Everyone wants him to do the right thing all the time and continue to prosper like he has.”
DE Sam Hubbard has made quite the impact in his rookie season, from defense to offense to special teams. Can you think of another young player who has been as versatile and impactful as he has?
“Obviously Sam has done a great deal early on. Unfortunately his career was cut short, but (Former Bengals LB) David Pollack was very similar in that fashion in his rookie season. It got cut short in the second game of his second year. But Sam has hit the ground running, no doubt.”
Because of all the injuries, you’ve gotten to see a lot more guys get playing time than you probably thought you would. Do you feel like, because of that, the roster is in good shape going forward, and even into next year?
“I don’t want to answer that question now. This isn’t next year, it’s this year. We have to focus on the Cleveland Browns.”
With all the injuries, you’ve gotten the opportunity to find out whether or not some of your guys can really play. Have you found that more guys can play like you thought they could, or have you been more disappointed?
“One of the things that comes from that is for the players to understand what they can get better at. I don’t think you’re trying to cast anybody off, but (they are) having the opportunity (to play), so when that time comes to prepare for their next season (they know) what they need to do to do better and earn more opportunity and more (playing) time, whether it be here or somewhere else. That’s the particular thing that comes to light most of the time. There’s not a, ‘Well, I can do that,’ or, ‘I thought I could do that.’ They have the opportunity to prove whether or not they can do that, and prove it to themselves. Then you have the chance to coach or critique from that point.”
Does the same go for the coaches?
“For the coaches, you want to keep expending it and hoping they can do more. That’s our job — to pull more out of them (the players).”
When you have so many injuries, do you look for some common thread as to why they happen?
“There’s a lot of people that spend a lot of time doing that around here (laughs).”
So I guess it’d be easier if it all was one type of injury, right?
“It’s been spread all over the map. It’s been guys in practice that have been lost, guys in games. It’s been different injuries throughout, like broken bones. It’s things right now that I can’t put a finger on. There’s a lot of people spending a lot of time trying to figure it out.”