Marvin Lewis News Conference
Paul Brown Stadium
September 17, 2014
"As we look at the Titans, I thought they really played an excellent football game against Kansas City in Week 1, and were really effective in all areas. Last week for whatever reason, they didn't play quite as well. They had a couple turnovers that made a big difference in the football game, and we know that's always a key.
"They've got a big physical front group -- both offense and defense. They've got two excellent backs, as well as the rookie, in Leon Washington and (Shonn) Greene, and (Dexter McCluster). It's a very athletic group and a very challenging group. We have to do a great job of tackling.
"Last week the tight end (Delanie Walker) had an outstanding game and was tough to tackle. He made a catch, and there were missed tackles, and then made a long run. It's important as we get ready to play these guys that we do a great job defensively.
"Flipping it over to their defensive team, this is a group that's very effective rushing the passer. They'll get after the quarterback. (Jurrell) Casey has been an unheralded guy in the NFL, but really a fine, fine player. They've got some experienced outside rushers, so we've got to do a great job of playing against these guys up front. We need to be stout and do a really good job in protections and identifications. We've got a big week ahead of us."
Ray Horton was a former player here and he coached in Pittsburgh, Arizona and Cleveland. What's your thought about how he gets a defense ready?
"He's done an excellent job. The defense in Arizona grew up and got turned around quickly, and then Cleveland a year ago, and now Tennessee. He's installing his system, and doing a great job getting guys to buy in and execute the system as they go. You'll see the similarities between the Steelers, and what they do, and what Ray's doing, but he's got his own stamp on it, and they're doing a nice job."
You've talked a lot over the years about Carlos Dunlap growing up and maturing. Have you noticed with Michael Johnson leaving, him kind of assuming that role and maturing a little bit?
"I think he grew into that a year ago, and he's just kept going, which has been great to see. It's been what we hoped and really expected. I'm glad he seized the moment. I guess it was three seasons ago when he was listed as the starting defensive end (on the depth chart) but I didn't start him (choosing to give first snaps to veteran Robert Geathers). And a year ago, he assumed the starting role, and this year he's keeping it. Sometimes things take a little time and are worth waiting on, and he's obviously played two excellent football games to start this year, and we need him to play even better this week."
How important has he been in both of those first two games?
"He's been big on the field and off the field. He's just a different young man in every way. The things he's doing community-wise, the things he's done as a teammate, a player around here, his approach and everything, it's been impressive. It's been what we hoped for when we drafted him."
Are there a few days where you thought this day wouldn't come?
"There have been a few days (Laughs). But I share those thoughts with his father who would say 'Now he's yours. I feel your pain. I know your pain' (Laughs). It's worthwhile. He's a good man. He's got it going."
What intrigued you guys about Ryan Hewitt coming out of college?
"I think what intrigued everyone was his versatility, and the fact that he had played fullback and tight end at Stanford, and the fact that those guys are well coached there. You know what you're getting when you get one of their guys. From the first days he was here, we identified him right away with (special teams coordinator) Darrin Simmons, that he's a guy we want to kind of push into things, and see how he would do. He kind of seized the moment on offense, and he continues to grow, and it's been great."
We haven't seen much of Hewitt in the passing game lately, but he looked pretty comfortable in camp. Are you confident in what he can do because of his background at Stanford?
"Yeah, I think pass catchers catch the ball when the coverage and the route dictate that the ball goes to them. He'll be in a good spot."
The offensive line has done a great job of protecting Andy Dalton. Zero sacks to start the season ...
"Those are good numbers and things that we want to keep working at. That takes 11 guys to get to that point, and we have to continue that. It's not five guys, it's got to be all 11 offensive players working in sync to be able to do those kind of things. It's helping us, it's keeping our quarterback clean and upright. We've got to continue with that. We're excited where we are ... well, not excited, we've done good where we are now, but we've got a ways to go."
How valuable is Mike Pollak to have, being able to step right in at any of the interior line positions?
"No doubt. That's part of Mike being here. We signed Mike in the offseason to give him an opportunity to compete as a starter, whether it be at center or guard. He gets an opportunity to start very early this season."
You've got a guy in Emmanuel Lamur that's kind of like Vontaze Burfict, undrafted and came out of nowhere...
"He started a step behind 'Tez. He came in as a tryout player."
But yet, he seems to be following a similar path. He's productive. How do you view his progress?
"It's been great. It's what we hoped for a year ago, but it just kind of got derailed for a bit (due to injury). He's not disappointed from the very first day he went out on the practice field here at rookie camp. He's been impressive. He continues to grow. He's a very intellectual player for us. He understands applying what we do defensively to the opponent and works extremely hard at it. He's working hard at excelling."
It seems like he plays with a joy, he seems to have a joy about him...
"He's making good on an opportunity. We've had good mentors for our young guys in this position group. Dhani (Jones) was a mentor to Rey (Maualuga) and Vinny Rey. Then you had James Harrison last year, and he was able to help bring these other guys on, -- Vontaze Emmanuel, and (Jayson) DiManche. Having good pros around here, and guys who kind of came up the hard way, has been good. That helps in their preparation, both physically and mentally, to play at a high level."
With the bye coming up next week, if guys who are banged up are close to ready Sunday, does that play into your decision of maybe giving them an extra week off?
"As always, we'll let the doctors and the medical people weigh in on where we are health-wise as we go through the week. But if a guy is ready to play, he's ready to play. That doesn't change. Whether he is or he is not, that makes the decision, and whether I can fit him into the 46."
Is there a point with a guy like Vontaze where he always wants to play and you just have to say no?
"Again, we're going to let the people that handle those things help make those decisions. They make the first decision, and then I get to make the second one."
With some of the uncertainty in the passing game with guys hurt there, what has it meant for Mohamed Sanu to have come on like he has?
"Marv literally has practiced one day for us, so Mo's taken all the reps there, and it's been great. It has also helped us to have Brandon Tate do what he's done. It was key for those two guys to be able to do what they did a week ago in A.J.'s absence. Brandon had only the one reception (for 50 yards), but still, the game takes all 11 guys all the time. Him running the routes, clearing the routes, and doing the things he does, opens up things for the other guys -- Sanzenbacher, the tight end, and so forth. Mo Sanu has been big for us. Every chance Mo plays, he's always been a huge contributor to the offense."
Can you see where an extra gear or an extra light went off for him in the preseason?
"No, I think Mo has attacked the training camp and the offseason every year the same way. After breaking his foot as a rookie, he was very disappointed, and now last year coming back, and being able to do that, I think he's always been the same.
So are you a bigger fan of the early bye week now?
"I'm a huge fan of early bye weeks this year. (laughs). As we know, when the schedule comes out, we don't know the way anything is going to unfold, and now, at this point, obviously we could benefit from having a week off. But we can't get to the week off like we want to be without going out and playing well, and preparing well this week, and beating the Titans."
Does depth mean players having versatility, as well as being able to step in and start?
"As a player in the NFL, if you're not the starting guy, you better have the flexibility and the ability to learn other spots where the coaches have confidence that they can use you, and go out and execute flawlessly. That's so important. Sometimes decisions are made that way at the end of things, because it's hard to get a guy up and active on Sunday if he can only do one thing. You just don't have the spots if guys can't contribute on special teams. It's hard for me to get them suited up. Having versatility on offense or defense, and the third phase in special teams is very, very important."