How do you feel about S Jessie Bates, based on what you've seen the last few weeks. What does he need to do to take the next step? Obviously you feel pretty good with this week's news.
"We feel very comfortable and confident in Jessie. As we expected, he's done a great job since he's been here. Over the last 14 weeks, he's done a nice job."
When you get to this point in the preseason, how much do you start turning the page to the regular season in terms of game-planning and things like that?
"We've spent all our time (focusing) on the regular season with our players. We don't plan in the preseason versus the opponent — well, at least we haven't. We spend our time on the opponents in the regular season."
How interesting has been watching special teams, not just here but across the league, as everyone is trying to find the best way to take advantage of the new setup and new rules?
"The only adjustment was kickoff. As expected, I think there is going to be the opportunity for more returns. It is going to have the inverse effect of what was expected. We will see what comes of that. There will be more open field plays. It's made it more like a punt, which was already the leading (cause of) injuries — there were more players injured on punts than any other play on the field. We have turned the kickoff into that. Whether it's plus or minus, we will see."
WR Alex Erickson made this team the last two seasons largely based on what he did in the return game. Now you guys are giving some other guys a look in the return game. Is he at the point now as a receiver where he could make this team if he's not the return guy?
"He has an opportunity to, yes."
You say you don't like to compare year to year, but is the depth and talent you have on the defensive line right now as good as you have had?
"We are really comfortable with it, with what Sam (Hubbard) has done, and Jordan (Willis) and Carl (Lawson) going into their second years. (Andrew) Billings is playing well and is healthy. And returning the other veteran guys. (Chris) Baker has been able to roll through. He didn't play last week as much as we expected, but I feel good about that. Now we'll have the two other young guys (DTs Andrew Brown and Josh Tupou) who have missed the last two weeks back in practice, which will help us."
Is it a "we'll see" response to if TE Tyler Eifert will play against Buffalo?
"You said it (laughs)."
What will it take for you to make a decision one way or the other as far as getting him back in?
"When everyone feels good about it."
We have always seen DE Carlos Dunlap line up primarily as the left defensive end. What benefit is there to flipping him over to the right side?
"Just looking at some things. Some different ways to do things."
We've seen DE Michael Johnson line up both inside (DT) and outside (DE), and now we're seeing it with Sam Hubbard. What advantage does it give you when they line up inside? Is it their length to affect passing windows? Their athleticism?
"Mike (Michael Johnson) played inside last year in nickel situations when Carl (Lawson) came on the field, and Sam (Hubbard) has those abilities to really lighten the load for our guys. If you think about it in a real NFL game, you have approximately 250 snaps to spilt across the four D-Line positions. (You have to) parse those out and have fresh people out there all the time and let these young guys come on and develop as well."
What do you need to see out of the first team offense in Buffalo this Sunday?
"Just good tempo. We are going into the game, and I want to see each guy touch the ball just so many times. We have experienced players who have played, so it's not like I need to see Joe (Mixon) carry the ball ten times. If he carries the ball two times, I'm good and let's move on to the next guys. We have other guys competing to stay here. That's more of the focus, and that's the best part of the preseason is that we are able to work the plan we envisioned going into the game and stay with it, and that's good. We have the guys up front trying to play together as a unit, and that's a good thing. But we don't have the quarterback changing things and doing things he would in the regular season. We don't play the Dallas Cowboys or the Chicago Bears or the Buffalo Bills this year. Well, we're hoping to play one of the two (NFC teams in the Super Bowl). We're looking to just to get the young guys the exposure in this game against people competing for jobs just like they are."
CB Darius Philips has had some good kick returns but we have also seen him drop some punts in practice. Where is your trust level with him?
"Darius has done a really good job in the games. Sometimes in practice, they're working on different things. We have a real comfort level with him, and we just have to keep extending that. Having to do that all the time, like we do, is a little different, but my confidence level in him is pretty high."
Coach you have a guy in Jonathan Brown who has flashed his kicking talent. When does a guy like that go from being a project to being a factor?
"(Laughs) You guys want to refer to what one guy does in practice, but you don't want to refer to what another guy does in practice. It's the fully body of work, as I said, and that's important. The time that Darrin (special teams coach Darrin Simmons) spends with the guys, even outside of my eyes, is important, like when we're out there (holding practice at the practice fields) and he's in here (inside the stadium working with special teams), or vice versa. It's the confidence we have. When we line up to kick a field goal, I expect to walk away with three points. That's not a 'maybe' or 'maybe not' proposition."
Randy Bullock has been doing this for about seven seasons in the league …
"Again, whoever we will have out there, I have the confidence in them and expect them to make the kick."
It's like you said after the game, there's no competition …
"But Jon did a great job. It's really the essence of what, as I told our team, this is all about. This is a guy who's been here in this building for three years, and the first time he ever kicked in a game was two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears. Darrin has done an incredible job to get him to be able to go into a game and do that. That's what coaching is all about."
It's kind of tough to take a guy like that and tell him, 'You're our guy' on Sept. 9, when he just doesn't have a lot of experience…
"Are you asking, or are you answering (laughs)?"
I'm asking. Because of that lack of experience, is it harder to take a gamble on a guy like him?
"Because of everything that we know. It's more than just making the kick at 55 yards. But, to his credit, he did it. And he just has to keep doing it. The more he does it, the more confidence he and everyone else around him has. As I said, he did a great job. I've blown that whistle (to simulate a timeout before a FG attempt) how many times in practice, and everybody thinks it's funny. I don't want to let them have the practice kick, and he got the practice kick (before his 55-yard FG at Dallas) and took full advantage of it. He just lined it up, looked relaxed and looked like he knew what (he was doing). I told Darrin that he was going to make it after he missed the one where they called timeout."
So he used the timeout to his advantage …
"Well he got an opportunity to get a second whack at it, and he took full advantage (of it)."
Maybe you answered this last year by keeping Jake Elliott on the practice squad to begin the regular season, but would keeping a kicker on the practice squad be an option this year?
"I don't think so."
You were talking about how he's only kicked in a couple of games. Do you think that other teams have similar feelings about that?
"It's not my job to populate someone else's roster. That's their decision (laughs)."
I guess that's when you weigh potential versus consistency?
"Ask the teams that don't have a kicker."
Of course finding a kicker can be a merry-go-round …
"Exactly. That's not a good situation to be in."
Is there too much made of the offensive line, or does the offense start and stop with the offensive line, particularly when assessing how they will gel together?
"I think it's important. They have to gel together, there's no question about that. We feel pretty good about where things are. There's been a lot of progress made, and new guys will continue to work and grind. (In terms of) the things we are doing, there's some things showing up the right way. That's what happens. There's 32 (teams) across the board when you watch each and every week, but we're only focused on one and you are focused on only one. You get to draw your conclusions that way, but we're watching football across the board and across the league every time. We'll keep going. We feel going about things."
Across the board, do you feel that the offensive line is in a much better place than it was this time last year right now?
"Yeah, I feel really good about where we are right now. No doubt about it. We have to continue to go. Again, like I said, we're aiming at the Indianapolis Colts (in Week 1 of the regular season). That's what counts."
Would you say that the league has an offensive line depth problem?
"(Laughs) We've said that for a while. But yes, there's no one sitting there with a second row of those guys."
OT Cordy Glenn kind of just showed up here after the trade and doesn't say much, but he just goes about his business …
"He just does his thing. That's what it all about. It must be the Georgia guys (laughs). They just do their thing."
What did you think he would add to the team?
"We know we have one side of the line taken care of. He has experience and has great comfort over there. He and Clint Boling have spent a lot of time together. Now they are reunited in opposite positions, but they are comfortable with each other, and that's good. I love his mentality. He's answered the bell every time, so it's been great. When we made the trade for him, I talked to him on the phone while he was at the airport in Appleton. Everything from being here and going through the offseason program, to how he approached training camp, to then see him when the lights come on and it's time to play against another team. It's good to see. You like what he has brought that way — with the maturity level, and yet the ability to go out and do his job as well. I think everyone takes notice of that."
It seems like he hasn't missed a snap or practice. He's always been right there …
"He quietly does his thing."
Last night, the President of the United States criticized NFL players who protest during the anthem. I know last year after the Green Bay game you wanted to keep it specifically on football, and I know the NFL and the players association are trying to come to some type of agreement when it comes to this protest/anthem debate, if that's what you want to call it. Where do you want to see this debate end?
"We just do football here."
But as far as him criticizing players …
"Again, we just do football."
I understand it's just football, but he criticized your players and guys you work with and guys who do great work in the community …
"Anybody can criticize anybody at any point. Some of the people in here criticize me at times."
Do you think it's …
"Again, we're just about football."
You talked about Cordy Glenn earlier. Preston Brown also came here from Buffalo. Has he approached things in a similar way since coming in here from day one?
"He has to be a lot more vocal than Cordy does (laughs). Yes, he's been excellent. I couldn't be more pleased with both guys."
The energy from a guy who comes in and just wants to be here. He made it clear from the moment he walked in the door that this is where he wants to be. Is there a positive effect that comes from that for the whole team, or even just for his linebacker group?
"I think there is. He's one of the first guys in the building every day. There's a mentorship he brings, because he has younger guys that look to that. They've got Vincent Rey, Vontaze Burfict and so forth, but when you look at the rest of the group, they are fairly young. You see how Preston goes about his business every day."
You use him on a lot of different packages. And he's a pretty fast kid for his size …
"He's an exceptional talent. That's why he's led the league in tackles a couple of times and has done the things he's done in his career already. And he's still a young guy. As I told him, I was so mad at him coming out of the draft (laughs). He's exceeded all of my expectations."
Why were you mad at him?
"He didn't want to work out when he came here for his visit. He remembers. I told him, 'It's a little different than the last time you were here (laughs).' He said, 'I remember, coach.'"
What have you seen from him since he's been here?
"He's just been great, as I said. Everything about him — the way he approaches the game, the way he's prepared, the way he has trained the entire offseason. I've just been very pleased. The way he has played in the first two games. He got bad with his eyes the other day (at Dallas), which led to them moving the ball, but he came back and played the rest of his snaps very well."
Are the areas you just mentioned where he exceeded your expectations, and was there anything else to that?
"No. I thought he was a good talent coming out of Louisville, but this is about work and football. That's what makes it work in this building. You've got to want to work. That's the standard."