HC Zac TAYLOR
Initial comments …
“We’re excited to open up at home this week against San Francisco. I know our players are chomping at the bit to play in front of the home crowd, and it’s a crowd that we’re really going to need in this game. (San Francisco) has a lot of communication tools that they use at the line of scrimmage, so we’re expecting a great turnout, and we’re expecting our crowd to be really loud. We want to create the advantages that we had to go against last week in Seattle. We’d like to see that at home this week. I’m really excited to see what the turnout will be, and I know they’re going to be there to help the team do some great things.”
Will you stress success in the red zone after going 0-for-3 against Seattle?
“We know what the errors were. We missed a field goal, had a turnover and they stopped us on fourth-and-one. We feel like those were self-inflicted plays to be exact. We had the holding call that set us back. There are some games were you go and get 10 real red-zone plays and you only complete seven of them, and you can’t move the ball. That wasn’t the case. Those are all things we felt like we could have done a better job controlling.”
Is Kyle Shanahan’s offense similar to yours?
“Yeah. It’s all the same background, to an extent. When he was the offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, I used to watch every Texans game imaginable. I was a graduate assistant with (Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach) Klint Kubiak, and his dad (Gary Kubiak) was coaching at the time. Every Sunday, all we would do is watch the Texans and watch the tape. That’s when I sort of further invested in the west coast system of things and watched how Kubiak and Shanahan did them. I followed Kyle as he went to Washington and worked with Sean McVay for several years. There are certainly a lot of elements that are very similar, and there are a lot of differences in the two styles and how they are branched off.”
How much fun is it to watch other coaches from similar coaching backgrounds unveil their offensive philosophies?
“Everybody watches everybody. There are certain teams that you ‘check the box’ to see what they’re doing every week. Kyle has always done a great job, and he has a really good staff that has been really creative. I’ve worked with a couple guys on that staff, and I know a couple guys on the staff. Those are guys you hold in high regard.”
Do you think your offensive style has branched off, or do you think it’s still evolving?
“It’s always been a ‘12 and 21’ system, and they’ve held true to that. They certainly have tons of wrinkles they run off of it. Over the last two years, we’ve become more 11 personnel. We feel like we have a lot of good personnel groupings that we do a good job of and can attack a team a certain way. There are still a lot of similarities in the systems.”
Where is WR A.J. Green in his recovery process?
“He’s making the progress we expected him to make. I’m still not going to put a timetable on it, but I’m encouraged by the progress he’s made every single day.”
Was TE Tyler Eifert’s workload against Seattle dictated by the game? Do you have a number of how many snaps you’d like him to play?
“I think 50 percent (of snaps) is maybe a bit much, but we are comfortable doing that. He came out in great shape. He’s one of those veterans that you manage over the course of the week. If you’re going to run the ball, you’re going to have to stay in some 12 personnel groupings, and that’s the way the game went. It could be that way this week, and we could go in a totally different direction. We feel like we have a strong tight end room that we can lean on in games like that.”
How has he looked in your eyes?
“Good. I haven’t thought one day since I’ve been around him that he looks like he as any lingering effects from last year. He’s looks healthy, he can run fast and he’s really dialed in.”
Was the game plan to play TE Drew Sample more, or to ease him into his first NFL game?
“He doesn’t need easing in. He’s ready to go, and we have full confidence in him. It’s really about how the game went. We had a game plan that could have gone in one direction, and we decided to take another direction as the game went on, so we had to make those adjustments. We feel comfortable with the way that went, but we feel like we can rely on any of the tight ends.”
How do you plan on managing HB Joe Mixon’s practice workload this week?
“We’ll just see day by day how he feels. The most important thing is that he’s healthy on Sunday, and we will do our best to get him to that point.”
Do you feel he will play on Sunday?
“I don’t know right now. I don’t want to make any predictions.”
How impressed were you with the defense in their first game as a unit?
“I loved their energy. Coach Anarumo (defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo) and his staff did an outstanding job of preparing those guys, and the players really bought in. They played with the energy that we need in order to have a great defense. Of course there is room for improvement, just like there is on special teams and offense, but I think if we get a similar performance to that each week, we’re going to be in a position to win some games.”
How much of your philosophy is to use as much many players as possible, and does it keep guys engaged if they know they have a good shot to play?
“Both. You want guys to have a role. We feel like at (offensive skill) positions, anybody can be in on any route and I’m not going to be upset about it. Certainly there are game plans where you want a certain guy in one spot, but over the course of that game any receiver could have been at any spot. We move them around so much that they play all the positions. They know what to do. They all can separate and get open. That’s a really good spot to be in – at tight end, running back and receiver. We feel like we have a good quarterback room, and the linemen have been interchangeable. We are at the point where everyone has confidence in playing a lot of different roles, and that certainly helps over the course of the season.”
Is there an ideal number of snaps you want the offense to play?
“No, there’s not a target number. You want to make sure the receivers are running 70 plays, and ideally we’d like to find ways to build in breaks for them when we can. You need those guys to be strong in the fourth quarter, so you can’t have them running ‘go routes’ all the time. We’ll play as many snaps as it takes to win the game. You never know. If our defense causes a lot of turnovers and we get a lot of extra plays, we’ll be at 90 plays when you didn’t do much to create that on offense – the defense did. It can go either way. We just have to make the most of them.”
How important is it for players to have fun playing in this offense?
“They’re having fun because they’re confident. That’s really what we’re striving for. When you have guys that know what to do and can react to whatever defense a team throws at them – because we’ve gone over these plays so many times and feel like the coaches have done a great job explaining the intent – then it leads to fun because you’re not thinking, you’re just doing it. We felt like our guys showed that in the first game, but we have to do more. We’re going to have a lot more fun when we win – I can promise you that. We have to do more, but it’s a step in the right direction for our guys knowing that they’re confident, and that’s what leads to them having a good time out on the field.”
How big of a lift was it to have A.J. Green at the game on Sunday, even though he sat out with an injury? Did you have second thoughts about him traveling?
“I had no second thoughts about it. You want to make sure everything is good for him to travel. He’s a guy that wants to engage. He wants to play, he wants to be engaged, and he wants to be around the team. The team likes him, and he warms my heart when he’s around, because that’s when I remember that I have A.J. Green hiding out in the background (laughs). It’s good to have guys like that. He’s a captain, and you need a veteran presence and veteran leaders around even if they’re not playing.”
Was it impressive that he came to you personally?
“It’s good. Some guys would lay low for the weekend, but he doesn’t want to do it. He wants to be mentally prepared for when the time comes that he is ready to play. He wants to be engaged and he doesn’t want to miss anything.”
How was he on the sidelines?
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t really notice. I was in my own world at times, but I’m sure he was really engaged.”
How do you feel about WR Damion Willis’ performance?
“You didn’t notice him in a bad way. He made the plays that came to him, but he can continue to improve. It was his first of many games. If that’s the best he’s going to play, then we have a problem. We know that he’s going to continue to improve every week, but with that being said, he didn’t stand out one way or the other and he did his job. He probably played too many snaps, and he’s a guy we can probably build in a couple more breaks. He had the most reps of any of the receivers. He’s in great condition and he’s really durable. It’s good to have a young receiver like that.”
What did you see on the replay on the incompletion to John Ross in the first quarter that prompted you to throw the challenge flag?
“It looked like he caught the ball. Obviously they didn’t have enough evidence to overturn it. That was the key. There were two examples in that game where I didn’t respond well to the play clock running down and there was miscommunication from me to Andy (QB Andy Dalton). One forced a delay of game on third-and-two down in the red zone. That’s unacceptable on my part. On (the play in the first quarter), we should have been able to give another play call quickly so that we could get the ball snapped. We were at the point where we were going to have to take a timeout. We think he caught it anyway. A nine-yard completion in the first quarter is not where you want to spend (a challenge), but we had two seconds on the (play) clock, and we were put in that spot. That’s a mistake on my part, to be quite frank with you.”
Is that a part of figuring out the game-managing aspect?
“It shouldn’t have been an issue. I should have been better there. We’re going to play in a lot of loud stadiums, and that’s going to happen again where we have a hard time communicating what we want. We’ve already put measures in place to make sure that doesn’t happen again and that we can make the necessary improvements. We’ll be better the next time we’re in that environment.”
Did you get clarification from the league regarding the last play of the game, where it looked like Dalton’s pass should have been ruled incomplete but the call on the field of a fumble was upheld after review?
“They review everything, and to be quite honest with you, they communicate with us after the game and they prefer that we keep that in house. During the course of the game, whatever the call is on the field, it’s going to be difficult to reverse if you don’t have the proper camera angles. During a 1 p.m. regional broadcast – or whatever the term is – you’re not going to have as many cameras as opposed to a Sunday night, Monday night or Thursday night. There are going to be some plays that are hard to overturn, and it was unfortunate for us. We felt like if we could get another opportunity or two, we could try to put ourselves in position to win the game. That’s a tough way to end it, but that’s just the way it went.”
Do you have an update on OT Cordy Glenn’s injury status?
“No update. He’s still day-to-day.”
From the people you’ve interacted with around the city, how do they feel about the team? What can you do to bring them to game?
“It’s hard, because my interactions are at Starbucks in the morning. That’s the extent of it (laughs). Like I said a couple weeks ago, we have to bring the energy and we have to get the fans fired up. It’s not the other way around. We have to put the people in the stands. Unfortunately we didn’t win that (Seattle) game, but I’d like to think that the people who watched the game and the people that came to the game to support us saw the type of team they want to represent and be excited about. That’s a step in the right direction. Let’s get people at the game, and let’s create an environment where it’s a hostile (environment) at home for us. We want to continue to win games at home and make this a difficult place to play. I was here in 2012 with the Dolphins, and it was a hard place to play. I think it was a 17-13 game, and it came down to the wire. It was very hard to hear in the stadium. That was my first impression of the City of Cincinnati – ‘Wow this is a really cool place.’ It goes way back then, so we have to get back to that spot.”
Cincinnati’s traffic is better than Los Angeles too, right?
“(Laughs) Oh my gosh, yeah. It’s not even a question. It’s night and day. It’s like being on the Autobahn on Columbia Parkway in the morning (laughs). It’s awesome.”
QB ANDY DALTON
The new offensive system seemed to work well against Seattle. Do the results instill a deeper level of confidence in your new coaching staff?
“For sure. We know what we’re capable of, and then to go out and be productive in a game, especially our first one, it’s big. It’s big for confidence. What we’re going to do here is going to work. Guys were pleased with the production; obviously we weren’t pleased with the result. With all the things we were able to do, I thought guys were happy with a lot of the stuff we did. It definitely gave us confidence.”
You threw the ball 51 times against Seattle. Are you comfortable passing that often?
“Whatever it takes to win. Going into the game, we knew there was a chance it could be like that. We weren’t exactly sure how they were going to play us. With the way they played us, we knew we were going to throw the ball a lot. We had opportunities in the game, we just need to make one more play that allows us to win.”
San Francisco has a good defensive front. How does that affect your game-planning?
“Everybody has good players. It’s the NFL. For us, we need to prepare for another good front. This team created a lot of turnovers last week. They’ve played well. We need to be ready for it.”
Did it feel like you didn’t get to showcase your red-zone packages in their entirety due to several miscues?
“We got set back, obviously, with the ball that slipped out of my hand. The holding call set us back. There were some (plays) we wish we could have gotten to. We’ve only played one game so far. We’ve got a lot of offense left.”
Do you feel like you have good red-zone personnel?
“Yeah. The past couple of years here we’ve been really good in the red zone. It’s one game. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take advantage when we were down there. It’s just one game. It’s a long season ahead.”
What did you learn about yourself or your team against Seattle?
“We fought all the way to the end. The energy level was great. Guys had each other’s backs. There was never any doubt that we were going to win the game, which was great. Guys were holding each other accountable. You see the way the defense was flying around, the way they were making plays. Everybody was rallying around guys. It was big. It was fun to see. It was what you want to have. Zac (head coach Zac Taylor) always talks about being a connected team. I think we showed that on Sunday.”
Was John Ross’ Sunday performance a testament to the potential he possesses?
“John is so talented. That was just the beginning for him. John has gotten really comfortable with what we’re doing and what we’re asking him to do. He even mentioned it – he’s playing with confidence – a confidence he hasn’t had the last couple of years. That’s big. We can keep him playing the way he did this past week. There’s still room for improvement for him, and there’s room for improvement for everybody. If we can get him playing the way he did last week, he’s going to be a big reason why we win games.”
Was his confidence built gradually through training camp, or was it solely a result of his Sunday performance?
“We knew what we were going to get from him. We wanted to see it in a game. We’ve seen it in practice. We’ve seen glimpses of it since he’s been here. He put it all together last week. He’s making contested catches. The second touchdown he had was an unreal play by him. I think he has a lot of confidence in what he can do. The biggest was he was having a lot of fun.”
As a quarterback, what can you do to build Ross’ confidence?
“Everybody’s career takes different turns. You want a guy to get out of a ‘slump,’ or whatever you want to call it. You’re down on yourself sometimes. You’re never going to outperform your inner view of yourself. Needless to say, where he’s gotten to now, he’s in a great place. I’m very happy for him and very happy for this team.”
Do you see a bigger role in Ross’ future?
“For sure. He played really well last week, but it wasn’t a perfect game. There’s a ways to go for him, but we’ll take the level he’s playing at right now.”
What did it mean to have TE Tyler Eifert back on the field?
“Tyler looked great. Tyler has been through so much in his career with his injuries and everything. For him to get back out there and play the way he did was great. He had several third down conversions that were big for us. We have a great matchup with him whenever he’s on the field. I was very happy to see him back out there, especially given everything he has gone through.”
Do you ever think about what this offense could be capable of if WR A.J. Green wasn’t injured?
“He’ll be coming back eventually. We’ll accept him with open arms. It shows that we have depth on this team. We’ve had guys that have filled in. Those are big shoes to fill. We had eight different guys that caught passes last week. The way we play this game and play offensive football, there’s a lot of guys that are going to get involved. If we can add him to the mix, we’ll be even more productive.”
You completed passes to four of the active five wide receivers on the roster.
“Yeah. Like I said, that’s this offense. I just need to keep finding ways to spread it around and keep guys involved.”
What was the team’s philosophy behind the abundance of players garnering playing time?
“We’ve got different ways of doing different things. We have a lot of guys that can play. We’re getting everybody involved. That’s what it comes down to.”