MARVIN LEWIS (with Cincinnati media)
ML: "As we look to the Jaguars, obviously last week they had a big win in Indianapolis. Last year, they really limited yardage, they limited points. They did a very good job on defense. They haven't quite hit their stride thus far, but the scheme, the structure of what they're doing remains the same, which is very, very sound. They've added a couple of good players, as far as outside edge rushers, that are helpful to them right now. Their linebacker in the middle, (Paul) Posluszny, is one of the best linebackers in the National Football League. He's a very, very good player and really plays at a high level. He's kind of the motor of that defensive football team and just really gets after it and plays hard. And the rest of them play very, very hard around him. We have to be diligent in our work against them, have to be exact. They try and limit big plays. They're a good, physical football team, as we found out when we went down to Jacksonville a year ago.
"Offensively, Blaine Gabbert is a year older. They've done an excellent job of developing him through the offseason. I'm sure having an OTA and the offseason has been very, very beneficial to him, as it has been with our guys. He's really made some nice throws. He hasn't thrown the football into coverage. And that's the key right now, because Maurice Jones-Drew is as good a back as there is in the league. They've added some receivers outside, including their first-round draft pick (Justin Blackmon), but they also have some other new guys who have developed and are coming on.
"And then their two specialists are as good as there are in the league. It's a well-put together football team that we know has very good weapons. The tight end Mercedes Lewis also is a big target. They're going to make you beat them. They're going to work hard and not beat themselves."
Have you noticed any similarities between the offense Bob Bratkowski is running in Jacksonville to what he ran when he was here in Cincinnati?
ML: "It's a collaborative thing between Bob and Mike Mularkey. There's obviously some similarities to things, because ours was similar to what Bob did and was comfortable with in Seattle. But I'm sure he's learned some from the things they were doing in Pittsburgh with Mike. So it's kind of collaboration of both."
Why don't we see more in the NFL on offense of what you guys did last week, with the so-called gadget plays?
ML: "I don't know that we had a 'gadget play,' other than you don't see very often where you let the guy throw the ball all the way down the field. But if you look throughout the league, you see things week in and week out. You see guys motioning people out to do direct snaps and so forth. But you've got to look across the 16 games played (each weekend). We see those things because we see something or somebody tells us about something, and the next day we want to research it and look at it and see how it unfolded and how they set things up.
"When the Dolphins were running the 'Wildcat' offense, everybody researched that. You looked at it from an offensive point of view to see if you had those types of players, but secondly we had to look at it from a defensive point of view to see, 'OK, now if you get this kind of arrangement, what are our options?' It's like the unbalanced line. The unbalanced line comes and goes every week and it goes unnoticed. But when a team runs up 200 yards on you because they use an unbalanced line and you don't get adjusted to it – like San Francisco, with Jim (Harbaugh) -- they did a great job of that last year, and they really got after folks. So you see it periodically. We did a couple of things in one game that were productive for us. But it's like we said after the game. A lot of times things are there, but they don't ever get seen publicly because the look is not what we're expecting, so we move on to the next thing and it doesn't unfold. So it goes somewhat unnoticed.
"We had it conversely happen to us on the other side, when Carlos (Dunlap) made the big play on the fumble. He wasn't where he was supposed to be, but he makes a big play. Their coaches are saying, 'Wait a second now, how can he be here? He needs to be here and this guy's got to be there.' Our coaches were trying to explain, 'Carlos, you're in the wrong spot. That's not your responsibility. Great football play, but not your job, my man.' Everybody had to get back adjusted because we were on tilt there for a little bit."
You lead the AFC in sacks:
ML: "Not one team has necessarily ever led the league in sacks and had it mean you ended up where you want to go at the end."
But conversely, you're among the worst at run defense. Can you put your finger on why you guys have struggled?
ML: "Tackling. That's how you struggle in run defense. If you don't get 11 guys playing together, you're not going to play very good run defense. And you've got to get off the field on third down. You've got to get some turnovers. All of those things play into it. It's all part of it."
Is discipline a little part of it, too, as far as not being in the right spots?
ML: "You have to be disciplined throughout. It's not for a lack of want to, it's for a lack of being consistent. You have to be consistent with it. It's secondary fits. It's linebacker fits. It can be up front. It's an 11-guy thing. When people run the football effectively against you, it's going to be somewhat that way."
How do you correct tackling?
ML: "You have to stay after it in practice and get to the right spots in practice. It's pursuit. Obviously we don't tackle live in practice, but there's ways to continue to get better at it by being in the right spots and making sure that we're finishing, bringing our hips and our feet and wrapping and grabbing and keeping our heads up and our eyes open all the time. That's how you get back to being a good tackling group."
Every good defense has a mix of 'academics' and instinctive players. Who do you think those guys are on this team?
ML: "I don't know. I'm never going to answer questions like that anyway (laughs)."
It was Dhani Jones and Chris Crocker for a few years, and those were no secret:
ML: "Sometimes you have guys who have different abilities. It's like anything else. When one sense isn't strong, your other senses are a little keener. They may not have been efficient in some areas, so guys have to be keener in others."
Is Blaine Gabbert the type of QB that stays in the pocket, or can he run around a little bit?
ML: "He can run. He's a good athlete. But for the most part, he's going to be in the pocket. He did scramble for a couple of plays over the last couple of weeks and extend some drives. You have to keep constant. You've got to get around him. What's key is to get around the quarterback and get in his face as much as possible."
Is Maurice Jones-Drew the same type of runner as Ray Rice?
ML: "He's a little stronger than Ray. He runs and you see he's going to lower his shoulder through you quite a bit. That's a little bit more his style. He has great breakaway speed as well, so he's got a really dangerous combination. He's a really good runner. The young kid from Cleveland (RB Trent Richardson) is really similar to him."
Michael Johnson earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Where do you think his game is right now?
ML: "Mike has really had some good production throughout his career here. Hopefully he continues to stay on the rise. He's playing hard. Last year was really his first full-time year where he was a starter throughout the year. He's really come in to this training camp and start of the year feeling that way, and feeling more responsible for things. He's feeling like, 'I can do this.' Consistency is going to be key as we go forward, in both the run and the pass."
Have you been playing him a little more than you'd like, due to injuries at that position?
ML: "Yeah, a little bit. Now that we've got four guys rolling again, that will be helpful. But yeah, a little more than you'd like. I think it depends on the style of game. But we are where we are right now."
He seems like he put on some extra weight in the offseason:
ML: "He's really the same. He hasn't changed."
Sometimes when a player is at his age, it's difficult to keep the weight on:
ML: "He's been pretty consistent, actually, with his weight. He's where he was when he came here last year, and he kept it on throughout the year. It's important, and he understands the importance of it."
There has been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the replacement officials. What do you tell your players in regard to that subject?
ML: "I told our guys to shut up (laughs). It's not your business. You have no influence on it. You don't need to worry about it. Just play football. You don't need to talk about it, you don't need to think about it. You play football, and do it the way we're coaching you to do it. That was my message this morning."
Obviously there is added incentive this weekend for a guy like Armon Binns, who was cut by Jacksonville a year ago. Is there any added incentive for you to show what kind of a player he is?
ML: "No. Our only thing is to win the football game. It's got nothing to do with it. I forgot Armon was even cut by them. We'd have a tough time if we had incentive for everybody that's been cut on this football team."
You have two young receivers – Armon Binns and Andrew Hawkins – who played their college football, yet were unheralded when they came into the NFL. Is there any added attention paid now to the geographical side of scouting, and paying more attention to players who played college football in Ohio?
ML: "Artrell (addressing Artrell Hawkins, Andrew's brother), it's your fault we didn't know about Andrew. I told you that (laughs). But going back to Andrew, it's my fault we didn't sign him the first time around ... But it's all right, we got him back. But with Armon and Vidal (former Bengals WR Vidal Hazelton) both, after they went undrafted, we tried to sign them both as college free agents. We felt like with where we were receiver-wise a year ago, that they both would have opportunities to possibly make the 53-man roster, and that they'd certainly would be practice squad prospects. We felt very good about both players. We try to always to a hard look at the UC (University of Cincinnati) kids. The coaches were recommending them very, very strong, and they were frankly very surprised that they went undrafted – that Armon was. So we certainly want to have a great relationship with the in-state schools. We had it with Coach Tressel (former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel) up there, and I'm sure they had it with Coach Cooper (former Ohio State head coach John Cooper) before me. And we certainly have it with Urban (current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer) up at Ohio State. And with all the other schools; we love to have a great relationship with all the in-state schools."
A big part of what Jacksonville's defense does it limiting the big plays, but your offense thus far has thrived on making big plays:
ML: "It's part of Andy Dalton's deal. I thought one of his best completions of the game last week was to (Jermaine) Gresham on third-and-15 that got us in position to kick the field goal. Instead of pushing the ball in there on third-and-15, we had a 12-yard gain that gave us a fourth-and-three situation where I have the option to tell Jay either, 'Let's go for it,' or, 'We're going to kick the field goal,' and we kicked the field goal.
"But those are the things that, throughout the course of the game, our quarterback really did a good job of. He did it down in the red zone prior to the fake field goal. A lot of those things where you don't throw the football into the teeth of the defense, instead you throw into the weakness of the defense and let our guys make a guy miss. You know what, Andrew Hawkins ran for a first down in the same situation. And we did it a week ago against Cleveland. Those things can happen. Our guys in the offense are understanding where they need to be at those spots, so they can receive those ball and make the catch-and-run."
ANDY DALTON (with Cincinnati media)
Why don't we see more of gadget plays in the NFL?
AD: "I don't know. I think teams are trying to find ways to get an advantage on the defense, and for us we felt like the plays we ran last week we had the advantage. So, I don't know why."
As you watch other NFL games as a fan, is it more fun to watch the trick/gadget plays than "traditional" plays an offense runs?
AD: "I think it's fun if it works. That's what's most important – if you are going to do it, you need it to be successful. That's basically what it comes down to. Yeah, I'm sure as a fan it's kind of fun to see if the team you follow is doing some different things, but they have to work for it to be fun."
When it comes to planning the use of those plays, does it come down to what defense you are facing, rather than a "let's see if this flies" approach?
AD: "Yeah. Last week we felt we were going to get the looks that we got. We did, it worked. This week we couldn't do anything. You never know. For us, it's just trying to find that advantage."
Does that give you the confidence to maybe roll the dice more often when it does work?
AD: "I think so. If you are running plays like that and they work, you want to do a little bit more of it. So, the more they work, hopefully they keep working."
How much contact do you have on Tuesdays, your off day, with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, when he is putting together the gameplan?
AD: "We definitely come in on the off day – the quarterbacks do. We watch film, we go over the different looks we think we are going to get and go back and talk to the coaches about whatever it is, maybe a look or something we are putting in. Stuff like that. There's a lot of talk and conversation about what is going on."
Can you put your finger on why exactly the passing game is working so well?
AD: "We've got a lot of reliable guys, like I've said from the beginning. Guys that are always going to be in the right spot. Not only that, but they are talented guys. Everyone knows what A.J. (Green) did going into this year. It's those other guys going in and making plays. Somebody told me a stat, that five different guys have touchdown catches. That's huge. It's not one guy making plays for us."
Even if the gadget plays hadn't worked, would it still give you an advantage in the future because it would give defensive coordinators more to worry about?
AD: "With us doing that, people are going to have to look out for it. There is that aspect of it, too."
You have some pretty impressive stats so far this season. When looking at a stat sheet, what stat jumps out at you the most?
AD: "Wins. That's what's most important."
What about specific quarterback stats?
AD: "Completion percentage, just being efficient. That's what it comes down to. If the downfield throw is not there, being able to check it down and not having to throw the ball away. Things like that. That is the biggest thing with a quarterback, being efficient."
Do you feel that, in a lot of your games this season, you may have to get in an offensive "shootout" in order to win?
AD: "For us, we trust the defense. We know they are going to pick things up. We can't worry about that. If it comes down to the end and we need to score, we need to score. We've got the offense that can do that. I think we've shown that we can put points on the board. Now it is coming in every drive and knowing we are going to go down and score. That is your goal anyway, to go down and get points."
Was it at all interesting to you that Washington thought they could cover A.J. Green man-to-man with one corner?
AD: "They did give us a lot of single-high coverage and had him one-on-one. When we see that, we definitely look at him, we give him chances. He had a big day. That's what happens when you go one-on-one with him. He's such a talented guy."
How often do you see that?
AD: "We see it some. With some teams, it's just the style of their defense or the way they play different formations, or things like that. He does get singled up sometimes. When you get those opportunities, you go to hit them."
What do you expect to see coverage-wise this Sunday against Jacksonville?
AD: "They play a lot of two-high stuff. They make you move the ball down the field. They make you have long drives. They try not to have the big play. So, there is different philosophy on defense, and now we have to go out there, like I said, and be efficient. Especially in a week like this. We have to keep the drive going, we have to keep the ball moving."
How much has Armon Binns developed over the last year?
AD: "The biggest thing you see is that he's got a lot of confidence now. Being cut by Jacksonville last year, then being on our practice squad then coming up the last couple games, no one really knew much about him. The way he's come up and played, he's done everything right, and now he's playing with confidence. It's fun to see."
Why are your fourth-quarter stats as good as they are?
AD: "It's 'crunch time.' You've got to be good and find ways to score and keep drives going, whether it be toward the end of the game or the four-minute drill, going to down to score to win the game. Just getting in the groove throughout the game. Hopefully it stays that way."
Sometimes young quarterbacks can't forget about a pick-six or other bad plays. How have you been able to overcome things like that?
AD: "It's how you have to be at quarterback. You can't worry about what's happened before. You've got to worry about what's ahead. I feel like I've done a good job of that and being in the huddle making sure guys understand that."
The controversy over the replacement officials has exploded over the last few days. Do you talk about it much with other players? Does it have any effect or change mechanics of the game?
AD: "We can't control that. The refs that we are having to play with now, both teams are having to go through it. It's not our focus, obviously we'd like something to get done, but you can't worry about it."
Do you guys do anything different in practice to prepare for the officiating? For instance, do the coaches let a lot of interference calls go?
AD: "I don't think there is anything really different that goes on, other than a coach saying something like, 'Hey, this might be holding,' or letting guys know. But nothing really."
JAGUARS COACH MIKE MULARKEY (with Cincinnati media)
Thoughts on how you played against Indy?
MM: "We were sporadic. We had our moments. I thought we started fast and then we just haven't been playing consistent and we got down because of it. I was pleased because our first two losses were different emotional letdowns. In Minnesota the last-second loss an then Houston not playing well and get beat pretty soundly. Now at Indy you are sitting down 14-3 and it would have been easy for some teams throw in the towel, and I've been on some of those teams. This was not the case here. These guys responded and needed the plays they needed to make."
How's Blaine Gabbert doing?
MM: "Obviously getting those 14 starts under his belt (last season) helped immensely. He was kind of thrown into the fire with no offseason program and not a lot of snaps during training camp because he wasn't the starter. Big learning curve the first year. We brought in Greg Olson, who has coached a lot of good quarterbacks. We worked on his fundamentals and technique that has helped him see the field better. His balance has become better and some of the things we are doing schematically are helping him trust the protection better. We tried to upgrade the receiver position to help him out."
Maurice Jones-Drew coming back was pretty huge:
MM: "He came in, and it was evident he had been working. It's hard to work like it is in a game situation. It's hard to simulate the three hours of a game. He has come back and gotten stronger. Last week it looked like the old Maurice Jones-Drew back there. An explosive runner and a good power back who is hard to tackle."
So with Bob Bratkowski there, how much of it is his scheme, your scheme, a mixture?
MM: "It's more of what we were doing in Atlanta with a mixture of Bob and Greg Olson, and Jerry Sullivan is a former offensive coordinator. We have a mix of offenses in there and the whole thing is to fit all that we know into our players' abilities. It's still early. We're three games into a new offense. We're taking steps forward. I'm seeing it but we're not taking steps forward consistently."
What is it liked working with Bob this time?
MM: "Bob and I remained close after he left Pittsburgh and have remained best of friends. I think we think a lot a like and outside the box a lot. It's a good relationship. He's done a good job coming in and working with more of a foreign offense than he's been used to, but I think he's done a good job."
How's your offensive line, since you were down two starters last week?
MM: "We've had a couple starters out since we've been here, to be honest with you. We're hoping to get a couple back this week, but we'll know by week's end how it will unfold. We haven't had the same lineup consistently for more than a week. It's tough in this business to start to put something together, and hopefully it will come together this week."
MM: "There's no excuses. We've had a couple injuries there too, but we need guys to step up. Those guys stepping in (two corners, two linebackers, two ends down), when those guys go in, your special teams are impacted. I'm pleased with how they have played, love the effort. It will be good when we get our starters back. For what we are asking our guys to do because they have been limited because of injuries. they have held their own. We did a better job against the run."
Comparing Blaine Gabbert to the other members of the 2011 rookie QB class:
MM: "I looked at Blaine pretty intensely when I interviewed for the job. I knew it would be a big topic. I knew the criticism that was taking place here. Now that I've been around him and have seen things on tape, I can say its unfortunate he received the brunt of the blame. I'm very impressed with (Andy) Dalton. He doesn't look like a young player. Very similar to Luck last week in the control they have on the field and the decisions they are making."
Surprised with 10 QB starters in the league in first or second year?
MM: "I am, definitely, but the college world now has brought out a lot of the passers. You're getting a good look at what they can do collegiately. I'm not surprised with how successful they have been because of the experience they are getting in college."
Assess the Bengals:
MM: "I see a good team coming in here. All three phases. They're scoring a lot of points on offense. I don't let the statistics on defense stand for how they are doing. I know Mike (Zimmer) and what they're capable of. It's a good team coming in. The returners on special teams are a threat. We have our hands full."
Pretty deep with their four receivers:
MM: "It's difficult. We're hoping to get that point where you can put four on the field and have a tough time defending them. You have to cover the field for awhile with the deep throws. They are blocking it up and making explosive plays."
How are Shorts and Blackmon coming along?
MM: "They're coming along. Cecil has made some big plays for us and is going to see more action. Blackmon is pressing a little bit and he has to be patient. He is seeing a different speed. Playing with the preseason starters is different than the regular season starters. Of the game, coverage, everything. He has gotten better each week."
Anything you brought into this job compared to the first time around?
MM: "I was not going to take the job if I went through some of the things I did earlier. I recognized those things. There are a lot of things that come through your desk when you are a rookie head coach and you're not ready for them. Now you can anticipate the decisions. There are some things I did that I could have approached better. The staff has been amazing here. Keeping Mel Tucker and bringing Brat on board. That's made a difference."
JAGUARS QUARTERBACK BLAINE GABBERT (with Cincinnati media)
Big win last week against Indy?
BG: "It was a good, hard-fought win. We had to fight through a lot of adversity. It wasn't the prettiest win. We had to correct some mistakes but we got the win."
Pretty young receivers in Shorts, Blackmon, Robinson and Co. How are they coming along?
BG: "It's going great. We have a young team, but the more experience we get it is trending upward."
Must be huge having Maurice Jones-Drew back:
BG: "He's such a valuable asset with what he can do with the football. He's been around the league for a long time and has had a lot of production."
How much more comfortable are you in Year 2?
BG: "A lot. The experience of starting 14 games and getting a full offseason of work under my belt has helped."
Seemed like in last year's game against the Bengals, you hit your stride:
BG: "The more reps you get in an offense the more comfortable you will be. We're striving to be more consistent."
Working with new offensive staff. Biggest transition?
BG: "We've picked it up extremely quick. It's been fun working with those guys."
Biggest advantage with Bob Bratkowski?
BG: "Just getting comfortable with the offense. We had the whole offseason program to know it and know all the nuances. When you have to go out and execute, you're not be surprised by it."
Biggest thing you learned last year:
BG: "It is a week-to-week league. You have to play your 'A' game every week no matter who the opponent is."
On Andy Dalton:
BG: "We followed each other throughout the draft. It's fun to keep up with the guys. He's had a lot of success and played great football."
You, Cam and Andy all started a lot of games last year:
BG: "Seeing the young guys come in and start early on, it has benefitted us with the experience."
What have you seen out of the Bengals defense?
BG: "Their core group is back. Their front four can get after the passer, the linebackers can stuff the run. Their secondary is so experienced that they are playing at a high level."
Atmosphere with new owner:
BG: "It's a new start and it has been extremely positive. We have to keep getting better."