September 22, 2022
On how he has continued some of the things he did last year on offense to keep Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown involved: “I would just say just from my personal history, I’ve had – I’ve been around a lot of really good coaches that have highlighted that slot receiver position. Dating back to Miami, we drafted (Saints WR) Jarvis Landry and he ended up – I want to say his first four years in the League, he ended up leading the League in receptions. Like it was historical how many catches he caught his first four years in the NFL. So, that position in particular is one that I’ve fond of just because there – you can be creative in the ways that you get them the ball. I think it’s really hard to eliminate a slot receiver from a game plan. And then, when you have a guy as talented as Saint it really opens a lot of windows and opportunities for directions we can go. So, it’s really a testament to him because he’s such a smart player that we can put him in – experiment with things that he’s never tried before necessarily and yet he can still apply it on first try. So, it’s pretty cool to see.”
On if he watched any tape of Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown coming out of college: “Honestly, my first tape of him was after we drafted him. I turned him on – his USC film and I turned them on and if I remember correctly he was playing a little bit more outside for them. And so, it was a little bit hard or of a projection to see what type of slot player he’s become or he would become. But he’s certainly has taken off since – the strides he’s made since his rookie year spring to even training camp his rookie year to where he’s at now. I mean, it’s a lot of growth.”
On the blocks that he has seen from Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown: “Yeah, I think it starts with (Lions Wide Receivers) Coach (Antwaan Randle) El, honestly because that’s who he was as player and he takes that seriously for his room. And those guys, they champion the flag for it. I go back even this year, they’re all – all of them, (Lions WR) DJ (Chark), (Lions WR) Josh (Reynolds), Saint of course. (Lions WR Kalif Raymond) Leaf showed up last year a ton, he showed up this year already digging guys out. But I go back to the preseason and that Pittsburgh game didn’t start – didn’t go the way our starters wanted to go and it was about 10 plays in, Saint is fed up with it and he ends up taking the nickel and just pancakes him because he wants to positively impact the game. And so, these wideouts whether they’re catching the ball or they’re blocking, they just want to help out their team and it’s been fun. I don’t think I’ve been around a more selfless group from that prospective.”
On eliminating the slot threat from the wide receiver position: “I don’t know, you would have to talk to a defensive coach about that. But I think primarily it’s more third down that they’re looking to maybe take that position out. But first and second down I feel like they kind of – they’re more worried about the run maybe or something of that nature.”
On when he had the confidence that he knew he could call the plays for the offense: “I mean, I think – shoot probably, everybody that’s played quarterback at some level probably thinks that they could at some point call plays. I honestly – I talked to (Lions QB) Tim Boyle right now and I think whenever he decides to hang the cleats up, he’s going to become a coach. (Vikings QB) David Blough was the same way when he was here. Those guys – you can already see that they want to be potential play-callers down the road. So, for me it was always something in the back of my head, I’d love the opportunity to do. I don’t know, per se, that there’s anything that makes me any more special than any other coordinator out there or play-caller out there, honestly. It’s just – right now I’m blessed to be surrounded by some really good coaches and some really good players. So, that helps us have success on offense.”
On if the offense has exceeded his expectations in the past two games: “Not really, no. If anything – if anything the first two weeks have shown us how far we have left to go. But we’re not – I don’t think anybody right now in that room is necessarily happy or pleased with what we’ve put on tape so far. There’s certainly been some encouraging things, but there are – we’re not hitting our stride, we’re not clicking on all cylinders, whatever cliché you want to use. But these – I think these guys all understand that we’ve got some big grass to go here before we’re really where we need to be.”
On being the number two offense in the NFL so far this season: “It’s two weeks in. I mean, it’s – we come back after a game we don’t score, you guys are all turning on us. I mean, that’s the nature of the beast. It’s not you guys, but you know fans and everything. So, we’ve scored some points here the first two weeks, we need to continue to do that and continue to attack defenses. And these guys they’re bought in, they’re believing in what we’re doing, we’ve just got to continue to improve every week.”
On if there is anything Vikings QB David Blough can give away about what the Lions can do offensively: “We’re like every other team in this League. Everyone steals plays from each other, so I don’t think anything we’re doing is necessarily revolutionary. There are some things David might know situationally about us that – well we also know what he knows. So, we are calculated in how we respond to that. But yeah, I mean there are a couple things that we’ll address. Other than that though, like once again they – we’re not going to overthink things from that regard.”
On finishing plays and if that is an area of focus for them going into the game against the Vikings: “Yeah, I think every week – every team in this League’s good and the first thing I said to those guys on Monday was it’s hard to win. It’s hard to win this League point-blank, it doesn’t matter who you are. So, never apologize for that, but when we’re not hitting our expectations or our standards, we have to be accountable to that as coaches and as players. So yeah, we had opportunities – shoot I’ll just highlight the two-minute before half. We ended up with two drops and a missed deep ball. Yeah, that’s very disappointing because regardless of the score those are plays we can and should make.”
On what the team is doing to enable productivity in rushing yards before contact: “We have really good linemen. That certainly helps. We have a really good offensive line coach. I think our backs, our receivers, our tight ends, they all are on the same page with how we want to attack a defense. So I think it’s a combination of all that right now. I think at some point, at some point our passing game needs to catch up to where our running game is at, so that we have a good complement to it.”
On if he sees the Vikings defense and how they perform against it as a measuring stick: “Yeah, I see it less about points. I see it more about, how do we handle a challenging environment? We have not – we haven’t had this yet this season, go in to a loud, indoor stadium. We’re going to have some adversity. I have no doubt our guys will fight through any adversity that we see, but at the same time, this is going to be a big communication game for us. We all have to be on the same page if we want to see success on the field, so I think less so for points and anything – we need to see these guys come together, rally behind each other. Don’t go too low when we hit some valleys, don’t go too high when we do some good things, and just stay steady and take it as it comes.”
On if the nickel personnel and the Cover 2 defense is emblematic of Vikings Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell’s defense: “No, I think it really stems back to the whole (former Broncos Coach Vic) Fangio tree, which I would say Donatell comes from. They spent a significant time together, and they all want to start in shell defense, and whether they rotate down or not, remains to be seen post-snap. But I do think that’s a philosophy that he adheres by. Will we see more single-high this week? We’ll see. It’s only two weeks in, so what they’ve put on tape so far the first two weeks, we may not see, because I mean, Green Bay and Philadelphia’s offenses are completely different than ours. So, we’re aware of that, but obviously we look at everything from his career as we’re developing the plan.”
On the recurring drop issue so far in the season and how he can address it: “Yeah, we don’t – we talk about the fundamentals constantly. That was really our big emphasis in the springtime, whether it’s blocking, whether it’s run after catch, whether it’s catching the football. Simple things that you would think are elementary that are really, really important for us. And that’s the one area right now that we’ve fallen on a little bit short. And having coached receivers, I don’t know that the answer is necessarily to highlight it and make it bigger than – all these guys want to catch the ball, right? And I think it’s for different reasons. To me, it always going back to where your eyes – you catch the balls with your eyes before you do it with your hands, so it’s something we talk about. I’ve just encouraged them, ‘Hey, everyone needs to be catching 50 more balls a day, whether it’s on the jugs, from the quarterbacks, from your position coach. Let’s just continue to work through it.’ I think it’ll come around. It normally works the kinks out as we go in. It generally hasn’t been a problem in my career.”
On if it is normal for the passing game to lag behind the run game: “I would just say right now, we’re just lacking in some details, whether it’s a particular split, particular depth. I’ve got to look at myself. Are we teaching it right as coaches right now? Is it too much volume? Like those are things that we’re kind of addressing to see how we can make sure we’re accelerating the process, but the good news is like last week, we were better in the passing game than we were in the first week, and we’re looking to make another step here this week.”
On three-and-outs being an issue and what attributes to the offense going three-and-out frequently: “No doubt. I think it’s a huge issue, and I would say just when you look at the big picture of the game, that first game, the way our three-and-outs came about back-to-back-to-back, that did no favors to our defense and really put us in a hole early. This last game they were kind of staggered more about the halftime area, and so at least our defense didn’t feel the effects of the momentum quite as much and having to be on the field and get drowned out. But it’s certainly – the onus for me at least is those first-and-10 calls, those drive-starter calls, those need to be efficient plays for us. Whatever direction we go, run, pass, we need efficient plays. As long as we get the first first down, we feel really good about our chances of going down the field. But you’re right, that’s been our Achilles heel so far is just being able to get that first first down within a series.”
On what jumps out about the Vikings defense: “Yeah, I think on the backend, they’re similar, not the same, but they are similar. What stuck out to me the first two games was (Vikings OLB Za’Darius Smith) 55 and (Vikings OLB Danielle Hunter) 99, those two edge guys, and their ability to wreak havoc all across the field, whether it’s on the edge but also on the interior. They’ll come inside over the center and guards on third down, and it’s a major issue. Those guys are game changers, and we’ve got to account for them.” 

September 22, 2022
Opening Statement: “As we all know, this Minnesota week, this is a pretty tough challenge because of the skill players they have, because of this coach, his background. I actually know him fairly well because we coached together in Cleveland. So, I know exactly what he’s about and as a man, and as a coach. So, we have our – we have a huge challenge, especially going against this receiving crew, this running back or set of running backs and the things this quarterback has accomplished throughout his career. So, but I will say is that we’re looking forward to the challenge. We are because this is a measuring stick for us again, against a good offense. So, our guys will be ready to play.”
On what makes the Vikings’ offense different from the other offenses they have faced so far: “Well, when it comes to knowing these guys, we know their faces. We know who they are as athletes. But the sample size as far as (Vikings Head) Coach (Kevin) O’Connell’s offense there’s not a large sample size. The one thing I do know is we have to take what they’ve done these first two weeks, and then probably take a look at what he’s done when he was a coordinator in Washington to see how some of those things match up or marry up. And man, try to do the best we can just having a good sound gameplan and be able to adjust off of that to see exactly what he’s trying to do. But obviously you’re going to see some of the Rams stuff, right? But I think he has his own identity on who he wants to be because you see some two-back offense with some really good players that he’s utilizing.”
On what the Eagles did well against Vikings WR Justin Jefferson and how they game plan for the Vikings’ wide receivers: “Well, obviously we all know the Eagles have some really good players just like most every team in this League. They have guys play over top of them, so they didn’t want to get beat deep and they just played hard, man. They have a really good defense and they do things the right way, the way defense should be played. And I’ll look at every team’s defense and see how they operate and like any coach I think we’ll look and see if you can pick up tips of what they’ve done. But we’ll have our own plan, that we feel they’ll go out there and be successful against them, and that’s what we’re going to use.”
On the challenges that Vikings WR Justin Jefferson presents: “There’s no doubt he’s one of the top five in this League and he’s steady – steady rising. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, he’s competitive, highly competitive. They put him in a lot of different positions, right, where they can give him the ball which I think is a credit to that staff. I mean, I think they really complement, as far as their running back and (Vikings WR Adam) Thielen, all the other guys they have. I think they really complement each other and I think he utilizes those guys the right way to make sure that, ‘If you focus on this guy, man, we have other guys that can hurt you.’ So, when we do have Jefferson locked up, man, we’ve got to make sure that we’re good with the other guys also because they can hurt you.”
On how the defense played in the first half of the Commanders game: “Man, I’ll tell you that was a fun, fun way to play defense because that’s a vision of who we want to be and that’s something we’ve worked on since the offseason. And we’re steady working to that, especially when you start to integrate new players like we have over the past – these past two years. So, we’ve just got to continue going, we’ve got to continue building, we’ve got to continue improving and I think our head coach said it best, man, we’re on a race to improve. And we have so many young players, that’s a really – that’s a true statement. That’s a true statement, so our guys understand that, they have fun playing, but they know that we’ve got to continue to improve and get better as we go along because that was fun football.”
On the challenges as a defensive play-caller as they game plan for the Vikings offense: “To make sure that you don’t create a bad matchup. That’s the tough thing about that. So, you have to make sure you create a defense to where you try to put skill-on-skill. You have to create a defense to where you dove them at some point. You want to try to create a defense to where you make sure you take care of the running back, alright because you don’t want to just continue to have two guys on them because that creates an extra space, or an extra gap for the running back to be able to get free. So, man it’s a tough challenge, but within this League and our guys know, and I talk about it all the time, man, you’ve got to get ready to hone up when your number’s called. When you’re in a one-on-one situation you have to win. I mean, that’s what this game is all about. You hear offenses talk about it all the time, it’s a matchup League. Well, for defense it’s a matchup League too, and I’ve said that before. So, when your number’s called to win your battle because we have to take care of something else, man, you have to win your battle. And that’s what we look at every week.”
On how big of a loss Lions DL John Cominsky is to the defense: “Anytime we lose a guy on our defense, man, is a huge loss because I count on those guys each week because there’s a specific plan for every guy that we have. But we do know this and I know this is a cliché that this is a next-man-up League, but it’s a true statement, though. So, we’ll miss Commish, talked to him last night for a little bit and he’s chomping at the bit to get back. But I’ll tell you what that gives an opportunity for somebody else on our defense to go out there and play. So, those guys are looking forward to it. (Lions DL Austin Bryant) AB, (Lions LB Julian Okwara) JO, all those guys are looking forward to go out there playing.”
On how much Lions CB Jeff Okudah has grown as a player since his rookie year to this season: “Well, I didn’t have him as a rookie. But I will say this, just looking at him from training camp last year going to this year, his habits as far as becoming a pro has really improved. And that’ll be for any young player and they have to improve because you just don’t know until you get into the League. And then you start to learn up other people, then you start having coaches start to teach you. So, obviously that’s going to happen, but to the magnitude as far as – man, he’s diving into it everyday as hard as he can. You see those things starting to help him and he’s starting to really lean on (Lions CB) Amani (Oruwariye) that’s been around for a – lean on me, (Lions Defensive Backs/Pass Game Coordinator Aubrey Pleasant) AP, (Lions Safeties Coach) Brian Duker as far as tips. And the thing that’s good is he’s trusting those tips and he’s putting them to work. That’s the thing about watching film. You can watch film all you want, but do you trust what you see? And that’s the one thing that he’s doing a good job of.”
On what he learned about what the defense needs to do better after giving up points in the second half against the Commanders: “You know what, I critique myself all the time, every game. And I think you guys know me as – for the past two years, man, I just – I like to go after people and that’s just who I am and I don’t know if that’s changing anytime soon. But you have to be calculated when you do that and you have to be able to study film and try to get into the offensive coordinator’s mind and see what he’s thinking. And then also, you just know that those guys have good players and they’re going to make plays too. So, the one thing that I can’t – I’ve got to make sure I continue to do is be myself, and just be AG no matter what the situation is. And no matter what happens, man, you just let the chips fall. And I’m not saying that’s anything different because in the second half, I mean we pressured too, it’s just the fact that those guys made plays. That’s how this League is. So, and it goes back to matchups. First half our guys made more plays than they made, second half those guys made just a couple more plays than we made, but at the end of the day we ended up winning it. So, that’s all that matters.”
On how the defense has measured up this season and how they will measure up against the Vikings: “I think we’ve done some stuff really, really well. Obviously, there’s some things that we’ve got to work on. I’ll tell you what, you look at our young guys and you look at them from game one to game two, you see growth there. You look at some of the guys that I’ve spoke before in OTAs that we count on from game one to game two, you see growth there. So, it kind of marries up to what our head coach expects is a race to improve. So, if we’re measuring it off that, I think those guys have done a pretty good job. Now, the points we’ve given up, I did a study on that actually yesterday, man, one-yard line, two-yard line, but you’re hard to stop in those situations. But we’ve got to stop them, we have to stop them. Actually, I talked to our guys about that this morning, but I do think our guys are doing a pretty good job. We have a ways to go, we have a ways to go, and we will get there. But I think this defense is going to be a pretty damn good defense as we’re going through this year.”
On what he learned from the film study he did yesterday: “Man, this League you have to – before you know how to win you, have to understand how not to lose and understand how to put yourself in positions to try to win games. And there’s a – I don’t want to say a secret, but there’s things in there that sometimes as a player you’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know we were doing that.’ Then it clicks, so you have to continue to evaluate that and continue to show the players that and sometimes those things hurt. But that’s the only way you’re going to get growth is being uncomfortable, so you can’t get comfortable.”
On what it means to have Lions LB Julian Okwara back on the field: “Well, JO is a fast ball for us, especially off the edge. So, we try to utilize him in those situations as much as we can. Obviously, last year he had one of his – if not his best year. We’re looking for him to actually have a better year this year because we know what he can do now. So, it’s just to us as coaches to make sure we continue to put him in a situation where he can be successful. So, it’s good to have him back, he still – he’s still improving. He’s still coming off that injury. It usually takes a while when you come off a hamstring. So, really looking forward to see how he’s going to operate this week going into the year. So, but I think that guy’s going to have a good year.”
On what Lions DL Benito Jones and Lions DL Isaiah Buggs add to the defensive line: “You just said it, girth. I’ll tell you what those – it was a joy to watch those two guys play in this game because I’ll tell you what when you have guys like that, that can take three or four gaps it’s pretty huge for your defense. And I will tell you they’re un-sung heroes because for (Lions DL) Aidan (Hutchinson) and (Lions DL) Charles (Harris) to get what they got, they couldn’t have gotten them without those guys in the middle. So, you guys give those guys some love. Now, you don’t write about them enough.” 

September 22, 2022
On his evaluation of Lions S JuJu Hughes and his contributions to special teams: “Yeah, that was awesome. JuJu did a great job in the last game. He had like four tackles or is a part of like four of those kickoffs, which was big. I think some of it, they kind of had miscounted him, probably a little bit maybe some of that due to what his role was in the previous games, and then his role changed a little bit on that unit and his job description on those plays, and they might have mishandled it, but at the end of the day, gosh, he ran down there and did a great job in coverage, so that was exciting to see.”
On why Lions S JuJu Hughes had his role change on special teams: “It just was guys who had active, inactive. Obviously, (Lions CB) Chase Lucas was up, and so we moved him on that unit and played him at a different spot. We played him more of a spot where JuJu was playing before, and so I mean it was kind of more personnel-driven. It wasn’t – yeah.”
On offense, defense and special teams playing complementary football on the safety into a 50-yard return by Lions WR Kalif Raymond sequence: “Yeah, I would definitely say that. I would say, you guys asked about starting across the 50-yard line the week before. I mean that’s how it works. The defense did a great job, the offense moved the ball all the way down the field. They didn’t put it in, but they – whatever stalled out on the three, and then the defense went in there and gets the safety, and then they’re now punting to us. They can’t kick it out of the back of the endzone, they’ve got to punt it to us. Kalif’s back there. Those guys did a great job blocking. He did a great job returning it, and then all of a sudden, you’re past the 50-yard line, you create field position, and then the offense goes back and scores. But yeah, I would say that’s definitely complementary football. It was nice.”
On how unique the safety-punt plays are and how they prepare for a rare scenario: “Yeah, so those plays are – we call them situational plays, but they’re plays that – they’re really not a big deal until they’re a big deal. And you don’t spend as much time working on them as some of the other plays, but when they come up, they’re really critical in a game. I felt like our guys went out there and did a great job of their execution. I mean the blockers, the returners, the whole thing went kind of how we planned it really, but it doesn’t always go that way. On the flip side, they were covering the thing and it didn’t work out for them like they wanted it to. So there are big plays in the course of a game, when they come up, you’ve got to be able to execute them. We hit on a lot of those every single week, but those guys did a good job.”
On what the logistics of preparing for a good special teams unit looks like: “Yeah, I would say – I mean this week we’re going up against a good unit, so it’s a good time to ask the question. They’ve got a couple of good returners back there, very explosive players. They’ve got a bunch of really good core players, but I would say I don’t know, when it comes to the scheme and all that, I would say, it really comes down to who they have and who you have. And you’re trying to put your guys in a situation where they can – it’s most advantageous for – I think schematically, in doing that, sometimes you need to be simple enough that you can move your guys around. You can get them in the right matchups, so I think the game is really a matchup game I would say at the end of the day. And you have to have enough plays in there that you can take advantage of the situation, but you also have to have the right players going against the right players, match up well. So, it’s just an ever-evolving – this guy’s really good at this but not good at that. Let’s make sure we get him in this situation, the other guy in that situation, then how can we do that against this team with what they do?”

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