Miami Dolphins Transcripts – September 22 – Coordinators, Select Position Coaches, CB Xavien Howard and WR Jaylen Waddle

CB Xavien Howard

(Are you ready to go for Sunday?) – “Yeah, I feel good.”

(Talk about this matchup on Sunday. You’re facing a quarterback who can run and throw. The first two games, that’s what the Bills have done.) – “Yeah, that’s definitely what they’ve done. They’ve put a lot of great things on film. I feel like they are pretty good over there. They are doing a lot of great things over there. We’ve just got to be prepared for it.”

(How is the defense feeling after – obviously you don’t want to give up 35 points in the first three quarters of last game but the way you guys locked Baltimore down, what’s the mindset going into this week?) – “Personally, I feel like the defense (didn’t) play to our expectations. Even when it was crunch time, we ended up getting it done. I feel like as a whole, the whole defense, I feel like we can do a little better. I feel like we’re going to have to play better and we’re going to have to make more plays on that side of the ball this game.”

(You’ve often shadowed the best receivers on other teams. You shadowed WR DeVante Parker. What is that like? You’re going one-on-one against the number one receiver. Tell me about it.) – “I’m used to it. I like the matchup. I want to go against the best, if I consider myself the best. I like the one-on-one matchups, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

(Is there much talk?) – “No. I don’t feel like nobody talks when we play against each other, because I don’t say anything to anybody.”

(Cornerbacks/Pass Game Specialist Sam Madison said that he got on you for dropping that pick-six. What happened there?) – “I don’t know. You’re not going to see that again. I’m definitely going to make up for that. Especially an easy interception like that, you’ve got to take advantage of that. It would’ve been a momentum changer if I was able to make that play and scored a touchdown.”

(Is that something you were eyeing? It seemed early on that were trying to get those quick hitting passes. Is that something that was in the back of your mind to jump one of those?) – “Yeah. The defense we were in, it was forcing them to make the short throws like that. I saw it and went and my hands, I don’t know what happened to them. (laughter) I’ve got to make up for that.”

(You mentioned covering the number one receiver and embracing that challenge. WR Stefon Diggs, what makes him so difficult to guard, and their receivers in general?) – “I’d say his route-running, hands, especially the quarterback holding the ball so long extending plays and making it a hard job. Like I said, I embrace the matchups and I’m ready for it.”

(It’s a divisional game. The cliché is it counts for two.) – “It’s the next game too. Each game gets bigger if you continue to win. Each game gets bigger. I’d say we’re ready for the matchup.”

(With you being one of the veterans, and you guys haven’t been able to get over the hump. How much of that is a factor into this game with both of you guys being 2-0?) – “I feel like the best people win. I really don’t look into it like that. It’s the next game and the next game is important. I feel like we just have to worry about that. Even though it’s an divisional rivalry, we got to be ready for it. Especially when you play in the division, everybody is going to bring their best. We got to be ready to that.”

WR Jaylen Waddle

(On the hype of this game) – “I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s hype or anything. It’s a divisional game against a good opponent, a real dominant opponent, so we just kind of look at it as another game. Of course, it’s going to be a little more at stake playing a team like Buffalo, but we kind of look at it as the next game.”

(You were obviously really, really good as a rookie. This year, I know it’s a small sample size, but you’re looking like a Pro Bowl receiver. Has WR Tyreek Hill challenged you as a friend in a good way to even be better than you were last year?) – “I think just having a guy like that, playing alongside him, you just have to up your game. Just seeing him go out there and make plays, how he approaches the game, you don’t have a choice but to improve.”

(Now that you’ve been able to play a couple games alongside him, how have you guys been able to complement each other, him opening things up for you and vice versa?) – “You have to respect ‘Cheetah’ (Tyreek Hill). When someone like that is as dominant as him on the field, the defense has to respect him. He opens up a lot, not just for me, but for other guys, tight ends, run game. You just always have to be accountable for a guy like that.”

(What’s been your impression of FB Alec Ingold over these last two months getting to know him and getting to learn about him and his game? You’re in open field and you see him blocking for you, you know that one’s going to get blocked.) – “Man, Alec (Ingold) is a dawg. I’m talking about he really loves the challenge of him going against someone and blocking him. He just goes about it each and every day like a real pro. I love playing with Alec.”

(You played against the Bills twice. A couple of the guys on this team have seen them a couple more times and it hasn’t gone your way. I guess what are some things that the team feels about going up against this team?) – “We’re going to go out there to compete and play our game. (We’ll just) go out there and handle business. We’re not looking at it like anything more than that.”

Offensive Line Coach Matt Applebaum

(I want to get your impression on T Greg Little’s first start for the team here?) – “Yes, he did really well in there. I was proud of him. I think it’s been a little while since he played and he had a great week of preparation. He went out there against some good players and performed pretty well, so I was really happy for him. I think he was really proud of himself after the game. It was a really cool moment.”

(With OL Liam Eichenberg so far, your thoughts on how he’s done? Do you feel like left guard has turned out so far, a small sample size, to be a good spot for him?) – “Yes, I think it’s turned out to be a good spot for him. I think every guy on the field is always striving to be better. Like you said, it’s a small sample size up to this point, but I know he’s working at it. I think he’s done some really good things out there and I know he’ll keep getting better.”

(How much does it help the offensive line to know that you have a fullback who can clear the path as well as FB Alec Ingold can?) – “I think it’s great to have a guy like Alec (Ingold) out there. He’s a tone setter for the whole offense and the whole team. Just his physicality, the multiple ways you can use him – I mean, he had a knock down block on essentially a defensive end on the line of scrimmage early in the game and then you turn around and he’s making a block for 30 yards downfield and springing what could have been a regular pass play to an explosive (play). So I think everyone is excited to have him on the field.”

(Are fullbacks supposed to be that fast to get down there?) – “I don’t know if they’re supposed to be, but I’m happy ours is. (laughter)

(Was there much doubt in your mind last week about T Terron Armstead playing? Obviously, he was listed as questionable. He was sort of non-committal Friday. Or had you known he’d be able to play through the toe?) – “I felt pretty confident that he was going to be able to play. I mean, you’re talking about a pro’s pro – the guy has been doing it a long time, knows his body and knows what he’s got to get out at any given week to be ready to play on Sunday.”

(This fell through the cracks where we didn’t have a chance to ask Head Coach Mike McDaniel yesterday about it, but just bringing in OL Brandon Shell, is that just to have a veteran in the building on the practice squad and see what he still has left in case of break glass if needed?) – “At the end of the day, that’s really a question for the front office and Mike (McDaniel). I just coach the room. But he’s been good so far. I’ve watched his tape from previous years. I think he’s a really good player. He’s a veteran player. He knows how to play and knows his own skill set. We’re getting him in shape right now and what that leads to, we’ll see.”

(If I may go back to T Terron Armstead, on that game-winning drive, we kind of saw him calming the offense down, kind of getting guys in the right rhythm. We know what he does in his position at left tackle, but I was curious if you could speak to the ripple effect that he has in the rest of the room just by everything that he brings to the profession?) – “I think he has a ripple effect on the team. I think it’s been like that since the day he joined the team. I mean, again, (he’s) a pro’s pro, a very smart, articulate man (who) knows not only what he needs to do but what everyone needs to be doing in terms of scheme, technique and just like behavior stuff. So I think there’s a ripple effect on the whole team with Terron. That was – I saw that little clip. I think that was a cool moment, but that’s something that he brings to the table every day.”

(Against New England, T Terron Armstead and a couple of the others talked about communication and identification was a little bit rough in the first half and it got much better in the second half. I’m wondering how it went last week and how long does that generally take?) – “I think it was better last week. Still room for improvement. In terms of a timeline, I think that goes back to answering the question about Liam (Eichenberg). You’re always striving for it to be better. So I mean, you’re always striving for perfection knowing how hard that is to achieve. I don’t have a timeline for you. I think we’re making the right strides. I think we know the things that we need to get better at and the guys are working at it.”

(So if T Terron Armstead is good to go again, what are your thoughts of the matchup with DE Von Miller and DE Greg Rousseau on the other side?) – “I think Buffalo has really good players on defense at multiple positions, and obviously, their defensive ends are really good players. Von (Miller) has been a great player in the league for a long time. So I mean, we know the challenge in front of us. Terron Armstead is a really good player, and he knows not only how he needs to play individually in a game, but also against the different types of opponents he’s going to face. So you know, I always feel good rolling out there with (No.) 72.”

(Just kind of piggybacking off that, that T Terron Armstead versus DE Von Miller battle, we get excited on receivers versus DBs. Do you get excited on a matchup like this where you have one of your guys versus one of theirs?) – “I don’t ever look at like one-on-ones. We have five guys on the field every time. I’m just excited to see our team go out there and play against a really good football team and see how we stack up. So I wouldn’t say that I get particularly excited about one individual matchup like that, plus we’ll see where (No.) 40 (Von Miller) lines up.”

(To add to that point during the game, I’m not sure if you’re on the sideline or in the box.) – “I’m on the sideline.”

(OK, are you like intently watching like just the offensive line? I mean obviously that’s your position group and I guess, during the game, what are you looking at? Or what do you really focus on?) – “I think there’s a whole checklist of things you’re trying to look at, but obviously, the main focus would be on my guys. But you’re surveying a defense, seeing how things could – what tells they’re showing that could potentially lead to things unfolding certain ways and then what that would lead to for our guys in terms of reactionary things. Then we could use some of those tells on the sideline as we’re going through corrections. But I mean, the majority of time that the offense is on the field, yes – my eyes are on my guys.”

(I know you were asked about OL Greg Little. What NFL skill did you see when you looked at his tape that made him a high pick that manifested itself on Sunday?) – “I mean, the guy’s got a lot of physical tools. There’s a reason he was a high pick. I mean, he’s probably 6-6, 325 pounds. He’s got long arms, good feet and can bend. I mean, those guys don’t grow on trees. That’s what everyone saw when he was coming out. In terms of manifesting itself on the game, I think he just was locked in and ready to play, and he went out and executed his job. I’m not going to speak on the things that have happened to him or haven’t happened to him in the past because I had nothing to do with any of that, good or bad. I know that since I’ve been here, Greg (Little) has done everything we’ve asked, and I’m really happy that he’s been able to go out there and perform.”

(On the first touchdown to WR Jaylen Waddle, T Terron Armstead went downfield and made a block. We’ve seen him move – to be honest, I didn’t watch him that much in New Orleans, but his ability to move is a lot more than I think most left tackles. Is it?) – “Yes, I think he ran a 4.6 (40-yard dash) coming out of college, so that’s pretty good. (laughter) Yes, he’s really athletic, quick twitch, fast guy. On the touchdown to (Jaylen) Waddle, Liam (Eichenberg) had a really nice block, too. But yes, it’s rock and roll.”

(Speaking of OL Liam Eichenberg, what kind of growth have you seen him in playing left guard, being able to focus really on one position throughout the offseason and also being able to play next to a guy like T Terron Armstead?) – “I think he’s gotten better throughout the course of the offseason. Each position has its own intricacies. If you haven’t played the position before, it’s going to take some time for you to maybe pick up on some of those things. I think playing next to Terron (Armstead) is an advantage for anybody. Like I said, the guy is a pro’s pro. So he’s going to be someone that’s going to be able to help him see things a certain way and see things how he sees them, so they can work in combination with one another. So I mean, all that stuff’s been good and then honestly, playing next to Connor Williams. I know Connor is playing a new position that he’s played, but the guy’s played in the NFL. He’s played a lot of football in the NFL. So I mean, another guy that maybe isn’t a veteran like Terron who has played 10-plus years, but he’s a guy who’s seen a lot of football and also can be very helpful to the guys next to him.”

(I guess just to quickly follow up on that. Have you noticed T Liam Eichenberg is playing more instinctually than he showed on tape last year when he was kind of bouncing around?) – “It’s honestly hard for me to comment on that because what exactly is being asked of him in previous years, not just like scheme-wise, but then like the little nuances of o-line play. I just don’t think it’s fair to have a comparison like that.”

Corner Backs/Defensive Pass Game Specialist Sam Madison

(It’s one thing for an undrafted rookie like CB Kader Kohou to make the team, but to play as much as he has, what has led to that? What is he done specifically that has impressed you?) – “Mindset. I talk to him all the time. I was like, ‘Man, coming into the league as far as me, like, I didn’t really have many friends in the National Football League. So all my friends were on the Miami Dolphins.’ So same with him. He was like, ‘I don’t know nobody. I have nobody in the league.’ So he takes everything to heart. He takes it seriously. He goes out there and he just works. So it’s just fun to be able to watch the things that he’s been able to do since he’s been here. Just being able to talk through some things with him and then goes out there and applies them. But he’s a hard-nosed, tough little young corner, and we try to get him in when we can.”

(When you guys have CB Xavien Howard shadowing a receiver, what does that do to the corner on the other side?) – “It gives them an opportunity because you know, sometimes when you have a great corner like ‘X’ (Xavien Howard), people tend to shy away from them. Then the ball tends to find the other corner. So quarterbacks, offensive schemes, offensive coaches, they’re going to try to deliver that ball to the opposite side. But whoever’s out there on the field, you’ve just got to be ready to go and when your number’s called, you just got to go out there and make something happen.”

(Speaking of CB Xavien Howard, we don’t see many big plays on him. The one to Rashod Bateman, it seemed like there was some late communication going on there. What happened on that slant?) – “Just talking to ‘X’ (Xavien Howard) about technique. Every single play, every down, throughout the course of practice, when you’re in games, when you’re in film study, just making sure that you’re on point at all times. It’s just some lackadaisical play for his technique. And I’m pretty sure if he had that play back, he’d want to go back and do it again. But watching it, coming to the sideline, being able to break it all down and give him the information so he can go out there. Then after that, he went out there and he was confident and he played extremely well towards the end of the game. So just from playing one all the way to play 67 or 77 or 55, you’ve got to be locked in. After that, he definitely was locked in. So we just want to get him there from the beginning of the game and making sure little things like that don’t creep up during the middle.”

(I know CB Xavien Howard has good playmaking ability. Did you say anything about him missing that pick six?) – “Absolutely. I definitely did. (laughter) He’s definitely trying to reach a goal. And by dropping those, he’s not going to get there as quickly as possible. He was heartbroken. And just being able to watch film over here in the last couple of years, he’s been in those positions before. So throughout the course of the week, we’re always doing ball drills and making sure that everybody is in the right position and being able to get their hands on the ball. So that is one of my things that I really like putting these guys in position of being able to catch on a consistent basis. A wide receiver will catch probably over 100-plus balls a day. As far as defensive backs, we’re doing other things, have to tackle and read concepts and all of those. So trying to get them ball drills almost every day is really important.”

(I know on CB Xavien Howard, he was out with a groin yesterday. Are you worried about the possibility of him not playing on Sunday?) – “I’m not worried. I mean, you look around the league there’s veteran maintenance days all around the league and something new to me. Jimmy (Johnson) was like your veteran day is out here on this field. But just understanding it.  He’s a pro. He’s been through this before and I’m looking forward to him to be 100 percent.  But that’s the trainers. They’ll get him right. Coach (Mike) McDaniel, he’ll do what’s right by the players and making sure that everybody’s available when it comes time for Sunday.”

(Assuming CB Xavien Howard will play, what are your thoughts on the matchup this Sunday?) – “We’re going to see what happens. Coach (Josh) Boyer does a very good job of dissecting what offenses do and where we need him to go. And he’s always up for any matchup. His mindset is right. I think when it all comes down to it, he’s going to go out there and put his best foot forward no matter who he who he’s covering. But the Buffalo Bills have whole lot of wide receivers. A lot of good guys. And then they have a really good quarterback who can deliver the ball, and guys just making plays. So it’s going to be fun to be able to watch these guys go out and play.”

(You mentioned the ball skill drills that you do. We don’t get to see all of practice. Can you give us a little insight on what you work on with the DBs and try to get those ball skills?) – “It’s just understanding and watching film and seeing exactly what types of route and these concepts that they’re running. Then just understanding the breaks that they’ll have to be coming out of, and then delivering balls that you’re pretty much going to see from a quarterback and just try to simulate those throws, and putting those guys in position to utilize their hands, if it’s body catching, big-body wide receivers or tight ends. Just simulating those types of things to try to put them in position to be able to get around those situations, using the bag drills and using other players to make sure that they have opportunity to secure that ball when they have the opportunity to.”

(It looks like you’ve got a good arm.) – “It’s ok. I’m still working on it. (laughter)

Wide Receivers Coach Wes Welker

(How many times has this been for you in terms of Hall of Fame voting?) – “I’m not sure how many times exactly. I know there’s been a few. So I think since I’ve been eligible, I believe so. But it’s definitely an honor just to be in the breath of the Hall of Fame and everything like that. We’ll see what happens but I’m just kind of focusing on Buffalo this week and let everything else kind of take care of itself.”

(Last Sunday was WR River Cracraft’s first touchdown catch. You’ve been with him for a couple of season. What was that moment like for you seeing him have that moment?) – “It’s so cool for River. I’ve been really proud of him and the work that he’s put in. It was funny in the preseason, that was his first touchdown in six years. And so to have a touchdown like that in a critical moment in such a big game and the win that we had was such a cool moment for him. So I’m just really happy for him and the work that he’s put in. To finally get that opportunity was such a cool thing, just to kind of see over these past few years of just the work he’s put in and how valuable he’s been to our team.”

(To follow up on that, you’re a fellow undrafted guy. What kind of qualities do you see in WR River Cracraft that can help him etch out a lengthy and successful career? He’s been in the league for a while, but what qualities do you see in him?) – “I think it just has to do with his work ethic and how much time – you can tell he thinks about football all the time. On his off days, he’s always up here, always doing extra, after practice, even during the spring and all those different things. It all adds up. To me, it’s just the work that he’s put in and he listens and he’s on time. He just does everything right, the way you want a professional athlete to go about his business. So I’m really, really happy for him and I hope he continues to go down that path, which I know he will.”

(WR Erik Ezukanma been inactive for the past two games after what looked like from the outside a pretty strong training camp. How have you seen him respond to being that healthy scratch?) – “I think he’s responded really well. He’s just kept on going about his work. For rookie receivers in the league, it is very tough. And we have a very talented room with a bunch of guys that are very, very detailed. At the end of the day, when you’re talking about fourth, fifth, sixth receivers on your roster, you’ve got to be at play all three positions. You don’t know when somebody’s going go down, you don’t know when somebody’s going to get tired, you don’t know when somebody needs an IV in the third quarter. You don’t know all of those different things and be able to plug and play guys, and not lose a beat, not sit there and be nervous as a coach or anything else. It’s a huge learning process being able to learn all these different positions week in, week out. It’s not the same plays every week like at Texas Tech. It’s not hand signals on the sideline. These are long calls. It’s a process. He’s preparing as if he’s playing and he needs to continue to do that. I think over time, we know what kind of talent he is. But we’ve got to keep everybody accountable when it comes to out there on the field. I just can’t – I and our whole staff can’t have that knot in your stomach when he’s out there and say is he going to do the right thing? Is he lined up in the right spot? Do we need to call a timeout? All those things are so critical that he is starting to understand. It’s not just being more talented. Everybody’s talented. But it’s all about the details and being on point with every single play that you’re out there because one MA (missed assignment) or anything out there can be the difference between winning and losing and right now, that’s just not something that we’re willing to do right now. He’ll get there. He just needs to continue to put in the work and understand that it is a process and when he’s ready, we’ll know he’s ready. We love his skill set. We love the way he’s going about his business. But it does take time. I’ve gone through it with a lot of rookies who have had to play too early and it’s hard. It is really tough. It’s hard on a coach. It’s hard on a staff. It’s hard on the player. And right now, we don’t have to do that. So we’re not going to do that until we feel comfortable with him being able to execute the way we need him to execute.”

(The way the WR Tyreek Hill and WR Jaylen Waddle complement each other, is it as simple as two guys being really good on the same team or is it something deeper?) – “Their speed has really changed my perspective on the receiver position. Not totally changed my perspective, but not only do they have speed, but they’re dawgs. And they’re tough. It’s very rare to find guys that are that fast, that explosive, but aren’t track guys. They’re tough, they’re hard-nosed, they want to win, they compete, they bring it every day on the practice field. All those different things. I think that’s what sets them apart. I think that’s what sets most receivers apart is the mindset that they bring each and every day to want to be great and want to win and want to be successful and understanding that there’s a guy with lined up across for me and I’m going to win. To have two guys like that with that kind of talent and that kind of speed just puts so much stress on a defense. We’re very fortunate to have two guys like that. There are still a lot of things that we can improve. But I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

(Speaking of those two guys, I know, things are on a case-by-case basis. But is it fair to say that one of them should have double digit targets every game?) – “It’s whatever the game presents. If they want to sit there and play two shell and have everybody way back there. Yeah, we still want to give them the ball, but we also don’t want to be dumb about it. If they’re giving us opportunities to be able to run the football and do those different things, we definitely want to take advantage of whatever the defense is going to be able to give us and they understand that. That’s the other cool thing about them is they know that their targets will come. And do we expect it to always be that high? Probably not. But if that’s what the game presents and in the situation that we’re in, then they know that they’re going to be on call to go out there and make plays for us. But at the same time, we can’t just sit there and try to force it or anything else. We want to put them in great positions to be successful. And if that means us running the football or whatever it is, having to block, having to do all those different things to win a football game, that’s what the game is about. I would never see them sit there and get upset if we won the game and they didn’t have double digit targets. That’s just not who they are. They’re competitors that want to win and at the end of the day, they’re going to get theirs. But we also have to be smart as a staff to understand that we’re going to do whatever it takes to win the game.”

(You guys lead the league in pre-snap motion. How do you see that impact defenses particularly when it comes to WR Tyreek Hill coming in motion?) – “Yeah, I mean you know that defenses are talking about him the whole week. And so moving him around or changing the strength of formations and all those different things, they’re tough on a defense. If we’re running a three-by-one, where’s Tyreek? Alright, we’re in a two-by-two, where’s Tyreek? Where’s (Jaylen) Waddle? Are they on the same side or are they on opposite sides? There’s a lot of stuff for them to think about when you have skill players like we do to that a defense has to prepare for. I think the more motions and changing strengths of motions and three-by-one, two-by-two or vice versa, are they on the same side or not; it’s just a lot for a defense to handle and hopefully get us in advantageous coverages to get those guys open.”

(Adding to that, can you speak about FB Alec Ingold being lined up at receiver sometimes and the versatility that he brings?) – “Obviously we had ‘Juice’ (Kyle Juszczyk) there in San Fran and, Alec is a very powerful kid and does a great job. He’s a great football player. Very physical. But also, when you’re able to go 21 personnel and still move a guy out wide and actually be able to run routes and be a viable receiver, it changes the way defenses think. So do we want to play base? Are we going to play nickel? Are we going to do all these different things and then what are our calls in base? How many times have they worked on empty with base out there on the field? How many times have they worked on the fullback being outside the numbers? Different things like that, that can be advantageous for us as an offense and he’s doing a heck of a job for us.”

Offensive Coordinator Frank Smith

(I know we talked a little bit last week about FB Alec Ingold, but just to see his impact on some of the plays – on the WR Jaylen Waddle play by the goal line where he gets out and blocks someone – just the impact he’s made so far for you all, can you please talk about that?) – “Sure. I mean, that was one of the best parts about being able to get him here was just knowing who he is as a person. I mean, he’s a college free agent who was a team captain in his third year in Las Vegas, so honestly, I could say we’re not surprised with the play he’s producing right now coming off an injury. Just knowing his work ethic, his commitment, his diligence, I mean, honestly, we’re very pleased with what he’s done so far, and not surprised by what he’s been able to bring this offense through his style of play, his leadership and just overall being such a smart football player that really understands the big picture. I think it stems back to like we were talking about last week about he was a high school quarterback. So he just has a really good understanding of what the offense is trying to do and just overall of understanding what football is.”

(If I could follow up on FB Alec Ingold, we see him line up out wide and then he makes that block. We see him – obviously his position is fullback, but do you kind of view it as like, position-less football with him? Is that kind of a microcosm of the entire team with the way you guys move players around?) – “Yeah, it’s a good point. We view our players as really drivers of what the defense is trying to do, what they’re trying to accomplish in personnel groups. And when you have complete players at those position groups, guys who are have broad-based skill sets, it allows us to move them all over the football field, to basically – I wouldn’t say manipulate the defense, but just move them in ways that we’re trying to attack different parts of it. And when you’re able to acquire smart, fast players who really want to maximize their technique, that’s what you get where you look at (Alec), he’s just one component of the entire offense. But ultimately, our goal is to take these guys and use them to the best of their skill set in a way that is going to challenge the defense. And Alec is a great representation of that because not many people use a fullback anymore. And knowing him, we knew we were going to have a guy that really could do what Mike (McDaniel) and Kyle (Shanahan) similarly did in San Francisco with Kyle (Juszczyk).”

(The Bills’ ability to create pressure without necessarily blitzing this year, what kind of things does that allow them to do on the backside?) – “Yeah, I think they’ve had a great defense there for a while. Coach (Leslie) Frazier, Sean (McDermott), they’ve done a great job of assembling the talent there to really – in many ways, it reminds me of the great defenses they had in Carolina when I was coaching in New Orleans. I mean, they were really a model of many of the same things: great fundamentals, great team speed, effort to the ball. So I think that what they’re able to do, especially this season, with the pressure on the quarterback is really playing to have what they’ve kind of always believed in philosophically dating all the way back to Carolina. And that is playing hard, physical defense with strong fundamentals and attacking the ball, so it’ll be a great challenge for us this Sunday to match their intensity and play fundamentally sound ball.”

(You’re probably asked so many times so many times since the offseason, but now that we see having two wide receivers the caliber of WR Tyreek Hill and WR Jaylen Waddle, everything that it allows you to do offensively and all the difficulties it presents to the opposing defenses?) – “Yeah, it’s been – I mean really last Sunday was a great representation of a lot of our practice habits being able to go to the game, especially in critical moments. But when you have wideouts with the skill set that they do, it really allows us to use the field in a way to create space and attack the space. I think the both of them, too, are really working so well together, working with Tua. Wes (Welker) has done a tremendous job obviously teaching the offense, fundamental skills. So overall, I’ve just been very pleased with what they’ve been able to do so far and really excited for this Sunday and just being able to build upon last week. And I think overall, the entire offense feeds upon those guys when they’re out there just making plays and playing within the timing and the framework of the offense.”

(Just a little bit ago you were answering on the pass rush. Von Miller in particular, what does he present as far as challenge for your linemen?) – “He’s a great challenge. Been a great competitor, a great player in this league for a long time. I know Eric (Studesville) has some familiarity being with him in Denver, obviously with myself being in the division for three years. I have a lot of respect for his game and understand situationally, we’re just going to have to be on it to knowing what he’s going to be able to bring in the rush whether they’re bringing it through pressure or they’re bringing it with four down (linemen). So I think ultimately, when you get in these games and you have these type players, we’re going to have be at our best when the best is required because that’s what he’s going to do. So I think ultimately, it’s going to be great challenge for our line to make sure we handle the situational stuff when he’s going to be rushing at his best.”

(Hopefully this isn’t getting too much into technique, but I’m curious when the guy has the bend ability that Von Miller does, do you change at all how your depth for your tackles or how you go about defending a player with some unique skill sets like that?) – “That’s a good question. I think that more it turns into more broad than that. You have to start it from the standpoint of who is the rusher? You look at his history. You understand what he’s trying to do. I mean, really it goes down to the opposition groups. I mean, ultimately, what is the player trying to execute inside of his scheme, with his fundamentals, with his skill set? So I think that with his ability, we’ve talked about it, I mean, obviously, we’re fortunate with a couple of us having experienced being in division or coaching him. You understand what he’s trying to do, but ultimately it’s going to come down to us really being fundamentally sound to what we’re trying to do to execute against his top-level play.”

(WR Tyreek Hill was able to get behind the defense in a couple of crucial situations. How much of that is play calling, QB Tua Tagovailoa recognizing what’s happening, Tyreek’s speed, the defense busts? But what was behind those two?) – “I think that ultimately the one was, I think Coach Harbaugh said, I think they had a bust in coverage where Tyreek (Hill) was wide open down the field. The other one was, through the concept of timing, he was able to – it was the situation where I’m sure Marcus (Peters) wasn’t thinking he’s going to run downtown on me, and he was sitting at the sticks, and then all of a sudden, you got Tyreek coming at you; you got a business decision to make and fortunately, he was able to run past him. So I think ultimately though, all passing offenses, it just comes down to timing and execution, getting on the same page with each other. And I think that, like I said earlier, the greatest thing that last Sunday was able to show was a lot of our practice habits, our work ethic really showing up at critical times.”

(When OL Connor Williams was signed, we heard a lot about his intelligence in the middle of the offensive line. Through two games, what have been the returns in the way he communicates protections and helps you guys pick up rush gains, all the stuff that goes into playing that position?) – “We can’t speak highly enough about what Connor (Williams) has been able to do. I mean, making the transition from guard to center; it’s not as easy as it appears or I should say as he’s making it look. To be able to go on the road and execute the way he’s done has been just tremendous. I think it really stands to who he is as a person. I know Matt (Applebaum), ‘Lem’ (Lemuel Jeanpierre), Mike (Person) – all the guys in the o-line room, myself, we’ve all really throughout spring just helping them understand what the system is about, how we identify things, how we communicate, and how the center is the driving force. And he really embraced it. In many ways, he said – when you play other positions, sometimes you learn in a way for a play and then as he came here in spring, he really had to learn. It was really a great education of defense and he really took to it. I mean, hell his brother’s a coach so you can see football runs in the blood. So just overall, what he’s been able to do and how he’s been able to execute and communicate with the guys and build confidence in the group has really been tremendous. We’ve been really proud of what he’s been able to do so far.”

(Going back to Von Miller, the matchup of him against T Terron Armstead?) – “I’m sure Terron is excited. The great competitors always want the greatest challenges. I know that the years of them going against each other, I know a lot of the times in Denver, Von (Miller) lined up on the right. But ultimately, I think great players want great competition to bring out their best and they want the best from the other side. So we’re looking forward to the challenge that their defense is going to present. I know Terron, specifically, like the rest of the linemen, are enjoying playing in big moments and big games.”

Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer

(One interesting thing so far has been DT Zach Sieler is playing a lot more percentage of defensive snaps than a year ago. Has that been purely a matchup issue? Has it been a determination that you made that he needs to play more because he’s a productive player? Or is it both?) – “I think it’s probably a little bit of both. Obviously we feel very comfortable when Zach is out on the field and all the situations. And like we do with all of our packages, we try to put guys in good spots and Zach’s been a productive player for us. I would say he works very hard at his craft. and I think he’s shown constant improvement since the day he’s been here and I think he’s continuing to improve. I think he’s really become – we have a lot of leaders on defense. I know people talk about leadership a lot, but there’s different ways you can lead. And I think we have a good group of men that work hard. I think Zach, by example of the way he works, and the way that he produces on the field, I think guys have a lot of respect for him.”

(You go from Lamar Jackson to Josh Allen this week. They seem so opposite quarterbacks – one speed. But fundamentally, they both do a lot of the same things, right?) – “Yeah, both of them are extremely talented. I would say as far as running or throwing, both of them can run like running backs and both of them can throw the ball 80 yards. But schematically, I would say they’re two different systems, and they try to attack you in different ways. So yeah, we’ll have a big challenge for sure this week. We’re looking forward to it. But I would say there’s not a lot of carry-over from scheme from one team to the other.”

(As you look at film right now with Josh Allen and then you look back to you know a couple years back when you were scouting him for games, where has he improved the most?) – “I would say his overall total game. I think this guy, when he first came into the league, you could obviously see the talent. I think his control and comfort and command of the offense is much better. I think it’s continuing to improve. And I think it’s been at a high level for a while. But I think you can see a constant improvement with him. I think he knows what he wants to be in. I think he feels very comfortable with the offense. I think he knows more of what defenses are given him. And not that he didn’t know that a year or two ago, I think it’s just improved over time for him. I think his comfort level of commanding the offense, running the offense, and feeling comfortable in it, and then his ability to make plays, whether it’s with his arms, whether it’s with his eyes reading things, or whether it’s with his legs, I think he’s been very productive.”

(What do you think of LB Jaelan Phillips’ start to the season. He hasn’t been very active in terms of tackles and numbers. But some of the advanced metrics say he has a high pass-rush win rate. Just what’s your feel for the way he’s started his season?) – “Well, I think it’s the same with everybody. Obviously, we’re happy to be where we’re at from a win standpoint. But I think each week, there’s things that we can build on that we’ve done well, and I think there’s things that we can get corrected to try to improve. I think Mike (McDaniel) has done a great job with the team in saying that each week we need to get better than we were the week before. And I think there’s things that you can point out that, ‘okay, this was better, but we need to improve on this.’ And I think that’s what we’re striving to do. I think all players kind of fit into that category of there’s some good things out there and there’s some things that we can get a little bit better. Sometimes depending on what the scheme is, if you’re doing your job, you may not be the guy getting the production. That’s why like, to us, it makes very little – I mean this guy got this, this guy got that. It’s a team game. And this is going to be a big week for us to play complementary football. The Buffalo Bills, they’re good in all three phases. Obviously defensively, we’ve got to do a good job for Miami, holding up our end on the defensive side of it, and the offense and the kicking game. We all need to play a complementary game to get done what we want to get done.”

(Do you think LB Jaelan Phillips is doing well when the ball is coming to him or helping out so somebody else to make the play?) – “I think he’s playing within this scheme and I think it can get better. I think he’s done some good things. I think that’s like everybody. I mean we’re Week 2 in the season. I mean to sit here and say, ‘Hey, this is it. This is what it is. This is not this. This is good.’ I mean, I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s an evolving thing that we’re all trying to get better. I think that he has done some good things. And I think you’ll continue to do some good things and I think he’ll get better at some things.”

(Head Coach Mike McDaniel told us that CB Kader Kohou had kind of a look in his eye before the second half and that kind of led to him playing more in the third and fourth quarters. I was wondering if there was a more of maybe a technical reason why you all decided to go with Kader there on the outside?) – “Well, I think for us every week, it’s all kind of – you put a plan in place, especially for young guys. You put a plan in place, you try not to overload them unless you have to out of necessity. And then you see how things are going and you see their demeanor – and I think that’s probably what Mike (McDaniel) was referring to, on how things are – and then ultimately, you choose to do what you think’s best in that situation. Again, just the familiarity of the position, the corner position over the years, a lot of times you look at those guys like baseball pitchers. This guy’s a good matchup for this guy, this guy’s a good matchup for this guy. What may work for one week won’t work for the next. But like I said, I think when you’re talking with guys that have relatively limited to no experience, when you have the luxury to kind of get the reps going at a rate that you’re comfortable with to kind of bring them along, I think that’s a good thing to do. It’s a week-to-week thing for us. We’ve got a lot of guys competing in the back end and we’re excited with the improvement that we’re seeing some guys make, and we’re definitely grateful for the experience that all of them are getting, because it’s a long season and at some point, we’re going to need them. I think that’s the thought in mind, over the years. Especially a lot of times with, I can just remember over my career, sometimes, rookies, you’d put them in, and you take them out as fast as you’d put them in. But you’re trying to get them out there and get some of that playing experience. And then the more productive you are with your opportunities, obviously the more opportunities will come up. But I think it’s a calculated process. And I think it’s a week-to-week thing. And then there is an element of ‘How are things going? Is the guy ready to go?’ I think that was probably something that Mike was referring to.”

(Where is the line when you’re playing rookies and you’re getting that experience between allowing them to kind of learn on the fly and learn on their feet versus okay, you’re doing more harm than good?) – “I think it’s probably situation-based, game-based. And part of it is like, is it a favorable matchup? Or are you putting them in a tough spot, which you’re always trying to put them in favorable matchups, but the cards don’t always work that way. So I think there’s a lot of variables that go into that. But at the same time, you’re trying to build from week to week and understand that if you’re a rookie coming into the NFL, it’s a lot different season, no matter whether you played at Alabama or Texas A&M-Commerce. It’s a lot different than the season that you just went through. So I think you have a short term goal in mind, and you also are always thinking of the long term goals and implications as you go. And then the whole time, the most important thing is you’re trying to win the game at hand.”

(You guys have used CB Xavien Howard to shadow receivers in the past? What are the pros and cons of that and what goes into that decision?) – “Again, a lot of it is matchup-based and how you feel like he can do in that matchup. The other thing to consider is the guys around him and the other matchups. So again, there’s a lot of variables that go into it week to week. Some games you may go, ‘Okay, well let’s do this with him. And then everybody else will do this.’ And then maybe if you play him again, you go, ‘Okay, well, let’s do something a little bit different, and then shift this to this.’ So I think there’s just so many variables into it. But ideally, like what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to put the guys in the best spots that you possibly can. But I think it depends on individual matchup and then what you’re doing with the other guys around him.”

(I realized that last week, obviously Jerome Baker played quite a bit outside and you had LB Elandon Roberts and LB Duke Riley inside. That being said, it was a little bit eyebrow raising that LB Andrew Van Ginkel didn’t play any defensive snaps. What’s going on with him? Is it the recovery from the appendix? Is it a case of LB Melvin Ingram is simply beaten him out? Where does he stand? What’s contributed to the playing time plummeting?) – “Yeah, well I would say the fact that he’s come back from appendix surgery in like two and a half weeks is pretty impressive in and of itself. I would say he’s working his way back. I would say he’s getting his weight back, which I feel like he’s getting at pretty much back to where it was. It’s very impressive that his mental makeup and his desire to get back as fast as he has, and then there’s a lot of times where just because everybody’s available to you doesn’t mean you want to rush them out there. So he’s been a productive player for us in the past. I’m sure he’ll be a productive player for us this year. There’s nothing like, ‘Okay, well, we can’t use them in this situation.’ And then a lot of times, like I said, it’s really a matchup-based thing or how we feel it’s going into the week, the guys that we want to play. But I can’t say enough good things about Van Ginkel and his mental makeup to come back as fast as he did. I mean two and a half weeks after having your appendix – you literally just got opened up and he’s coming back in two and a half weeks. He’s a pretty tough kid.”

(On your nightly conversations with your dad, how much does Josh Allen’s name or the Bills’ offense and what they’re doing come up?) – “Yeah, well, this week, it’s been more about the Granville Blue Aces because they’re 5-0, and so they got a big one this week. So it hasn’t really – he’s pretty much been, ‘how you feel about the plan?’ It’s not really been into specifics. We’ve probably talked more about the Granville Blue Aces then we have the Buffalo Bills.”

(You’re 2-0 and he’s 5-0?) – “No. That’s the opponent. The Blue Aces are the opponent that he’s playing this week. So they got they got a big win last week team that it could have went either way. And hopefully they’re playing some of their better ball now. They do have a couple losses. But yeah, that’s been most of the talk this week was about Granville.”

(Do you help him out?) – “No, no, no. One, I don’t know what they’re running or what system they are. But you know, but that’s what we’ve been talking about.”

(Does he have any advice for you?) – “Not really football advice. So we were just talking, we talked a little bit about my daughter’s taekwondo classes and how that’s going and stuff. So she’s a three-year-old and she’s kicking some boards and stuff. (laughter) So that’s good. And he likes the videos. So yeah, that’s kind of pretty much the advice he’s given me this week. It’s normal stuff.”

(You guys have two short-yardage stops in the game on Sunday and one in the game against the Patriots. I’m just curious, how are you guys able to get off the field so often and fourth-and-short?) – “Well, I think it’s a mentality. And I think the one thing that definitely stands out about our group of guys, and I think you can appreciate is basically the first drive of the game, if you will, it was basically a 20-play drive, and we ended up an inch away from a touchdown. And I think our guys mentality – and there’s a lot of second-and-one stops or a lot of third-and-one stops. Obviously, we’ve got to do a better job of getting off the field when we have opportunities. But I would say it’s a mentality. A lot of times it’s somebody beating somebody on a block. It comes down to blocking and tackling, pad level. Usually you’re going to have a body for a body in those situations. I think our guys played with really good effort getting to the ball. Obviously sometimes there’s a lot of variables that can go into those plays. I think it’s a credit to our players, that they really defend every blade of grass that’s out there. Now, it doesn’t always work in our favor. But we’re going to get that effort and I think they know and understand what we’re trying to defend while we’re out there.”

Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman

(Head Coach Mike McDaniel was saying it was the first time in your career you had a kickoff return taken back for a touchdown. I’m sure you obviously weren’t happy about that. Can you give us a little insight on maybe what happened there?) – “Well No. 1, it was an opener. I’ve given up a couple others, sadly. It’s been a while though. But it’s like anything else. There’s fit. Think of it as a run play – there’s guys that have certain fits and certain responsibilities. Against a dynamic return guy, if everybody’s not where they’re supposed to be, there’s going to be an issue. And then we had compounded that with a second issue of a secondary player. So it was a very poor play. I take the blame for it. Like anything, good plays – you guys have been around – good plays, give all the credit to the players; the bad plays, blame me. So I have to do a better job.”

(How did you like the way special teams responded to that after the fact?) – “I think that was critical. And really, not only the kicking game players but our whole team. If you think about that game, we overcame a couple of turnovers. Minus-two in the turnover (battle) and you have a 17 percent chance of winning. You give up chunk plays on defense. You give up a big play in the kicking game. We overcame a lot as a team. And the kicking game in particular, bad things are going to happen. It’s the National Football League. Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you. But you better be able to overcome and not let things spiral. It’s the old adage that we played 30 plays but you only remember one of them. And that’s the way it is.”

(This is a little bit philosophical. The kickoff has kind of been decreased, some of the rule changes and kickers kicking it out. Because of that, there may be less reps in games. So I’m curious how that impacts how you coach that play in particular?) – “I think any time you have less live reps at something, it’s going to be a factor. But if we play our rules, if I do a better job of coaching our rules and our techniques, that shouldn’t be a factor. But I think without question, you’ve seen the reduction in the number of returns over the last couple of years. But like we all know, as the season goes on, based on who you’re playing, where you’re playing, weather becomes a factor, there’s a lot of things that go into that goes on that.”

(What is practice like for players on that kick coverage team? What do they hear from you? Is there an added intensity that comes from you in the week after giving that up?) – “No. Whether it’s a good play or bad play, it’s a play and you’ve got to move on. As long as you’re coaching and teaching the same things and you don’t go and try and change things, you’re going to be fine. We’ve been, in my opinion, fairly successful at what we’ve been doing and how we cover kicks. So we’re not going to make changes and we’re not going to – I’m not going to act like a knucklehead. We gave up a play, give credit to them, take blame where it’s deserved on our part and move on and continue to teach and coach what we’re doing.”

(What do you see from the Buffalo returners in terms of WR Isaiah McKenzie and RB James Cook?) – “And (Jamison) Crowder does the punt return. When you look at the Bills as a whole, they’re a very good team, well-coached, good players. Point differential, which year-in and year-out is a great indicator of quality of clubs. The last several years, they’ve been near the top or at the top of point differential every year. They’re stingy on defense, they play well in the kicking game, explosive on offense, very good complementary football. So it’s going to be a challenge for our club this weekend.”

(Very random question here. Fake field goals, you see them so infrequently. Is it harder to execute that play or defend against that play?) – “Well, I think again, there’s a lot of variables. Any time you talk about any – I don’t want to say risk play – but there’s a lot of things that that you look for when you break down people. So I don’t think that either one of them is harder or less hard. I think as a coach, you cover all the bases of our possibilities of what we may be able to execute and then making sure all our bases are covered on what the opposition may be able to execute. Then you constantly self-scout as the year goes by of, what are we doing? If I was playing us, what would I do? So all those things go into it.”

(Just kind of following up on that, I’m curious, in your career, do kickers or punters try to come up to you and show off their arm strength or show off their legs and try to convince you?) – “From my first meeting every year when we get together, it’s ‘I want to see – show me what you can do. Don’t tell me what you can do; show me what you can do.’ When we go out for practice and walkthroughs, guys are always – sometimes, they’re doing it on purpose and sometimes, they just happen to be messing around and I see something and it piques an interest and ‘Hey, maybe we can execute and do something with that.’”

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