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09 December 2015

Buccaneers Quotes: Wednesday, December 9, 2015

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: This season, the Buccaneers have had 52 starts from rookies, the most in the NFL.
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Lovie Smith
Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter
Quarterback Jameis Winston
Wide Receiver Mike Evans
Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins
(Opening Statement)
“Injury report, Logan Mankins and [Jacquies] Smith didn’t practice, everybody else practiced at least on a limited basis. I’m talking about Will Gholston, Bruce Carter, we added Lavonte David who tweaked his ankle a little bit. I guess that’s about it. Injury list-wise we are in pretty good shape. We know what’s at stake, can’t wait to play, lot of excitement about getting another opportunity to play a division opponent. We have a chance to sweep another division opponent. These are all big things for us. Look where we are in our program. We did some good things in the last game, but there are some things we need to for sure clean up. Penalties got a little bit better last week, still a few that we would like to eliminate. Turnover ratio last game we lost, normally you don’t win when you lose the turnover ratio, again some things we need to clean up. New Orleans, same team offensively putting a lot of yards up on the board, putting a lot of points up.”
(On the Mike linebacker position with the absence of Kwon Alexander)
“We have a plan. I’m very comfortable with saying that. I think you guys know who we’ve been playing in that area. As far as who we are going to go with, we are going to go through the week, really. We talked about Bruce Carter, Danny Lansanah, guys that have both played that position. We always like options when we have situations like this that come up. We feel pretty good. There’s a reason why Kwon Alexander was our starter, but we feel pretty good about the group of linebackers we’ll put on the field this week.”
(On if Alexander’s stellar play in the offseason was the reason he became the starter rather than because linebacker Bruce Carter was playing poorly)
“Yes, we were. Kwon Alexander is a guy that exceeded our expectations as much as anything where he had to be on the field and in that role. Some guys are made to be out there and be in front. That’s no knock against Bruce. Again, Kwon will make quite a few guys not be able to start. We liked everything that Bruce has done. Danny Lansanah, we’ve asked him to play different roles throughout. We’re going to get good play at Mike linebacker position this week.”
(On if he is pleased with the depth the team has gained this season)
“Yes, it is definitely safe to say that. We’ve talked a lot about the full roster – the ten practice squad players along with our active players. You are constantly developing that talent, coaching up the guys. History tells them to be ready, too. During the course of the year injuries are going to happen. Most of guys that we have here will end up playing at some time during the year. They know that. It has been a good job by the players and coaches of of course keeping those guys up to date on what they’re supposed to at times like now.”
(On Danny Lansanah’s performance at middle linebacker last season)
“Just remembering what Danny did last year, he was the only player we had that scored two defensive touchdowns – two touchdowns you would say. That’s more than a lot of offensive guys scored. He’s been around the ball. Again, he’s a smart player. Whenever you can play multiple positions, there’s a reason why he’s been in the league this long. We can play him at a lot of different positions. He started at Will when Lavonte [David] missed a couple games last year. He started at Mike and Sam. Not many guys can do that. That’s why, again, we’re going to miss Kwon [Alexander] quite a bit, but we’re okay going forward in these four weeks.”
(On who would be the fourth linebacker to help on defense)
“The rest of those guys on our roster. I think you know we have some young players right now. We normally play four players for the most part. With nickel defenses being a big part of what we do, two linebackers play most of the time and then there’s two others. The other linebackers you normally see on our roster have to be special teams players and good ones. That’s how it’s set up a little bit. Jeremiah George, we brought back Orie Lemon, those guys have a role. In a nickel situation our Mike and our Will never come out of the game. We have a sequence that we like to follow.”
(On defenses knowing quarterback Jameis Winston doesn’t slide)
“I assume most of the defensive coordinators have said before that play, ‘Hey, if the quarterback runs, we need to hit him.’ We say that, so I don’t think anything has changed. Jameis has had other good runs throughout the year. I think defensive coordinators are going in saying, ‘Hey, we need to control this guy. He can throw the ball, but he can also run when he needs to.’ As far as me telling him to change his game, no. We don’t want him to run when he doesn’t have to, but I asked everybody do what they need to do to help the team win. You have to make those decisions on what you should do at that moment.”
(On Winston’s decision making and having scored 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone)
“Just listening to his statistics down there, as a rookie, you probably can’t say that about most quarterbacks in the league. That is an area where one of the worst things you can do is throw an interception in the red zone. For the most part you should at least get three points, so you are taking points off the board if you do that. It’s critical everywhere, protecting the football. He has done a good job of that. That’s just a part of the decision making that he’s going through throughout. He’s made good decisions. We’ve seen that growth throughout the year.”
(On having six interceptions against New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees last season and how they have been successful against the Saints)
“I think as you look at interceptions in general for us and our defense, it starts up front making the quarterback throw the ball before he wants to. I’d say it had a lot to do with that. We rushed them fairly well too. We’re a zone defense for the most part. That’s why we are – to have as many eyes on the ball as possible. It’s about takeaways. As I said earlier, we lost the turnover ratio this past week. You can’t win games like that. We need to win it again this week.”
(On expecting Brees to put up big passing numbers)
“We don’t look at it like that. We say that he’s a great player that we need to control today. You can’t concede anything like that. If teams coming are passing the ball an awful lot, every time they pass it it’s an opportunity for us to take the ball away. No, we can’t let Drew Brees and this offense get going no matter what they’ve done in the past. In order for us to have success the defense has to think on shutting down a good offense.”
(On defensive tackle Tony McDaniel)
“Whenever you bring in a veteran like that, we expect him at some time during the year to play for us. It came up and Tony did play well. Again, we needed him to play that way. For this stretch-run we’ll need that to. He’s got good size, he has height and he’s a big body to move. Again, stopping the run, probably the worst thing the Saints have done this year is run the football and you can’t let a team get that run going too. We’ll need Tony to play as well this week.”
(On if he has been pleased with the pass rush over the last couple of weeks)
“When I say pleased, when are you ever pleased entirely? But we are getting some good pressure throughout. Blitzes, whether we’re rushing our four-man rush and we have to get that done. In order for us to win games, we have to have that. We’ve had some young players step up. Howard Jones – young player that’s rushing better and better each week, Kourtnei Brown getting into the misx, Josh Shirley needs to pick up his game a little bit. We have to count on those guys now.”
(On his demeanor remain steady and how he has developed that skill)
“I don’t know about skill. I believe in what we’re doing. In the tough times, when things are better right now, I believe in the plan that we are trying to put in place each week. I have confidence in what we’re doing and it just doesn’t do an awful lot of good to fly off the handle. I’m not the entertainment on the sideline. People don’t really care what I’m doing. I have to keep a straight head and try to stay in the game as much as anything. That’s what I try to do for the most part.”
(On holding teams to under 100 rushing yards)
“First it is run-fits and guys knowing – I think the biggest reason why you see big runs and not being able to play the run well is not knowing what gaps you have. For us, we’re a single gap. No one probably  works on guys knowing where they’re supposed to be as much as we do. I’m, sure every team says that, but we’re going to say that too. A part of taking care of the run and stopping the run too is not giving up big plays. That’s what we’ve done on the backend if a run breaks – to be able to keep it to a minimum gain and let us have another down to correct it. Not giving up big plays has contributed to a lot of that, but it’s not like we’ve missed a lot of gaps as we evaluate the video each week.”
(On the New Orleans defense)
“They have [had a lot of injuries], but Cameron Jordan is a good football player. This Byrd guy, Jairus Byrd is a great ball player. Stephone [Anthony], we can go down the list of good defensive players on their team. I think we can have some games where you don’t play your best ball. The same for us. [They are] capable of playing us well. I have to look on how we played them last time. Again, I know what the stats say, but the stats are about what has happened in the past. Now everybody is in this stretch-run. I think you see peak performances by everybody about this time of year, we assume we are going to get there best defensively.”
(On tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins)
“It was good to get him back out there. He’s been waiting a while. He’s a big target. The one game he did play for us early in the year he was a factor. He’s someone you have to deal with. You need all of your weapons, whether it’s blocking, him catching the ball, we do a lot of different things with him. It’s just good to see all of our offensive guys – I think it might have been the first time they all might have played together. I’m talking receivers, [Vincent Jackson], Mike [Evans], Doug [Martin], everybody there, weapons for Jameis [Winston]. Just back to Austin, good to get him in there. He didn’t have any issues in the game. Hopefully we’ll continue to trend up.”
(On if Austin Seferian-Jenkins matured during the process of coming back from injury abd practicing but not playing)
“Yes, but we would rather he matured on the football field. I’ve told this to our team. I don’t know if I’ve seen a player handle an injury as well as he did – staying in the game. As you watch our game, he is visible. Sometimes it just calls for you to be a cheerleader, support your teammates. He did that throughout. I know no one stayed into the game plan as much as he did - each day in practice having a script, getting a mental rep. I think he did about all you can do being an injured player for him to come back. It’s not like he got in this game and had a bunch of mental breakdowns. He didn’t. Now it’s about that next step for him. We keep saying he’s going to be a great football player when he’s on the football field and we have him back out there.”
(On New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees)
“They complement each other well. I’ve known Sean Payton for a long time. We competed when I was a coordinator for the Rams he was a coordinator for the Giants. We go way back there. He’s got a good mind as far as just offensive football in general, passing the football of course. For a guy like that to get your hand-picked quarterback and to see the amount of success they have had together you have to look up to that. That’s why when you are on the other side of the ball you know what you are getting. They know how to attack any defense. Drew Brees has seen it all and knows exactly where to go with the ball. That’s why it’s a big challenge for us. You like playing against attacks like this – a passing attack that can put points and yards up on the board like that.”
(On if Winston has the ability to change the play to throw to a receiver rather than the tight end)
“I think we have things like that built in in general. You don’t need five different options, but he normally has an option. It’s not just boom, no, believe me we’re not talking about a rookie quarterback, ‘Hey, snap the ball, throw it here only.’ No, he has quite a few reads right now that he goes through and it’s not going to necessarily change it because we got Austin. It’s been that way. He’s done a great job with that throughout and he’ll continue to do that. 
(On quarterback Jameis Winston’s 20-yard run)
“That was a good. That was quite a play. Went from let’s get in field goal range to let’s go get the win. That was a great play by Jameis. You don’t see many plays like that.”
(On Atlanta’s defense playing deep coverage on Winston’s 20-yard run)
“That’s exactly what we call it. We call it sticks coverage. They were playing the sticks and they’ve played it all year. They’ll give you between five and 10 [yards]. Five would have put us on the edge of field goal range and then it’s Coach [Lovie] Smith’s call from there. Are we going to kick the field goal or are we going to go for it? Against that coverage you’re not going ot gain 19 [yards] fitting it in the window. You just don’t have enough room.”
(On the depth of the team)
“Well you build depth as you go. One thing about injuries, as you are forced to play other players even it’s only for a couple games, it builds your depth. You look at wide out; [Donteea Dye] and Adam [Humphries] had to play, [Russell Shepard] had to play all year because Mike [Evans] was out early then [Vincent Jackson] was out. It forces you to play those guys and then after they’ve played they figure out, ‘Hey, yeah we can play.’ The same thing is happening on the O-line. Same thing is happening at tight end. We already knew we had depth at running back. That was our deepest position going in. We haven’t had to use it, but I know we are deep at quarterback, too, because we have a heck of a back-up quarterback sitting there. Injuries force you to play your other guys. They figure out they can play. I think also our coaches have done a good job continuing to develop [players]. The part of practice where you guys can go out there and watch all the coaches are working with their guys – individual drills. It’s a long season. Just because the season started you don’t have to stop your development.”
(On how far the offense has come since he became the offensive coordinator)
“If we had about an hour or two for me to think about that I probably could [answer]. I’ve said it many times in here, when I came here and looked at the things that went wrong for these guys last year from an injury standpoint, an unfortunate thing that happened with Jeff Tedford – There was better talent here then [they] were given credit for. Then we started over – we put in a new system, went through OTAs, all that stuff. I haven’t given that a whole lot of thought right now. That’s something we can reflect on at the end of the year.”
(On tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins)
“No one wants to play more than Austin. If you ever watched Austin in those games when he was hurt on the sideline he’s the number one cheerleader out there. I just know personally form my own conversations with him, that guy really missed playing, he wanted to play. He was coaching Tevin Westbrook, our tight end on the practice squad. Austin has been coaching him up. Then when you actually get in the game, your heart is pumping and your adrenaline is going. Austin was a little bit rusty. He looked like a guy that hadn’t played in nine weeks. You take nine weeks off – Practice is practice and game-speed in the NFL is game-speed. Then he took that shot. That was a good shot William Moore put on him. I was a little nervous when he kind of popped up, but he hung in there. He played 20-something plays and I’m sure that number will continue to grow from here on.”
(On Winston and the offense’s overall red zone play)
“Our goal is 55 percent touchdowns in the red zone. You want points every time. In the NFL, [if] you get inside the 20-yardline you should have a field goal in the bag. Fifty-five percent touchdown rate will usually put you top five in the NFL. That sounded like a statistic right there, but it really wasn’t. It’s one of the nine too. We had a great week last week – 75 percent. We really should have had 100 percent. We should’ve made that other play, but we had to settle for the field goal. I think part of it is you learn your players. Maybe we’ve calmed down our scheme a little bit. We’re a running football team, so we are running it a little bit more. You learn your guys, everybody fits in their role. I think two areas that we have improved a lot this season since those first couple of games are red zone and third down.”
(On what he meant by saying the team has calmed down the scheme)
“That’s probably more something for me where we were maybe trying to do too many things in the red zone instead of – after kind of figuring out what our identity is – stay in our lane and do what we do and not necessarily do what we were trying to do in Atlanta or something like that.”
(On Winston’s play in  red-zone situations)
“I just think the red zone is a reflection of Jameis overall. I think you could just take Jameis in red zone, Jameis on third down, Jameis on decision making. We’ve talked about that every week. He’s had a very steady progression of his improvement throughout the year.”
(On Winston choosing to run in certain scenarios and whether coaches would prefer he not)
“No, nobody is going to stand up here and say they have a problem with him running when he makes plays like that. We don’t want Jameis taking hits. We had a little packer screen that he ran that in. It’s a very similar play to the [touchdown] he ran in in Atlanta. It was a shovel pass that he ran in. There’s really no other options. Atlanta really covered that well. They tried to isolate one guy and then work a screen off of him. Their defensive end played it great. Jameis has no other options that’s why it almost looked like a run because all the other guys were blocking for Doug [Martin]. We were trying to set up a little screen for Doug. That was just a smart play by Jameis. We tell him when a play like that breaks down [to] cut our losses. That’s a first-and-goal on the four [-yardline] or second-and-goal on the four. Worst thing that happens, third-and-4, but if a guy can make a play on top of that, that’s fantastic. We don’t discourage that at all. We encourage it. We just don’t want Jameis getting hit too many times.”
(On tackle Demar Dotson’s performance)
“He did a good job. Demar did a really nice job. Going back to our depth questions, that’s another one going in to this season arguably we would have said between Logan [Mankins] and Dot are our two best returning linemen and here he is, like Austin [Seferian-Jenkins], making his first appearance in a long time. He’s been foaming at the mouth to play too. He’s just not as vocal as Austin is. He did a nice job. Now, our depth at tackle just went up. [Gosder Cherilus] has played well this year, Dot did a good job – it just makes us better for the long run.”
(On running a lot of tosses and whether that was to take advantage of fresh legs)
“Not necessarily fresh legs. We have made an emphasis this year to try to make sure we call our tosses. That’s a play that is usually at the bottom of your run list and sometimes you lose it and don’t call it. As we talk about [our] identity, all of a sudden we figure out, ‘Hey, we’re not a bad toss team.’ If you have tackles who can pull and then the second most important pull guy, you got to have wide receivers who can crack. We do. Then you have to have a center that can pull and that plays right into Joe Hawley’s strength.”
(On if he is tempted to throw the ball more due to New Orleans’ poor pass defense)
“First off, the Saints have had a lot of bad luck on defense this year as far as injuries. We just did the depth chart this morning. In their rotation – guys that are playing in the game – they’re playing eight rookies on defense at one time or another. All those guys aren’t starting, but they have eight rookies playing in the rotation. Their middle linebacker, [Stephone Anthony] from Clemson, he’s playing great. He’s their leading tackler. They’ve just had more than their fair share of injures. They’ve had to move some guys around. They still have some very talented players. They’ve got [Jairus] Byrd back now at free safety, they have two really good safeties, they still have Cameron Jordan outside, he’s got eight sacks on the year. Specific to your question, no, we are not tempted to get out of our lane. We just have to stay right with what we’re doing. We’re doing fine.”
(On if running back Doug Martin was being punished for fumbling)
“No, you guys can forget that. We would never do something like that. Players are going to make mistakes. That’s like saying if Jameis [Winston] throws a pick we’re going to sit him down or if Logan [Mankins] misses a block we’re going to sit him down. I didn’t even know that until one of the guys alerted me to it that that was even a rumor out there. No, we didn’t do that. That was just part of the regular rotation.”
(On the offensive line having turned into a ‘decent’ unit)
“More than decent I’d say. I think they’re doing a really good job. I think the credit starts with George Warhop our [offensive] line coach. We have good leadership from the older guys starting with Logan Mankins, Evan Smith, we bring in [Gosder Cherilus and Joe Hawley], the rookies – those are two second-round picks, you expect second-round picks to come in and start. We traded up to get Ali [Marpet]. We took Donovan [Smith] right at the first of the second round. Donovan is right outside of a first-round pick. We were fortunate to get those two guys where we did in the draft. I said before we hit the jackpot when we got Jameis [Winston] and those two guys in one draft. It’s come together. We’ve had relatively good health and when we haven’t had good health we’ve been able to plug somebody in. I think continuity, we’ve talked about that several times in here. Continuity in your line – those guys being able to play next to the same guy is always good. Success breeds confidence, that’s true at any level of football, success breeds confidence. The better you play, the more confidence you get.”
(On if he got personal satisfaction for sweeping the Falcons this season)
“I’d be lying if I didn’t fess up to that. Everybody wants to beat their old team. I have a lot of love for players on that team. I’m very close to some of those players. But, shoot, it never hurts to beat your old boss.”
(On throwing 12 touchdowns in the red zone without an interception this season)
“It’s a good stat.”
(On his secret to success in the red zone)
“I think just Coach [Dirk] Koetter. I forget what week it was when we just basically made the change like, ‘Hey, we have to start scoring in the red zone.’ That was hurting us earlier in the season. I think the past four games we’ve reached our goal for our red zone percentage so it’s been pretty good.”
(On what offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has meant to this offense)
“What Coach Koetter has done for our offense has been amazing. Not only his schemes and what he brings to this team with his brain and how he does things, but we play for him. For a coach, I think that’s when you meet your max – when you have guys playing for you and you have guys that want to do good for you. Every position group we have, like my position group, Coach [Mike] Bajakian, I don’t ever want to let him down. He’s the one grading me – giving me negatives, positives, so I never want to let him down. Same with all the other quarterbacks. I know in that offensive line room those offensive linemen don’t want to let Coach [George] Warhop down. Coach Koetter is just like the overseer of the whole operation. He makes sure everyone stays together and that we get this offense rolling.”
(On tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins)
“The first two weeks were big weeks for Austin. His locker is right next to mine, so this last week he was excited. He always goes to practice, but this week before practice Austin had his pants, his jersey, his helmet, his pads all laid out in front of his locker. He had to take at least four showers throughout the whole day. He got in the hot tub at least six times. I don’t know, he probably found a way to get in the hot tub during practice. He was just so ready, he was so anxious and it showed. He came out wanting the ball. He had a big day for us.”
(On the big hit Seferian-Jenkins took from Atlanta safety William Moore)
“That shot was a welcome back for Austin. He caught that shot – he ate it, too. Will Moore put it on him, but he ate it, he got back up like, ‘Let’s go.’ He was excited.”
(On the depth of the offense)
“It just goes with how close this offense is and how Coach Koetter is just making things work. We want to play for him. We believe that in any given circumstance that we can play and we can win. We’ve been blessed that we always have Doug Martin and Charles Sims with us. Having those two guys is always a good thing. A lot of people have touched the football this year and that’s a good thing. It makes everyone happy. The people that didn’t necessarily think they were going to touch the ball, they love Coach Koetter even more because he gives them the ball.
(On the offensive line)
“When you are surrounded by a bunch of good men that just want to play football and win, they don’t care about their playing time. I’m pretty sure it eats them inside if they are hurt or something like that, but other than that they want to win. That’s what we’ve been seeing over the course of the year is that the guys, we just want to win now, whereas earlier in the year when we were down, guys would be looking around like, ‘Who’s going to pick us up?’ Now, when that defense is coming off the field the whole offense is meeting them as soon as they get to the sideline, ‘Great job, defense. Thank you for holding them to three points.’ When the offense is off the field, the defense is meeting us as soon as we come to the sideline, ‘Hey, offense, great job, we needed that score.’ You see a whole team thing. It starts with the head coach for bringing that here for us, bringing us closer together as a family and setting a standard of knowing what his expectations are. I’m not on the defensive side, but on the offensive side I know Coach Koetter is holding it down for us – leading us the right way and he expects so much from us. We try our best to do our best for him.”
(On if he is seeing the field better to make big heads-up plays)
“That’s just pure want-to and the fact that everyone wants to win. Winning is contagious and I know that’s cliché but winning is so contagious. It’s hard to win. It’s easy to lose. That’s the easiest thing in football is just to lose. It’s hard to win and we want to do the hard things. We want to get wins.”
(On Tampa Bay’s 2015 rookie class)
“When you see our success you have to go back to the people that helped us get there and I have to give it up for [Director of Player Development] Duke Preston. When we first got here he laid out the foundation like, ‘As a man, we want the rookie class to be great men, not just great football players.’ Going through the rookie symposium and those little meetings, we didn’t like them, but at the end of the day we got closer. I can’t wait until we get my boy Kenny Bell back, that class that we got was so tight. We got our own group message. We chat with each other all the time. Last week we rented out a laser tag place, just the rookies playing laser tag, having fun. That just shows that’s family. You don’t do that stuff in the NFL any more. In college you saw the guy in the locker room say, ‘Hey, I want to go get a bite to eat or something,’ but we’re doing that on our own. Duke is heading it, but we are doing it on our own. We’re taking initiative like we need each other. ‘I don’t know if you’re going to be gone to this team next year, I don’t know if you’re going to be somewhere else the next year but right now what we have, we got to find a way to make it work.’ I believe that our rookie class has definitely stepped up.”
(On linebacker Kwon Alexander serving a four-game suspension)
“We fight for him. That’s another motivation that we have as a team. We fight to get our brother back on the field because Kwon is the quarterback of the defense. Kwon is just as important to this team as anyone is. He’s the head guy. He’s the one with the mic on his helmet. We’re definitely going to miss Kwon, but I know he’s going to keeping working. Kwon isn’t going to use this as a period to just take a break, because in Kwon’s mind he’s going to be preparing for a game later on in this season and that’s the right mentality to have.”      
(On his mindset going into Sunday’s game)
“We’ve got to win. We’ve got to go 1-0 this week. Their defense has been struggling, but they’ve got good, physical corners and we’ve got to bring the fight to those guys.”
(On if New Orleans’ defense is better than the statistics suggest)
“The numbers show different things – different games, anything can happen – but we’ve got to protect the ball. They almost beat Carolina [but] if we protect the ball, we should be fine.”
(On him wanting the ball on the game-winning touchdown against Atlanta and if he always has that mentality)
“Absolutely. I always try to play with that aggression. I love the game of football and if Jameis [asks that], of course I want the ball – I always want the ball.”
(On being a young team that is learning how to win)
“It’s part of the game. We smell the playoffs. We’re really close. That’s what we’re gunning for – we’re trying to go 1-0 every week. We’re getting over that hump, finishing games at the end, so I think we can be a dangerous team.”
(On Head Coach Lovie Smith’s even-keeled demeanor)
“He’s really good at that. He doesn’t show much emotion, but he’s good with his players, he’s good with us. He treats us with respect and he’s a great guy. He doesn’t yell or anything like that. If we were 12-0 or 0-12, he’s going to have the same demeanor.”
(On how Lovie Smith gets a message across)
“He lets us know if we have to win this game, he lets us know if we have to be more physical with the other team, he’ll let us know in meetings and at practice. He’s vocal.”
(On sweeping Atlanta and possibly sweeping New Orleans)
“It would be huge. We want to win the game, of course, and sweeping them is just a bonus. They swept us last year.”
(On what the addition of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has meant)
“It meant a lot. Last year we didn’t have an offensive coordinator and this year we have one of the best in the game. It’s helped us tremendously, obviously. We were the worst team in the league last year. This year we have a chance at the playoffs, so there’s a big difference.”
(On how Koetter has been so effective)
“He’s just finding all the mismatches. There’s mismatches in all sort of defenses. If they’re running zone, man – he knows how to find the mismatches. He’s been doing a great job at that.”
(On the offense playing better in the redzone )
“We’re playing more urgent. We don’t know if we’ll get this chance again, you never know with this game. We’re trying to make the most of our opportunities when we get down there.”
(On how the up-tempo offense impacts the opposing defense)
“It keeps the defense on their heels. Those guys are tired, just like us and they’re going to make mental errors when we’re going fast. It’s been proven to work, so I like it.”
(On what the linebacker group has to do to step up in Kwon Alexander's absence)
"Like you said, just step up. Continue to make plays. Towards the end of the year we're kind of picking it up as a group and starting to make more plays, and impact plays. So we've just got to pick it up even more and always have Kwon in back of our minds. He still texts us. We started a group chat today; he's texting asking us what we're doing and things like that. It's definitely giving us an added [thing] to play for."
(On potentially moving to middle linebacker)
"Like you said, I've done it before. My mentality is I try to do whatever they ask me to do at the best of my ability. I played it last year and made plays. Whatever they ask me to do, whoever they ask to play there is what they're going to do, and hopefully that person playing there makes plays."
(On making play calls as the middle linebacker)
"I did it before. It's nothing new to me. Last year – I don't like to talk about the past, but last year I proved that I could play it. If they put me there I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."
(On how Alexander had been playing)
"I got to know him close, so I know how it's been. Just to watch how he prospered and started to blossom toward the end of this stage with him leaving, it was like watching a little brother grow up right before your eyes. He was playing lights out and hopefully we get him back if we make the playoffs."
(On how Alexander handled his situation for the past two weeks)
"He never really talked about it. He came in and handled business like usual. He came to the meetings, was attentive in the meetings. It never was brought up, he never brought it up, never harped on it. He never showed that he was worried about it and that speaks volumes about him."
(On how excited he was to play against Atlanta)
“I was just super excited to get out there and play. Football is what I love. I love to be around these guys, help support these guys in any way that I can. Being out on the football field was a big step to doing that. I was a little rusty out there, a little anxious, pressed a little too much, but I was very happy to be out there and very happy to do whatever I could to help.”
(On if the first hit felt good or bad)
“It’s football. Obviously it felt a little bit of both. It felt good to get hit and it felt good to get back up, but at the end of the day, [Atlanta safety] William Moore packs a pretty powerful punch, so, yeah, I was a little sore.”
(On New Orleans’ defense)
“If you look at the Saints and you see what they’ve done with Rob Ryan – obviously he’s not there anymore, these last two games, Dennis Allen has been the defensive coordinator for them, calling the plays. I’m going to dig a little deeper and watch the last two games, against Carolina and against Houston and see what he’s been doing. They’ve got a good bunch of guys, a couple of ex-teammates over there. This is the NFL, they’re good football players, so we’ve got to bring our A-game.”
(On how the offense has changed in the nine games he missed)
“I feel like Week 2 or Week 1, it still feels the same. We all knew what we had to do, like Week 2. We all know the playbook. We still all know what to do. I think it’s more of the fact that everyone is just a little more comfortable with each other – it’s just a bunch of brotherly love out there. You get out there, you’re excited and it’s really a great opportunity every single time we get to get out there.”
(On his return being the final piece to having the full offense on the field)
“I wouldn’t say I’m the ‘final piece,’ but I think everyone in this group on offense collectively is part of the final piece being together. Getting more and more practice together, getting more game time together. We’re excited we’ve got four games left and the most important thing is going against New Orleans this week. It’s going to be a big game for us. It’s a big game for them. You’re only going to take it one game at a time and try and go 1-0 at a time.”

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