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14 December 2016

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 Media Availability (12/14/16)

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: During Tampa Bay’s five-game winning streak, the team has allowed only 17 second-half points, tied for the fourth-fewest in a five-game streak in team history.
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach Todd Monken
Quarterback Jameis Winston
(On if he sees this week’s game against Dallas as a litmus test for where the team stands)
“I’d say we see every game as a litmus test for where we are. So, what’s new? We’re trying to establish ourselves every week.”
(On if he has ever had his offense line up in their own end zone for a play before, as was the case against New Orleans last week)
“Yeah, we have. We were pretty far back there, but we’ve got to get it out [of the end zone]. Somehow, someway, we’ve got to get the ball out. That was three bad football plays in a row by us. The kickoff return, the safety and then the punt, following. And we’ve had a lot of things going our way lately, but those three plays were not going our way.”
(On what is different about cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III’s play now compared to the beginning of the season)
“Well, the learning curve. He’s going from going against the best college players to the best pro players in the world and he got thrown in right off the bat against some really good receivers. And just experience and confidence. He was playing two positions to start the year, now he’s settled into a little bit more at one, although he added the punt return duties last week. And I would just say confidence and experience, more than anything else.”
(On if it is difficult for him to decide who to go with at safety moving forward, Chris Conte or Keith Tandy)
“Not at all. I don’t think you can ever have too many good football players. I haven’t been on that team yet that had too many. So, when we get too many players to figure out how to play them, then we’ll have real problems. But we don’t have real problems right now, that’s a good situation to have.”
(On if took a while for the defensive players to get comfortable with Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith’s defense)
“No, I’m not sure about that. I have no reference point to judge that by. There’s no question, since the Thursday Night game we’re playing much better on defense, dominating on defense. Those guys are doing a heck of a job, but what exactly it was, we’re all speculating a little bit on that. The only thing that really matters is, let’s keep building on it.”
(On how much he sees the belief amongst the team go up with each win)
“Yeah, we’re playing with confidence and I think these guys have earned a certain amount of swagger. I think that comes with the territory, but if we’ve earned some swagger, how much has Dallas earned? They just had an 11-game winning streak snapped and we’re sitting there with Detroit at a five-game winning streak, that looks kind of puny compared to Dallas’ 11.”
(On if teams are doing anything different in the way they are trying to take wide receiver Mike Evans out of the game)
“It depends on their personnel and then what their scheme is, but we are seeing a lot of hand-fighting. A lot of people try to hold Mike up at the line and not let him get started. And then even teams that aren’t half-field teams, we’re seeing more teams roll the coverage to Mike. And if they’re a single-high team, tilt the safety that way. If they’re a two-deep team, cloud it that way.”
(On how quarterback Jameis Winston is doing, working in a new receiver to the offense almost every week)
“Yeah, well that’s just what you have to do. There’s no other options, so that’s just part of playing quarterback in this league. Look at [New England quarterback] Tom Brady, [he’s] been doing that for years and they’re talking about him winning his hundredth MVP, so that’s just football. Jameis isn’t out there crying about who he doesn’t have, the guys you have are the guys you have and you go play football and try to win.”
(On the wide receiver group having to step up all season because of injures)
“Yeah, they have to. Professional football, they’re getting paid, they’re getting paid to play. And guess what? If they don’t perform, there’s about eight million guys out there on the street that are more than willing. When [General Manager] Jason [Licht] has tryouts, I’ve got agents emailing me every day, there’s plenty of guys out there. So, this is a competitive business, it’s a production business and we’re plenty happy with the guys we have. I keep getting asked about this – your guys are your guys. You coach them and you try to figure it out and that’s just it, that’s just how it is.”
(On if he still wants the team to have confidence going into a primetime game)
“Well that’s the message we would want going into anytime game. Daytime, nighttime, primetime. Just look around today, we’re getting a lot of press and the players earned it. That’s great for them. Dallas does not care about that and what have we really accomplished to this point? We’re in a good race with Atlanta for the division crown and that’s the fastest way to get where we’d like to go. But nothing matters except the game you’re playing that week. So our message is to stay focused on what we have to do this week against a really good football team and again, nothing else really matters.”
(On the challenge of going against the Dallas offensive line)
“It’s a big challenge because they are, by many reports, the best line in football. The other line that they talk about in the same breath is the Raiders. But they’ve got an elite player at left tackle, they’ve got a Pro Bowl center, a Pro Bowl right guard, they’re strong up front. Now, our front-four has been doing a good job too and we’ve got some depth back, so [Defensive Line Coach] Jay [Hayes] can rotate those guys in there. I would say that would be a good matchup to watch in this game, is Dallas’ O-line against our D-line and vice-versa. Our O-line against their D-line because the game are often controlled right up front.”
(On what the team has planned for during the day on Sunday)
“Well we have a regular schedule, this is the exact same schedule when we played Carolina on Monday Night. And believe it or not, sitting around all day is not everybody’s favorite thing to do. If you asked any player or any coach in the locker room, we’d all like to be playing at one o’clock. That way we’d be back at a good hour and get started on the next one or get some rest, instead of getting back at four in the morning like we’re going to. Now with that said, when you play on Monday Night Football, there’s nothing to watch on T.V. all day. At least playing Sunday Night Football, there’s games on, so you’ve got something to keep you occupied. We’ll have meetings in the morning, mandatory brunch, pregame in the afternoon, so we’ll keep them a little bit busy. But we have a night game schedule, you do it in preseason football and as I said, we do it for Monday Night Football as well.”
(On how impressed he is with what Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has been able to do as a rookie)
“Yup, real impressive. We just went through it last year with a rookie quarterback and after a while you see the first game, ‘Oh, the guy played pretty good, it might’ve been luck,’ the second game, ‘Ah, he’s got good guys around him.’ But when you’re 11-2, I think he’s proven his point. And he’s having a heck of a year, they’ve got a really good quarterback waiting in the wings if he falters and obviously he hasn’t faltered. He’s [thrown] four interceptions all year, those are Pro Bowl numbers, maybe even better than that. So, he’s earned everything he’s got and we’ve got to figure out how to stop it.”
(On if Winston raises his level of play during big games, or just treats them like any other game)
“Well, that would be a better question for him than for me. My observation is Jameis knows how to handle himself, he knows how to handle himself in every situation I’ve seen him in. So, I wouldn’t expect this to be any different.”
(On what his confidence level is in kicker Roberto Aguayo)
“100 percent confidence. If we’re in range and we need to kick, we kick. End of story.”
(On if Winston playing a Dallas defense that is similar to the one he faced in practice every day last season is beneficial)
“It’s not like seeing it every day in practice. You’re seeing a different defense every week and it basically comes down to Wednesday practice, Thursday practice, Friday practice. There are some similarities in scheme and they’re doing a really good job running it under [Defensive Coordinator] Rod Marinelli, doing a really nice job. But I think it’s probably no different than getting ready for any other team. You’re putting your game plan in and you’re trying to get the looks fore that week. It’s different than last week, but i don’t think there’s any big advantage there.”
(On if having all four running backs healthy expands the playbook)
“No. There’s going to be 64 plays in the game and we’ve got plenty of plays, we don’t need to anymore. You guys are telling me half the ones we’re calling aren’t very good anyway, so we better not put any more in [laughter].”
(On how the offense can get wide receiver Mike Evans more involved)
“Well, sometimes the defense has something to do with that, the way the game plays out has something to do with that. We still targeted him eight times and we’re going to still continue to move Mike around and target him because he’s a special talent. So, sometimes it just works out that way. He was still a big factor, got an interference call to put the ball on the one-yard line for our only touchdown, when they went cover-zero. Another time they got a holding call – Jameis [Winston] did hit ‘Chuck’ [running back Charles Sims] – but that did add five yards on to that. So again, there’s some things we can do schematically, there’s some things that Mike can do better with his route running and his mental stamina to stay in the game and continue. Even the first drive, I think we had him – it was a glance that kind of turned into a post with quarters and we had a chance to hit him and we didn’t. So, [we are] just a little bit off in a number of our areas, but we’re really close.”
(On if Evans is frustrated)
“Sure, I think Mike wants to be a big part of what we do and he should be. So, some frustration from being held, from being doubled, from not being a bigger contributor. Not from a selfish side, Mike’s not wired that way to be selfish. Mike is wired to be a team player, but Mike believes in himself. And he did, even with the four catches he had, they all seemed to be big. Third down catches, low throws, so again, I think he stays in the game relatively well mentally, but the frustration is he wants to do more to help us win.”
(On if he sees defenders creating contact with Evans, think that he will receive as many pass interference penalizes as they do)
“Well, I think that’s true with bigger receivers, I think that’s the way the league is headed. Defenders getting their hands on you, how often it’s going to get called. Mike’s awfully handsy himself, so we’ve just got to do a better job of him getting away from that and doing a better job of having routes that give Mike a chance to catch the ball in space, which we still do. There was a number of routes that should the coverage dictate, would’ve gotten [Evans] the ball. Now again, how many targets is that going to be when you’re running the ball as often as we were and as few as possessions as we had? I don’t know what that’ll be.”
(On what he means when he refers to Evans ‘getting away from that’)
“Getting away from people, being grabby and better pad level. Doing some of those things.”
(On if Evans creating contact with the defender disrupts the route)
“Sure, disrupts the timing. And we put Mike in a number of spots where, not always, but we put him in a number of spots we think there’s a chance to get him the ball, which we should do. And then everything plays off of that.”
(On facing Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott twice when he was a head coach in college)
“That wasn’t much fun then. I can tell you he’s a heck of a player and a heck of a competitor. And you could see that way back when, so he’ll be a real challenge. One thing that is apparent on film, watching some crossover games – because obviously I haven’t had a chance to watch this week – is just his poise. I’ve always thought he’s had tremendous poise, you can see it in his feet, can see him when he’s in the pocket, the kind of poise he has. He doesn’t seem to get rattled very much, stands in there, plays big, plays tall.”
(On if the offense can sustain without creating more explosive plays)
“Well no, we can’t sustain without it. If you start with what we’re doing well, we’re protecting the football. So, there is a fine line. When you’re winning at the end of games, there are plays where you’re trying to shrink the game, so you have fewer chances. When you’re behind, you’re going to garner more explosive plays and end-of-game situations. So, you’re going to shrink some of that, but obviously we have to continue to try to be as explosive as we can be and continue to try to run the ball more and more effectively, like we are capable of. Continue to find ways to be explosive without turning it over, which is hard. You want to be explosive without putting yourself at risk because that formula’s been good. I think the last five games we’re plus-50 in time of possession, which is a good thing. You’re shrinking the game, so you’ve got to do a great job of maximizing your drives. Last Sunday we had a personal foul that put us in a second-and-28, we had a sack that put us third-and-22. Well if you have 10 drives, nine or 10 drives, that’s 25 percent of your drives you can’t score on. Well, there you go. And then if you kick three field goals, there you go, you’ve got to maximize. We started fast enough, then we had the unfortunate ball bang off of [wide receiver] Josh [Huff’s] face [on a kickoff] and then they had the ball for eight or nine minutes to end the half. We had one play from the half-yard line, being up 13-3, really in control of the game. We’ve got to get it back, got to get our mental stamina back and be ready to go.”
(On if the struggles in the running game are due to an issue with the running backs or the offensive line)
“It’s all the above. We’ve got to do a better job in the perimeter blocking, we’ve got to do a better job up front, better job with our tracks and reading it, it’s everything. We just haven’t – you’ve kept hearing me say this every week – we just haven’t had the explosive runs. If you don’t have those explosive runs, you’re going to average around three, three-two, three-four a carry. You get those explosive runs, that’s what blows up your average. We haven’t had those, you just haven’t seen them. Saw them last year, we’re just not getting those.”
(On if the running game struggled against New Orleans because they were going against a player like defensive end Cameron Jordan)
“Don’t know that. And it’s not because we didn’t have ‘Dot’ [right tackle Demar Dotson], ‘Gos’ [offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus] played a lot of football last year. Our running backs are the same, lot of our same guys. I can’t really say that I’ve had a chance to go back and study it, but we’re close and we’re going to continue to run it because that’s what we have to be. Run, play-action to set that up, so we’re going to keep grinding at it.”
(On if a sloppy game is the key to beating the Cowboys, as was the case when the Giants beat them last week)
“I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to try that one out [laughter], although that’d be great. And again, it’s finding a way to – that balance, we’re all competitors and we’d love to win 35-7, 35-0. And then everybody feels good and have a couple punts downed inside the five and make every extra point and every special teams tackle, but it’s hard for that to occur. The good news is, we were talking about this morning is, we haven’t played our best over the last few weeks. Touchdowns in the red zone we haven’t gotten, we have protected the football, we can run the ball better, that’s a good sign. That’s a really good sign because we’re going to need it. Moving forward, we’re going to have to score more. So, that’s part of the process. Figuring out the puzzle and how we can do it better.”
(On if Winston’s development of timing and chemistry with receivers is overblown)
“It’s not overblown. I don’t know how much it came up Sunday with the throws that we made. But sure it can, there’s no question that a quarterback develops a rapport with his receivers and where they’re going to be, that’s critical to your success. It didn’t come up as much on Sunday, but the more those guys get out there and get a chance to practice with him, the better.”
(On the role he envisions for running back Jacquizz Rodgers, with all running backs now back healthy)
“Well that was hard, that probably – we’re hopeful to get an expanded role. And Charles comes back, so there’s things he does really well, then you look he touched it ‘X’ amount of times and boy, doesn’t he need to touch it more? So you’re right, it’s a good problem to have, when you feel good about – and even Peyton Barber I think is going to be a very good football player. So it is very difficult to get all those guys touches and you get in the flow of the game and there’s obviously going to be a natural trust with 22 [Doug Martin], there just is. The people that have been here and have seen it. So, I think he’s ready when called upon, but obviously that role didn’t get expanded as much as I talked about.”
(On how much it helps to have Charles Sims and Josh Huff on the active roster, from a creativity standpoint)
“It can, it can. Those guys are space players and they can touch it. We ran a little sweep with Josh and that worked out, we tried to run a screen with him and that didn’t work out, so hopefully we’ll get in a happy medium with him and get him up to speed. But he does add a little element to our team, as does Charles, he does a nice job catching the ball in the backfield.”
(On if a franchise quarterback like Jameis Winston was drafted for games like this Sunday Night against Dallas)
“Oh, I don’t know. Obviously, we’d all like to play well and we have to play well around him. If you start at the beginning of the year and said, ‘Okay guys, we’re going to be 8-5, leading the division, you’re leading the wild card,’ which again, I’m not putting the cart before the horse, all I’m talking about [is] would you take it, would you be sitting there going, ‘Wow. Okay, three weeks left. Okay, pretty good?’ And we’ve earned that by our play the last few weeks. So with that being said, not to make the moment any bigger than it is, but when you play good opponents on a national stage, there’s a lot of eyes watching, just from a media standpoint. We know what we have: we have a really good football player that’s only going to continue to get better, so we know that, no matter how Sunday night turns out. But, from a national stage, I’m sure people will be watching, saying, ‘Okay.’ Just like, it was only a week ago when Dak Prescott was on national T.V. and all of a sudden, ‘Ah, do we need to make a change?’ It’s one game. It just happened everybody watched it. So, same thing, It’s one game, it’s one piece of the puzzle, it’s one part of the building process for all players involved and our team moving forward.”
(On if sooner or later, Winston will have to win games like the one this Sunday)
“Sure, beat good teams. And we have already, we went and beat the Chiefs and that was a big game. It wasn’t national T.V., but we beat the Chiefs.”
(On Winston playing well against a ‘good team’ like the Chiefs)
“Sure, played well there. I don’t know if I’ve been a huge believer in gamers, I’m not sure if there’s a game, but I do think there’s players that the moment doesn’t get too big for them. I do believe in that. I don’t believe guys [think], ‘Well, Sunday Night, so I rose my level of play,’ I don’t buy that. I just buy that the moment doesn’t faze them one bit or another. And we can help that by playing well around him.”
(On if he feels the team is staying present in the moment during their five-game win streak)
“I think so. You hear all the terms of, ‘Avoid the noise,’ right? The good or bad, no matter where you’re at, be where your feet are. So today, we’re in walk-through, be where your feet are at. When we’re in meetings, be dialed in, which is a difficult thing. The focus, the concentration, to do it better than they do it because the talent level is so close. All of these games have been so close, could’ve gone either way. So, that’s what that is in reference to, of just, ‘Hey, how do we continue to get better as a team, not stay where we’re at? I think we’re a better football team as the year has gone on in all phases. In some areas, we still need to continue to improve, that’s evident and we need to continue to find explosive plays and score more to complement the way our defense has played. But again, it was only nine weeks ago, we weren’t talking about explosive plays, we’re talking about why are we turning it over so much. So that goes, it’s week-to-week. Continue not to turn it over and solve the puzzle of how we continue to move the football and score touchdowns.”
(On how close he thinks the offense is to having both explosive plays and not turning it over)
“Everybody goes through this and you hope it’s not as extended. We have good football players, we have good coaches, we’re playing against the best in the world, so that makes it hard. You’re just a play or two away. In certain games where you score those touchdowns, you make those plays, you make the throw to [wide receiver] Russell Shepard, or you make a throw to Mike and all of a sudden it’s 24, 27 points and when you don’t, shoot, you’re in the teens or you’re lower because there’s only so many possessions. So it’s maximizing those opportunities, eliminating those lost-yardage plays to put you in basically now, ‘Hey, we’re going to end up punting.’ And everybody goes through it. New Orleans went through it this week, both the Giants and the Cowboys went through it last week. It’s tough at times, field position plays into that. But we’ve got the pieces there, we’ve just got to, again, figure out a way to execute better. And again, there’s a part of it that’s the play calls, but really, the biggest part is how we get it worked during the week with our players as coaches to get us to execute the plan. That’s the biggest thing, is developing the plan and then execution is the number one thing.”
(On how far he thinks the offense from scoring points)
“We’re not far at all. The biggest thing is finishing drives and there’s a lot of stuff that comes with finishing the drive, but that’s what we have to harp on. It’s tough, when you’re winning games you feel good about yourself, but it always shows it humbles you, it shows you that there’s always room for improvement.”
(On what he and wide receiver Mike Evans have to do to get Evans more involved)
“They have been trying to stop Mike Evans. When you’re playing against a team and their main focus is to stop one guy, it’s tough to give him the ball. So you’ve got to work with everyone else and the other guys have been doing a good job stepping up.”
(On if the lack of explosive plays is slowing down the offensive production)
“Well we’ve got to get those. That’s a big part of our offense, is to create explosive plays. But we’ve just got to keep going at them because a yard difference with a run, 12 yards is an explosive run. We have had a lot of 11-yard runs, also I’ve had a lot of 15-yard passes, but 16 yards is an explosive play.”
(On what it means to him to play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football)
“Well, we play the game for games like this. The ability to control our own destiny, the ability to be on the stage of Sunday Night Football, that’s one of the reasons why people enjoy this game. But my mentality, we’re just trying to go 1-0. Not really taking that away from the Cowboys because they are a prestigious franchise and they [are having] a great season this year, but we have to focus on the Bucs. We have to continue to play like we have been playing and just put a W in that win column.”
(On if this week is a chance to show the country what the team is about)
“It’s a huge opportunity for us to show that to y’all, but to us, we’re very confident in who we are as a team, as a family. It just looks like another opportunity for us to show y’all what we’re all about. But we have it and we’ve got to take advantage of it.”
(On if he has a relationship with Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and what he thinks of him)
“Yeah, I’ve met Dak once at the Peyton Manning Passing Academy and actually roomed with him and he’s an amazing guy. I’m so happy that he’s having the type of year that he’s having the type of year that he’s having, along with [running back] Zeke [Elliott]. Zeke is having an amazing year. Just to see two young guys stepping onto the scene, doing it the way that they are is very impressive.”
(On what advice he can give to Prescott, who has hit ‘a few speedbumps’ the past couple of weeks)
“It’s football. Keep on going back out there and he’s had more success than speedbumps.”
(On his thoughts of the Cowboys growing up)
“We played the Cowboys last year, but this year is just a bigger game. As a kid, I loved the opportunity to play in this game. I loved the opportunity to play in every game, so there’s nothing different about this week. But we are playing against the Dallas Cowboys, they’re 11-2. Our main focus is to do what we do, not get distracted about who are we playing, but focus on why we’re playing and that’s to get a W in the win column.”
(On if this game is a benchmark game to see how comparable they are to one of the top teams in the league)
“I think just the opportunity is there. All the he-say, she-say stuff, that focus is on y’all. Us, in this locker room, we feel like we already got that. We already feel like that we are big-time team. We are already confident that we want to make it to the playoffs. This is just another game to us that we have to win.”
(On if the team’s mentality that they expect to win has happened faster than he thought it would)
“No, I expected it to be this way. I didn’t plan on losing for long, so we just have to keep getting better.
Going back to what we were talking about earlier, even though we’re getting these wins, we have so much room for improvement and that’s a good thing and also it’s a bad thing. It shows that we have some areas of growth still out there and it just shows that we’re finding a way to win.”
(On if big games are the games that the team’s best players, including him, have to have their best games)
“Well, your best guys [have] to have good performances just because you need you ‘A’ guys to play like ‘A’ guys. You need your ‘B’ guys to play like ‘B’ guys. When you’re playing against a great team like the Cowboys and they’re having a great season, you can’t play under that level that you typically play at.”
(On if people should focus on the Buccaneers heading into this week’s game as much as they are focusing on the Cowboys)
“No, we’ve got to earn everything we get and we’re doing that week-by-week. And that’s the type of attitude we’ve got to have. We’ve got to continue to have that chip on our shoulder, no matter our record, no matter how many people are talking about us, no matter how many people are not talking about us. Our job is to play football and play it to the best that we possibly can play.”
(On the team’s special teams play this season)
“Complementary football is all a part of this game. Not just the special teams have been winning some games for us, us playing team football have led us to win games. But we have, to me, the best punter in the world. Bryan Anger has been outstanding and what [Special Teams] Coach Nate [Kaczor] has done to this special teams has been amazing. The way that those guys go out there and battle and compete is amazing.”
(On what it is about going on the road that bring the team together)
“Because we’re by ourselves. We don’t have anyone to lean on, it’s just us out there. We’re a family, so we have to have each other’s back.”
(On the challenges of dealing with the crowd noise on the road)
“Yeah, we’re playing against the Cowboys, not the noise.”
(On if what makes players great is the ability to treat big games like any other game, or if great players actually raise their performance in big games)
“The mentality is, go out there and do your best. Go out there and do what you think you need to do for your team’s sake, to get a win. You hear, big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments. And that’s what it’s all about. Our big-time players, they want to make some outstanding plays, just to show, ‘Hey, I’m the guy.’ But at the end of the day, it’s about that team, you know what I’m saying? So I can’t play out of my comfort level, just to try to make a play. Sometimes people can do that and I have done that in the past, where I try to overplay, but we’ve just got to stay simple and get a win.”
(On how he finds the balance between taking it one game at a time and looking at the big picture)
“The bigger picture is having another W in the win column, for us.”

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