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29 December 2016

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 Media Availability (12/29/16)

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: WR Mike Evans needs nine catches against Carolina to become only the second player in franchise history with 100 or more catches in a single season (also Keyshawn Johnson, 106 in 2001).
 
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
 
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
 
HEAD COACH DIRK KOETTER
 
(On if running back Jacquizz Rodgers has done enough this year to warrant the team to consider keeping him for next season)
“Sure, I would think so. That would be something to ask [General Manager] Jason [Licht], but I would think so.”
 
(On how difficult it was for him to hear the news of running back Doug Martin’s suspension)
“Well, first off I would just say, I don’t think any of us could understand what he’s going through, unless you’ve been in his shoes. So, I don’t pretend to be able to understand what he’s been going through. The only thing that I really want to say about the Doug Martin situation is that I think it’s a positive thing that he’s taking steps to put himself in position to have better health and have a better life, long-term. So that really has nothing to do with the football side of it, but I think that’s a real important step. Other than that, there’s really not much else for me to say about that.”
 
(On how much of Martin’s looming suspension factored into the decision to make him inactive last week against New Orleans)
“Well, I’ll leave that to your imagination. But again, I’m not going to speak too much on that. I think Doug’s statement and Jason’s statement said plenty. Of course there’s more to everything than meets the eye. Once again, the important thing in my mind here is you’ve got a young man’s health and I think it’s important that he’s taking steps to fix that, long-term.”
 
(On if right tackle Demar Dotson has been cleared from the league’s concussion protocol)
“Yes, yes, yes, ‘Dot’ cleared protocol.”
 
(On how much of a help it is to have the offensive line healthier for the final game of the regular season)
“Well of course, it’s huge. Dot’s an excellent run-blocker and it means we don’t have to scramble our line around at right tackle. Of course it’s big, he’s been out for three games and we missed him.”
 
(On how to contain Carolina quarterback Cam Newton)
“It starts with – I don’t think you ever really appreciate the thing about Cam is how big he is. Jameis [Winston] is a big man, Cam dwarfs Jameis. Cam is a big, big man and a tremendous athlete. He can sit there in the pocket. It’s hard to knock him down, even if you get there. He has a great arm, really throws the deep ball well and if you don’t do a great job of keeping him in the pocket, he’s capable – I’ve been on the wrong side of it – he’s capable of beating you with your legs, either on scramble runs or designed runs. Now, they haven’t been doing quite as many designed runs, but ask any defensive coach or player in the league and a quarterback who can beat you both ways is one of the most difficult things to face. And then on top of that, they have great weapons around him. They’ve got the big receivers – I understand maybe they put [Devin] Funchess on IR – but [Kelvin] Benjamin, a big receiver. They’ve got an extremely fast receiver in Ted Ginn Jr. They’ve got a powerful running back, they’ve got a really good tight end. So, they have a lot of weapons. That’s why they made it all the way to the final game last year.”
 
(On the progress wide receiver Adam Humphries has made since joining the team at the beginning of last season)
“Adam came from a guy that was just invited to tryout, to a guy that [was] happy to make the team, to a guy that becomes a starter and is a very steady player for us. And Adam is quiet, goes about his business, always in the right spot. When he’s asked to make plays, he usually comes through. We’re happy that we have him, I think he’s had a solid year. He doesn’t get a ton of targets, but when the ball goes his way he usually makes his plays.”
 
(On what defensive end William Gholston brings to the team)
“What Will is, he’s a big, run-stopping defensive end. He’s not the flashiest pass rusher, but he’s going to get some sacks by just working hard and being where he’s supposed to be and the quarterback maybe get flushed to him. But Will’s biggest value is as a strong side defensive end who anchors your ‘C’ gap against the run and we definitely missed Will last week. New Orleans took advantage of his absence and I thought last year, just from me watching from the other side, I was impressed by how hard and how consistent Will’s played and he’s definitely again lived up to it this year. We’ve missed him and unfortunately he’s got that elbow situation right now that’s keeping him out.”
 
(On much of a challenge this past week was for him, as far as helping Martin)
“Again, I’m just not going to get into that too much because what’s done is done and the statements have been issued and for me to just add more to it doesn’t do anybody any good. So, I’m going to just not comment any further on that.”
 
(On what he has gotten better at as a head coach since Week One)
“Well, that’s probably for other people to judge, not me. I’ve definitely learned a lot this season. But as far as mistakes I make or don’t make, I think those have been well documented, whether I agree with them all or not. It’s definitely a learning curve. When I became a college coach for the first time, you think you’re ready and until you sit in that chair, you really don’t know. And it’s definitely the same in the NFL. There’s a different set of issues that come up and dealing with the whole team, offense, defense, special teams, the media, all the stuff that comes with being a head coach. Definitely a learning process and that’s something that I’ll think a lot more about when we finish up.”
 
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE SMITH
 
(On how well cornerback Brent Grimes has played this season)
“I think he’s a lot younger than his chronological age. He’s full of energy, he practices with energy and he plays with energy. He’s been what we anticipated we were going to get when we signed him in as a free agent. He’s a guy that I think has been a good mentor for some of these young guys in our room, in terms of how you’re supposed to play defensive back. He’s a very active player that gets his hands on a lot of footballs and he’s been a productive guy. He’s made some game-saving tackles. In fact, the last time we played Carolina, he had the game-saving tackle on the one-yard line and then the next play he had the pick. So, he’s been a productive player for us and I certainly hope that he continues to beat Father Time and is a guy that’s going to be with us for a little bit longer.”
 
(On what Grimes’ best attributes are)
“He’s very athletic. He can jump like he’s a 6’4” guy. He’s got one of the highest vertical jumps that I’ve ever seen. But he has very good instincts and he understands the game, he understands splits. He’s a student of the game and does a good job in his preparation. Keeps notes on receivers, keeps notes on quarterbacks and that’s what pros do and he’s been around a long time.”
 
(On what the next step is for cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III next season)
“Well I think when you’re a rookie, you’ve got to come back the next year and play with a lot more confidence and I think Vernon will do that. I think that he’s had a very solid year, it’s not over. We’re not finished with our evaluation, by any stretch. But I think that he’s a guy that’s been able to play two positions for us, started at the nickel position early in the season and moved outside. So, he’s got a lot of snaps underneath his belt and the natural progression is to play with more confidence, be more aggressive, understand the things we were just talking about with Brent: understanding splits, understanding down and distance, understanding who’s on, who’s off and what the route combination are going to be.”
 
(On what linebacker Kwon Alexander has meant to the team this season)
“Well Kwon is a very active linebacker that plays in the middle of the field. Our ‘Mike’ linebacker and has an opportunity to run from sideline to sideline and I think that’s his biggest attribute, is his speed. He’s got great speed, he’s got great quickness. I think it showed in the game last week, he made the tackle on the 42-yard completion down our right side where we missed the tackle – we actually missed two tackles – and he ran the receiver down. I think he plays faster than he runs on a clock. There’s lot of guys that I think are that way. When he processes it and he sees it, he goes. He’s running faster than his 40 time. He’s continuing to learn the defense, he wants to be the leader of the defense. I’ve been very impressed with his search for knowledge, not only meeting with me, but meeting with Mark Duffer – our Linebacker Coach – extra, he wants to understand it. And that’s a great thing and that’s being a great teammate when you’re doing that, you’re trying to make yourself a better football player and I think we need to have more guys that have that same passion and drive.”
 
(On how tough it is to prepare the defense to play against Carolina quarterback Cam Newton)
“Lots of sleepless nights [laughter]. I’ve had lots of them in years past and this week as well. He’s a unique athlete. He’s 6’5”, 260 pounds, he’s hard to get down. You say, ‘Okay, you’re going to put a spy on him,’ well, who’re you going to spy him with? Spy him with a guy that runs as fast as him, he’s going to be six or seven inches shorter and 45, 50, or 60 pounds less than him. So, it’s a dynamic that you have to account for and you have to change it up, you can’t do it the same way. He’s a guy that is not running the ball as much, but his per average is still good on his rush attempts. You have to account for the quarterback in this offense and I think [Carolina Offensive Coordinator] Mike Shula does a great job, in terms of putting Cam in situations where he can succeed and put a lot of stress on the defense.”
 
(On if he has enjoyed leading the defense this season)
“Oh, it’s been fun. It’s been a challenge, every football season has different dynamics and that’s the great thing about this game, is each week is a different deal. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I’ve got a great staff to work with, these guys have worked their tails off. We’ve not necessarily done it the way that we had envisioned it. We’re perfectionists and we want to see it show on the field. I haven’t coached as well as I’ve needed to, I truly believe that. I think I could’ve done a better job. Any time you don’t have the success that you want, I think you have to take a look at yourself first and I’m looking forward to playing this week and finishing off the right way and see what happens.”
 
(On how he feels about players who have played the nickel cornerback position this season and their development, specifically Javien Elliot and Jude Adjei-Barimah)
“Well I’ve been pleased with the progress of both of those guys. Jude stepped in early in the season and then of course he had to step away for a while and Javien has stepped in. I think it says a lot about our scouting department, when they’re able to identify these guys that aren’t necessarily drafted in the first three rounds. Both of these guys I believe were [undrafted] free agents, so they’ve done a very good job of identifying the guys that can play that position and have the skillset to do it because that is a very difficult position in our defense because you’ve got to cover both sides. When you’re the corner, you’ve got the sideline out there that is the twelfth man, so it takes a different kind of skillset. It’s really about quickness, people are moving receivers around, they’re not always the same guy in the slot receiver position, so it’s a challenge. It’s more of a starter, let’s put it that way. It’s more of a starter than our third linebacker. We play a lot more snaps in our sub-defense than we do on our base.”
 
(On the improvement of the safety position throughout the course of the season)
“Well not only our safeties – they did a nice job of taking the ball away – but as a team, we worked very hard to put more pressure on the quarterback. I think our defensive line did a very good job of that and that’s the mark that we look at, most importantly. There’s two things: first, there’s points, you’ve got to keep people out of the end zone. Then the second thing is turnovers. We can look at yards and say that those are empty calories. If they get a bunch of yards and they score 17 points, we’re going to like where we’re at. So, those guys did a nice job of taking the ball away and when you take the ball away and you win that turnover battle, you’re going to increase your chances and I thought that the guys really started to play with a lot more confidence. And when you see that confidence, you’re seeing more pressure put on the quarterback, you’re also tighter coverage and it works hand-in-hand. Chris [Conte] and Bradley [McDougald] I think showed a lot of improvement this year through the season, like a lot of the guys did once they started to understand what we were trying to get accomplished.”
 
(On if the coaching staff has to gauge the players this week to make sure they are still focused to win against Carolina)
“Well it’s very important, in terms of how we finish. I think everybody realizes, you’re only as good and you’re only judged by your last game. That’s the last impression that you have in each season. We hope that it’s not our last game, but if it is, we need to go out there and we need to play to the best of our ability. And I know that these guys will, they’re a resilient group. We’ve had a lot of situations throughout the season and they’ve been able to overcome them.”
 
(On if finishing the season 9-7 instead of 8-8 means anything)
“Oh, absolutely, oh yes. You want to win as many games as you can, whether it’s 9-7, 10-6, 11-5, every one that you get is better than the alternative. And it’s important for our football team and our defense to go out and play the type of defense that I know we’re capable of playing. We did not play and we did not coach the way we needed to last week and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth as a player and as a coach and we need to change that. And we get an opportunity to do it this week.”
 
(On what has led to defensive end Noah Spence not getting to the quarterback as much as he was earlier in the season)
“Well I believe that they’re giving more resources, they’re turning the protection at times. There’s ways to slow pass rushers down and I think that the type of month that he had in November, guys were watching the tape and going, ‘Gosh, we need to put chip help’ or ‘We need to put a tight end over on that side.’ So that has happened and again, each week it’s a different dynamic, in terms of how you’re going to put together a game plan, what the matchups are, what down and distances we’re in. We have not done a good enough job – we’ve been very good on our third down efficiency, but haven’t done a good enough job in getting teams in that third and what we like to call, the winnable ones for the defense. We’ve had challenges, in terms of the down and distances that we’ve been faced with on third down.”
 
(On what he classifies as ‘third-and-winnables’)
“We like to think, if we get them in third-and-six-plus, it’s an advantage defense. And when you get in [third-and-one] and [third-and-two], it’s advantage offense and then it’s the battle downs in [third-and-three, third-and-four, and third-and-five]. If you can be 55 percent winning in that down and distance, you’re doing a good job. We’d like to be much higher when we get to six-plus because we’ve got a lot more at our disposable when we’re facing a third down-and-six, in terms of you’re not defending the run usually, so you can do some different things.”
 
(On if it difficult to find productive nickel cornerbacks)
“Yeah, I think when find a good nickel, you keep them and you keep them around for a long time because of the unique skillset. We talk about the shutdown corners, the guys that go out there and are going to take away the ‘X’ receiver. The guy to me that’s got the toughest duty is the inside corner, the nickel corner. I think it’s overlooked and the way that offenses are now dispersing receivers and trying to get matchup advantages, you’ve got to have a guy in there that has great quickness, but also at times, they can put a tight end [in the slot] and he’s going to have to line up and play on a tight end. So, I think it’s an evolving position in the National Football League.”
 
(On what it has been like to coach Javien Elliot this season)
“Well, [Secondary Coach] Jon Hoke and [Defensive Backs Coach] Brett Maxie have done a great job with Javien Elliot, done a great job. And he showed us on the practice field every day that he was a playmaker and that he could handle it. He was going against our number ones and [Head Coach] Dirk [Koetter] was really the first one to point it out, he’s going, ‘Man, that Elliot, he got another pick today. Oh, he got another pick today.’ And it’s great to see guys that are performing on the practice field to get an opportunity to go out and do it in a game and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity that was given to him. He’s done a great job. He’s a great kid, he’s a sponge, he’s wanting to learn and I think it’s a great story and there’s a lot of them every year. You guys will start talking about it when the season’s over, but I think that’s a great story, from where he came from.”
 
(On if he has ever had a player like Elliot before)
“Yeah. It’s funny, as much time and effort is spent trying to identify guys, there’s always someone every year that just surprises you and sometimes there’s two or three. There’s a lot of great football players out there that just for some reason or another, maybe not gotten the opportunity. But when they get the opportunity, they take advantage of it.”
 
DEFENSIVE TACKLE GERALD MCCOY
 
(On importance of winning the game this upcoming Sunday)
“Having a winning season, finishing the season on a positive note, having a chance to still go to the playoffs, even though all that crazy stuff has to happen. It doesn’t matter for all that crazy stuff to happen and if we don’t win, how bad we would feel going into the offseason. And then, going into the offseason with a positive taste in our mouth. It sucks to know the last thing you did in the season prior was lose. Another added incentive is we are at home. The fans have been great. I think we are either sold out already or on our way to selling out, so they deserve to go out a winner and to finish on a positive note with wins at home is huge too. So, a lot of different reasons.”
 
(On preparing for Carolina quarterback Cam Newton as a defensive player)
“Cam is Cam. You don’t win MVP for not being great at what you do. People kill me sometimes with expecting everything to be identical as the year before. This is the best players in the world. Year in and year out, it’s hard to be the same. So, you are going to have up and down seasons. Is Cam still the same guy? Yeah, he is. He didn’t have the season he had last year. He won MVP last year, so if he doesn’t win MVP this year, then that means he didn’t have the same season, you know? But, he’s still Cam, man. In my opinion, he’s still the best escape artist because of his size, speed, his agility, he can make all the throws and if you let him get on a roll, he will kill you. He loves the game. I think sometimes people confuse his passion for anger or being frustrated. He’s just very passionate. If you want to win when things are not going your way, you get upset because you want to win. So, he’s just a very passionate guy and I respect him for that.”
 
(On his earlier comments that Newton’s personality is something that is needed in this league)
“Yeah, absolutely. I hate using the word flamboyant, but he is just very outgoing and is very animated and he is a character, but you need characters. Even how he dresses, his style, all of that, you need that in this league. In the NBA, NHL, all these other leagues, you need guys like Cam Newton. He’s a generous guy too man. The kids love him. He is giving out footballs when they score and stuff. He’s one of those guys that he loves the game so much that once he gets on a roll and you start seeing that smile come out, that’s when you know you’re in trouble, so we’re going to need to limit those smiles, man. We’ve got to limit those smiles on Sunday.”
 
(On whether it’s tougher to play Carolina after a season like they’ve had after coming off of last year)
“It doesn’t matter whether they’re great, whether they’ve been bad or whether they’ve been stagnant. It doesn’t really matter. It’s still a division opponent. It is still the Carolina Panthers and they are coming to our house. I don’t think they care what we’ve got going [on]. I know they don’t want us to beat them at home. We beat them last time and I know they are after us to get us back. We have a chance to sweep them and we have to take advantage of it.”
 
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