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06 December 2017

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Media Availability (12/6/17)

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: Buccaneers S Justin Evans has three interceptions this season, tied for the most among NFL rookies. Evans entered the starting lineup in Week 5 and, during that time, his three interceptions are tied for the fifth-most in the league.
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith
Wide Receiver Mike Evans
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
(On if running back Doug Martin is out of concussion protocol)
“He is not.”
(On if defensive end Robert Ayers is out of concussion protocol)
“He is not.”
(On what Martin and Ayers must do now to complete the concussion protocol)
“They both practiced today. They both practiced full. They have to still see an independent neurologist. That is the final step and that could happen as soon as tomorrow.”
(On how nice it would be to finish strong at home and finish with a 6-2 home record)
“Well, it’s just important to go 1-0 this week. That’s the thing – they are all important and this week it’s the Lions, so that is as important as it could be.”
(On defensive end Ryan Russell missing practice today)
“He will be on the injury report when you see it today. Ryan Russell did not practice today, but we will just see how the week goes.”
(On his thoughts on the hits and suspensions from around the NFL this past weekend)
“I did see them and I’m glad I am not the one that is in charge of deciding.”
(On if he felt Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski deserved a bigger suspension for his hit on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White)
“I don’t know all the details of any of those other ones. I’ve seen them, but you don’t always know everything that happens. I would be out of place to comment.”
(On how quarterback Jameis Winston recovered from his first game back physically)
“Fine. He was limping a little bit on that ankle today, but he threw the ball as well as he has thrown it in a while today at practice.”
(On what he feels the team has been consistent in this season)
“We’ve been consistent in pass protection until last week – through 11 games, but now you’ve got me on that 12-game sample size, so I guess I can’t use that one. We’ve consistently moved the football on offense. We are way up there in first downs. We have several rankings on our team where we are in the top 10. We’ve taken the ball away for the most part this year. We are in the top 10 in that. We’ve done a decent job in penalties. Unfortunately, we’ve had more things that we are inconsistent in than things that we’ve been consistent in. That’s the part we’ve got to get better at – we’ve got to get more consistent overall.”
(On if defensive end Noah Spence had surgery on his shoulder)
“Yeah, he already had surgery. He had surgery within a week or so afterwards. He is in the building. He is here rehabbing. I’m not sure the timeline, but it’s fairly long term [rehab] when you have that shoulder surgery.”
(On if there is a concern that Spence’s shoulder issue could be a chronic issue)
“Supposedly the surgery is taking care of it. That’s why he had the surgery and supposedly that’s taking care of it. It was chronic. That’s why you have to have a surgery.”
(On if his injury will delay the start of his season next year)
“I don’t think so, no.”
(On how much he appreciates tight end Cameron Brate’s consistent effort)
‘I appreciate it a lot. I think Cam is a really good player. I would just say by how defenses are reacting – as we’ve mentioned earlier, he has been doubled a couple times this year – so I’d say other defenses have noticed. Like a lot of guys, Cam is a little banged up right now [and] is trying to play through it. [He] is doing a good job in that area. [He] didn’t get a whole lot of opportunities last week, but he definitely made the most of the ones he did have.”
(On what has stood out to him about defensive end Will Clarke)
“Well, Will is a guy that because of the other injuries at defensive end, he has just gotten a lot of opportunities. He has gotten a lot of chances [and] he has held up. He has played through and gotten a lot of snaps. He has been a steady guy in there. He has been able to get a lot of chances.”
(On if defensive tackle Chris Baker has been what the team had hoped when they signed him in free agency)
“We could be asking that of every player out there. As a team, we are not where we need to be. Everybody gets graded on a weekly basis and on a quarterly basis. I’m not going to go into those right now. It’s a team game. We are all sitting here with the same record. We’ve got to do better.”
(On cornerback Ryan Smith’s performance against Green Bay)
“He [did] some good things. He did some things well. Like every player, he had some plays that he needed to do better and he had some plays he did a good job.”
(On how he weighs the positives and negatives of Winston’s play this season when he is evaluating his development)
“We are all judged by wins and losses. That is the ultimate judgement. The best quarterbacks help their teams win and the best quarterbacks make other players around them better. Jameis is going to continue to get better and better at that as he gets more experience. We’ve been over it several times – he is still an extremely young player in this league. I think he is going to do nothing but get better and better. It was great to have him back out there again. This is the first year in his career – and the first time in his entire career – that he has had to deal with injuries like this and it’s something that you go through. Detroit’s quarterback is going through it as well right now.”
(On how much responsibility falls on defensive coordinator Mike Smith for the team’s performance this season)
“That’s so hard to judge because there is nothing about football that boils down to one person. It’s on me. It’s on him. It’s on – [a reporter] asked about Chris Baker. It’s on everybody. It’s the ultimate team game. No number measures one player or one coach. That’s hard to do. Everybody is graded. I tell the team all the time, ‘We are all held accountable by somebody. We are all held accountable.’ The ultimate thing, though, is it’s a team game, we are trying to win and when you don’t win, nobody feels good.”
(On if he understands why Smith would be an attractive head-coaching candidate in the NFL)
“I don’t know anything about any specific job, but I know why he could be a good candidate. I mean, he is a two-time NFL Coach of the Year.”
(On Herm Edwards getting the Arizona State job)
“I wish him the best of luck.”
(On if he still has aspirations of being an NFL head coach)
“I am a week-to-week kind of guy during the season. My focus is on what we have to do this week to get better. That’s not long term – that’s short term. My long-term focus and my commitment has been and will continue to be to be the best that we can be, to finish this season out strong and look forward to moving forward into next season. That is how I have to approach this and that is how I do approach it. I am committed to being the best I can be right here.”
(On if his contract situation)
“I am not going to speak to my contract. My focus is real simple – I’ve got to get these guys to finish football games so we can win and not fall apart in an overtime situation like we did this past week. For me, long term is the rest of the season, finishing strong. My commitment is to make this defense the best it can be next football season and that is a long, long time in the NFL.”
(On if losing in late-game situations is due to a lack of a pass rush)
“I think coverage and pass rush have to work together and they go hand-in-hand. The secondary can’t cover forever, but at the same time, you’ve got to be able to cover them to allow the guys to get to the quarterback. That’s the thing that we’ve been very inconsistent [with]. We felt like the guys played hard. Then we went out there in the overtime and really did not play very well. It was way too easy. We’ve got to be more resilient. We’ve got to make the plays. There are positives that came out of that game for us, but we didn’t get the result we wanted. Ultimately, that is what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to get Ws. We’ve got to get wins.”
(On if the defense has struggled due to different aspects of the defense going wrong at different times)
“Yeah, we’ve not been able to put it together on the defensive side of the ball. We did not fit the run very well this past week. We had two major, critical errors with the quarterback keeping the ball. When you play in this league now, you’ve got to be prepared for the quarterback to run the football. Every defense has an option responsibility. It’s put in, it’s built in and we had two critical errors and we allowed the quarterback to run the ball there in the fourth quarter and the overtime period.”
(On the progress of safety Justin Evans)
“He is getting better and better. I said it early in the season, I think the sky is the limit for this guy. He’s not just your typical free safety. He’s got the ability to play strong safety. He can get down in the box. He is long. He is physical enough and I think he is athletic enough that in a pinch we could put him out there and play him at the corner position. I’ve been very pleased. I think Brett [Maxie] and Jon [Hoke] have done a great job with him, bringing him along. There [have] been some growing pains. We just stuck him out there, threw him out there, and said, ‘Hey, go play.’ We know that there is going to be things that are things [he’s] seen for the first time and when they are the first time, sometimes he has made the play [and] sometimes he has not. That was an outstanding play [on the interception]. You can see his athleticism. He read the quarterback’s eyes. He was able to get to the ball and that was a big turnover for us in the ballgame.”
(On if Evans covers a lot of ground)
“He does. He is probably one of the faster safeties that I’ve been around. Sometimes it doesn’t look like he is going real fast, but he does cover a lot of ground. He is a guy that plays the ball for the most part, well. [He’s] had some ‘oops’ moments, but we all have this season.”
(On the advantage Evans has in one-on-one situations due to his athleticism)
“We feel like he can match up with some of the top receivers in the league. Again, [with] the way that people are displacing the wide receivers, your safeties are going to have to be able to occasionally have to line up and play basically zero coverage or have the other safety helping them. When you’re matching, you’re going to have to be able to play him. There [have] been sometimes where he has made some really good plays. There [have] been sometimes technique-wise where we haven’t turned the right way. Instead of turning into the receiver, we turned to the quarterback and we got some separation, but he learns from those plays. He is going to be a really good player for us. There is no doubt about it.”
(On the performance of defensive end Will Clarke)
“I didn’t know anything about him when we got him about a week before the season started. Will, I’ve said it before, he’s got good length. He was able to have a nice effort sack. There was push by Gerald [McCoy] and we were able to get some pressure on him. We still are not putting pressure on the quarterback like we need. It’s been a season-long issue. I’ve said it multiple times, we are trying to scratch that itch and we haven’t been able to do that. We’ve tried multiple different approaches and it hasn’t been as successful as we need it to be.”
(On if defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is having a Pro-Bowl season)
“He has been very effective. He has played consistent football for us. He is a guy that always gets double teamed. There is going to be the center sliding to him no matter where you line him up. They know where he is going to be. Unfortunately, as a unit, there [are] a lot of markers that say we aren’t a very good defense, but that shouldn’t take away what Gerald McCoy has been able to accomplish this season individually. Those major markers are things that we need to improve on moving forward. [Those] are some of the things that we’ve all talked about as a group is we want to be part of the solution. That’s what we are all focusing on.”
(On the reason that run fits and tackling seem to have been more of an issue on the road than at home)
“I wish I could tell you why we can’t play at the same level when we are at Raymond James Stadium and we take our show on the road. We have not been able to handle the wear and tear of going on the road. It’s a fact when you look at it. It’s alarming in terms of what type of numbers that we are giving up on the road [compared to] what we are doing at home. It’s probably the biggest discrepancy of any team in the league. I don’t know that to be the case, but I would think it is. We’ve got three of the four at home, hopefully we can keep eking up and doing enough things to help this football team win.”
(On if they worked on facing the spread option)
“We did. We worked on it. They also had run what we call the wildcat formation where they ran the triple option, so we worked on where Randall Cobb was going to run it. If there is a running quarterback, we always touch on wildcat and the read option. Again, those are two critical errors. You have to play assignment football and we did not play assignment football on those two plays.”
(On if it hurts him as a coaching to see the defense’s rankings within league statistical categories, considering the success he has had throughout his career)
“The biggest stat that we always want to concern ourselves with is we’ve got to do whatever we have to this week to win. The dynamics of a football team change from week to week. They change during a game. You like to look at the markers to say, ‘Hey, these are the things that we’re progressing in.’ We’ve taken a step backwards in regard to some of those markers. There is probably one thing that has been consistent about our defense and that is we have taken the ball away probably as well as anybody in the NFL, or at least top five over the last two seasons.”
(On what markers he uses to analyze third-down defense)
“Third down is probably one of the most important markers. Last year, we were first in the league. This year, we are 32nd. Winning on third down is like a turnover. You’re going to force the offense to give the ball back to our offense most times. Sometimes it will be fourth-and-one situation. You always want to be able to win the line of scrimmage. Winning the line of scrimmage is usually yards per carry and winning the line of scrimmage is about putting pressure on the quarterback. Then the importance of not giving up explosive plays because when you give up an explosive play in a drive, statistically it’s going to jump up. A play that goes over 12 yards, you’re going to probably increase your probability at least 25 percent that there is going to be some type of score. If you have two of them, it jumps even further than that.”
(On if having young players in the secondary has led to the defense blitzing less)
“You’ve got to take a good hard look each week at how you want to approach the game. Then you have to also look at who you’re playing with. I will say this, I thought Ryan Smith – minus a leverage issue in the ballgame – he made some plays on the ball that really showed some growth in terms of understanding splits [and] understanding situations. He got his hands on a couple of balls that he hadn’t been getting his hands on. Every game there [are] positives and there [are] negatives. Unfortunately, the biggest one is whether you win or lose and that is what we are all trying to get done. We just haven’t been consistent enough, especially on defense, to do our part to help us win football games.”
(On how he keeps his players focused)
“I think you have to be consistent in what you do in your leadership. You don’t change your leadership style. I think that we have a group of guys that at times have played football at the level that we need to play for us to be successful and then there is other times that we’ve been well below that. The bad thing about it is that it happens in the same game. You can say that on a number of occasions this year. For the most part, I think that our effort has been good. It’s been good. We do have good leadership in the room. You’ve got guys like Gerald [McCoy]. You’ve got guys like Lavonte [David] and Kwon [Alexander] that are out there playing every down. We miss some guys, but you can’t complain about missing guys because everybody in this league after the first week – the first time you put pads on or the first time you practice – somebody is going to be down, somebody is going to be missing. This is a no-excuse business.”
(On facing Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford with his mobility and pocket presence)
“He is a very difficult guy to defend. He has got probably top three in terms of strength of arm. If I was going to say, we are going to go out and see how far you can throw this football, he is top three. He can flip the ball when he is off balance a lot further than you anticipate. It gets there a lot quicker. He is a tough dude. He has gotten rocked a few times this season and he just keeps getting up. That is why we are anticipating – I am not sure what his status is going to be, it’s questionable – but we are preparing like he is going to go. He is one of the tougher dudes. I’ve been very impressed. I’ve had the opportunity to compete against him. He is a competitor. You can’t get him rattled. You hit him hard and he just keeps on going. He is one of those elite quarterbacks when you start talking about the top seven or eight quarterbacks in this league, in my opinion.”
(On how much harder it has gotten to coach defense in the NFL today than compared to when he started due to the new player-safety rules)
“The league has changed immensely from 1999 when I first had an opportunity to join this great league. The thing that I think stands out the most is the athleticism of the skill players, and the play of the quarterback and the way that teams distribute the players on the offensive side of the football. It’s not unusual to see a tight end lined up at number one, a wide receiver lined up at number three and they are all looking for mismatches. What that does is it kind of forces you to play it more like NBA basketball at times. It becomes a one-on-one game, simply because if you’re playing zones you are going to have issues the way that people distribute their receivers. That part of it has changed. The guys are bigger [and] stronger. I think that we are doing a great job, as a league, in terms of player safety. I think that the numbers will back that up in terms of the helmet-to-helmet contact. Our guys understand how important it is to keep the head out of the game. It’s not easy and I feel for these guys because it’s a defensive player’s prerogative that he’s got to make sure that he doesn’t have the helmet-to-helmet contact and that target that he is going at is moving. Sometimes he is doing everything that we coach him to do and they still have helmet-to-helmet contact. Now, there [are] other times that guys are head-hunting. That happens in this league still and it’s a shame because we need to make sure that it is as safe that it can possibly be for all of the players.”
(On his thoughts on the Monday night Steelers vs. Bengals game)
“I didn’t see any of it. I didn’t. I heard some of the guys talking about it in the office and in the locker room.”
(On how he sticks to his defensive principles and zone defense in a league that has moved toward man-to-man coverage)
“You’ve got to adjust and we do adjust. A lot of our zones become matchup zones. Very few teams, depending on the situation, are truly playing spot drops where we are dropping to a specific spot on the field. In certain down and distances you do that because you’re going to have an opportunity to tackle them before they get a first down. But for the most part, most of the zone coverages that people are playing today – they are matching up when they match with a receiver in their zone. It’s a hybrid. So many people want to say, ‘Gosh, they only play’ – there are so many nuances based on who is aligned where, who you are defending him with and how you’re trying to put two guys on one whether you’re playing a man coverage or you are playing a ‘zone’ coverage. There are certain guys that you want to put two on one and there are certain formations that you can’t do that. When I say that, it’s hey, there are certain formations that they are going to put the guy in a position that we are going to have to play big-boy ball and go one on one at times.”
(On what he knows about Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford)
“What I know about him is that he makes a lot of money. It’s well deserved. He has earned it and he is young. Matthew Stafford is young to be in his ninth year, so he’s got a lot of years to come. He is an excellent passer. His toughness is unquestioned, in my opinion. [He] is very dangerous and he is never out. [He] may be down, but he is never out. He has proven that with how many fourth-quarter comebacks and second-half comebacks he has in his career. You’ve got to get after him. You can’t let him get comfortable. You can’t let the offense get any momentum because he is one of those guys [that] once his group gets rolling, it’s hard to slow him down. We’ve got to get on him early and often.”
(On the Lions tendency to give up a lot of sacks and struggle to get their run game going)
“That [doesn’t] mean [anything]. It’s a new Sunday and we haven’t stopped the run. They are going to try it, we just can’t allow them to do it. How many times he’s been sacked [doesn’t] matter either because we don’t have many sacks. A lot of that [doesn’t] mean [anything]. But, we’ve got to make sure we keep the trend with those guys going on Sunday, stopping the run [and] getting after the passer. We will have an opportunity to win for sure.”
(On facing teams still in the playoff hunt in the final four games of the season)
“It gives us an opportunity to finish the season strong – going into the offseason with a great taste in our mouths. You don’t want to give up. Often times you see on ESPN, all these analysts say, ‘Oh, the team gave up,’ or, ‘They packed it up.’ That’s not going to be us. We are never going to pack it up. We’ve got plenty of toughness, plenty of people ready to go fight for this thing and we are at home. We are in front of our fans. I know they have been disappointed with us the past few games, but we are at home. We like to put on a show for our fans, so we’ve just got to make sure we do that well, especially against a team of the magnitude of Detroit.”
(On what has allowed the team to be successful in the run defense at home)
“We feed off the energy of our fans. Like I said, we like to put on a good show for our fans at home. They deserve it. They send out great energy across Tampa. We’ve got to make sure that trend continues.”
(On what he likes about the play of defensive end Will Clarke)
“Will has always had the ability to rush the passer and now he is improving in the run game and just making the most of his opportunities. He works really hard [and] very diligently. He is always willing to learn. He asks a lot of questions and is very focused at practice and it is showing up in the game. He is just going to continue to get better.”
(On if the defensive performance prior to overtime was about as solid as they have played overall this season)
“We’ve had some better games, but it was good. It just wasn’t good enough. We had some opportunities we missed out on on the first drive. They shouldn’t even have gotten that field goal. [There was] just a couple miscues here and there, but the second half was really good. We finished off the half [and] started the half well. But, that wasn’t the end of the game. The end of the game was what we didn’t do well and that changes everything. It takes away from all the good that we did – just that one drive. But, that one drive was the reason that they won, really. If we stop them, or hold them to a field goal, we give our offense a chance to do their thing and you never know what can happen. That one was on us.”

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