Week 7 Conference Call Transcripts: at Washington (10/25/15)

(On a sense of urgency this week)
“After you have a tough loss like we had against the Jets, and obviously we’ve lost two in a row, falling to 2-4, you have a game at home and you have to have a sense of urgency. You can’t get knocked too far back in this division, or anywhere. To get 2-5 on the bye week, I think it’s important for us to try to get in the bye week with some positive thoughts. It’s an important game – as they all are, like I said – but playing in our home stadium, we have to take advantage of our home games and it’s a very important one for us.”
(On Tampa Bay’s success against Washington last season and what Washington has to do differently this year)
“They outplayed us in every phase [in 2014]. They were more physical up front and especially their defense against our offense. They sacked us many, many times. They did an excellent job and had an excellent plan. Offensively, they hit some big plays on us. They stayed balanced. I think it’s just important for us moving forward [that] we have to match their physicality. Obviously they are a very good defensive football team; they play fast. Offensively, when they come on offense it’s important for our defense to try to stop Doug Martin. He’s hot right now – very, very hot. And then obviously contain those big wideouts. But they have a very good football team and they’re out to prove themselves as well as we are.”
(On former Tampa Bay players Dashon Goldson and Mason Foster and how they are fitting into the Washington team this season)
“They’ve done a good job. Dashon has come in here, he’s been an instant leader. He’s our captain, was voted a captain before the season started and he runs the show [in the defensive backfield]. Mason just got here a couple weeks ago and he’s had an impact on our special teams. He hasn’t had to play a lot of linebacker yet, but he’s right in line to play that. He’s really been a help on special teams so far. They’re both good guys, play hard, and are welcome additions to our football team.”
(On what keeps Gruden confident in his support of quarterback Kirk Cousins as the starter)
“I think just the total work. You see a couple bad throws here and there and everybody questions the decision, as obviously they should. We have three quarterbacks who have played in the NFL and had some success, so if you’re the guy playing and you don’t have success, then obviously people will want the other ones in there. But I just think the total package of what he’s done since OTAs, training camp, and obviously this year. He’s had some rough times as we knew could happen, but he’s also done some good things and we’re going to try to build off the positive and see if he can play himself out of this rut that he’s in right now and see what happens. But we have high hopes for him still, and this offense.”
(On what he saw from Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston during the draft process and what he sees now that Winston is playing in the NFL)
“When you watched him in college, he’s a big, physical guy who can make all the throws. He’s an exciting player. Sometimes he makes some mistakes, as all quarterbacks do, but he’ll make the big play for you also. He’s a big guy, will make every throw. He’s learning the ropes right now. I know they have an excellent offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter and he’ll get [Winston] going. What helps [Winston] out is a strong running game and that’s what I can’t stress enough about our team – that’s what we’ve been trying to stress all along is to help the quarterback out through these early stages, young stages, of their career by having some balance and having a good running game. That’s what they’re trying to do in Tampa and that’s what we need to try to do also, here, for us to have a chance.”
(On injuries in Washington’s defensive backfield)
“It’s been a challenge, it really has. And you can never use that as an excuse for your lack of production, but the secondary has had a lot of challenges all [since] training camp, really. We’ve had to mix and match people in there, we’ve brought people in off the streets who are contributing big-time right now, like Will Blackmon, we’ve moved a safety to nickel – Kyshoen Jarrett is a rookie who has never really played nickel and he’s done a good job. [Bashaud] Breeland’s been nickel, he’s been corner – we lost our starting corners D-Hall (DeAngelo Hall) and [Chris] Culliver and lost our starting nickel from training camp, Justin Rogers, to an injury, so it’s been tough. I think Joe Barry and Perry Fewell deserve a lot of credit for keeping that group together. When you have that many injuries, sometimes you have to play a little bit more conservative than you want to, but I think as we get more comfortable with our corners, I think we can become more aggressive as a defense. But for the most part, I think the guys who have filled in have played well. And they have to continue to play well against this dynamic group of receivers that Tampa Bay has.”
(On running back Matt Jones)
“We saw that he was a big, tough, physical runner in college. He’s a Tampa guy, I know that very well. We’re excited about him. He’s put a couple balls on the ground, but he runs hard and he’s a physical runner and he’s a great complement to Alfred [Morris]. When we’re at our best, those two guys are getting their touches, and when we’re not, those guys aren’t getting enough touches. That’s important for us to establish a run game. Alfred is still the lead dog, but bringing in a fresh Matt Jones, as big as he is, as physical as he is, to run with power and speed on the outside – he’s a great weapon for us and hopefully he’ll be healthy come Sunday.”
(On facing Tampa Bay)
“I really respect them starting with the coaching staff, Coach [Lovie] Smith, Coach [Leslie] Frazier, all the way down to the players. I just see guys who are fast, who play fast , who penetrate, who make plays sideline to sideline and [I have] a lot of respect for the guys they have. [They have] a lot of experienced guys who have played in Coach Smith’s system for a few years coming from Chicago. Then you’ve got guys like Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy who are just very, very talented and experienced guys in their own way. It will certainly be a challenge for us.”
(On turning the ball over and focusing on ball security)
“I think you said it well, there are a lot of different reasons so for the sake of time I won’t go back to every single one and explain what took place, but there are certainly enough that have been on me that I want to get it fixed and corrected. I think it is a point of emphasis. It’s important to protect the football and when you do that it gives your offense a chance, it gives your defense a chance, it gives you team a chance to stay in games. When you start to turn the ball over it makes it an uphill battle to come out with wins. It is a point of emphasis. It is something to continue to grow in and see where we are as we go.”
(On how he stays focused with all the attention on the quarterback position in Washington)
“I think you block it out by blocking it out. You block it out by not trying to pay attention to it, just focus on what your coaches are telling you to do, what your teammates are encouraging you to do and go out there and play. I think we all know that in this business it’s week to week. You are as good as your last game and they are going to criticize guys who have won Super Bowls who have a bad game and when a guy comes out and plays really well, no matter how short or long he’s been doing it, they’re going to crown him as the next great thing. You just kind of go week to week and try not to ride the rollercoaster. Understand that over the long haul if you put some great games together, great performances and some wins, you’ll be around.”
(On Tampa Bay defensive end William Gholston)
“I have great memories of Will because my last college game, he had a phenomenal game, in the Outback Bowl in Tampa against Georgia. His play in that game was part of the reason we won. I’m grateful to him for sending me out in my last college game with a victory with some of the plays he made. I remember he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. Everybody in the SEC had offered him and the fact that he came to Michigan State was a huge deal for us and recruiting and a huge deal for our program. It was one of those stepping stone moments that got Michigan State up to a better level in the national spotlight. It was actually Will Gholston’s idea to get Nike to give us combat jerseys for my senior year when we played Michigan. We got these bronze helmets and these black pants, these really cool jerseys, that all came from Will. He asked Coach [Mark] Dantonio and said, ‘Why don’t we have combat jerseys?’ So Coach D passed it on to Nike and next thing you we had combat jerseys. I owe Will a lot. He helped us a ton and had a great career at MSU and now I’m proud to see what he has done. We were both fourth-round picks. He’s been very successful in Tampa now having a starting role. I expect him to continue to do good things going forward.”
(On getting a win and staying in the playoff picture in the NFC East)
“I see it as there is so much football left to be played that whether we were in first, in second, in last, whatever the role is, there is so much left to be played, anything can happen. I was part of a team in 2012 that we were 3-6 and considered completely out of it and then we won seven straight and won the division and got a home playoff game. You just try to go 1-0 each week and see where you are at the end. There is a lot of football left to be played. There’s no doubt that it’s so important to go 1-0 each week and to not come away with a loss. That’s certainly going to be our focus. It will be Tampa Bay’s focus too. That’s why it’s going to make for a great game and a very competitive match.”
(On what it has meant to have head Coach Jay Gruden stick with him as the starting quarterback)
“He’s got to do what he feels is best for the team. I’m going to do all I can and keep preparing and working. I understand this business is competitive and there is always somebody coming at you. Even if you don’t feel like there is, there is always somebody coming after you. You’re trying to perform week-in and week-out and like you said it’s, ‘what have you done for me lately.’ So it’s a short memory, you just have to keep going, keep working and stay the course and then see where you end up.”