Initial comments …
“As we prepare this week for the Bucs, they’re coming off of a good win versus Cleveland in overtime. They were hot out of the box, then lost a couple of games before getting back on the winning trail last week. They’re being really productive on offense, they’ve hit some vertical plays and are spreading the football around. Both Jameis Winston and Fitzy (Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick), when he’s played, have done a nice job pushing the ball down the field. When things break down, both are athletic and elusive enough to run for first downs. We have to do a good job against that. Defensively, the thing that has impressed me is that they play very, very hard up front. You don’t want to get into a throwing game with the explosive players they have up front. We’ll have to a very good job handling that. And they’re very athletic at linebacker.”
How unique is Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul, to be able to do what’s he’s doing out there after the incident he had?
“He had such rare physical tools, but he’s adapted and obviously he’s very comfortable playing now.”
Obviously they can’t change the entire scheme after changing defensive coordinators a few weeks ago, but is it still a challenge to prepare for a team that has undergone a change like that?
“You don’t have a real history, with Duff (Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mark Duffner) having only called the plays for one week. It’s probably going to be a little different than normal weeks, yes.”
You’re very close friends with Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter. How often do you talk to him during the season?
“Usually after his Monday postgame press conferences or things like that when he amuses me (laughs). We may have talked after the Falcons game, but we haven’t talked in the past two weeks.”
You guys obviously still keep in close contact …
“Yeah. I get the Idaho State guys this week. He had them all last year, now I get them back this year. Lucky me (laughs).”
So do you just have a day for everyone during the season? Koetter on Mondays, Hue Jackson on Wednesdays, and Chad Johnson whenever he feels like calling you at 5 a.m. …
“(Laughs) Don’t forget Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer). And I also check in with Jay (Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden). It’s very unique, having sat in class with Dirk for years. I kind of grew up eating Thanksgiving dinner at his home, and I went to high school football games with his mother when his dad was coaching and his brother was the quarterback. Then later on, I worked for his father. So it’s a little bit unique. His dad coached and mentored us all the way through.”
When you look at today’s NFL, in terms of throwing the football, is Dirk’s scheme about as good as any?
“This is what Dirk has wanted to do all of his life. The thing that I thought was unique about Dirk when he became a coordinator in Jacksonville, was how well they ran the football. People want to say he’s a passing coach, but he wants to run the football, and they do a nice job with their scheme that way. They’re obviously doing a good job throwing the football as well.”
Knowing the weapons they have in WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, do you have to change anything defensively to counteract their high flying offense?
“We get to play with 12 this week (laughs). We’ll take that change.”
Are you putting in a petition?
“We’re so well-liked in the league (laughs).”
I know that injuries are part of this game, but with what’s been going on at tight end, do you have to start trying to think of creative ways to combat something like that? How do you combat what’s happened?
“I thought you were volunteering there for a second (laughs). The offensive coaches no doubt have to continue to (combat that). We started the season heavy at that position, and we’ve run through them. Hopefully we can get on the right side of it and things can continue to work back the other way. Injuries are part of the NFL, we have to weather this so we can come out on the other side better.”
You brought Bengals TE Matt Lengel in a few weeks ago. With that position in particular, how challenging is it for someone to come into the system midseason?
“That’s why Matt was an easy choice, because he’d been here with us for two years (previously). Although the nomenclature has changed, he does understand Jonathan Hayes, his coach, and he can relate to techniques. The words Jonathan uses haven’t changed much, just how we call the plays. He’s a smart, bright guy. And now with Jordan (Bengals TE Jordan Franks), we pick up another guy and have to utilize their skills.”
What is Jordan Franks like as a player?
“He’s the first one in this building every single day, and one of the last ones to leave. For a coach, you love to be able to reward guys like that. He’s a young guy, and he’s going to get an opportunity to play. I can remember the coaches talking during the training camp about when they’d do bed checks, and he’d be in there studying. That’s a cool thing. He’s going to get an opportunity to step up and play big-boy football right away. It’s a good opportunity.”
How has Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict played since he came back from suspension?
“He hasn’t played as well as he has in the past.”
What are you seeing with him, as far as technique or anything?
“I don’t want to talk about Vontaze. It’s not relevant.”
Do you think his play needs to get better?
“You can keep asking the questions, but does someone else have one? Because I’m not going to answer that one.”
It’s never a good thing when your potential inactive list is determined by injuries. This football team has been hit with injuries in a lot of places …
“We’ve got some guys down, but we just have to weather the storm, and come back on the other side.”
How much does it change what Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor can do with all of the injuries at tight end?
“It changes what you can do a little bit, but we have to adapt. Everyone adapts and moves forward.”
You said you didn’t want to talk about how Vontaze has played. How will his injury from last Sunday’s game affect him going forward?
“When he’s ready to go, he’ll be back out there. It’s like everyone else.”