Dirk Koetter Praises Jason Pierre-Paul & Carl Nassib, Starting to Scout Saints

Head Coach Dirk Koetter spoke to the media on Monday during Week 14.

(On wide receiver Chris Godwin’s ability to step up in crucial moments)

“Well first of all, not surprising to me. I’ve been saying since day one that I feel like we have four starting wide receivers. They’ve all had their moments where they’ve played very well at times this year. Not surprising at all. On the touchdown we had a crossing route going to the left side of the end zone and Chris was on the very back end line – number four in the progression. When Jameis [Winston] stepped up, that’s something that Monk (Todd Monken) works with those guys all the time – Chris converted right away to scramble rules and that was it. That was a heck of a throw by Jameis. That ball had a lot more juice on it than you might think. He had to throw it over the corner and back end zone and the safety was over there to the left. That ball had a lot on it, so that was a little tougher catch than it probably looked like.”

(On quarterback Jameis Winston’s second touchdown pass being his best throw of the game yesterday)

“Yeah, well now I’ll say second best after watching the tape.”

(On Winston’s best play of the game)

“He threw that skinny post to Mike [Evans] in that same drive where he really did a great job of looking off. He threw that thing so early, when it came out of his hands I thought it was going to get past Mike before Mike turned around because Mike put a little extra secret sauce on his route – it’s a rhythm cut. Mike shook it a little bit, so I didn’t think Mike was going to get there. That was a great throw by Jameis.”

(On how much if a difference Winston’s running made against the Panthers)

“You know, Jameis had two explosive runs – two beautiful scrambles. One just based on – they were in man coverage – on the one in the red zone they were in man coverage and he signaled to a different route and when you look at it on tape, the middle kind of parted and he just took it and ran hard. Then on the other one, it was a second-and-long and we kind of had a little breakdown and he pulled it down. We were in empty and we turned it the wrong way – we turned the protection the wrong way and so we were hot. Jameis had a guy in his face. He juked him with a pump and got him in the air – that was a really nice run too. We’re not designing it for Jameis to be our leading rusher, but that’s the way it worked out yesterday.”

(On the key to Winston’s scrambling)

“I think the key to those scrambles is that once you get through the traffic, how quickly you get your eyes back downfield. Then there a lot of moving part there’s because there’s always those guys chasing you. He’s gotten stripped from behind before, so he’s doing a lot better job of keeping two hands on the ball and then he’s keeping his eyes downfield and then very rarely now is he drifting and running sideways. He’s getting north and south and making quick decisions.”

(On what Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner has done with the defense)

“Not only Duff, but the entire defensive staff. I thought the defensive line set the tempo for our defense yesterday. You’ve got to credit all three of the back seven – the linebackers coach, which is also Duff, the safeties coach Brett Maxie, the corners coach (Jon Hoke) – they’re all playing with a lot of backup players in there. Just to get those guys ready, put their package together and have those guys in position – plus Carolina’s a hard team to defend because of all they do with their option football. I couldn’t be prouder of the way the defense played and coached yesterday. Did an awesome job.”

(On how important it is to have players like cornerback Javien Elliot who step up when starters go down)

“It’s important because there’s not many guys left on the street. I don’t know if guys look at the transactions everyday, but between all the guys that 32 teams have put on IR and guys have already promoted a ton of guys from [the] practice squad. Then another thing that we’re running into is there’s a next level of players that were on the street that have signed with a new league and they’re not supposed to be breaking their contracts. It’s just not a lot of guys left, so you better have guys that you’ve been working with whether it’s on and off your roster or guys that have just been hanging in there biding their time on you practice squad. In a perfect world, your 10 guys on a practice squad are guys that you eventually want to put in a game and that’s worked out well for us so far this year.”

(On if he gets nervous when he sees Winston scramble)

“To be honest with you, usually when I see him doing that I’m screaming at him to get down – that’s usually what I’m doing. I’m saying telling him, ‘Get down.’ I think when Jameis makes those two runs like I talked about – 18-yard runs – that’s above and beyond the call of duty. I’m fine if Jameis goes north and south, gets what he can and gets down, and he did that a couple times yesterday too. I look at that as above and beyond, just because it’s my belief system that eventually those hits add up on a quarterback. I’d rather Jameis not take those hits so I guess that’s maybe the compromise of his competitive side versus the just can’t turn the ball over. He’s been doing a good job of that.”

(On what clicked for Winston to be doing well right now in the season)

“I’m sure we’ll turn it over again at some point. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of turnovers. You see what happened to Carolina yesterday. Cam Newton had been playing right at probably his MVP level from a couple years ago when he had four turnovers yesterday – could’ve had six. We had our hands on other balls. It’s fickle that way. I think as long as Jameis continues to make good decisions then he’s going to play good football. That’s really all we’re worried about.”

(On how offensive tackle Leonard Wester played)

“Really well, really well. Just in the first series alone he went against three different defensive ends. We had so many guys – linebackers, secondary, Leonard, [Alex] Cappa to a lesser extent, Ronald Jones got back in there, Bobo Wilson, Justin Watson, those two guys both made big plays on special teams. For a guy that played every down, Leonard, really pleased with how he played.”

(On what happened with Elliott during Hurricane Michael)

“We cut him in there. It was right after that. It was during the week, but he was still here that week. Then right at the end of that next week we had to let him go for a few days until we could bring him back. He went from active to coming back on the practice squad and then within that same week was back on the 53 [man roster]. I know he went through a few days where he hadn’t heard from his family.”

(On if Elliot’s family lost anything during Hurricane Michael)

“They did. Some worse than others. You’d have to get the specifics from him, but he was mostly nervous because he hadn’t heard from them and it was right in his area. I think maybe – I don’t want to speak out of turn – but somebody from his family lost their house, lost their home. Other took them a couple days to get to a place where they could contact him with cell service.”

(On the linebacker rotation)

“The plan yesterday was [Kevin] Minter was going to play middle linebacker in base defense. Carolina only gave us 21 or 12 personnel five plays I think the whole game. Minter’s production was through the roof, but he was only in there [four plays]. In sub we were playing Adarius Taylor and Lavonte [David] as the two linebackers in base. Adarius was kicking out to Sam [linebacker] Minter was playing Mike [linebacker]. We knew that is was going to be more of a nickel type of game, but we didn’t know it was going to be that much where they didn’t play hardly any 12 or 21.”

(On the players in the secondary being versatile)

“I think it’s helped us a lot, but you’ve got to go back – this all stems from Kwon [Alexander] getting hurt. When Kwon and Lavonte are in there and we go to nickel defense, 4-2-5 personnel, four down [linemen], two backers five [defensive backs], it’s hard to take Kwon or Lavonte out of the game. That’s like when they say; Why don’t you go more 10 personnel on offense? Well you want to take O.J [Howard] and Cam [Brate] out to put a fourth wideout in? That doesn’t make sense. It was the same thing on defense, but once Kwon got hurt that left us with only Lavonte. Once Lavonte got hurt, we had neither. It’s guys that haven’t played as much football and let’s face it, they’re not as good of players as those two guys are. They started playing [Andrew] Adams as a dime linebacker and there’s other teams that do that. Some teams do it full time, like Arizona does it with the kid from Washington State (Deone Bucannon). We were forced into doing it, and then that role has just expanded now. Adams yesterday, once we lost two safeties – we lost Justin [Evans] and we lost Isaiah [Johnson] during the game – he had to go in and be on regular defense he was the safety. Josh Shaw, who’s only been here two weeks, came in and played safety when we went to dime. Necessity and then those roles have grown and then you’ve got a guy like De’Vante Harris coming in who we really had him here after [M.J.] Stewart was hurt, we had him here to be the second nickel and then he had to go outside and play corners because we were down so many corner yesterday. He started and played the whole game and did a really nice job.”

(On if the team’s dime package has led to an improvement in third down defense)

“It’s a passing league and once you get past third-and-two, you just don’t see very many runs and we’re the same way. You just don’t run it very much. Getting the extra speed on the field makes sense. [Adarius] is actually playing like our middle linebacker in that package. They move him around. They blitzed him some yesterday. I think he got a couple eye openers when they ran a couple twists off the edge and had to run through the B-gap and all of a sudden there was a guard sitting there waiting for him. That’s probably not his favorite thing to do. In practice, that came clean every time – it wasn’t quite so clean yesterday. He’s done a good job and again that goes to coaches that’ve done a good job putting those guys in position. Then those guys have taken those roles and run with them.”

(On if ‘playing for the guys next to you’ has been a recent team message)

“We have so many guys that are fighting every week to be healthy enough to play. Guys that aren’t practicing much during the week because of health and are still going out there and you can’t help but see their effort on game day. You folks don’t get to see what they go through during the week down in the training room an all the other modalities they go through to get their bodies ready for Sunday. I’ll just use JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) as an example – if you knew all the injuries he had on the injury report and then see how he throws his body around on Sunday and he doesn’t like to come out. He probably came out more yesterday than he has all season. I thought our D-line rotation was the best it’s been yesterday. The guys have kind of picked up on it. We’ve talked about it – the guys have picked up on that. That’s what you want your team to do – easier said than done. You want those guys to do that. It’s got to come from them.”

(On what is allowing the defensive line to be able to get to the quarterback more)

“I’ve been saying I think the main thing on that has been – the most consistent thing in our rush has been the play of those two ends, JPP and [Carl] Nassib. Now you’ve got Vinny Curry back and he got in the act yesterday. I though Gerald [McCoy] had one of his best games of the year yesterday. The number one thing behind it all is the consistency of those two ends – how hard they’re playing. They’re both hard to block. JPP hasn’t been practicing as much lately, but when he does practice he’s pedal to the metal out there and Nassib has picked up on that. We struggled to block him all week.”

(On if he has a better sense of the goal line play that was ruled a fumble)

“No, our film doesn’t have a good view of it. I think whichever way they called that on the field, the other side was going to be disappointed. I don’t think any of those guys really saw that clearly what happened. Those goal line plays are the toughest because there’s all those bodies and the guys looking in from the side then you’ve got the guy in the back. I don’t think any of them really saw exactly what happened. They had a little meeting out there. For whatever reason, they decided to call it the way they did. I don’t care how many camera angles you have, I just think those are always going to be hard to overturn whatever was called. I still do not have a good feel for what – somebody said one of the TV guys said something different. I have not seen anything that I can say where I even have an opinion on it.”

(On what makes a good rivalry)

“I think a rivalry is always based on both teams have to win sometimes. It can’t be 10 to nothing. Both teams have to know that it’s going to be a game. They have to know it’s going to be a competitive game. I think there’s good rivalries in this division. I mean, I’ve been in this division for a long time. I think there are good rivalries.”

(On what he thinks about the Saints)

“I do think about that, but we’re just getting started on them. They’re number one in the league in rushing defense which because I haven’t been following them that much I guess I probably wouldn’t have guessed that. Jenna [Laine] just said the thing about we’re number two in the league in sacks over the last however many weeks. Guess who number one is? New Orleans (laughs). The sack part is just over the last however many weeks our sacks was. The rushing is for the year though. They’re number one in the league. I’m just starting now to watch them and [Sheldon] Rankins is seven sacks and I think I mentioned in here a week or so ago I think Rankins is a good comparison to Vita [Vea]. We did a lot of work on Rankins coming out. He was right in the mix for us as well that year when he came out. Now it’s his third year and he’s really having a good year. You don’t win 10 straight in this league if you’re not pretty good.”

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