Dirk Koetter Praises Rookies Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead

HC Dirk Koetter spoke to the media the day after the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

(On putting safety Chris Conte on injury reserve)

“Unfortunate that Chris is going to be out for a while and we had to put him on IR today. There’s a chance – we’re hopeful that he’d be a guy that could possibly bring back later in the season, but that totally depends on health. As we’ve said many times in this room, that’s one of the most difficult parts of this game, seeing guys that have worked hard and are playing well not be able to keep playing. Jordan Whitehead has come in and played in these first few games and he’s off to a good start in his career and then Isaiah Johnson filled in a little bit last night. Right now, that would be the remaining part of our depth. We’ll just have to see what happens with the roster here in the next couple days.”

(On the quarterback situation)

“I know there’s a lot of interest in the quarterback thing and I did talk to both Jameis [Winston] and Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick). Great to see Jameis back in the building. He was here early and working hard. Welcome Jameis back – we’re glad to have him. Short week and he assured me that he [is] ready to go, which I don’t doubt for a minute that he’s been working hard. We know what we’re going to do. Both guys know what we’re going to do. Hope everybody can appreciate that it doesn’t do us any good to tell our opponents what we’re going to do. That’ll work itself out here as the week goes on. We do have a plan and both guys are aware of it.”

(On if there is a plan for the quarterbacks beyond Week 4)

“Yeah, we have a plan for it, but again you never really know how it’s going to go from week-to-week. Look at the Chris Conte situation that we just talked about. That’s just the one example. I have an idea of how it’s going to go, but this is an ever-changing game.”

(On what made quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick better in the second half)

“We protected him better – number one. We had some very uncharacteristic combination of missed protection opportunities. We had a couple of route break offs that we haven’t been having. Missed communication on routes. Fitz tried to make a couple throws with someone right in his face, where he wasn’t really able to follow through. He’s made some throws like that where he’s had his arm up high trying to throw over somebody, but he sort of had to short-arm it. A combination of all those things basically led to three interceptions. You’re not going to turn it over three times in a half and win very many games. We protected him much better in the second half. I thought Fitz got the ball out of his hands quicker in the second half. We went to some – not entirely – but to some quicker hitting plays, more rhythmic passing plays. We got a little momentum going. That first drive in the third quarter was like the longest drive ever. One of the things that hurt us a lot last night is we gave too many points away. The drive in the first half when we got sacked, gave up a sack, knocked out of field goal range. We’re on the 12 yard-line, we throw an interception. You’re almost guaranteed a field goal – you get nothing. Right before the half, we went down there. First and goal at the five [yard-line] we have to settle for a field-goal – possible four points right there. And then that first drive of the third quarter, eight-minute drive first-and-goal at the six [yard-line] – have to settle for a field-goal. Those missed opportunities when you’re looking back at a three-point deficit, those really add up.”

(On if Conte made a previous injury worse or just came to the realization that he can’t go anymore)

“Not sure about that. It the same knee and it is the same injury. I haven’t seen the medical report. I don’t know exactly what it is. It’s worse than it was I know that.”

(On red zone inefficiency)

“Like it always is – it’s a combination. On the interception going in, we turn a blitzer free. He’s free right in Fitz’s face. Fitz tries to get the ball out on time. The guy blocks in. This is just how crazy – the ball goes straight in the air, their nickel intercepts it, meanwhile he’s supposed to be covering Adam Humphries in the far flat. Adam Humphries is wide open in the flat – the guy blows an assignment. We’re basically throwing hot off our right side and it ends up being an interception. That’s what happened. That’s a bad ball by us. We had another play where the ball was on the money. I know if Chris Godwin had that a hundred times he’d think he was going to catch 95 of those. The defender made a good play grabbing his arm in there – that was good play by him. We had a couple runs where we didn’t block it clean enough. We had a free hitter in the hole. As we talked about last year when we talked about that – rarely is it one single thing. It’s one single thing on this play then something else on this play then something else on this play.”

(On how the rookies in the secondary played against the Steelers)

“First off, I thought Carlton Davis was outstanding in the game. I think for the guy he was having to cover, he showed no fear. The game wasn’t too big for him, he didn’t back down. Played a lot of press coverage, played right up in their face. I thought. M.J. Stewart for the most part played well at nickel in his first full-time game playing nickel. Then we mentioned Jordan Whitehead had a bigger role coming in for Chris Conte, so for a good part of the game we had three rookies when we were in nickel defense – had three rookies out there. Is there going to be some growing pains with three rookies in your secondary and right now two of starting four to start the year DBs [defensive backs] are out? Yeah, there’s going to be some growing pains, but at the same time we really like what those guys have shown so far.”

(On if he was impressed with how quarterback Jameis Winston replicated practices during his suspension)

“I wasn’t there so I don’t know, but knowing Jameis the fact that he came up with that plan and put it into motion and recruited people to help, I’ve never seen that before. It really doesn’t surprise me knowing Jameis like I know him. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the film of it to see what it looked like. I’m sure Jameis got his wish – he was the player and the coach at the same time.”

(On if he was aware of Winston’s plan)

“He had told me he was going to do it.”

(On Winston allegedly having a mock-game on Saturday with 25 guys)

“I’m really disappointed that one of you guys didn’t get over there and get video on it.”

(On the roughing the passer penalties)

“I think it’s really hard right now to know what to tell your rushers. It’s just hard to tell them. I have the upmost respect for NFL officials. I could never do their job. I think what we’re asking officials to do – especially the referee because he’s the one that calls most of them – I think it’s just really tough. When they send us the videos – and we all want to protect the quarterback – we all want player safety, but when they send us the videos, and they show all this stuff in slow motion, that’s different when it happens in live speed. That guy has to make some pretty critical calls. We got two early against us in the first half and then they had two against them later. I’ll be honest I’d turn two more in – if this is roughing the passer, why isn’t this roughing the passer? That’s just now I don’t really know how to tell our player what roughing the passer is. I know we’re not supposed to hit them in the head, we’re not supposed to hit them below the knee, we’re not supposed to fall on them with our body weight and now we’re not supposed to lift them. I think this is a league-wide issue. There’s been plenty of press over it and there’s going to be an adjustment period because I don’t think the guys know exactly what they should be doing. I just think it’s putting the officials in a tough spot. Until we get it all figured out there’s probably going to be more flags.”

(On the last drive)

“I mean I just know from them showing the videos in the team meeting – I just know from showing the videos – what are supposed to do?”

(On if the biggest problem with the kickoff returns)

“We were very poor in that last night. Our biggest issue last night [was] our returner and our blockers weren’t on the same page. More than once, we were blocking it one way and returning it the other and that’s just not going to work. That was disappointing. Obviously Pittsburgh challenged us to bring the ball out. The kicked it high and tried to get hangtime. When a team does that, you’ve got to get it past the 25 yard-line to make it a successful play. We can’t have that. It’s just like any other play, if two different parts of the play are on the wrong page or not on the same page, it’s not going to work out [well] and that’s exactly what happened with our kickoff return. I don’t care where we’re ranked in the league. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to see that we weren’t in sync with kickoff return last night. We’ve got to get it fixed right away.”

(On when they settled on a plan for the quarterbacks)

“It’s been a work-in-progress because again I wasn’t sure where everything was going to be. I’m still not 100 percent sure because I haven’t seen Jameis practice. I know when Jameis left at the end of preseason, he was in good form. The timing doesn’t really matter. I know everybody wants to know, but it’s really not important. Really what’s important is what are going to do this week against the Bears. That’s really all that matters.”

(On if he worries that the locker room will pick a side of who should start at quarterback)

“It’s possible – yeah, it’s possible. I worry about a lot of stuff, but I also trust our guys. I trust our guys that they’ll know that we’re making the move that’s in the best interest of our team. I think our guys just want to win and I think the second half last night was a good example. When you go in three touchdowns, three scores down at halftime and the fight was still there in our guys. Just in the locker room. Proud of the way they competed and came back. No matter what the adversity is, I think our guys will try to fight through it. This quarterback issue we have right now is not an adversity. We are blessed. I think we have three good quarterbacks on out roster right now and not all teams in the league can say that. I think we can win – Griff hasn’t proven it yet, but I think we have two guys that we can win with and a third guy that I’d love to get him a shot some time.”

(On how much Pittsburgh’s pressure impacted Fitzpatrick)

“Pressure is a double-edged sword. If you protect pressure, the defense is exposed. We also had 13 explosives. We can’t turn the ball over no matter if they pressure us 40 percent or 400 percent, we can’t turn the ball over. We look at it as pressure creates opportunity. We expected the Steelers to pressure us. Their D-line was gassed up and was trying to push us back. I thought [Cameron] Heyward really set the tempo for their defensive line – played well. He’s a good football player. You say how much blame do I put on Ryan Fitzpatrick? I don’t put blame on any one player because I can go through and show you plays where the right tackle messed up, the left tackle messed up, the X receiver messed up, the Z receiver messed up the tight end messed up, the running back. I mean, I saw Jacquizz [Rodgers] run right by a blitz check last night, which I’ve never seen in six or so years coaching Jacquizz. We made mistakes that we haven’t been making and I think we’re a better football team than that. We showed it in two weeks. We didn’t show it as much as often as consistently last night.”

(On how challenging it was for guard Ryan Jensen to play through illness)

“It was a big challenge. Ryan – that was a huge check for him because he had been sick throughout the day. was dehydrated. Even though that rain storm cooled it down a little bit, it was still extremely humid on the field. That just shows what kind of competitor. There was never any doubt in his mind that he was going to play. That doesn’t surprise me that he played as hard as he could.”

(On if he wishes Fitzpatrick had thrown the ball away on the interception returned for a touchdown)

“I’d love for him to have thrown that away. We didn’t meet with the players today because the players are day off, so I didn’t really get to talk to Fitz about that specific play. You can see it on the tape. As he’s throwing, whether his arm’s hit or not, but there’s definitely pressure. We have leakage in the protection there. We’re in an eight-man protection. We’ve got penetration. In a perfect world, when you’re backed up inside your five [yard-line] you throw it away. We’re not playing in a perfect world.”

(On how impressed he is with the way his players handled the quarterback situation)

“Very impressed and I’m impressed because no one thought we’d be here, but I’m also disappointed at the same time because I feel like we had a real opportunity to be 3-0 instead of 2-1. There’s only been one team in NFL history to win them all and it’s hard to do. We’ve just got to get back to it. It’s a long year. We’re not even through the first quarter yet. We’re far better than most people thought we’d be right now, but we have high expectations for ourselves.”

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