Whisenhunt on Preparing for Cincinnati's Defense

Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt addresses the media following Thursday's practice about preparing for the Bengals defense.

On RB Justin Jackson:

“You know, I can't remember because I've been asked a little bit about him, but I went through the whole progression of when he came in and how he didn't do a lot in camp. He was injured. Then the start of the season it was like, okay, is this guy going to be able to do it? Then it was how he worked his way into getting back into shape and playing on the scout team. Then last week, not this week, but the week before that when he played against Arizona, you were like, I wasn't surprised because he's been doing that in practice. That's where a lot of these guys don't understand sometimes is that's where you can get better in this time of year for a young player, and he did. So was I surprised that he did what he did against the Steelers? Not after having seen what he did against Arizona. So, maybe, yeah, I was a little surprised, but I can't say that I was surprised because I've seen him do it on the field, and I've seen our players get excited about him. So I was happy to see it, but you never know in that environment. He handled it really well, and it was big for us.”

On his Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis calling the defense:

“Coach Lewis and I go way back. He's a good friend and I think he's an outstanding football coach, and he does a great job. I think a lot of times when you make changes in-season, especially when you've built up a basis from the OTAs and in training camp, it's difficult to change too much. You can tweak some things. There are some things that they're doing a little bit differently, and they're playing hard. That's the one thing that you see. It will be a challenge. They have some talented players.”

On coaching QBs like Philip Rivers:

“Well, I've been very fortunate to be around a couple of those guys in my time in the NFL. It's always great. We all know it's important that you have a quarterback in this league, and to have one of the best ones and the way he's performing right now is fantastic. I think he can do a lot of different things, and I think it helps from the standpoint of our players because they know they're all live. There is a chance they're going to get the ball. He's been able to play at a tremendous level since I've been with him, and he's one of the best, I think. I know he's one of the best I've been around, and I think he's one of the best to play the game. So, yes, it's great to have a guy like that.”

On slow starts to the past couple of weeks:

“Have we had slower starts? I thought Arizona was pretty good. I know we started out the first thing, but then we scored like six-straight drives. Pittsburgh is pretty good. It was a tough road the first half, but we got it going pretty good in the second half. I can speak more so, I think, from the Pittsburgh part of it. When you're playing a really good football team on the road in a crazy environment, sometimes it is difficult. I think a lot of times you have to make some adjustments and tweak some things to where you get what you think is working well. We kind of got to that in the second half and played better. We didn't have a lot of plays in the first half, I don't think, but we missed some opportunities. The first drive we did pretty good and moved down the field and missed the field goal. After that, we weren't really good. So it's not easy to play on the road in that type of environment. So sometimes that's part of it, but we'll continue to work and hopefully we can get to where we ended up in that game, which is playing pretty good.”

On being a candidate for Georgia Tech’s head coach opening:

“Like I said last week, my focus really is about this team and what we're doing. I’m trying not to, by any means, creep into that. [Georgia Tech Athletics Director] Todd [Stansbury] and I were teammates. We played together and we've talked, so that process is still ongoing.”

On if he has been formally interviewed for the position:

“Well, I mean, based on what I heard, I was in Atlanta Saturday, in Atlanta Monday. So I've spoken with them. What you consider formal or not formal. Like I said, it's a tremendous honor to be considered for that position at a school that I played for and have very strong feelings for. The process is still ongoing, but right now my focus is still on our team and it's really hard to get to the point where we are right now. We're talking about that today. Sometimes you're in this position and you're hoping that you have a chance to get in. If we do what we're capable of doing, we can control that. That's a big deal.”

On reports about his status as a candidate:

“It seems my cell phone goes in cycles with messages. I wasn't even aware of that. So I can't speak to it because I didn't even know that was something. I know I get — when something like that comes out, boom, the messages come in. So that's interesting.”

On preparing for two games in a five-day span:

“Okay, what I think you're asking there is really two different questions, okay. I would hope that we're not focused on Kansas City by any stretch of the imagination right now. Cincinnati's a good football team. If you put on some of their tape and see some of the things they've done earlier this year, you better be prepared for them. They've got some good players. The fact that we play Kansas City on Thursday on a short week from purely a coaching perspective, yes, you have to get on that a little bit because there is so much you have to get done in a short period, but certainly not with the players. I don't think that we are — I would hope not — from an offensive perspective, overlooking Cincinnati at all.”

On how to prepare for two games in such a short span:

“It's hard. It is hard. When you've done it — the way it is now, because everybody has to play a Thursday game after a Sunday game, and you've been doing it for a couple years, I think you have a method of operating that you do. So you just know you have to check this box, this box and this box. When we get to the end of the week before the game, there is a little bit of time in there where some of our coaches can turn their attention to doing some advanced work on Kansas City. So it helps, but different people have different ideas. Some people can do that and it doesn't affect their preparation, and others it does.”

On if he has been to Atlanta recently:

“Have I been to Atlanta recently? No, I haven't been to Atlanta in the past week.”

On when he would like to have his candidacy at Georgia Tech resolved:

“Like I said, I respect your question, and I understand that you have a job to do, but once again, I don't want any of this to get involved with what we're trying to do as a football team. It is a process, and I'm grateful that I'm being considered for it, but right now we've got a game in a couple days to try to get ready for.”

On the diversity of wide receiver skillsets:

“Well, it really helps when they're all good. You know, it's really kind of not so much a function of what their size is, which I understand your question. It's a good question. I think what we've been able to do, and it all starts with the OTAs and training camp is try to find out what they do best, and then put them in situations where they can do those things. If you notice from watching us, and I think you know this about [WR] Keenan [Allen], he lines up everywhere. We're blessed that we have a guy that's not only talented but smart enough to do that. He sets the standard for the whole group. So when you talk about what [WR] Tyrell's [Williams] strength is or [WR] Mike's [Williams] strength is, or what [WR] Travis' [Benjamin] strength is — we're trying to put them in spots where you can't really get a beat on them defensively saying this is where he is, this is what he's doing, but yet still put them in a position where they're going to be successful. We're not going to have Travis block a defensive end, but if you watched our game the last couple weeks, there have been times when Mike has done that. So you mix those things in, but the biggest thing you've got to do is try not to be predictable because they're looking for those type of things. It's tremendous from the standpoint of having these guys because they can do different things, it allows us to do a lot of different things. When you have a quarterback, to your earlier question, that makes it even better.”

On the Cincinnati defensive line:

“You're absolutely right. It a tremendous challenge. [DT Geno] Atkins is one of the best interior linemen that plays and he’s very good. The two outside guys are good pass-rushers, but they're big guys, long guys. So with what they do, they're difficult in the protection. The Steelers had a good defensive front, and listen, that's what it is in this league. You have to face some guys. You have to mix up your protection and do some things to compensate for that, so it's difficult.”

On how the offense has developed over the season compared to projections:

“It's a good question. It's funny you asked that. We started looking at different things that we wanted to do back in, probably, February or March and trying to integrate those things. The period of OTAs and training camp is when you can do that. So we have evolved quite significantly since then. Some of the things we thought we would get to, but some of the other things have just kind of moved in that direction, and it's been really awesome. Some of the different things that we've been doing, trying to expand off of that. We've got a good group of coaches. Very consistent about trying to say, ‘Okay, this is what we did, now what can we build off of that?’ All of the stuff with motions and adjusting those things with receivers be. To see what Keenan [Allen] did in the first play of the Seattle game where he runs for 26 yards or whatever it was, those are the kind of things when we're sitting back early in the year and saying this is going to happen. No, it happened because we've kind of evolved and that's been really cool.”

On how the offensive development’s impact in a game:

“I think to the earlier question, that's what happened in Pittsburgh. Some of the things we were doing in the first half especially weren't working great for us, and we evolved into something a little bit differently. Something that Justin [Jackson] and Austin [Ekeler] both had runs on in the second half that worked for us, and that's a big part of it. I think when you have — it was in our plan. That part of it was in our plan. You just prioritize when you go in what you think is going to be good. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't, but you still have the other things that you can draw from. I think that having had a history or having had some experience being able to do different things has really helped us. If you look at us from game-to-game, we're a little bit different some of the things that we do aren't exactly what we did the week before. Not trying to say that that creates problems for the defense because then it sounds like, yeah, we've got it going. What I'm trying to say is it has helped us. It's helped us to be more versatile which can help.”

On T Sam Tevi:

“Well, Sam can do some things really well and he's doing some other things that he's going to consistently work on because he's a young lineman. We've had a couple different guys play in those spots this year and they've done a good job. So a lot of it is the expectation of that group and what they hold the other guys to. It's not so much about what Sam can do. It's more about what he's expected to do and those guys holding him accountable. It's been awesome to see Sam grow. From where he was last year, it was about this time last year that he started against the Jets in New York, and now he's played a number of games and he's a legitimate tackle in this league and doing a good job, so it's been really good.”

On the offensive balance:

“You know what? I'm not going to touch that one, because I got asked about a turnover a couple weeks ago, and you guys remember what happened there, right? So no disrespect to you, I think I will just ignore that question.”