Head Coach Jay Gruden
On the injury report:
"Did not participate: [Will] Compton, knee; [Su'a] Cravens, upper arm and illness. Limited were [Chris] Baker, ankle; [Will] Blackmon, concussion [and] thumb; [Mack] Brown, concussion; [Ryan] Kerrigan, knee; [Shawn] Lauvao, groin; [Spencer] Long, concussion; [Ty] Nsekhe, ankle; [Jordan] Reed, shoulder; [Martrell] Spaight, shoulder, [Tress] Way, ankle. Full were [Brandon] Scherff and Matt Jones."
On Su'a Cravens having an illness in addition to his injury:
"Yes. When it rains, it pours, yes."
On having the starting offensive line back:
"Well, it's always important to get the continuity for sure, but fortunately for us, we have been pretty good with the guys who have stepped in for them. Ty Nsekhe played extremely well in Trent's [Trent Williams'] absence, Arie [Kouandjio] played very good, John Sullivan played very good in Spencer's [Long] absence. We feel pretty good about the depth of our offensive line. But there's no substitute for the starting group, really. Shawn Lauvao back in there, Spencer Long back at center should be beneficial to us."
On TE Jordan Reed's progress:
"Good, good. Just natural progression. He does his rehab, does his work, he's running around. His legs are under him, he looks good running. [It's] just a matter of how much he can deal with as far as his strength and the push-off comes."
On if Reed practicing in one-on-ones is a positive step:
"Yeah, oh, yeah."
On what he has seen from LB Martrell Spaight that has helped instill confidence:
"Well, he had a really good training camp, number one. He's also played behind a very cerebral player in Will Compton, and that helps when you're playing behind a guy that's very smart, really relies on his instincts and his knowledge of the game and the way he studies. So I think Will has set an example and high standard for Spaight to come in here and play. Spaight has done very good as far as taking notes in the meetings, but you never know until they get out there. He hadn't played much, but we'll have to wait and see. Like I said, we have confidence in him and I think he's going to do just fine."
On if he expects G Shawn Lauvao and C Spencer Long to start this week:
"Well, if everything goes well, yeah. We're still working through it, but yeah, they look good."
On the challenge of facing Carolina TE Greg Olsen:
"Yes, it's a great one. It's a great one. Not many teams have figured out that challenge, either. He's a guy where you can go say, 'Hey, let's go play man-to-man,' but somebody has got to cover him. It's a matchup nightmare for you. You play zone and he'll hit you underneath and all that good stuff. So it's a great challenge for us. Somebody has got to step up and cover him, whether it's [Deshazor] Everett, whether it's Duke [Ihenacho], whether it's Donte [Whitner] – maybe we put a corner on him – maybe it's [Quinton] Dunbar, maybe it's [Greg] Toler. But whoever is on him, it's going to be a great matchup because he's got the size advantage and he knows how to run every route with precision. Cam [Newton] has a lot of trust in him. Like I said before, he's going to get his catches. We just have got to try and limit the big ones. Obviously the red zone ones are the big targets also."
On if he has thought about the team's record in prime-time games this week:
"No, no. I don't even remember our prime-time games to be honest with you. We take each game for what it is, its own entity, and we just try to do the best we can to take care of Carolina. We understand that Monday Night Football there will be a lot of adrenaline, a lot of people watching obviously, but it is a big game for us and for us to take care of the fundamentals and do the jobs we're supposed to do. I think we'll have a good chance."
On CB Kendall Fuller not playing a defensive snap last week:
"We wanted to get [Quinton] Dunbar out on the field and in order to do that we didn't want to take [Bashaud] Breeland off, so we moved Breeland inside. And it's nothing against Kendall. Kendall's going to play a lot of reps, a lot snaps for us in a Washington Redskins uniform. Just take a step back and learn and he's going to get better and better. Just remember, he missed his whole senior year at Virginia Tech, missed a lot of the OTAs, so he's still young, progressing and learning. We just have the flexibility and the ability to try to get Dunbar on the field, [Greg] Toler on the field. In order to do that, we had to move Breeland to nickel to get our best unit out there. We're not giving up on him. I think he'll be active and be an active participant here in the near future."
On if the team's success last December helps their confidence:
"I think every year is different, really. We don't really look back at last year. I don't really show a lot of clips from last year. I showed some of the Carolina clips from last year obviously because they put a whooping on us but I think it helps when you're healthy. And we're somewhat healthy other than our linebacking corps is a little bit banged up. But for the most part, our offensive line is getting healthier. Tight ends, our backs are feeling good. Quarterbacks are in good shape. Our receivers are in good shape. Our D-line is in good shape. So for the most part we're healthy and that's important. So try to get stronger in the month of December, A) you've got to stay healthy, and then B) you've got to play with some confidence. We'll see how we do."
On what he saw in CB Quinton Dunbar to give him more playing time:
"Well, we think he can play very good man-to-man. He's long, like I said, and he can run. And we think he can match up against some of the receivers in the league. We thought we just wanted to get him out there more. If we want to play some man-to-man, match him up against some of the speed receivers teams have and he'll do a good job."* *
Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry
On mixing and matching in the secondary:
"Yeah, I think it's nice to have options. And Bree [Bashaud Breeland] gives us another option of someone different in the slot. Also gives the ability to not only with Dunny [Quinton Dunbar] or Greg Toler outside when we put Bree inside, so I like it. I like the ability to have that."
On how mixing and matching in the secondary makes the chemistry different:
"I mean, of course you'd love to have the same five guys in the same five positions for 16-plus straight weeks. But when you've got to change it up due to injury or whatever, it's part of the deal. I think the guys have handled it really well though."
On CB Kendall Fuller not playing any defensive snaps last game and his confidence now:
"Yeah, his confidence is great. Came out and practiced really well last week and this week. Just, you can only have one nickel. So we wanted to get Bree [Bashaud Breeland] in there and that was the decision we made. And I like where we're at right now."
On the challenge Eagles TE Zach Ertz presented and how to improve against Panthers TE Greg Olsen:
"Yeah, Ertz is a good player. He made some plays. Hats off to him. But same challenge this week, just like every week. I think multiple teams around the league have tight ends that are elite players. This week is no different with [No.] 88 [Greg Olsen]. He's their leading receiver both in receptions and targets. So he's a guy that they feature. He's a guy that they want to feature. So, yeah, we'll have our work cut out for us no doubt with 88 this week, but we'll be ready."
On what CB Josh Norman has allowed the defense to do differently this year:
"Just when we decide – based on game plan – to travel him. To have a guy to be able to put an elite guy on another team's elite guy, I think that's nice. Again, the same thing, the challenge always with that – and I've talked about it in here before – it's easy for the guy that you put on their receiver. It's a challenge for the rest of the guys around him. But when we've done it, it's been really good. Josh loves the challenge every week, so when we decide to do that, it's very nice to have the ability to do that."
On to whom to attribute missed coverages:
"Well, you guys know me, I'm always going to put it on me. If a player doesn't know what to do, we have got to do that. Now, there's accountability on both ends – both from the coach and the player. But we probably had… our worst drive last week was the last drive of the half. And we probably had our worst four plays of the game – unfortunately, two of them were back-to-back, where we busted… We didn't bust the coverage, we just got picked and got beat to the flat. The very next play, they come out in an empty and we don't adjust to the empty and gave up the touchdown to [Darren] Sproles – which was their only touchdown of the day. But, yeah, of course, but when you play the course of a football game, when there's 70 plays, there's going to be good and bad. Obviously the challenge every week is to let there be a heck-of-a-lot more good than bad. Our worst drive of the day was that last drive before the end of the first half last week."
On how LB Martrell Spaight did filling in for LB Will Compton:
"I thought he did a great job. I mean shoot, Master, I don't know if I've ever been in a game where I've lost… If you look at just the inside linebacker position, maybe you lose *a *guy, you lose maybe two guys. We lost three guys. It was a challenge. Now, Spaight was able to come back and played his butt off, he really did, when Will and Su'a [Cravens] got hurt. I tip my hat off to those guys all the time. That's the thing about being a pro, though. You have 11 starters on the field – but you've heard me say it here – we don't have backups, we have starters-in-waiting because as a backup, you're one play away from being a starter. You never know when you're going to be called upon to answer the bell. We've had a number of guys do it, but really Spaight and Mason [Foster] coming in and doing that, they played really well. Mason had 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, had a sack, so he played very well. But Spaight, specifically, coming in – and we put a lot on the Mike linebacker – for him to come in and do that, it was good for him."
On Spaight's potential and his instincts on a screen pass last week:
"Yeah, you know good, young player. You know when you really look at it with Martrell, he's really… he's a rookie. You know, he missed the entire year last year, so, yes, he is technically in his second year but I look at it [as] he's in his rookie year right now. So, being a former linebacker coach, you know the thing I always looked at was it's hard to teach instincts, it's hard to teach awareness, you know? You can teach a guy how to key better, use his eyes, use his hands, use his feet, break on the ball better, take on blocks. You can coach and teach those things. You can't teach instincts. You can't teach awareness and that's always the toughest thing to evaluate because you really never know if a guy has those instincts and awareness until you're truly around him. So, that play that you referred to on the screen, that was just an awareness play. It was great instincts. He sniffed it out – you know, the linebacker intuition – and great play by him, big play for us."
On if he will attempt to get S Will Blackmon more playing time if Blackmon is available:
"Oh, yeah. We went into the game, we were…we only dressed three safeties last week. We'll have four up this week. All four of them will play, all four of them will have roles. It was great another young guy in Deshazor Everett coming in and new to the position really, was a corner that we moved to the safety position in the offseason and it was great for him to get in there and mix it up and make some plays. You know, the red zone takeaway was huge that he had."
On if anything has changed in Panthers QB Cam Newton's game from last year:
"He had a big year last year. Phenomenal player, phenomenal talent. I think you've got to… I think the big thing that we always talk about but even going back and looking at last year's game, I always give credit where credit is due and Carolina kicked our butt, there is no question. But we beat ourselves at times last year doing foolish things, doing silly things and I think the greater the opponent, the greater individual player that you play, you really have got to be on your game and you have got to play perfect and you can't have the self-inflicted wounds. Those are the things I talk about consistency all the time. We have got to be very consistent when you play against a great team, a great player like No. 1. You can't give those guys anything and we gave them too much last year so we have got to bring our A-game on Monday night."
Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay* *
On the importance of having the whole starting offensive line back:
"Yeah, it's very important, Rich. You know, the one thing that you look at when you take a look at last week's film, feel very good about what Arie [Kouandjio] and John [Sullivan] were able to do stepping in and thought they did an excellent job. And it's a credit to Coach [Bill] Callahan and those guys being ready to go and looking forward to getting Shawn [Lauvao] back in the lineup and Spencer [Long] as well and having Trent [Williams] back last week was also very beneficial for us. So it'll be good to get those guys going. We know it's going to be a great challenge against an excellent front that's playing really good football right now."
On how much LB Luke Kuechly changes the Panthers' defense:
"I think when you watch what he is able to do, above the neck he is truly an extension of their coaching staff and his command and understanding and what he is able to do defending the run and the pass is impressive. He's one of the better players in this league. You could see why he commands the respect that he does. When you watch the tape, you feel him as an offensive coach and really when he's not out there, I think [A.J.] Klein has done a great job stepping in. You know, they've got a lot of depth on that defense but they certainly are special when they've got him. I think it is a great defense overall but, you know, Luke Kuechly, he's one of the best players in this league and you can see why when you just watch the tape because of the impact he has for them."
On Carolina's defensive tackles:
"I think Coach [Sean] McDermott does a great job mixing it up. They've got a rotation of about eight guys that they play up front and all of them kind of bring a unique skillset. They've got some great size, they do a great job with movement and stunts inside. I think they have backers that can run and hit, and on the second level they do a great job of mixing and matching some coverages. I think you've seen both of those rookie corners get better as the season has progressed and when you watch the tape especially with what they've been able to accomplish over the last couple weeks, this is definitely one of the better defenses in the league and we know we have got a great challenge ahead of us. And they present a lot of issues both from a personnel and schematic standpoint and it's one we need to be ready to roll on Monday night if we're going to have some success."
On if last year's loss to Carolina still stings:
"Well, certainly as a coach that's a very humbling experience to go through when you get beat like that and we know that we didn't play our best. I certainly look at myself and some of the decisions I made in that game and I don't think I did a good job at all putting our players in some of the situations that they had to face because of some of the play calls that I made, but what you feel good about is when you look back on that tape, you do feel like we've improved as an offense and that's what you always strive for as a coaching staff. But we know it's going to be a great challenge for us. It certainly is something that resonates. Each year does present new challenges for us, but you definitely remember that game and it was certainly humbling and they did a great job being ready to go and beating us last year."
On if he wants to be a head coach someday and if he feels ready for that opportunity:
"The first thing is, Rich, it's extremely humbling and flattering to even be mentioned in those conversations amongst some of the great coaches in this league. Right now, what I think's been great about our team as a whole is we just focus on one game at a time and we know that in this business if we're able to just take care of what we can control and that's doing the best job that we can now preparing for Carolina, then good things happen. But I think ultimately as you just look at when you get into this coaching profession, everybody has goals and aspirations and I certainly would love to have that opportunity at some point. Whenever that does [happen], if ever, it's something that would be extremely humbling and gratifying, but it's one of those deals where I think we are in a great situation here where we've got a bunch of great coaches and players that are willing to just focus on the moment and live it in that moment and hopefully that's having a great performance on Monday and trying to get our eighth win."