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Quotes: Head Coach Jay Gruden, Quarterback Kirk Cousins (11-09-2016)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On the injury report:

"Did not participate: DeSean Jackson, shoulder. Limited: [Will] Blackmon, thumb; Morgan Moses, ankle. Full were [Brandon] Scherff, shoulder; and Duke [Ihenacho], concussion."

On T Morgan Moses' progression and if he will play Sunday:

"We'll see. He did individual today, drills only. But he's getting stronger, getting his strength back and feeling better and better. But we'll have to wait and see. Hopefully tomorrow he gets better and can do some practice. Friday he'll do more and then be ready to go Sunday. That's the hope."

On the ways in which he has seen T Ty Nsekhe improve:

"In what ways? Wow. A lot of ways, really. He was very raw when we got him and Coach [Bill] Callahan has done a great job with him. And Ty has done an excellent job of working and taking the information and learning with Trent [Williams] and Morgan [Moses] and just studying the game and being patient but always working on his craft, whether it's scout team, in the games he's got some opportunities. But he's a physical specimen and he's always made up for his inefficiencies technique-wise with his size, but in the NFL that's not always easy to do. But now he's got the technique, he's working on his technique, very sound. Plus he's a huge man and I think he's a great tackle."

On if the length of time it took for Nsekhe to earn an opportunity was "surprising":

"He was raw, that's for sure. You love his size, but the NFL – he played in the Arena League for some time, some indoor football leagues and then trying to pick up the NFL system in a short amount of time… A lot of times, he was in-and-out and didn't get an opportunity to stick somewhere where he could develop. And luckily we had the opportunity to keep him here and let him develop in a system and learn the system, the calls, and just watch him progressively get better and better. And he's been a joy to watch, quite frankly."

On the Vikings' defense:

"Well, they're good in a lot of places. They really don't have weak area. Their linebacking crew is excellent, their defensive line, as you well know, is very, very good. The pass rush obviously is good, their safeties are excellent. Obviously [Xavier] Rhodes is playing great at corner and Terence Newman, a veteran guy who is year-in and year-out just a savvy guy. Very smart and very good technique, all that. So they don't really have a lot of weaknesses. They stop the run, they're very good on first down, they're good on third down, they've got a great blitz package when you get third-and-medium-to-long that can drive you crazy. So they're just good all over the place."

On if this is an important point of the season:

"Yeah, I think it is important. I mentioned that just a minute ago and you hate to make one game more important than the other but these next two games in general are going to be important. They're two home games that are very, very big for us. We're 4-3-1. We're right now currently I guess the No. 7 or 8 seed, whatever it is and we're in a position that we're in a good position but we're in a position where we don't have a lot of room for error. We really have to take advantage of our home games and the advantage that the home field gives us. We have to take advantage of those, so they are important."

On if they will call the game differently because of the absence of T Trent Williams:

"They're might be some subtle changes but not really. I think we have a lot of faith in Ty. Like I said, I think he's come a long, long way. Like I said, he's a big, big man and I don't feel like there's going be – I hate to say it [that] there's not going be a significant drop off… Trent is in a class by himself at tackle, he really is, but when you're talking about tackle in the NFL, Ty belongs and I think he'll do fine."

On if there are concerns about the depth at the offensive tackle position:

"Yeah, right now [Vinston] Painter is our third tackle, so, yes, I think that is the one thing that you're concerned most about is the depth. You know, we got Painter late in the season. He has limited work with the first-string offense, very limited. [We] picked up Blaine [Clausell] yesterday, so he's very, he's not very close to being ready but we're going to have to give him a crash course to get him ready. You know, once your depth gets threatened then you have to get guys down the line ready and that's hard to do this time of year. So, that'll be a challenge for Coach [Bill] Callahan and Kevin Carberry and hopefully we'll get it done."

On areas in which QB Kirk Cousins has progressed in recent weeks:

"You know, he's made steady… I think he's made steady strides of getting better, really. I think he's progressing in a lot of different areas. Ball security has been good. You know, we still… Obviously the red zone stuff we have to address but I think he's getting better across the board and I think the more he plays, the better he is going to get quite frankly. We still have to remember he's a year and a half in as far as being a true starter – his team. He's not going to be perfect but I think he is getting better. I've seen him progress – first down, play action, his shots. His deep ball accuracy is getting better. He's dispersing the ball to the right people, throwing it accurately, moving around in the pocket a little bit better. There's areas to improve without a doubt and he'll tell you the same thing and that's what is great about Kirk. He understands that. He can throw for 450 yards and find the five or six plays in the game that he wishes he had back and he wants to improve upon. That's the good thing about him. He'll continue to improve." 

On facing Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer in practice with the Cincinnati Bengals:

"We would get pretty competitive, we really would. It was pretty entertaining, I'll tell you. It was a challenge, and really his style of coaching and his defensive play-calling made me a better coach actually. You had to have a plan every day when you went to practice for your offense, otherwise they would embarrass you non-stop and he didn't care. He would keep blitzing you and you'd better have an answer. We had some great competition. He made me better as a coordinator and made our offense better, quite frankly. Hopefully we did the same for his defense. But it was great competition and I have a lot of respect for him."

On what has gone well for the offense so far this season:

"Well, I think there's a lot of things to like, really. I think we've had the least amount of three-and-outs in the league. Quite frankly, I think that's a great stat. That means a lot. That means we're working field position, we're getting good plays on first and second down. Our third down conversions are getting better and better – I think we're middle or top of the league in third down conversions. There's a lot to like, really. There's a lot of things that we have left on the table, though. We have to convert on some of our shot plays that we've missed on, and some of the red zone plays that we've missed on. Our third down in the red zone is not very good, so there's some things there that we can correct. But I do like a lot of our drives. We've been able to maintain some drives, converting some key third downs, moving the ball. I think we've had the most attempts in the red zone also, which is good. We're moving the ball, we're keeping the defense fresh. So there's a lot to like as far as offensively with Kirk."

On if they used the bye week to scout their own tendencies and make adjustments:

"Yeah, a little bit. We always look at tendencies. I think the good thing is we don't have a lot offensively. I think there's certain areas personnel-wise that we have to look at. But I think for the most part Sean [McVay] and Joe Barry, they do an excellent job of understanding what they're doing, what the defense sees and how to counter off of what we're doing. I don't think we're too vanilla, so to speak, where teams can line up and say, 'Oh, they're in a three-by-one, they're running this.' I think we have a good variety of plays that we run, a lot of different formations, a lot of ways to run similar plays – make them look different. A lot of different concepts we throw at them, a lot of different run concepts that we throw at them. I feel good about where we are as far as being diverse with what we do both offensively and defensively. Now it's just to continue to get better and finishing plays."

On the addition of DL Jordan Hill:

"He had a couple good years in Seattle. Scot [McCloughan] obviously knew him and wanted to add him to the room [and] see what happens. Just add to the depth there. This is like a couple days where we've got a really good look at him and go from there. See if we can get him ready to play."

On the addition of CB Josh Norman and if he would change anything about him:

"I've been very impressed with Josh from the day that he got here. He works extremely hard. He's got a great energy every single time that he walks out onto the field, and he's the last one off the field. He's attentive at meetings – he's excellent. As far as his off-the-field 'antics' or on-the-field penalties that he's gotten, he's a physical football player. He's in your face and he's very competitive. You don't want to change that about him at all; that's what makes him, him. Obviously we might have to work on his hand placement in bump-and-run so he doesn't hit the receiver in the head, but his aggression, his competitive style, that's what drew us to him in the first place. We would never change that."* *

QB Kirk Cousins

On his assessment of the first half of the season:

"Yeah,  the bye week gives us a great opportunity to evaluate and look at how we've performed as an offense and make some corrections, and I think last year that was a benefit for us to be able to go into the second half of the season with a better understanding of what was working and what wasn't. Hopefully we can have a similar improvement as a result of this year's bye week, but we do feel like we've been productive as far as moving the football. Ultimately it's about points, and I've stood up here and said that and we feel like we need to score more points. Whether that means just converting more third downs, converting more short yardage, being better in the red zone, those are the ways I think we can be better in the points category."

On if he looks back at last year's success in the second half of the season:

"I don't know that you ever look at last year and hope for something to be repeated in the sense that every year is different; it's its own year. But we certainly did some good things last year in the second half of the season and would love to go on a run like we did last year. But, boy, every game and every season is its own entity and you never want to rest on past success or expect that just because it happened in the past. So we've got to work really hard and treat every game as its own entity and we've got a big challenge this week with the Vikings' defense and what they'll present."

On the Vikings' defense:

"I think they're well-coached and have a really good scheme. And it starts there with Coach [Mike] Zimmer and his scheme. And in addition they've got really good players. And in addition to having really good players, they've played together now for a few years so they have continuity and they're very smart football players. They're not just good athletes but they're smart, aware players. When you combine all that, it makes for a really tough unit. And we'll have our hands full across the board – the defensive line, the linebackers and the secondary. So it's a great challenge for us though. That's what we're excited about, to see how we measure up against a very good unit."

On if he saw any patterns when looking at the red zone offense:

"Sure, I think… I'm always looking at what I can control, so turnovers are going to be important. Obviously I've thrown two interceptions in the red zone this year. One was a tipped pass, where you'll say, 'You know, there's not a whole lot I can do. The ball got tipped. I don't know that when I release the football.' The other one was certainly on me. So you say, that was one where you can't have that. Prior that to that, I had been very good in the red zone, hadn't had a turnover there for a long time. So we've got to get another streak going like that since the Dallas game. In addition to that, I think there are times where in the rhythm of the play guys aren't going to always be open. You know, if teams play max coverages and cover people, maybe everyone's not open and that's where I look and say, 'Can I scramble? Can I make a play off-schedule?' So those would be the two things that come to mind personally for me that I can try to improve down in the red zone."

On what changes he has seen in RB Robert Kelley's game:

"Well, I think as a running back, he's always going to be, as far as a runner, he's going to run the same as he did his senior year at Tulane. He's athletic, he's going to be a great running back and do what he did in college and in the preseason. Where the growth happens is mentally – being able to see, 'OK, what is my blitz protection pickups on this play-action pass? Or in this Double-A pressure, where do my eyes need to be and who do I need to be picking up?' And even just technique, you know, blocking a blitzer in college is different than blocking a Pro Bowl blitzer at the NFL level. So just having the fundamentals to know how to pick those guys up in protection and consistently do it, you see how Chris Thompson has gotten much, much better from his rookie year to now in terms of being a complete player. So that's where Rob's going to continue to grow and get better. But as far as running the football, very talented runner, and we knew that coming in."

On opposing teams' red zone defenses:

"I think it's been a mixture of coverages. I think we've haven't gotten one consistent coverage. At times when we do get zone coverage, we just have got to be able to hit the throws, or as I said if everyone's covered, just be able to – if you can – make a play off-schedule. We've been able to do that against Cleveland and if we can do that again, that would certainly be a positive and would help us be more productive down there."

On his level of confidence in T Ty Nsekhe in the absence of T Trent William:

"We've been fortunate how healthy Trent has been the last few years. [He's] been able to play so many games for us. But you go into the season understanding that injuries are a big part of the game and that you never know who it's going to be. But you do know that, at some point, some of your best players may be out there. The next four weeks, that will be the case. But as a result of knowing that will happen at some point, you are prepared and the guys who are the backups – or the swing tackle like Ty – he knows he has got to be ready at any moment. As a result, I believe he is ready and he'll be up for the challenge. We'll go on forward just as we would with Trent and try to do everything we can to be a great offense."

On what he has seen in WR Jamison Crowder's second NFL season:

"Just more of what I saw in year one. [He's] very talented, a smart player, a great teammate. Jamison has long arms for his height, so sometimes his catch radius is bigger than it may look. I think we've seen that on a couple of the catches that he's made through the last couple of years that he can be an easier target than he may look at his size. He's a friendly target. I feel like sometimes he makes me a more accurate quarterback with the way that he chases down the football and brings it in. He's a great player for us and makes a lot of plays [and] we have got to find ways to continue to get him the football."

On LB Will Compton:

"Something that's unique about Will is that he can relate to everybody in the locker room. He really has a relationship and connects with just about everybody. No matter what their background is, the demographic they're from, Will connects with them. I think that's a great sign of a leader. You want a few of those guys in your locker room to bring the team together and create chemistry and I think Will's done that. He's a natural leader. It just comes out naturally, it's not something you have to coach or teach. He just kind of showed up and it just comes out of him – which is pretty cool and rare. He's the quarterback of the defense. I think at middle linebacker for Will as much as when you watch him play, he plays with his hair on fire and make plays all over the field. He elevates the play of the guys around him and that's a great credit to him and what you need a middle linebacker to do. I believe when he's been out on the field, he's caused the other 10 guys to play better because he's out there."

On ways to get WR DeSean Jackson more involved:

"Yeah, you know, we'll continue to just go where my reads take me and there have been times where I think you look and you say, 'I did throw to him but I overthrew him but we just missed,' or there was a pass interference. So it doesn't show up in the stats sheet, but he's very much doing his job and getting open and giving us a chance. And it was tough in the second half of the Bengals game because we were throwing the ball so much and he was out with an injury. So there were many times where Ryan Grant or someone else was getting the football, and had DeSean been healthy, he'd be out there making those plays. So we've got to find ways to continue to get him touches, because as we've said, when he does catch the football, really good things happen and he makes our offense go."

On Nskehe's journey to the NFL and Cousins' initial impressions of Nsekhe:

"Yeah, he's improved just because of the number of times he's [been] coming out early, staying after practice with Coach Callahan, all the film they've watched, all the one-on-one's. Just so many days they've stacked on top of one another to get better and better at his craft and obviously now being in the scheme for two years, mentally he really understands it and knows where to be and who to get on each protection and each play in the run game. He's got a big frame and it really helps to have that size and he's worked really hard. So it hasn't been an easy path, but so many of these guys in an NFL locker room, they wouldn't be here if they had given up at the first sign of adversity. So Ty's a great example of someone who just kept pushing and kept going and now he's in a great position to be successful."

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