Head Coach Jay Gruden* *
On if the film suggests that QB Kirk Cousins is 'starting to come around':
"Yeah, you definitely see progress every week. Every day out here in practice, you see progress. That's what you want to see in a young quarterback — just develop them. You want to see it out of all your players, but obviously the quarterback position is very important and it's magnified on a play-by-play basis. He's answered the challenge and he's done a good job."
On what Cousins has shown in the last few weeks that proves he has taken a step up:
"Kirk? I just think he's making good decisions. He's letting people around him do the work for him. You know, yesterday's a great example, hitting the check downs and the guys are running for 15 or 20 yards, hit a screen pass, you know, finding his outlets. He's taking shots when he needs to. Third and five to DeSean [Jackson], found a great matchup, worked it, threw a perfect ball. You know, he's just making good decisions. That's what that position is all about."
On how hard it is for a quarterback to accept the mindset of 'letting guys work for you':
"I think it's a matter of seeing it firsthand, and it'll make you a believer of getting the ball out of your hands, not taking unnecessary hits in the pocket and letting the players who get paid a lot of money around you make plays for you and we have some good players. We have very good weapons around him. If we can get the ball out in space, good things will happen, but we have to get them the ball, have to find unique ways to get them open sometimes — quick-element throws. We'll take some shots. But overall, I think it's still up to the quarterback to make those decisions and let the players play."
On how CB DeAngelo Hall has been with seeing playing time at safety:
"He's been fine. He's had that toe, so you know, we started to pull out our crystal ball with the way Breeland's [CB Bashaud Breeland] been playing. Once we got [Chris] Culliver back, we had the corners there. We wanted to find a spot for D-Hall because he's a big leader for this football team and a heck of a player, so we put him out there — as he's recovering — at safety on scout team and he did some good things. It's a transition that I think he can make. How much of it moving forward, we'll determine that later."
On if the next step in Cousins' evolution is succeeding against a team like Carolina:
"Like I said yesterday, every team gives you a different challenge. No matter what their ranking is –I'll let you guys determine how good or bad a defense is – but every team in the National Football League will give you a good challenge, will give you a unique challenge. It's different every week — coverage-wise, blitz-wise, front-wise. You're never going to see the same defense twice in your career, so how you adapt, how you play is what determines a good quarterback – the consistent play, how you can play on a weekly basis."
On if there have been any talks about extending Cousins:
"We're going to keep that in-house for now. [General Manager] Scot [McCloughan] and [President] Bruce [Allen] will handle all that stuff. You know, I'll just talk about the football right now. The financial side of things I don't like to get involved with, especially up here."
On if he has seen enough from Cousins to want him back next season:
"I like the progress of a lot of our players, really. A lot of them are doing some good things. A lot of the young players are playing well. You can see them making steady progress. So the decisions that we make moving forward as far as contract obligations and signing people, obviously Kirk's a guy we'd like to keep around, no doubt, but it'll be up to Scot, Kirk's agent and Kirk."
On if he has an opinion of when contract extension discussions should start:
"No opinion really… Every player is different. Every player is different. Sometimes it might be a distraction, sometimes it might be a relief to get it done, so we'll have to wait and see."
On what prompted him to hold what players called 'more competitive' practices last week:
"What prompted me was we finally had some healthy people. Like I said before, we were able to practice at full strength. We had our full set of defensive backs out there so I thought it was a good time that we started doing some competitive periods just to keep them on edge. It was fun. Defense won 4-1, which was good. They were fired up. We'll continue that in some regard — it might two-minute next week, it might third down, it might be red zone."
On if reasons behind the team's road struggles extend beyond the strength of the teams they've faced:
"Yeah, there's a lot more to it. Playing on the road, it's obviously tough. Getting out to a fast start, we got out to slow starts in two of those three games. Atlanta, we were kind of even for most of the game. But against New England, against the Giants, we were off to a terrible start, which allowed the crowd to get into it, make us one-dimensional on offense. Very important for us to get off to a faster start on the road, especially against Carolina. You kind of quiet the crowd a little bit. You get a little bit of momentum, get your confidence up, so it's going to be important for us to get out to a fast start. But, you know, there's a lot of things that we can do and we're going to have to do better, especially against Carolina. Excellent football team all across the board — offense, defense and special teams — and it'll be a great challenge."
On if TE Jordan Reed should garner Pro Bowl consideration:
"Oh, I don't know. I think Jordan Reed has proven his worth as a tight end in the National Football League. A solid, solid option for Kirk obviously. He makes big plays in the red zone and he's emerging as a pretty solid blocker also. Hopefully, he'll get the consideration. Hopefully, some of our other guys do, but we're just focused on our next game and that's Carolina. All of those other individual accolades will come if they just continue to work hard, play hard and prepare for the next opponent, which is Carolina."
On the difficulty in assessing the team when its performance is inconsistent on a week-to-week basis:
"I am getting some grey hairs, that's for sure. We haven't been the most consistent team throughout the season. We're learning from a lot of situational football. We're learning how to come from behind. We're learning how to play with the lead. A lot of those situations come up. Also, you have to understand, each team has good coaching staffs, they have good players on the other side of the play. They're going to make some plays too. We talk about adversity and bouncing back from tough times through not only the season but in a game, in a quarter. It's very important for our guys to have that tough mindset and be resilient. They've shown that so far, but we're still 4-5 with a long way to go to reach our goals. You can see the growth, at least I can. You can feel it. You can feel the confidence just breaking the huddle. You can see that they feel like they're going somewhere every time they break the huddle. Defensively, to have success against an offense like New Orleans says a lot about their confidence and their resilience coming back from a tough loss against New England and a couple bad performances giving up a lot of rushing yards. They bounced back and had a good day."
On LB Will Compton's performance and if he could earn a permanent starting role:
"He has played well. Will played extremely well. Keenan has been dealing with those injuries, obviously. We'll have to figure that out if Keenan [Robinson] becomes 100 percent. We'll have a tough decision to make between the three of those guys. Will has played outstanding in his time, both linebacker spots. I would imagine he'll be one of them."
On if facing an undefeated team gets the team's attention:
"Honestly, I try to say it every week, I don't think I have to get our guys attention when we play a football game on Sunday, really, whoever it is. When you have a team that is 9-0 like Carolina, obviously people might get a little bit more excited to really get to start preparing and getting ready for the game. Cam Newton obviously should get your juices flowing a little bit more, maybe. For the most part, where we are as a football team when you see what we're capable of doing at times throughout the season, I think guys are ready to get it strapped up again and go out and play and try to prove themselves again. We're still in that process of trying to prove ourselves to everybody and to ourselves on a consistent basis. Carolina will be a great, great, great test for us and we're excited about it."
On if reaching last season's win total through only nine games this year is a sign of progress:
"A little bit, but we're really trying to see progress throughout the building in how we prepare, the guys working hard. Like I said, there's a lot of things that we can view as progress that aren't viewed as wins and losses, really. The accountability factor – how they come into meetings, how they work out in the weight room, how they practice – there's a lot of things that we see positive progress in this building, really. Wins and losses will come. I think the wins will come more obviously with the way we're working. Hopefully they'll come, but 4-5 is obviously not where we want to be but it's where we are. We have a great stretch of seven games here that are going to be very, very meaningful and very important for these guys and they're excited about it."
On if he had the first-string offense and defense face each other in practice last year as well:
"Yeah, a little bit."
On if the top units facing each other enhances practices and if he saw the results during the week:
"Like I said yesterday, we had our best practice week. I don't think that was a result just because we went ones-on-ones for five plays, but that was part of it. I just think for whatever reason our guys came out with a lot of energy. We had everybody healthy for the first time in a while. Wednesday, a couple guys sat out like Hatch [Jason Hatcher]. But Thursday and Friday, all three of those days were outstanding work. That was part of it, just to get the competitive juices flowing. It's been good. We have to maintain that because when you have a great week of practice and reward them with a positive game like we played against New Orleans, hopefully it will make them want to come back and practice hard again this week, which I think they will."
On if the energy in practice be attributed to seeing teammates return from injury or if it is simply just the makeup of the team:
"Yeah, I think so, I think the makeup of the team, really. Obviously having guys come back is beneficial but when you see DeSean [Jackson] running full speed in practice it helps a little bit. We see Alfred [Morris] taking the ball and running 40 yards down the field after a hand off and Matt Jones and Chris Thompson and Mack Brown on scout team and the guys flying around and finishing plays on defense. It's fun to see and the guys are having fun doing it."
On if they escaped the game without any additional injuries:
"Yeah, nothing significant. We'll announce them [injuries] on Wednesday like I said. Alfred [Morris] came out with the rib [injury], but I think he's fine. He came back and played. Other than that I think, we should be good to go."
On his assessment of the team in the trenches offensively and defensively:
"Offensive line I thought was outstanding, you know. They really played well. We gave up two sacks and I think one of them was on an all-out blitz. We didn't have the outside guy accounted for, so that really wasn't on the line. That was a good call by Rob [Ryan]. We just didn't get the ball out. The other one was on a scramble, I think. It was a coverage sack. But overall I think the offensive line they blocked for 200 yards of rushing and 300 yards of passing. They played exceptional getting out on screen passes down the field and flying around. There's some clips in that game that are highlight film reels for offensive linemen and they all played hard. Defensive line I thought was stout against the run for the most part except for the 70-yarder. We missed a tackle in the hole, but we played much better against the run, getting off blocks and I think the push in the pocket was significant enough to just bother Drew [Brees] just a little bit to where he couldn't get comfortable. So I'm obviously pleased with all of their performances."
On LB Junior Galette's suspension:
"I just heard about that before I came down here, and we were expecting something here pretty soon. So I don't have really much to say about it."
On Galette's rehab:
"I saw him a couple of days ago running in the water thing with the treadmill in the water. He's pretty good. He's doing good. His spirits are high and he's excited to get himself healthy and back on this football field."
On if Galette's suspension starts immediately:
"I believe it kicks in now, yes."
On if he saw Cousins give the game ball to his father, Don, who is battling cancer:
"Well, I just saw that this morning and it's awesome for Kirk and his dad and a great family moment. They're going through some tough times obviously and any time you can reward him with something like that is a heck of a tribute. I mean, Kirk is a first-class individual, and I'm glad he's able to do that for his father and we wish him well."