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Quotes: Jay Gruden, Kirk Cousins & DeSean Jackson (12.23.15)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

Opening statement:

"Did not participate was [Perry] Riley, foot; [Dashon] Goldson, rib, shoulder and knee; [Jason] Hatcher, neck and knee; and DeSean Jackson, knee and foot. Limited were [Josh] LeRibeus, ankle; [Morgan] Moses, ankle; Ryan Grant, abdomen; Matt Jones, hip; Ryan Kerrigan, toe. Full were Will Compton, [neck]; Kedric Golston, calf; Keenan Robinson, shoulder; Chris Thompson, shoulder; Jeron Johnson, hamstring; Jordan Reed, shoulder; and Frank Kearse, finger. "

On his level of concern for S Dashon Goldson and the offensive linemen:

"Dashon Goldson is a little beat up. There's a level of concern there, but, you know, with the injuries that he has, I think with another good day of rest tomorrow – maybe get him some limited work in individual – I think he'll be feeling better. But we'll have to wait and see. Then for the offensive line, you know [Josh] LeRibeus took some reps in individual, so did Morgan [Moses]. They're both hobbled a little bit, but we're hoping with time that those ankles will get better."

On if WR DeSean Jackson just banged his knee while being tackled:

"Yeah, a little bit, I think. He's still a little sore from the previous game. He wasn't quite 100 percent, I guess. He's still a little sore, a little beat up this day and age. I don't know. Maybe it was a veteran day, but he is a little sore."

On if LB Mason Foster and LB Will Compton will remain as starters:

"Oh, yeah."

On what Foster and Compton have provided over the last few weeks that the team hadn't gotten before:

"It's not so much what we haven't gotten before. Obviously, Perry Riley played well until he got injured. Keenan [Robinson] did some good things when he was healthy early in the season. Just when he hurt his shoulder, you know, we had to find replacements and the replacements we found took advantage of the reps. They're playing good, sound football and they're fundamentally making good tackles and they're communicating and they're in the right spot. They're making people around them better, especially Will, he's making people around him better. That's not to say when Perry comes back, you know, we'll have to see what happens then but Mason and Will are playing well together."

On the change in Eagles QB Sam Bradford's comfort since the beginning of the season:

"That's a major improvement for Sam. You can tell he's getting more comfortable. That's the case with a lot of quarterbacks whether you're a veteran or not when you go to a new system with terminology and route concepts and getting a feel for how coaches like to call plays. There's a learning curve there and it's going to take a little bit of time. You can see he's getting more comfortable. Offensive line is doing a lot better for him. And the receivers, he has better way of knowing each other as far as where they're going and how they're getting there. You can see major improvement."

On how he gets the team to respond in critical games:

"I don't know. You'd have to ask the players. You know, we just try to stay consistent with our approach and just make sure we get them as physically and as mentally prepared as we can for Sunday and just make sure they try to weather any storm that comes our way. They've done a good job of that, both after tough games and during games. We've weathered some tough quarters or tough calls or what have you. Guys have maintained their composure and continued to stay persistent and just kept grinding."

On the development of LB Preston Smith:

"He's playing a little bit faster. I think early in the season he was just trying to feel his way though. You know, he was not coming off the ball quite as violently as you would like but I think now he's starting to get off the snap a little bit quicker, play with a little bit more speed and aggression. That's the one thing we keep trying to harp on. He's just got to play more violently with his hands and really get off on the snap count. He's finding a role. He's finding a niche. He's doing a good job. You've got to continue to get better though. These teams that can throw the ball over the joint, we have to have consistent pass rush and he's had his flashes but we need more consistent production from him but we like that he is improving. That's a big step."

On TE Marcel Jensen:

"Well, Marcel was available – obviously, Andre Roberts, putting him on IR, we had a spot. Our staff, our scouting staff thought he was a big tight end that might help us in the future so we plucked him off the practice squad, get him in our building, teach him our terminology for the next couple of weeks and have him in OTAs and training camp next year."

On if QB Kirk Cousins is using his 'database of experience' to his benefit:

"Oh, yeah, there's no question. When you are talking about a play and you can go back to three or four weeks ago, 'You remember this play versus this coverage? This is what we're talking about.' It hits the quarterback's brain a little bit easier than, 'This is what I want you to envision and see.' If you have direct experiences of playing that play versus that coverage and you understand what we're talking about and know where we want to go with the ball, man, it just helps out a lot. Every experience you get, whether it's practice or games just continues to build a quarterback's longevity and his ability to recoup information. Kirk is really good about that as far as remembering plays that happened before and understanding what we're trying to do and what we're trying to attack and how to attack it. Every rep that he gets, man, it's just fuel for him. It's just tools in his toolkit and he's using every one to his advantage."

On how much he thinks Cousins and Jackson's rapport can improve going forward:

"It's getting better. I think you're right. I think DeSean's early 'struggles,' so to speak, had a little bit to do with him missing all of training camp and the first six, seven games. You don't just jump back in at wide receiver without the timing and the continuity with the quarterback. I think the more practice time they get together — of course, they didn't practice today – but the more practice time you get together, the more comfortable they're going to get with one another. That's important for a quarterback and a wide receiver. You know, you look at all the great quarterback-receiver tandems in the NFL, they've been together for a while and they know the route tree just like that and how they're coming out of breaks and the double moves and where a quarterback can lead him and how far he can lead him. So it's very important and they're coming along good."

On TE Jordan Reed and his developing relationship with Cousins:

"Jordan has done an excellent job as far as understanding where to line up, understanding the concepts of the offense of what we're trying to do. But, you know, as a tight end, you really have to understand coverages and leverages and how to get open in man to man and how to find holes in zones. If you're given option routes, how to set up your defender and work the coverage. Right now, Jordan is playing with a lot of confidence and he sees the field extremely well for a young tight end. That's the hardest thing for a tight end coming out of college to the NFL is to see all the routes versus different coverages and the zones and the mans and all that stuff, but Jordan is becoming a natural at it and Kirk has a great feel for him. They just have a great rapport as far as when to get their head around, timing, all that stuff. It's really become a thing of beauty the last few weeks. It's just going to get better and better the more they work together."

On what he's doing best right now:

"These interviews – I'm killing 'em [laughter]… I don't know. I just come to work every day and try to do the best I can to get this team better. These guys have really done a great job. It really helps having a good group of people around you. And that's the biggest thing that I wanted to do is make sure you surround yourself with good people, obviously players that love football, are passionate about the game. So it gives yourself a fighting chance and it's fun to come to work every day."

On if there is a fine line in getting the players focused but not having them get too tight:

"These players are pretty smart, man. They can see when a coach is tight, you know what I mean? You don't want to be tight, but you also don't want them to be freelancing all over the joint. But there is a fine line between being disciplined and what we're doing and also letting them be loose and have some fun out there. I think that's part of my job is to make sure I know the difference. I feel like we were dialed in today. I tapered off a couple of periods there at the end to save their legs. We've got a couple injuries. But overall I thought the attention and their focus was very good for today's practice. There's still some joking around here and there but I think everybody is dialed in, understands what's at stake. We've come a long way. A lot of the preseason polls had us ranked [No.] 32 and we're moving up. I told them today we have made great improvements and great strides but we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do."

On what he enjoys about coaching this group of guys:

"I just enjoy each individual personality, man. These guys are good guys – good group of guys both on the staff and players, man. They're fun to talk to and they're fun to coach. You go from DeSean [Jackson] to Pierre [Garçon], they're totally different. The defense – Chris Baker, Terrance Knighton, Dashon Goldson – they're all over the joint personality-wise. And they're a fun group of guys. They have fun playing together and it makes it fun coming to work every day. There's no sourpusses in here. Everybody's enjoying one another's company. They enjoy practicing, for the most part. They're all willing to do what it takes to make each other better and make this team better, which is very, very important."

On if the team draws motivation from proving people wrong and if they took the doubt personally:

"I mean, you're always looking for ways to motivate your team. Football is hard enough as it is. It's a grind, obviously. But if you can find unique ways… And there's a lot of doubters and a lot of haters that really had a lot of negative things to say about this franchise before the season about this team, and you should take it personally. This is their jobs. This is what they are paid to do. We have a lot of pride in this locker room, and for people to give us no respect whatsoever is insulting and it is a motivational tool. I'd be stupid not to use that, in my opinion – to an extent, obviously. But to challenge these guys and let them know that, 'Hey, this is where we are. This is where we need to get. That's a long way.' I think they've accepted the challenge and have come a long way. But I try not to buy into what people say, but to an extent, I think it was important to let them know what the views are. It wasn't just one publication – it was ESPN, it was PFT, it was CBS. It was all of them that had us in the 30, 31 or 32 [range]. It is what it is. We still have a long way to go obviously but we're proud of what we've done so far but we have a long way to go."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On his rapport with WR DeSean Jackson:

"I think we're in a good place. I think it can grow quite a bit. I think it's going to grow over time. The more reps we're able to have together, the more time we're able to have together, the better we'll be. I think it's in a good place and I think that has been evident the last few weeks. He's a very talented player."

On what separates Jackson from other wide receivers:

"I think he's talented tracking the football. I think when the ball is in the air he does a really good job of tracking it and running underneath it. He's obviously fast. He has a good skill in finding the football and locating it and making the tough catch."

On what specific impact Head Coach Jay Gruden is having on the players:

"I don't know that it's any one thing specific. I think people always want to look at results and say, 'What changed? What's different?' I really think that it just takes time. You don't figure it all out in one day. You don't just show up and have all the answers. You take time, your players develop. They learn your system, they get better command of the system, a better understanding. You start to create the culture and the identity that you want. That takes time. Hey, we're not 12-2. We're 7-7. But we do have a great chance, a great opportunity in front of us to play for a division title. We've done a lot of good things to get to this point. I would credit Jay and our entire coaching staff for building that foundation. I don't know that it's anything brand new that suddenly created that change."

On how Gruden helps players respond to adversity:

"I think the key is just you can't panic. You have to just stay the course. I remember when the Giants scored in our most recent game against them when we were playing them at home and they scored to make it 20-14. Jay looked at me and said, 'Be ready, there's going to be a couple plays here. You're going to have a chance to win the game.' There was no panic in his voice. There was no 'woe is us.' There was no fear that we were letting them creep back into the game. It was a resolve and steel in his spine that said we were just going to keep going. I think that kind of mindset goes a long ways."

On the advantage of having a coach that doesn't panic under pressure:

"If you panic under pressure you're probably not going to be good at anything you do. I think it's pretty important whether you're a NFL head coach, NFL quarterback, journalist. Whatever you do, it's probably not good to panic under pressure. It's important and it's not just our head coach, I think it's true of everybody. They need to be resilient and have a resolve under pressure." 

On if he has a mental database now because of the number of reps he's gotten:

"Yeah, I think the key is it's not, 'OK, I've played x number of games, now I have a database.' After one game I had a database that was a certain size and after 20-something I have a database that's a little bit bigger. If I have the good fortune of playing 50-plus games then I'll have an even bigger database. So it grows every game and every game you play, like I've said over and over again all season long, you just keep stacking those days up on top of one another and the accumulation of knowledge is a powerful thing."

On if he's starting to see more and more familiar looks:

"I would say that as I continue to play that things are getting more and more familiar and they will even more so as time goes."

On if he purposefully threw the ball to Jackson's back shoulder on the 77-yard touchdown last week:

"Yes."

On if he would have made that type of throw three or four weeks ago:

"I think that's a throw I would've made three or four weeks ago. I don't know if that's it's a throw I would've made three or four years ago. I think especially in Coach Gruden's system you learn certain plays, you learn certain players, you learn what works, you talk through stuff, you watch film, and if you throw a pass incomplete, you go back and say, 'How could it have been complete and not incomplete?' As you play and go through things, you just continue to improve and to grow. It's a combination of understanding DeSean's ability, a combination of understanding the system and having repped that play several times. I think all that comes together to lead to a potential completion and a big play. Again, it's not a talent thing, it's an experience 'having been around the block' kind of thing."

On Gruden's growth:

"I think like anybody – like me at quarterback – when you're a head coach at this level for the first time you're going to get better as you go. I think he'd tell you he's gotten a great understanding of the best way he can do his job and he's continuing to grow there. A head coach is a person with a lot of pull and a lot of say and a lot of direction of which way the ship goes. I think he's done a really good job in his second year of developing this team and bringing it along to the way he wants it and the identity that he wants. I continue to feel like we're still early in the process. This is only not even finished with his second year. So I think we're still very early and if we can continue to win and people can continue to be around then I think it will continue to grow."

On if it is hard to develop trust with wide receivers:

"I don't know that it's hard to get. It just takes time and it just takes simple work and time spent together. I don't know that you suddenly cross a threshold and you have it. I think it's a process of growing and continuing to improve. Obviously, it appeared on Sunday like we had it but it's a process. It's not a sudden, snap your fingers and now you've got it. I think the longer we can have that continuity, the better off we'll be. I believe in this sport at this level continuity is a big deal. In a system, continuity in the guys around you, in the terminology you use when you can be around a familiar setting over and over and over and that's when you start to own the material and own your role and be more effective."

On if he feels his confidence grow each week:

"I don't know. I think that I threw with conviction and with trust in the past but I think it's just a greater understanding of concepts, a greater understanding of how they're designed to hit and then when they're not happening the way they're drawn up, maybe ways that you can make them right and ways that you can get the best possible result out of a play that may not have gone exactly how it was drawn up."

On if he accelerates his process on the sideline when facing an up-tempo team:

"I really don't. I would think I treat it pretty similarly and just be ready to go. When I see third down, that's when I get up and try to get the arm loose and start throwing with one of the equipment guys and be ready to go and just go over the pictures on the Surface with the coaches until then. They are an up-tempo offense and do a really good job with that and that's a challenge for our defense."

On which aspects of his weekly preparation have changed:

"I think developing a weekly rhythm and a weekly routine enables you to turn your brain off and just go through the routine as opposed to having to say, 'What's next?' So, the beginning of the year I just sat down and made a spreadsheet of every 15-minute increment of my day for all seven days of the week and color-coded every [laughter] — I'm dead serious — I color-coded every 15-minute increment with what I'm doing. I said, 'Alright, I'm in the cold tub at this time. I'm eating lunch at this time. On Mondays, it's spend-time-with-my-wife time.' I had it organized and the first, few weeks you had to get used to that but now in Week 16 — whatever it is — 14 games in, you have it down to a science and you have a routine where you can just turn your brain off and just go because you know the routine and the schedule. Obviously a short week changes that a little bit but I think going through that as a starting quarterback enables you to develop a rhythm that then can help you operate at your best as you go through it."

On the 'You Like That' phenomenon and the oddest places he's heard the phrase:

"Well, I think I've heard it from hecklers at away stadiums. If we're not playing well you hear it a lot, 'Hey, Kirk, you like that?' So it goes both ways. What's funny too is you hear it, you don't realize how many times people just tend to say it in everyday language until now it's been brought to their attention. So last night Coach [Randy] Jordan, our running backs coach, said his wife got a haircut or something like that and came home and Coach Jordan commented 'Great haircut' or whatever it was. She said, 'Yeah, you like that?' He kind of said, 'You realize what you just said?' And she didn't and they kind of had a laugh over that. So I think just the fact that you say it all the time and you don't realize it is kind of funny." 

Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson

On playing the Eagles:

"It's just another game. I'm excited about it, highly anticipate it, but I'm not going to make it more than what it is. We've got a game to do, to go win. That's really all that matters. Regardless of what team it is or the name on the jersey, we don't really care about that. We've just got a game to go win and it's a must-win for us."

On how long his release from Philadelphia will stick with him:

"It's just part of history. It just happened. As far as my career and where I'm at now, I just look at it as something that happened and I'm happy to be here in Washington and I'm not looking back. It's in the past and it's over and done with. Like I said, I'm happy where I'm at now. I'm blessed to say I have a job and still playing at a high level. Anything else really doesn't matter."

On what quarterbacks need to know about him to get the most out of his abilities and how QB Kirk Cousins has done in that regard:

"It's just really a lot of practice. We spend a lot of time working on our craft as professional athletes. Any opportunities we get to work on the field – even before the games – things of that type of nature is what we do. Just working on timing, being where I need to be at the right time, at the right place. As far as the success that me and Kirk have had, it's just really been building trust and just knowing where I'm going to be at when I'm coming out of my breaks and depending on the routes or the play call and things like that or that ability. I'm just doing my job, he's doing his job, and we're having fun doing it and winning at the same time. So we're just trying to do something special here."

On how he can keep his emotions in check while playing in Philadelphia:

"I mean, it's not the first time I've played them. It probably won't be the last either. As far as just being calm and [collected], just highly anticipating this game and just getting ready for it, I'm definitely excited about the opportunity we have to go back in Philly and play in front of a lot of fans that some like me, some probably don't, regardless of what the case may be. Like I said, it's a game, and in this locker room, in this organization, we know what we need to do – something we haven't been able to do in three, four years. We just want to take care of the opportunity that is at hand and that is at stake right now, which is, 'Win a football game.' Regardless of anything else, like I said, I'm not going to let it be bigger than what it is. We need to win."

On channeling emotional energy:

"You know what, once game time comes, whatever happens in between them lines, that's what will happen. I can't really predict what will happen. I wish to say that everything will happen in the great way – I'll score touchdowns and win games and we'll be coming back to Washington with a lock-guaranteed position and be in the playoffs. As far as anything else about predicting what's going to happen in the game as far as emotions and what will go on, I can't really predict that. Hopefully everything stays cordial and everything goes good and we play a good fight, battle and win the game. Regardless of anything else, that's really what matters."

On going through his first playoff hunt with a new team:

"Yeah, like I said, it's something that hasn't been done here in some years, since 2012. I think that was RGIII's rookie year. We definitely know that the past couple years has been rough for us. My first year here last year was a rough year. Myself, I really don't like to lose. Other guys here in the locker room don't like to lose either. To be in the position we're at now, we know what we have at stake. We just want to take advantage of it. That's what's given to us."

On the conduct of Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. and how much Jackson's veteran status helps him maintain control in his own play:

"Like I said, in between the lines, things happen. Odell just happened to let his emotions and his feelings get to him and probably get the best of him. Whatever was said or whatever was done in that game, I can't really speak for it because I wasn't there. There's been times where I've been in certain games and I wanted to do certain things as well too, but just trying to keep your composure and just really not costing your team in penalties and being suspended and doing things like that. It's just really not smart. But he had to learn something, I guess he had to go through what he went through, but I'm fortunate enough to say I've never been suspended. Can't say I've never had a personal foul or penalty called against me, but things like that happen. As long as you can learn from them and predict that that doesn't happen again, I think he'll be all right. He's still a great player in this league and he's doing some great things. As long as you're able to continue to have success, it's a lot of ups and downs that comes with that. As long as you can kind of keep a level head and stay humble, he should be all right."

On if he's starting to see himself as more of a deep threat for Cousins:

"I guess you can say that, yeah. If the number is called and the play is called, then I'll definitely do my best to be open or run my route precisely so when he comes out and he's looking to throw the ball, whether it's a three-step drop or a five-step drop, he's looking to me and I'm definitely open for him. You know, sometimes things work and sometimes things don't work. Defenses and defensive coordinators try to do a good job of stopping what we do well, which is vertical threats and you know all the other things that comes off the deep threat. Hopefully we can be talking about another big play this week with a win too to finish up. That's what we are looking for.

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