Brian Johnson

Q. News came out you’re up for a potential interview with the Panthers. Any comment on that, can you confirm that? (Chris Franklin)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I have no comment. All of my focus is about this week, and we’ve got a great opportunity with a special group of people to go out there and put on a great performance against Tampa Bay, and that’s where all of our focus and energy is at the moment.

Q. If you have an interview, though, that wouldn’t necessarily mean the focus would be 100 percent, right? If the interview happens this weekend. (Jeff McLane)

BRIAN JOHNSON: All my focus is about this playoff game and putting everybody in position to go out there and put on a great performance on Monday night.

Q. What must be done better against the blitz? (Zach Berman)

BRIAN JOHNSON: We have to, first and foremost, we have to give everybody the tools and the answers to go out there and execute their job properly against the blitz and credit to the Giants. They did a great job of doing some unique things that created some issues for us. But definitely a moment that we can learn from and continue to grow from.

Q. You’ve known QB Jalen Hurts for a long time and know all the obstacles he’s overcome. Do you think that that’s hardened him? And I mean that in both senses of the word in that he’s gotten stronger but also that maybe he’s a little more difficult to get to know because he’s gotten harder? (Jeff McLane)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think Jalen has a very unique story, and he’s had some very unique experiences in his football life and in his short football career. But I think he’s a guy that his teammates have a ton of respect for, and he’s a guy that’s extremely consistent day in, day out being the same guy every day, holding himself to the same standard, to the same foundational goals that he’s had since he’s been a youngster.

And I think all of us have our own unique experiences and stories that kind of help shape who we’ve become as men. And Jalen’s no different.

Q. It seems like opponents have used a lot more cover 6 and cover 4 against you guys this year. How does that complicate what you do offensively? How does that present a challenge? (Brooks Kubena)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, I think it varies on the game. You mean, just per game or just total? Just overall?

Q. Overall, in the last couple of games, the percentages are higher than what they did last year. (Brooks Kubena)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think, obviously, we go back and forth, if you kind of just look at how it’s progressed over the course of the three years — defenses trying to limit big plays.

I think if you look throughout the course of the NFL, you’re seeing probably a lot more shell coverage this year than you have in past years. I think one of the things it’s making teams have to do is try to go on these long drives to go down to score. We talked about this a little bit a couple weeks ago in terms of being able to generate some explosive plays.

A lot of people in the past couple of years, there would be times where you get a lot of single high press man and the ball’s up and you’re getting some shots. But that hasn’t been the case this year. So we had to find some different ways to generate some of that stuff.

Q. When you look at the last six games, what are you seeing — obviously, the offense hasn’t been firing on all cylinders — but what are you seeing specifically from Jalen Hurts as far as are defenses adjusting to him better? What do you see as the difference from maybe earlier in the year with him? (Martin Frank)

BRIAN JOHNSON: To be completely honest with you, I think the last couple of weeks Jalen has been playing some really, really clean football in terms of what he’s seeing, what he’s processing, how he’s looking at it.

We just have to continue to make the most of every possession and put ourselves in the situations where we’re not getting behind the sticks, where we’re not putting ourselves in some unfavorable situations.

So for us, we all realize this is about the here and now. We have a special opportunity to go do something with this group of guys and everybody is looking forward to that challenge.

Q. When you look at the film from the last few weeks of the Buccaneers defense, how are they different from when you first saw them in Week 3? (Chris Franklin)

BRIAN JOHNSON: They’re definitely healthier. They’ve got a fantastic veteran group that’s been there, seems like, forever. And obviously they’re very well coached. [Buccaneers Head] Coach [Todd] Bowles does a great job defensively, and they’ve got some players who are battle tested and who have done it at a high level for a really long time. Everybody here is looking forward to the match-up.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you’re focused on this week, but this time of year interviews happen. With Head Coach Nick Sirianni, how does that relationship work? What does he present to you guys whenever this time of year comes around? (Brooks Kubena)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think the biggest thing, and Nick’s been a great resource in terms of development and just being able to be somebody to get ideas from and to bounce ideas off of. I can’t say enough good things about the relationship I have with Nick, especially considering prior to me getting here, we didn’t know each other.

I can’t say enough good things just about the type of person he is, how much he cares and how much he wants to see everybody do really, really well. He’s somebody that in a short three-year period has become somebody who is really close.

Q. When teams are taking away the big play, the deep ball, legislating and making you throw it underneath, you said you have to find other ways to do it. What other ways are there without forcing it when it’s not there? (Reuben Frank)

BRIAN JOHNSON: You have to go into some catch-and-runs and try to find some isolations, some interior defenders. Those are things and trying to manipulate some of these play-actions and get guys to have some eye violations and see if we can create some explosives that way.

And you’ve got to be able to run the ball. So, there’s a bunch of different ways to do it. And we’ve got to make sure we get that done.

Q. How is your time spent with Jalen Hurts different than it was last year because you are OC, do you go in the quarterback meetings with them? Do you have separate meetings with the quarterback? (Jeff McLane)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, so my role has obviously changed from last year where you’re predominantly, my sole focus was only on the quarterback, and I had some other responsibilities in terms of game planning and stuff.

But that role changes now when you’re in charge of the entire offense. So, yes, obviously I do spend time in the quarterback meetings. But I also like to be able to spend time with some other groups and making sure that everybody’s on the same page and in concert.

That role has definitely changed from my first two years here. But Coach Tanney [Quarterbacks Coach Alex Tanney] has done a great job of running those meetings and getting the guys ready to go.

Q. Alex Tanney runs the quarterback meeting and do you just kind of, like, stay there? Or do you have to interject as well because you are the OC – (Jeff McLane)

BRIAN JOHNSON: We all interject. Those, to me, when you get into a really good quarterback room and you have guys that have played as much as Jalen has now and as much as [QB] Marcus [Mariota] has and have been around, the best rooms that I’ve been in, they become more discussion-based and not lecture-based.

Because guys are all on the same page. They’re seeing stuff. And they’re adding to the conversation. And that’s when you know when you have guys that can truly understand the vision, understand what’s going on. And they bring great ideas to the party as well. And I think that’s a huge blessing for us.

And it’s not only in the quarterback room. You take a look at our offensive line room, and the amount of football that [C] Jason Kelce has played, those guys have so much knowledge, so much experience. They’ve definitely been a huge help.

Q. Going back to the concept of the blitz, the Bucs’ blitz is the third highest ranked in the league, what about a Todd Bowles-led blitz is particularly challenging or what kind of unique things do they present that give the offense issues? (Olivia Reiner)

BRIAN JOHNSON: He’s done it at a high level for a really long time. I think just the variety of different fronts, different personnel groupings, being able to mix and match, being able to package it in a way where it looks very similar to other things that they can present. So for us, we really have to be on in terms of our identification system.

Q. Your best three offensive playmakers — Jalen, WR A.J. Brown, WR DeVonta Smith – are either dealing with some sort of injury right now, or potentially coming back from injury in DeVonta’s case. Where is that in your thinking, Jalen’s finger, A.J.’s knee, what DeVonta was dealing with, going into this big playoff game? (Dave Uram)

BRIAN JOHNSON: We always take into consideration the health of our players in terms of getting ready to go game plan and go out there and put a great performance, but I think at the end of the day this is what it’s all about. We play these 17 regular season games for this opportunity, and I think everybody understands this is the only opportunity that matters right now. And it’s about us going out there and executing and having a great plan, having a great sense of urgency, having great detail.

Because when you’re in a single-elimination tournament, this is it. This is the end of the road. You have to go out there and put your best foot forward or it’s over. And I think everybody realizes that urgency to go out there and get that done.

Q. Head Coach Nick Sirianni preaches so much about getting off to a quick start. In the past couple of weeks as you struggled to get off the quick start, what has to change about the process to establish yourselves quickly early in the game? (Gabriella Galati)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Consistent first downs, first downs, explosive plays those are things that get you going. And just being able to manage those situations.

You look at two weeks ago, we had a third-and-two to start the game and didn’t convert. And then we get a first down last week and then we don’t convert after the first first down.

So, we have to start fast. We’ve got to make sure that we get the guys into a great rhythm early on and put them in a position to go out there and execute.

Q. Has the offensive line in your opinion played at the same level as it was earlier in the year during the six-game funk? (Bob Brookover)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, we have a great offensive line. Those guys do a great job each and every time we go out on the field. We put so much on those guys in terms of we know they make us go. It’s a great group led by some great players and by a great coach, Coach Stout [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland], and those guys have always shown up on game day ready to roll.