Q. We saw, I think it was 16 plays for WR Julio Jones. Is that kind of where you want him to be, or do you see that role growing perhaps? (Ed Kracz)
BRIAN JOHNSON: We obviously had a plan going in to get him around that number of snaps, and he did a great job of studying the plan, getting himself ready to go in a short amount of time. But he’s a guy who is obviously a very, very talented player. He’s a great person. We’re happy he is here.
Q. You did a lot better in the red zone this past game. What do you attribute to that success you had? (Chris Franklin)
BRIAN JOHNSON: The guys did a great job of executing, making plays, and putting guys into position to where they could go and do what they do best, but for us we talked about this a lot as obviously an area of emphasis and something that we obviously need to be better at.
So just our focus, our attention to detail of what we were doing to make sure we came away with seven instead of three.
Q. T Lane Johnson was back. Obviously, that’s big for the offense, but as a play caller, what kind of luxury is it to have both tackles, T Jordan Mailata and T Lane Johnson, that you don’t have to worry about too much? (John McMullen)
BRIAN JOHNSON: There’s a lot of confidence. It creates a lot of confidence for our entire offense. Our offensive line is obviously a huge part of our success, and the talent that they have, the physicality that they play with, it really, really sets the tone for us.
Any time that we have those type of players playing at that level, it definitely makes everybody’s job a little bit easier. Lane is unquestionably one of the best players in the entire NFL, and any time he is out there, he makes a huge difference.
Q. QB Jalen Hurts was dealing with something like he said after the game and as Nick said. How do you adjust the play calling accordingly? (Zach Berman)
BRIAN JOHNSON: We talk about this a lot, is we always want to– any time we run any of these designed quarterback runs, we always have Jalen’s health in mind.
He’s as tough as they come, and he does a great job of communicating what he is seeing out there. So, for us when we put the plan together, those are questions that we always ask ourselves and answer ourselves on a weekly basis.
Not only specifically with quarterback runs, but with every play. We kind of go through– what are the potential land mines? What are the issues that could happen with this particular scheme? Then we act accordingly.
Q. Does QB Jalen Hurts communicate his health throughout the game, or do you sometimes have to monitor that on your own? (Dave Zangaro)
BRIAN JOHNSON: There’s been occasions over the past three years where it’s been both, and I think as Jalen continues to grow and continue to develop as a player, we always talk about our communication has to be very seamless, and that’s key to organizing the entire thing is everybody has to be on the same page.
We have to be able to communicate and have conversations about what we’re seeing out there on the field and react accordingly to that.
Q. This is a historic stretch that WR A.J. Brown is on. What insights have you had about him that you kind of learned as you were seeing? Then as this is going, do you try to find different ways to get him involved in addition to what he has already done? (Zach Berman)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, he’s one of our best players on our offense, and he’s a fantastic player. He works extremely hard throughout the course of the week, in practice and preparing and getting himself ready to play.
He’s obviously a great catcher of the football. He can track it. He has some very, very unique ability to make explosive plays and to change the game.
We try to get our players the balls in situations where they can do something with it after the catch, and A.J. has really just been no different with that. The ball has gone his way obviously quite a bit, and he’s made the most of his opportunities for sure.
Q. When QB Jalen Hurts throws a pick six, what’s the process then for getting him to forget about it and move on? He drove you to a touchdown the next drive. (Jeff McLane)
BRIAN JOHNSON: We talk about this a lot is our dawg mentality of being able to have that short-term memory and being able to not let the previous play affect the next play.
Ultimately the game is just a series of that, and that can happen in a positive manner. It can happen in a negative manner. If you make a great play, it doesn’t matter. If you make a play that’s not great, it doesn’t matter. It’s about the next play.
Having that mindset and really detailing that mindset I think is something that all great players have is the ability to refocus themselves and really be present in that moment.
It’s not easy to do because nobody wants to throw a pick six, but those plays do happen in the game of football. I think it just goes to show the type of mentality that he has of how he’s able to respond.
I think ultimately this game is just about a series of responses, whether it’s good or bad. [QB] Jalen [Hurts] has a mindset to do that.
Q. Do you see QB Jalen Hurts maybe growing a little bit more or trying to grow a little bit more inside the pocket as a passer and even when he breaks contain, trying to make the play down the field, kind of like he did on that fourth and three throw to WR A.J. Brown for that 32-yard pickup? It looked like he had some space there, but he threw it. (Ed Kracz)
BRIAN JOHNSON: There’s definitely growth in that, and that’s something that we’ve talked about personally over the last couple of years is being able to really just maximize all of our ability on scrambles, and I think one of the things that ends up happening is just having great spatial awareness of where the line of scrimmage is and really, really knowing the rule in term of your whole body has to be past the line of scrimmage for it not to be good.
Of just having that spatial awareness of when you are in the drop back and you’re 10, 11 yards deep on a scramble of how much room you have vertically to really make a play. So that’s something that we’ve obviously discussed, and it’s something that he’s [QB Jalen Hurts] continued to get better at.
Q. On the fumble is there a teaching point to that for that specific play, or is it just – (John McMullen)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yes. If you look at fumbles throughout the National Football League and tally them all up at the end of the year, the majority of them are sack fumbles in the pocket and the quarterback fumbling the ball in the pocket.
So, the one thing that we always try to emphasize is two hands on the ball in the pocket. In that particular clip, [QB] Jalen [Hurts] did have two hands on the ball, but we just have to continue to be firm and detail it and really minimize those type of game-changing plays.
For us, that’s something that we talk a lot about in our individual work, ball security, and we just have to keep pressing it and keep pushing forward and keep trying to improve.
Q. Why are defenses seemingly picking up on the QB draw more this season? (Jeff McLane)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, I think we’ve had some success with it throughout the course of our last couple of years. Sometimes when you package those plays together, you might catch it versus a unique defense or a unique front, but that’s something that we’ve had a lot of success doing over the years in terms of being in the red zone and knowing you can play a game of math, essentially. If you do get some light boxes, you can have some of those opportunities.
We’ve got to just continue to find ways to put our guys in the position to be successful.
Q. If I can test your memory, you were at Mississippi State when A.J. Brown was in high school down the street there. What do you recall from that period in A.J.’s life, and what was it like trying to recruit him? (Zach Berman)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, yes, that is very — I remember that quite — you know, [WR] AJ [Brown] was literally five minutes away from campus. He came to summer camp his junior and senior year, I think. We were in the Palmeiro Center.
It got to a point where it was like — you do one-on-ones. You are like, A.J., you are good, we don’t need to see you run any more one-on-ones. You’re a great player.
I remember we took a recruiting trip. We went to his house, and we took the entire staff. It was probably nine coaches. We went to his house on a recruiting visit, and I will never forget when we were leaving we saw Ole Miss coach’s car parked down on the side of the road waiting for us to leave so Ole Miss could come in after us. That was a tough one to not be able to get him.
Obviously, he had a great college career. He’s having a great professional career. A.J. is a great person, and he’s a pleasure and a joy to work with every single day. Just the energy that he brings, the effort that he plays with, obviously the production. It’s great to have him around.