Q. How has QB Jalen Hurts done when the first read has been taken away from him? (Jeff McLane)
BRIAN JOHNSON: In the first game thought he did a really good job of defense playing deep, checking the ball down. We started out with a couple early completions to [RB] Kenny [Gainwell] with defenses kind of flying out of there, so I think Jalen is just continuing to progress, starting to see some different things defensively, and just finding ways to adjust to the play.
Q. The quarterback running game has been a huge strength here over the past few seasons. Hasn’t been what we’re used to. Is it those different looks? What do you think is going on in that aspect? (John McMullen)
BRIAN JOHNSON: We just haven’t hit very many explosives with our running plays. If you go back and watch the tape, it’s really, really close. We just have to continue to strive to be better in all areas and continue to try to put our guys in the perfect situation.
Q. As a play caller, what’s going through your mind, if you will, about going to a running play over and over again on a consistent basis? (Zach Berman)
BRIAN JOHNSON: I think ultimately job number one is to do what you have to do to win the football game. I think one of the luxuries we have is we have a bunch of great players. The reality of that is when you do have great players, it allows us to really attack what the defense is not focusing on.
So, for us in this past game on Thursday, we decided that we were able to adjust really quickly to how they were playing, and they gave us a couple favorable matchups in the run game and the guys did a great job of executing that.
Q. When you’re calling the same play over and over again, we used to talk to former Eagles Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen about not getting bored with that. How hard is it to not try to counter off of it and just stick with what’s working? (E.J. Smith)
BRIAN JOHNSON: I think that’s just a true test of your patience. Particularly what the defense is expecting you to do in those scenarios is we’ll try to make the offense drive it 12, 14, 15 plays and count on them to make a mistake.
And so, I think it was just a credit to everybody’s patience to continue to do what was working.
Q. Two-part question: How much does the success of the quarterback sneak affect your play calling on second and third down? And secondly, we’ve seen teams around the league try to replicate what you guys are doing and haven’t been successful. What makes you guys so successful and not these other teams? (Chris Franklin)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, we obviously have great players. They spend a lot of time working our quarterback sneak with [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line] Coach [Jeff Stoutland] Stout and [C] Jason [Kelce] and [G] Landon [Dickerson] and [G/C] Cam [Jurgens].
He got his first action in trying to get that quarterback sneak done, so it’s been a very effective play for us the last couple years here. Just a total testament to just the type of players that we have that it requires to make that play go.
Q. How does it affect your play calling on second and third down? (Chris Franklin)
BRIAN JOHNSON: We feel really comfortable in short yardage situations, and we have here for the past three years. So, for us, any time that we can get to those favorable down and distances where the quarterback sneak is an option for us and having other plays off it to try to create explosives is a positive for us.
Q. What are the dynamics like between WR A.J. Brown and WR DeVonta Smith from your perspective? Meeting rooms, on the field, the ways in which they sort of bounce off each other and make each other better? (Tim McManus)
BRIAN JOHNSON: I think those guys complement each other really well in terms of their games, but there is a reason those guys were voted captain as well. They’re great leaders. They’re very passionate about their craft and trying to be the best they can possibly be.
So, any time you have players that kind of set that stage in terms of their leadership, in terms of their work ethic and how they prepare themselves to get ready to go play each and every week and play at high level each and every week is a testament to them.
Q. What are the defining characteristics of a Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles defense that keep you up at night? (Jeff McLane)
BRIAN JOHNSON: He’s obviously done this for a long time, and he has just enough wrinkles to keep you honest.
We didn’t play them in ’22, but in ’21, they have a lot of the same players that were there. But they’re always fast, they’re physical, they tackle really, really well. It’s an excellent scheme in terms of presenting different problems for you offensively.
Just like any game for us, especially particularly in the first two, is you have to go out there and be ready to adjust to any curve balls they throw at you.
Q. Assuming you’re going back to the ’21 tape and using that as a resource. How much of QB Jalen Hurts’ growth stands out when you’re looking at that tape? (E.J. Smith)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Oh, for sure. He has just seen so much more defense than he did at that point in 2021. Just like he’s always done, he’s continued to progress, continued to get better. That’s who he is as a person, as a player.
So, he’s definitely a different player than two years ago for sure.
Q. After Thursday’s game C Jason Kelce referred to what defenses are doing as chaos, creating chaos with some of the looks and maybe things you didn’t expect to see. Is that fair? Has anything kind of surprised you with how Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores came out and played? (Ed Kracz)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, for sure. I think those guys have done a great job presenting looks that haven’t been on tape, that have been unscouted, and trying to find new ways to challenge us as an offense. That’s one of the things that we talked about, is defenses were going to try to adjust to what we’re doing, and you just kind of see the evolution from ’21 to ’22 to ’23 of just how defenses, what their focal point is to try to take away from us offensively.
I was just really proud of the guys for being able to adjust on the fly really, really quickly and find a way to manipulate that and attack and use it to our advantage.
Q. How much better will that make the offense in the long run do you think by being challenged like this early on? (Ed Kracz)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Absolutely. Any time that you’re challenged as an offense, any time you have to figure out a way to problem solve, it can only be a positive. For us, we’re all in this thing together in terms of how do we put the best product out there on a consistent basis each and every week?
We all know that can look different based on each game plan, based on how it unfolds in the game for us, but any time that you can be able to adjust and get yourself an opportunity to score some points and find ways to win the game when things don’t necessarily go your way or not exactly what you expect, I think that’s always a huge positive.
Q. As a play caller, coaches often say it’s a good problem to have when you have a lot of playmakers you can take advantage of what you said they’re not focusing on. Do you feel any pressure though? Do you have to put that out of your mind, like ‘I have to get WR A.J. Brown involved, WR DeVonta Smith involved, TE Dallas Goedert involved?’ How do you handle that? (John McMullen)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, well, you want to get all of our great players involved, whether it’s the skill players or it’s [T] Lane [Johnson] and [T] Jordan Mailata on the backside of B blocks on the inside of the zone. So, we want all of our players to contribute in a meaningful way to our offensive structure and within the flow of the game.
For us, that’s something we always look to accomplish, and each game plays itself out individually. Certainly, going into the game, that is something we always take into account.
Q. Seems like the screen pass is often an answer for QB Jalen Hurts when you guys are getting blitzed. Is that fair to say? If so, why is that is that an effective outlet for him? (Jeff McLane)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, screen passes have been. We have faced quite a bit of blitz zero so far this year. Jalen has particularly done a good job of sitting there and getting the ball out of your hands, right? There are really two schools of thought to when teams pressure you, and you can try to block it up or get it out quick.
We have the mechanism to do both. We have done both throughout the course of not only this year, but in years previous. It was a pressure look for — DeVonta’s long touchdown is an example where we got a chance to take the ball down the field versus pressure.
There was a couple early in the game. We hit Dallas on a quick little option route versus a blitz zero. Just having different ways to manipulate that, and having different ways and different answers based on how teams are playing you is always really important.
Q. What stood out most about RB D’Andre Swift’s performance? (Dave Zangaro)
BRIAN JOHNSON: D’Andre’s an explosive player and explosive playmaker. He had really, really good vision. He did a great job staying square. All the guys in that room are excellent football players, and it was great to see D’Andre come out and have such a huge performance in the home opener back in Philly for him.
So, I was really excited for his performance.
Q. Can you usually tell going into the game based on a matchup of the defense how the target distribution will be, or are you surprised sometimes coming out of the game about how it went? (Zach Berman)
BRIAN JOHNSON: I think it depends. It happens both ways to be honest with you. There have been times when you call a game and you expect the guy to have 12 or 15 catches and they come out with four, and then there have been times you didn’t think a guy would double and not get the ball very much and he ends up with 12 catches.
That’s the natural ebbs and flows of the game. Generally, that’s why you have the law of averages. It’ll even out once you get the proper sample size.
Q. You mentioned Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles’ defense a little bit earlier. They’ve been really effective stopping the run over a long period of time. Is it just as simple as a Buccaneers NT Vita Vea is tough to move? What do they do so well when it comes to stopping the run? (John McMullen)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, they have great players interior, like you talked about. Vita Vea is one of the best players at his position in the NFL. [Buccaneers LB] Lavonte David and [Buccaneers LB] Devin White, all those guys can run and hit. Again, Coach Bowles does a great job of putting those guys in position to make plays and create big plays and to create tackles for losses.
So, it’ll definitely be a battle. I think we have a fantastic offensive line and they have a fantastic defense. Just like any other week in the NFL, it’s going to be quite the battle.