Q. I wanted to ask you, we talked a lot this week about what guys are doing physically to get ready for a short week. What about the mental side of it, just to make sure they’re mentally fresh? It’s a lot of prep in five days. What kind of steps do you take to make sure they’re mentally sharp, and what’s their day look like on Thursday? (Reuben Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: We’re trying to do as much walk-through and meeting as we possibly can, knowing that the reps are limited as far as the speed reps. You don’t have anything really at speed with everything being a walk-through.
What’s good about that is that we in the season know that as the season goes on or you come after a short week and you’re on a Monday night and then you’re in a Wednesday, our guys are banged up, you have to get — sometimes as you guys know we have walk-through Wednesday, and we don’t practice on Wednesday. That’s happened a couple times this season. It’ll start to happen a little bit more as the season progresses.
But you have to be able to understand how to work through that, right, and know how to get ready for a game while not having live reps.
So, we’re kind of prepared for this because we talk about it so much, about how much — it’s full speed to the snap in walk through, full speed to the snap in walk through, high detail in meeting. So, we’re trained to do this, and we have great guys that know what it takes to get to the top of the mountain and know what it takes to prepare with our leadership guys, that they set the tone for everything.
So, this is not new to us, so we feel like, hey, this is a good advantage for us that we know how to handle this and know how to go through this because we’ve been doing it for the entire year.
Q. Is the plan to keep DT Jordan Davis on the 53, or will you put him on IR? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: We’ll see. Still sorting through that. We don’t have to make a decision yet. Still sorting through it. Letting it heal for another day, and obviously a little bit longer and we don’t have to make a decision quite yet, so we’ll see.
Q. Assuming that was your answer, my next one here is obviously you’ve spoken about players going against their former teams. In your experience, what’s it like for a player when they go to their hometown, and how much of QB Jalen Hurts going back home is on your radar to see how he’ll react in that situation? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: He’s played in a ton of big games. He’s played in NFL playoff games. He’s played in national championship games. He’s played in final four games. He’s played in big high school games.
He knows that all he can focus on is being there and being the quarterback of our team. It doesn’t matter if we’re in Houston, if we’re in Atlanta, doesn’t matter where we are. He knows about his process. He’d probably be the guy that will handle it better than anybody would because he’s just so focused and dialed in on what he has to do. We talk about this all the time, too, not letting the outside noise get to you, whether that’s you’re 7-0, you’re 0-7, you’re going to Houston, you’re going to Alaska, whatever it is.
He’ll handle that great, and that really hasn’t been much of a discussion about it because I just know what we talk about all the time, and I know [QB] Jalen [Hurts] is the least person I worry about because he knows how to handle his business better than anybody.
Q. How has DT Fletcher Cox’s presence over the past two years benefitted specifically DT Marlon Tuipulotu and DT Milton Williams? Both of them over the past couple days spoke about how it’s been great having him in the room from a technique perspective, from a veteran perspective. (Josh Tolentino)
NICK SIRIANNI: [DT] Fletch [Cox] I just talked about it in our team meeting today. He helped us with an offensive thing this last week. Obviously not going to get into any of that, but these last couple weeks he’s helped us with an offensive thing from a defensive standpoint.
We know as [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] Stout will go ask Fletch a question, I’ll ask Fletch a question schematically or whatever it has to do with on defensive line play, and he’s just such an intelligent player. Fletch is just such an intelligent player, you go and talk to him about things so you can grow as an offensive coach and you can grow as an offensive player and you can grow as an offensive scheme. Like I said, just in the team meeting I sung his praises about a thing that he helped us with a couple games ago that really benefitted us, and how cool is that as a team that you have that.
Actually, about a month ago I did the same thing with [DE Brandon Graham] BG. BG had helped [WR] Zach Pascal with something. Again, not going to get into the specifics of what it was, and you’re probably thinking, what the heck could BG help Pascal with, but there was something he helped him with. Again, that’s such a great thing about a team is that it’s not just offensive guys helping offensive guys or defensive guys helping defensive guys, it’s intermixed in between the offensive and defensive guys. I’m saying all that to say, Fletch not only helps those guys tremendously but he also is helping the offensive guys.
Now, Fletch’s main expertise, we’re not looking for Fletch to put in many plays for us or anything like that, but bouncing things off of him, but his main expertise is being a defensive lineman in the NFL.
Wow, to have that ability to just be able to pick the brain of somebody that’s super talented and been super productive for a long time like Fletch, that’s huge. That’s one of the things we talk about early in the season, when we teach wide receivers or if we teach a quarterback a read, what do we do? We teach a wide receiver a route. We go back and we look at that route of great players running it in the past, hey, this is a great route of this guy running this route versus this look; oh, here’s another one of this guy running this route versus this look; here’s another one of this guy running this route versus this look. So, you go through that process of hey, here’s what it’s supposed to look like.
You do that at every position. But where I’m going with this is how great is it not only always when you’re looking at, I’m using a receiver for an example, not always that you’re looking at this comeback route that you have the guy there, you’re like hey, look at this route versus this look. You don’t always have that guy that you’re showing the example of there to talk about it. But in this scenario with Fletch, you’re like hey, look at this play and look how this is working, look at his technique here, great, I visualized it, Fletch, why don’t you explain it further because you’re the one who did it. So huge, huge advantage to have the players like Fletch and BG and [T] Lane [Johnson] and [C] Jason Kelce to be able to give the insight of what’s worked for them the past 10 years plus in the NFL.
You guys hear how I talk about these leaders on our football team. I can’t say enough good things about them because that’s how they go about leading. That’s why they have the C on their chest is because that’s what they do, day in and day out.
Q. I wanted to ask you about run defense and what your concern level is. It’s hard for teams to beat you guys running the ball. But still, 5.1 yards per carry is kind of out of character for this group. What’s your concern level, or do you just kind of shrug it off as that’s kind of the way the defense is structured, to keep things in front of us and not give up big plays? (Reuben Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: No, we’re always looking at everything we can do to get better. You guys have heard me say in the past, I don’t ever want to be the bottom half of anything in the league.
Now, with that being said, you also have to look at what are some of the circumstances in the game. For instance, last week Pittsburgh — I know we have a sample size of seven games, so 5.1, but last week Pittsburgh, we’re in a defense up three scores, to make sure that they don’t score quickly, or that they have to go the long road or make them go the long road and mess it up, which is basically what happened the other day. Well, you’re going to leak a little bit sometimes in the run game if you’re doing that at times. So, in my opinion, they didn’t have enough time to run those draws down the field and win the football game.
So, if that was what they wanted to do in that scenario, we were going to let them, and it worked out for that purpose.
There’s been a little bit of that with the leads that we’ve had of some of those things like that.
Again, I don’t want to discredit the stats, but sometimes you have to — like it might not be quite as bad as it seems.
Then the big plays that we leaked up early in the year, like for instance against the Lions, those issues have been cleaned up, but those still count against that average.
Again, do we ever want to be in the bottom of the league of anything? No, and we work like crazy to make sure that we’re sound in what we’re doing, and we don’t ever want to let a team run the football on us. But there is some context to that, as well, of some of the situations that we’ve been in.
Q. On the topic of explosive plays, you talked about characterizing them as 12-plus-yard runs, 16-plus-yard passes. Is there a different category – (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: 10-yard run.
Q. Oh, I’m sorry, I thought it was 12. Is there a different category for those 30-plus-yard passes or super big plays, for lack of a better term, that you saw last week? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: No, there’s not. Not only do we count the number though, so when we’re talking about — when we say we want to win the double positive, which is the turnover battle and the explosive play battle – I’ll let you in on this insight – not only do we want to win that number, so we don’t — let’s say last week we were plus 8 or something like that against Pittsburgh in the explosive play battle. Not only do we want to win that number, but we want to win the total number, too, so you say plus 8 — I’m just giving you an example. I don’t know what it was off the top of my head. Let’s say not only were you plus 5 but you were plus 75 in yardage, so you try to do it both, and.
So, what you’re saying goes into that, so yes, to answer your question, yes, and that’s how.
Q. How is CB Josiah Scott looking this week? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: He’s hurting. We’ll get you the injury report on him and whether he’s going to be up or not.
He’s hurting, but I don’t want to say right now that he’s not going in case, but he’s doubtful. But we’ll see how it progresses on that.
Q. When it comes to RB Miles Sanders and RB Kenny Gainwell and really that running back room as a whole, how have you seen them improve from a pass protection perspective? It looked like on two of QB Jalen Hurts’ touchdowns last week, they picked up a blitz or an extra rusher. (Josh Tolentino)
NICK SIRIANNI: They’re really good at it. Miles had probably his best day since I’ve been here in his pass pro. To me, pass pro, there’s two things that really go into pass pro. It’s your toughness, first and foremost, and that group is tough. We already know they have that. And it’s your fundamentals of that, because fundamentals are big time in that, where you strike, how you strike, what you do with your hands, the hat placement that you have. There are so many fundamentals, so hats off to [running backs/assistant head coach] Jemal Singleton, our running back coach, for teaching the fundamentals.
I have coaches here that I want every one of our position coaches to be a master of fundamentals. That’s how you get a player better.
Jemal is outstanding at getting players better because of the fundamentals.
But the guys have to ultimately go out and do it, and Miles and [RB] Boston [Scott] and Kenny went out there and they protected their butts off, and we were successful because of it.
But it really always comes down to those two things, toughness and fundamentals, and I thought we played outstanding in that part of the game against Pittsburgh, and you saw it with the big plays, like you mentioned, and they just keep getting better at that.