Q. Can you give us the latest on S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, please? (Tim McManus)
NICK SIRIANNI: Still working through that, still running tests and seeing what’s going on, so don’t have any new information for you yet, besides something in his rib area, in that midsection.
Q. Can you tell us maybe if you’re thinking long-term or not, like is IR a possibility? (Tim McManus)
NICK SIRIANNI: We’re not there yet, Tim. Hopefully not, but we’re not there yet. I know he was in some pain yesterday after he took that hit.
Q. Last night you mentioned QB Jalen Hurts brings a bunch of ideas to you guys I guess between series. Curious if that is concepts or specific plays, and if you can, can you fill us in on how the process plays out? (Dave Zangaro)
NICK SIRIANNI: Sure. Obviously, you go through the process of what you look at after each series, right? You look at the pictures with the guys, try to fix any issues that you may have had that series, fix any mistakes you may have had that series so you don’t repeat that mistake. Then you try to discuss what your next situational calls are, what your next drive starters are, what your next drive is going to entail, run game, pass game, screen game, protection-wise.
So, you’re just in constant communication of, hey, here is what to expect next, here is why, this and that. [QB] Jalen [Hurts] brings good insight to that conversation of, hey, I’m seeing this and we could get to that. What do you guys think here?
So, it’s just kind of part of our process that we go through, and the only difference I guess is how much more Jalen is involved because of how well he’s seeing the game. So that’s kind of normal process for us, Jalen being involved more because he’s getting more and more comfortable and he’s seeing the field really well and he’s got great thoughts and ideas that have led to good plays.
Q. Another injury-related question about DT Jordan Davis. Can we expect to see him on the practice field when the guys get back on Wednesday, and where do you think he fits in and how is he progressing with his injury? (Chris Franklin)
NICK SIRIANNI: Obviously we don’t to have make that decision quite yet so I’m not there yet. You think about everything that we have to go through to get ready for a game. So, you stay on top of everything, but you don’t rush any decision, there is no reason to rush.
We have this day. Players weren’t in today. I gave them off today. So, we have this little extra time, but that doesn’t mean we rush to get first and second down game plan done.
It is the same thing here. Not in a big rush to force something until we have all the answers and see how he’s feeling. I know he’s attacking the rehab like crazy. I know our training staff and our doctors and our strength staff are doing everything they can do to help him, and I know [DT] Jordan [Davis] is doing everything he can do to help himself.
Great team effort by everybody and we’ll see. A long answer to tell you we’ll see on Wednesday.
Q. It was only a handful of snaps, but we saw T Andre Dillard at left guard when G Landon Dickerson came out for a few snaps. What led to that, and how has he embraced guard? I don’t think we’ve ever seen him do it. And how big is it to have him involved that way? (Reuben Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: With [T] Andre [Dillard] getting some reps there at guard, it’s really important to have that flexibility for him to play — the more positions he can play the better obviously, right?
We have a lot of the D-linemen that are up, too, right? And so when you have that much depth at D-line — and we love to play guys at D-line — obviously you’re not going to be able to have everybody up in other spots.
With our situation at offensive line, we’ve had eight up; as you know this year, a couple times we’ve had nine up. But right now it’s been eight, and it’s important that those guys are cross-trained well to be able to handle, not only the left side but the right side, but not only tackle but guard.
So, Andre has just done a nice job in practice of getting himself ready to do that. Obviously, Coach Stout [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland] does an unbelievable job of cross-training him and getting him ready through the gauntlet that is called a Coach Stoutland position meeting. You have got to be ready at all levels for every question. Mentally you are going to have to be on it, and then being on the practice field physically being on it.
So, man, I can’t tell you how much respect I have for Coach Stout and how he gets these guys ready, but then also Andre for getting himself ready to do this. So, hats off to both of them to be ready to go. We have a lot of faith in Andre to play tackle and to play guard, as you saw yesterday when we put him in there at guard.
Q. Coming in statistically, Packers CB Keisean Nixon was one of the better returners in the NFL and your kick coverage unit was one of the worst. What went into the decision to actually kick the ball to them three times? (Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: As you saw the one, we’re trying to put it in the back of the end zone. He took it out eight deep. You can’t kick it out of bounds because then you give it to him at the 40-yard line. So, we’re kicking it as deep as we possibly can, and he happened to take one out.
Obviously, when you’re playing a really good returner you try to keep it out of his hands when you can, but that’s not always possible. We can’t dictate when he takes it out or not. I do, I got a lot of respect for him as a returner.
We need to be better on kickoff coverage, though. First of all, we are always going to look at ourselves in the mirror first as coaches and say, ‘Did we put them in the best positions to make plays?’ Everything that goes on on that field is my responsibility, and it’s my responsibility first.
So, if the defense doesn’t do something that they’re supposed to — I’m not just the offensive coach, right? If the defense doesn’t do something that systematically or scheme-wise, it’s on me first. Same thing with special teams.
So, I say that to the point where I’m not putting anybody out there. We need to put them in better positions, and that starts with me, and then it goes to [Special Teams Coordinator Michael] Coach Clay.
Then, when we have a call on we have to perform the fundamentals necessary to make that call work. So, again, we’ve got to make the right decisions of how to put these guys in the spot, which we didn’t obviously do a good enough job yesterday, starting with me. And then guys have to make plays on that also.
But it always starts with us as coaches. Always, always, always. Again, like I said, to answer your question, he’s a really good returner, but he was able to get some hands on the ball and take some out deep. When he did get it on the minus two, there was some wind yesterday and we were kicking into some wind yesterday, so he was able to make us pay when he didn’t have it; even he made us pay when he took it out eight yards deep, or six yards deep.
Q. Sort of open-ended, but what did you learn watching the tape that you maybe didn’t know watching the game live? (Bo Wulf)
NICK SIRIANNI: Obviously, offensively I think you just saw — everyone knows the stats that [RB] Miles [Sanders] had yesterday. He’s making some runs happen in big time scenarios and really protecting the football well. He really stuck out of the runs that he made.
I know statistically everybody already knew that, right? Everybody already knew he had the type of game that — but he made some really nice runs. He really protected the ball. He’s running physical.
Then [TE] Jack Stoll I thought played really well. We already know, like last night we knew the entire offensive line played well, right? You don’t run the ball like that if they don’t.
But Jack Stoll was able to hold off the backside on a collapsing defensive end a couple times that was a difficult task, and he really stepped up to the challenge.
The other thing that you really saw is, again, you know this every time you rush for a big game like this, but it takes everybody. The receivers, I thought [WR] A.J. [Brown] had his best blocking game. Miles’ touchdown, he was blocking his butt off on the first touchdown, and then the same thing on [RB] Kenny [Gainwell]’s. He just was on his guy in the run game, and I thought that was very obvious. That’s great when you get that from your wide receivers in the run game.
So those are a couple things offensively that stuck out that you see a little bit extra when you see the tape, I think.
[S] Reed [Blankenship] had a really nice game on defense. I think he did a lot of good things there on defense.
I think [LB] Nakobe [Dean] was good on special teams. Sometimes you don’t see exactly who played well there.
[P] Arryn [Siposs] obviously had some really good punts, good operation.
[DT] Fletcher Cox, to me, played his best game of the year. He was awesome in that game. He was on fire in that game. That was awesome because people feed off him. That’s your captain, your leader, and he goes out there and plays like that, everybody feeds off that.
He’s exciting to watch when he’s creating havoc.
So, it was a couple things, Bo.
Q. To kind of follow up on the kickoff coverage, a couple weeks ago when you guys had the ball security issues, WR Quez Watkins got caught from behind, you made some adjustments and said, we’re going to work that, we are going to drill that, and you had the drill where they’re coming up from the ground. Curious, in special teams, do you look at that kind of game, that kind of performance and say, all right, we have to put these guys in a better position, we have to do some things differently this upcoming week? (John McMullen)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, of course. Again, you always want to put them in better spots to help them accomplish their job. That’s our job as coaches, to put them in the best spots they can to accomplish their job.
And then the next tool we have as coaches that we need to do is prepare them for how to do that job. So here is your assignment. Here is what’s critical for you to do for this play to be successful, and we’re trying to put you in the best spots as possible. And then, here is how you do that assignment. That’s fundamentals. When I say that, it’s fundamentals. And that’s just coaching those fundamentals, and that’s what this game about.
We can say we’re going to put them in a great spot to make a play, but that other coach is getting paid, too, to put his guys in a great spot. So, if one coach is calling a good play and the other coach is calling a good play, what does it come down to? And one player is really good, and the other player is really good, what does it come down to? Who plays with better fundamentals.
We always know our guys, our want-to of our guys and our desire of our guys is second to none. Our guys bust their butts out there to make every play. I think that’s on display every week. But then it comes down to fundamentals and who is playing with great fundamentals out there.
So that’s the thing you can — our job is, like I said, John, to put them in the best possible scenario, and then the things you can drill really are those fundamentals. Drill the fundamentals to make sure that they’re equipped to not only know what to do, but how to do it.
Q. You talked a little bit about S Reed Blankenship last night and just his contribution and everything. I was curious, with him and CB Josiah Scott, Josiah is going to be in there for the next few weeks while CB Avonte Maddox on IR. How much did those two guys show you, not only last night, but what they’ve done all year? If it’s a situation where S C.J. Gardner-Johnson is out for the next few weeks or whatever, how able they are to keep playing in those positions and be key contributors? (Martin Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: They just come to work every day and we trust they know what to do. That’s just a piece of it. We trust they know what to do because they work hard and they’re smart and they study hard, but you also have to have talent to do it, and they have that as well. Both of those guys have major talent. That’s why they’re on this team. They’re tough, they’re smart, they have talent, and so you have that faith in them.
You have that faith in them that they’re going to go out and perform and do the things they need to do to help us win. I think Josiah was able to do that at times last year for us, so we’ve seen that. He was also great on special teams for us all last year, and continuing into this year.
So sometimes you don’t get to see that live unless it is on special teams. Every time Reed has had an opportunity to play and perform, he’s done a really good job.
So, we have a ton of faith in those guys. That’s the reason they’re here, is because we have faith in them. If you don’t have faith in them — and it’s not blind faith. You hear me say that all the time. It’s not blind faith, it’s faith that they give us because of the way they practice, because of the way they go about their business and prepare, and now, the way they’re playing.
Q. On kickoff coverage, are there personnel changes that you can make, and what’s your philosophy about using starters in that area? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, really good question, Zach. That’s a really good question. We have to do whatever we have to do to get it fixed. Obviously, I’m not going to tell you, ‘Hey, this guy is going to play here, this guy is going to play here,’ but obviously everything is discussed.
Is there a guy you can call up from practice squad that could help? That’s discussed. Is there a guy that can give you a phase or two on special teams that’s a starter? That’s discussed. Everything is. I think that’s a really good point by you, Zach, and everything is on the table.
I won’t tell you this is what’s happening this week because we’re still in the early phases of what can help. Again, it always starts with myself and putting them in the right position, but then the guys have to go out and execute it. It could be shuffling guys around. Like I said, I thought [LB] Nakobe Dean played a really good game on special teams, so maybe he takes a different role within the special teams. Maybe it is on kickoff, maybe kickoff return, wherever it may be, because he’s doing a nice job.
Again, doesn’t have to be just the guys in there. Can be a shuffle and everything is on the table to make sure that we’re doing our jobs to make sure that it gets right. That’s all we care about, is how we get this thing right.
Q. Tennessee has one of the better run defenses in the NFL. Just generally speaking they are thought of as a very physical, tough, grimy kind of team. What is your experience with them from your time in Indy, and what have you seen from them in that regard just in your initial look? (Jimmy Kempski)
NICK SIRIANNI: I think you hit it right on, Jimmy. This is a tough, physical football team. Really take after their head coach, [Titans head coach] Mike Vrabel is a tough, physical — I was on a staff my first job in the NFL, Mike Vrabel was the captain on the Kansas City Chiefs. Man, I couldn’t say more good things about him as a player, and I know — I’ve obviously never coached with him, but the way he led as a football player on that team, coming from a great Steeler team and Ohio State teams and back to when he went to Walsh Jesuit, then being on those Patriot teams, that guy knows how to lead people and lead men.
So that’s on full display. It was on full display as a young coach where I learned a lot from him as that goes and what a captain is supposed to look like; now it’s on display from him as a coach.
So, I like to say just first and foremost, he’s a damn good football coach and he’s going to have those guys ready to go.
Then that defense that they had — you asked me about the defense. Obviously, I have a lot of experience going against that defense. They’re good. They’re really good. Again, they’re physical. They’re sound. They don’t beat themselves. They don’t have a lot of penalties.
My early studies on them is that I’m seeing a lot of the things I saw when we played them when I was with the Colts. [Titans DT Jeffrey] Simmons, he’s a really good player. Plays at a very high level and still playing at high level. I was with [Titans DL] Denico Autry with the Colts, and he’s a really good player. Really tough player. Again, fits that mold of what Tennessee bases themself off of.
[Titans S Kevin] Byard, you always got to be aware of where he is on the football field, because he can make you pay at any moment with him being around the football. They have [Titans OLB] Bud Dupree in the mix there.
Again, I know he’s been banged up, but he’s a really good player coming over from the Steelers. Obviously wasn’t there on this defense when I was in Indy, but we’re going to have to be on our stuff.
You know what? We’re good, too. We are going to have to be on our stuff, but we know this is a very sound defense, very physical defense, and so we’ll have to be on it, and we’re going to work like crazy to make sure we put our guys in the best position to make plays.
Thanks everybody. Have a good week. See you Wednesday.