POSTED: Thursday December 18th 2008


December 18, 2008

Q:  Looks as if you have some of your walking wounded back out here today. Who is most improved?

A:  The only one that didn’t practice is Wilkinson.  Everybody else practiced.  They did okay.  They did okay. We will look at the tape and be able to have a sense of how each guy, based on where their problems are, how well they did.  But they were all out there and they are excited to be out there, too.

Q:  How is Brandon?

A:  Okay, he is okay.

Q:  Is he feeling good?

A:  Feeling alright.  He seemed to move around pretty good.

Q:  He is limited?

A:  He is limited.

Q:  Regarding McKenzie, did you really ever find out what it was? Are you still going to limit him or do you know yet?

A:  I think it is just something that he has had and reoccurred.  But there is no further damage there.  There is discomfort.  And there may be again.  But the testing did not show any increase in the injury of any kind. 

Q:  Do you have concerns about starting McKenzie?

A:  Always.  That is always going to be the case.  If a guy goes into a game and comes out of a game he can’t go back in, that is always something that is going to be on your mind.  But we will see how he continues to go through this week’s practice.

Q:  How important is it for you to have Brandon back in an active roll with what you guys want to and would like to do?

A:  Well, it is very important.  You have to set the physical stage.  So he is a big part of it. 

Q: In his limited time here, Kevin Boothe has actually done fairly well.

A:  Yes.

Q:  He had actually done pretty well until last week when he had a lot of trouble.  Is that more because of the matchup?

A:  I’m sure it was.  The noise and we have played him at tackle and we have played him at guard.  He has done well at both spots, but it just one of those things.  They were cranked and coming and doing a good job.  So we have some trouble no matter who it was.

Q:  This is your fifth night game of the season.  Is it hard to wait for late starts?

A:  It sure is.  You wait around all day to play.  But nevertheless, that is part of it.

Q:  Is it good to be in the spotlight?  Is that kind of a reward, too?

A:  It is good to know that they want to put you in the night games, yeah.  That is a nice feeling.  But your team is desired to be viewed by the national audience. That is a plus.

RE:  Corey Webster’s new contact.

A:  I’m very happy with that.  I’m very happy that Corey will be with us for an extended amount of years.  He has played extremely well for us.  It is always good to have good football players that you can count on them being here.  So as you build your team, that is one area that we feel good about.

Q:  At this point last year an extension like that wasn’t……

A:  This is this year, though.

Q:  Corey will probably be matched against Carolina’s Steve Smith.  What problems does Steve present?

A:  Smith is a very good football player.  He is very physical; he is very fast, very quick.  He runs after the catch very well.  So he runs reverses, does it all.  He is a good player.

Q:  You want to try and stop their running game and then you have to worry about Steve Smith.

A:  That is their plan and so that is what you have to do.  And so you have to contend with all of that.  So it is very, very important to be able to try to stop the run.  They are a very good running team.

Q:  Obviously it is tough to replace a guy like Jacobs.  But is there another way you can duplicate the physical nature that he brings?

A:  Sure.  We have it all along when he has been in there and when he hasn’t been in there.  But he obviously is a big part of that.  And so the question was, “Does it help you to have him to establish that physical position or the physical nature of the way we play?”  Yes, it does.  The other guys are the same way.  We have been able to go out and do that and our offensive line has been able to do that and we have to get back to that level.

Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride

Thursday, December 18, 2008

So what’s wrong with your unit?

I could easily give you a litany of explanations, but the bottom line is we all know that we are going through a difficult spell and we all have to raise our level of play.  I think our players understand that and they are looking forward to redeeming ourselves in the next two weeks.

Are the Panthers similar at all to Philadelphia and Dallas in what they do or what they don’t do?

Actually, they are not the same and their approach is a little bit different, but any solid football team, and they are a very, very good football team, is going to make it difficult for you.  They see where we have been having difficulty and I am sure they will probe and try to exploit those areas, but I think we know what they are and I think we are looking forward just to kind of get an opportunity to get the bad taste out of our mouth and go out and play better football than we have played the past few weeks.

Were the eight sacks last week attributable to the injury to Kareem McKenzie and the illness to Rich Seubert or was it more than that?

Again, it does no good to explain in detail what it is, it is just something that needs to be addressed and I think that there are a lot of different ways that you can go about it.  I think we are going to try to solve those problems with a number of different approaches, philosophical changes, or adjustments, but I don’t think it will be something that will stop us from being aggressive throwing the ball.  I think we can do some things, but certainly all of us have to contribute and join in to make sure that doesn’t take place again.

A lot of the third downs you faced last week were of 10 yards or more, did that handcuff you?

Well yeah, and 10 yards for a couple of those would have seemed minimal compared to where we were at, but it is not where you want to be.  If you do a better job on first and second down, then you can avoid being in those situations.  The lesser the distance you have to go, the more variation and variety you can employ, and I think it makes defenses play a little more honestly and certainly would have made the job of protecting a little bit easier as well.

When you get the stat sheet and you see your third down conversions struggling, does that make you think you have to do a better job on third or on first and second?

Again, I wish it was just one or the other.  I think it is both.  I think certainly again if you look at it historically, if you look at us, we are not an anomaly, we are like everybody else, the less you have to go on third down the easier it is, but certainly there were opportunities there that we didn’t capitalize on in the course of the game.  Again, Dallas played a great game, we did not play very well, but even saying that there were chances there for us to have some big plays and put some points on the board and do a better job than we did.  Those are the things we have to address and improve upon.

Do teams approach you differently knowing that Jacobs was not going to be out there?

No.  Not at all.  Not one iota of difference.  Does it affect the way we play or the success we have?  That is a fair question and I don’t know if it did or didn’t.  Certainly you never want to lose your starters and we have a lot of appreciation for what Brandon has been giving us, which is a very physical style of running and it has kind of been the hallmark of what we do.  As an offense we have been a very physical, tough football team and certainly he is a big contributor to that, but in terms of what they did?  No.

Does it help that even just having a little bit of that would help?

Oh there is no question.  Anytime you lose a starting player it hurts.  Anytime a player who starts is injured and can’t play as well it hurts.  Again, because that has been one of the more salient features of who we are offensively… you lose a guy like that and that is part of who you are?  It certainly doesn’t help, that is for sure.  It makes it more difficult.  Again, having said that, we have great confidence in Derrick and Ahmad and the guys that we have playing in the receiving corps, those guys have a chance, when the opportunity is there, we all have to take advantage of those chances.

How has Steve Smith improved this season and what do you think his ceiling is?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  I think he has had a great year and he has certainly been a very large contributor to what we have been doing offensively.  I would hope his ceiling is unlimited.  I think the reason he has had success the first and foremost is he is there, whereas last year he missed the whole entire season after the first third down conversion vs. Green Bay and he didn’t come back until the Buffalo game.  The fact that he has just been there has been an important reason why he has been such a big part of what we do, but I think also, as always, the longer you play, providing you are trying to advance, I think you learn.  You realize what works, what doesn’t work, and within the framework of your offense and the parameters of what God-given ability you have, you begin to utilize those things a little more efficiently.  I think that is part of it too.  He is growing, he is developing, I think there is certainly room for him to continue to get better, but I am certainly delighted with what he has given us so far.

He played under offensive coordinator Norm Chow in college, did that help?

Yeah, I think he played for Lane Kiffin who was his receivers coach, and I think Lane probably did a pretty good job with him, but I think playing at a high level, you would think most of those guys that played Division I have been exposed to good coaching because there are a lot of great coaches at the collegiate level, but I think it is also him.  I think he is a special kid and I think he is a bright guy and that the game is not too big for him.  He never gets in awe of a situation and I guess the best example of that would be the Super Bowl.  He came out and had a drop and came back and played extremely well for us and was a big reason we won the game.  Nothing seems to overwhelm him, which is good, and he seems to be able to handle the things that have to be done in a very short period of time, making decisions as you are running routes.  I think those are all things that are special to him.

There has been a lot said and written the past two weeks that ever since you lost Plaxico teams are dropping a safety down, getting him closer to the line, and not playing him over the top and it is hurting your running game.  Is that the case?

Again, it is not one thing or another.  Is that a true statement?  Yeah.  There is no question that is a true statement, but there have been games like Washington and Arizona where we went up and down the field with people trying to do that and there have been other games where people did that earlier on, Baltimore and somebody else didn’t slow us down.  I think people certainly have a great deal of respect for what Plaxico could do and Plaxico, when they did do that, made a lot of big plays for us and so that made them very sensitive to isolating a corner one on one with him.  We have guys that we feel can still win and we have runners that we still feel can still be effective running the ball in schemes we employ to give them a chance against the safety coming down.  We don’t ask them to have eight guys in there and only block six, we will account for that guy.  Does it hurt?  Again, as I said earlier, anytime you lose a starter it hurts, otherwise that other guy would have been in there to begin with.  Anytime a guy gets injured and is fighting to stay in there he is not going to be as effective of a player, but that is what you have.  I can give you a litany of reasons, but none of them matter.  The only thing that matters is you go out and give yourself a chance with what you have and where you are at to play as well as you can and if we do that we feel very, very strongly that we can win.

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Name: Avis Roper
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