On Thursday, October 10, 2013, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett addressed the media before an afternoon practice at Redskins Park in Ashburn, VA.
On the elusiveness of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo:
"He's probably as good as I've seen, a guy that can stay alive in the pocket, scramble, move side to side, left to right, both sides, and step up and have the ability to still clear the field, look downfield and complete passes. He's probably as good as I've ever seen do that."
On how to coach defensive backs on how to not give up on assignments when Romo extends plays:
"If you play man, you've got to stick with your guy. If you play zone, you better be ready to plaster and stay with your guys because zone turns into man at some point with him. Then you have to stay alive. That's hard to do because sometimes you get your back turned, you don't see the quarterback, you're chasing your guy and obviously it's a difficult situation to be put in as a secondary guy. But we told our guys up front and in the back end, the play's not dead until you hear the whistle because he stays alive for six or seven seconds."
On what he took away from film review of the first four weeks during the bye week:
"I think the one thing that we evaluated, we think we're getting better as a defensive group as a football team. We played much better in the second two games than we did the first two, that's kind of obvious. We did much better in the run. We created turnovers. We did a better job rushing the passer. We had seven sacks [against Oakland]. We actually had a bunch of sacks before that, four against Green Bay, but what I'm saying is we got better and better as we played and as we get settled into what we do. I just think that we improved drastically the last couple of weeks."
On if he thinks linebacker Rob Jackson and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins are ready to play a role this weekend coming off of their suspensions:
"You know what, we're still kind of in the evaluation process with those two. I think they're in pretty good shape based off of what I saw just in the two practices Monday and Wednesday. Again, we'll see how they go today, tomorrow, and then we'll sit down with Coach Shanahan and figure out how we want to use them, activate them, all that. But right now we're still in the evaluation process with those guys."
On what has helped the pass rush this year:
"I think we're doing a much better job rushing the quarterback all the way around, even the back end, the secondary when we blitz, which we haven't done a lot of. Obviously [outside linebacker] Ryan [Kerrigan] is doing a nice job and Rak [outside linebacker Brian Orakpo] is, but I think that's one area we've been doing well. Even from the first game we've been doing well. The sacks, obviously we want to keep working on the turnover issue, and then we've done a good job the last couple of weeks stopping the run. The big plays are just something we'll just keep working on, but I think we've done a good job in that area."
On what has helped the defense improve on third down:
"Again I'll go back. The first game was kind of a – we got stuck in this situation where we're not sure what we were going to get and all that so I told you I'll take the blame for that first game. We've gotten better and better tackling the catch. We've done better rushing. We get in situations where we're stopping the team and making them one-dimensional, stopping the run where we can get in situations where we can rush the quarterback and get them in situations where it's a third-and-manageable situation. So if we can continue to do that, obviously stopping the run is number one, and then getting in situations where you can have the advantage. Even in the last game we had three third-and-1s and a fourth-and-1 we made stops on, which is outstanding, but we want to be in those longer situations if we can."
On if there are areas in the secondary he feels better about after the last couple of games:
"I feel much better just because we're getting situated on who's playing. [Safety] Brandon [Meriweather] is playing. We got [safety] Reed [Doughty] involved and the safety spot is kind of secure. D [cornerback DeAngelo Hall] and [cornerback] Josh [Wilson] have been playing well, so you feel good from that standpoint."
On the impact Brandon Meriweather has had on the corners' success:
"I just think Brandon is a good football player and he just hasn't played in a while, so I think the more and more he's on the grass, the better he's going to get."
On the difficulty of getting Jackson snaps with the success Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are having:
"I can't say that to be honest with you because I don't know. I don't even know if he'll dress yet, from that situation. Again, a guy misses a month you kind of go through the evaluation process. First of all, you find out where he's at physically, then mentally. What did he retain? Because you're talking about three days of work and going to play a game. We'll work it and see where he's at at the end of the week."
On if it is possible to have Jackson, Kerrigan and Orakpo on the field at the same time:
"Yeah, I think it is."
On the importance of having a good nose tackle:
"You know, I think that's kind of where you build the defense from. You'll see all these teams that run a 3-4, Kansas City drafts [Dontari] Poe from Memphis in the first round. Casey Hampton was with Pittsburgh for years, Joel Steed before that. I think they've had two nose guards for the last twenty years. That's kind of the guy you build it around. You like to have a guy that can handle the middle because he's the guy that stops the runs from tackle to tackle and then, obviously if he can do other things besides that, that's a plus, like Poe does an outstanding job and I think our guy [Barry Cofield] is a very good football player. There's a bunch of those guys around, but I think that's where it starts at, that and the two outside guys and then you build around it."
On when he began to believe that nose tackle Barry Cofield was the best at his position in the NFL:
"We thought when we signed him off the Giants that it was a great position for him because he was really a three-technique shaded nose from the New York Giants. When we got him, we thought he would be an ideal guy just because of his size and athleticism. He's smart – Northwestern grad – all that stuff. So it kind of all added up."
On if the Cowboys' effectiveness passing the ball alters his thinking that they must stop the run to force the Cowboys to be one-dimensional:
"I'll say this: Last year, he threw 65 times against us for 365 yards or whatever it was. If you break it down, you go, 'Ooh, 365 yards.' But then you go, '65 times? That's about right.' So, did they win the game? To me, that's the most important thing. I don't care if he throws 70 times. But if somebody's running the ball on you and you don't have an answer for it, it's a long day. If they're doing both, it's a long day. In the passing game, we get turnovers, you get a chance to get sacks, fumbles, turnovers, and I think that's the big thing. If we can stop the run – that's universal. I think with anybody that's coached defense or anybody that's been around a defensive coach will tell you that."
On what makes Cowboys tight end Jason Witten difficult to defend:
"I don't know. He's deceivingly fast. I think he's a great route runner. He does a good job pushing off. He's an excellent pass blocker. He's one of my favorite guys to watch play. Even when I was with the Saints and he was with the University of Tennessee, we were going to draft him. I thought the guy was going to be an outstanding player and he's turned into it. And he's consistently the same guy from year one to now. I don't see any drop-off."
On cornerback David Amerson:
"I think he's much improved. I think he's much improved from the first two games. He's got more confidence in what he's doing. He made the nice play against the Raiders for the touchdown, but he has that ability to do that all the time. Being a young guy – I think he's still 20-years-old, he was a junior coming out – I think his future is bright ahead of him. A big, long guy that can run, and he's athletic, I think he's got a great future ahead of him."
On if cornerback DeAngelo Hall will defend Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant:
"We really haven't decided exactly what we're going to do in that situation – if we're going to have him on Dez or not, because David [Amerson] is on the other side – you got a guy that's long. So we haven't really decided what we're going to do yet. But I think DeAngelo kind of thrives in these situations – Sunday night with the lights and all of that. Good players usually do."
On the challenges in stopping Bryant:
"It's a combination of everybody. You've got to stop the run game. I think their line's playing excellent, I really do. They're doing a great job protecting the quarterback. Dez is a beast. He's a huge, big body guy that can run and catch. His yards after catch [average] is outstanding. So you've got your work cut out. Between him, Witten, the young kid from Baylor [wide receiver Terrance] Williams who I really like, I think they've got a good formidable group. I like the running back [DeMarco Murray]. And then obviously the quarterback [Romo] has always been one of my favorites