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Quotes: Head Coach Jay Gruden, Quarterback Kirk Cousins (09-14-2016)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On the injury report:

"Limited were Chris Baker, rib and elbow; Morgan Moses with a knee strain. Full – [David] Bruton, his chest, his SC joint; [Josh] Doctson with his Achilles; Matt Jones with his shoulder; Preston Smith with his oblique. That's the injury report."

On signing DL Cullen Jenkins:

"Well, he adds another defensive lineman to our room, like I said. And the reason we had to make the move beforehand was we were questioning Spencer Long's availability Week 1, so we kept an extra offensive lineman. But, he did some good things when he was here. We thought he did good enough when he was here for a couple of days and the Tampa game to warrant another look. We'll get him to practice here today and tomorrow and see where he stands as far as knowing the defense and what kind of shape he's in again and make a decision. The defensive linemen we have here are here and just another good player to add to the mix."

On figuring out how to attack different defenses:

"Well, every defense is different. That's the thing about the NFL. You know, I think Pittsburgh is unique in the fact that they play a certain style of defense and Dallas will give you something totally different. There will be some similarities in some of the zone coverages but some of the philosophies will be different. A 4-3 front is totally different from what we saw with Pittsburgh. You know, I think it's just a matter of getting to know each defense each week and then making your game plan and making your necessary adjustments and that's what quarterbacks have to do. That's why it's the toughest position in sports because there's nothing ever the same. The rim doesn't sit there and you just don't shoot jumpers all day. You know, you have to play against a moving defense with fronts, coverages, blitzes, schemes, and you have to adjust."

On how difficult it was to not re-sign Cowboys RB Alfred Morris:

"That's difficult, two-fold because he is a good player and was very productive for us. A sturdy player, and very consistent, and also because he's one of the best people I've ever met. So, it was a difficult decision, but decisions like that happen all the time and you have to make them as a coach and as a GM. That's the way we decided to go and we have to live with it. But we have nothing but respect and good things to say about Alfred."

On use of the no-huddle as compared to committing to the running game:

"Yeah, that looked good. That was our only touchdown drive of the day. I think having both ready to roll is important. You know, I think the huddle plays, we just have got to do a better job of being a little more balanced probably. But, like I said, each week is a different style, way to attack big defenses. Some weeks it might be more pass-happy, some weeks it could be more run-happy. You know, last year we played the Rams, it was more run-happy game plan, against Pittsburgh it was more of a pass-happy thing. Ideally we'd like to stay balanced like every team would probably in the NFL."

On if having 11 carries is "less than desirable":

"Yeah, that's less than desirable. We didn't have a lot of ops either. We didn't have the ball a lot in the first half, and our possessions were cut short a couple times. Penalties really killed us. When you get behind, you get first and 15, second and 14, first and 20, first and 25, like we had, you know, I don't know what runs are going to really work. So, we've got to be in favorable down and distance. We've got to maintain some drives, get some first downs, so we can get some rhythm to our offense. We just failed to get in any good rhythm because of the penalties and obviously Pittsburgh did a lot too."

On working through communication struggles during the game:

"Yeah, you can never really, really work on the noise. You know, you have these music machines and sound machines and all that stuff, but when you get into Monday Night Football and it's really loud and the teams are going really fast, sometimes the communication like happened on the third play of the game when [David] Bruton and Josh [Norman] had a little miscommunication there… And then the false starts, there's really no excuse for that ever, really as far as I'm concerned, and it's something we have to really address and we addressed it. Sean [McVay] addressed and I addressed it. We had I think six or maybe five, and that's really five too many for the season, if you ask me. It's a discipline thing and we weren't very disciplined and we've got to make sure we work on our cadence every day and take a lot of pride in it."

On the vision for the defensive linemen:

"Tenacious. We want them to be hard, play hard, get off blocks and we have a good substitution pattern for them. And believe me the fault of giving up the yards rushing was not on the defensive line. A lot of it can be the linebackers, some of it can be the safeties missing the tackles or the corners missing the tackles. You know, it's a combination. Really that whole entire defense, you have to play good together. You have to be gap-secure and run to the football and get off blocks. And really at the end of the day I think each group of players – linebackers, defensive line, safeties, corners – all wish they had a couple of plays back. That's a lot of plays when you add them up."

On QB Kirk Cousins' performance on Monday and if he seemed tentative:

"Yeah, a little bit. I think… obviously not scoring a touchdown until late there in the game and having some opportunities to make some plays we didn't make, we're a little disappointed with the performance of everybody on offense. But, like I said, we were stuck in some long-yardage situations that were tough to overcome. He missed some throws that he normally makes, which I'm sure he regrets and wishes he had back. But as far as a grade, when you lose a football game, it's hard to give anybody a good grade quite honestly and I don't grade A, B, C, D and F. This isn't college or high school. He understands that his performance has got to improve, as does everybody on this football team, including the coaches."

On if there were other options to cover Steelers WR Antonio Brown on Monday beyond placing CB Josh Norman on him:

"There might have been. You know, a couple of the situations where he made some plays, they were very short yardage and you don't want to drop back and play zone or double team him in those short-yardage situations. They throw checkdowns and get first downs and that's when you really pull your hair out. You want to go crazy. If they're going to beat you, make them make a great throw and a great catch, which they made on four or five occasions, for goodness' sakes. Are there things we could have done different? Maybe his technique could have been a little better, maybe we could have gotten a little more pressure, maybe we could've blitzed them. There are some things that I'm sure as a coordinator you wish you had back as far as the call is concerned. As a defensive back, your technique, you wish you changed it up a bit. But also Big Ben and Antonio made some great throws and great catches."

On if there were positives in the running game in limited opportunities against the Steelers:

"I think so. I think the run we had a holding call on, that really hurt us back also. He had a nice hit on that one, too. By no means do I think that we couldn't run the ball against Pittsburgh, it's more of the thought that we thought passing the ball was a better avenue as far as percentages are concerned. This week it could be different but there are some things to take out of that game as far as the running game is concerned that were positive, if there was anything at all."

On if he spoke with the defense about just falling on fumbles:

"Yeah, that's been addressed. When you're in a crowd, you want to fall on it, but if you ever have the opportunity to scoop and score… We get a little greedy sometimes – scoop and score – and I think that's what Ryan [Kerrigan] thought, but there were too many people around him. He should've just fell on it. He'll be the first one to tell you that. That was unfortunate, that was a big play. Good play by him and ended up being a bad play by him, all in the same swoop."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On his takeaways from reviewing the game against Pittsburgh:

"I think it's pretty much the same things I said on [Monday] night. A little bit of a broken record. Obviously, you don't want to turn the ball over, you've got the penalties. We had to play catch up a lot as a result of some lot of things and if we can stay favorable down and distances, we can run the ball, and I think all of those things combined will help us have a much better performance."

On balancing avoiding sacks and extending plays:

"Yeah, I would agree that there are times when you want to extend plays and yet you can be OK with taking a sack here and there. You'll probably end up on a good year with 20 or 25 sacks, which could be more than one or two a game. So, it's an understandable part of the game. Don't want to take them because they do kill drives and it definitely hurts morale, but at the same time want to extend some plays here and there. But of the whatever-number of dropbacks we had, 45-ish dropbacks, there were probably only, I don't know, but definitely less than five that I would've scrambled on or tried to do anything so it's not a high percentage where I wish I had sat in there longer."

On his individual performance on Monday:

"Oh, there are definitely areas where I want to improve and I think we always, no matter what the performance is, you're always going back and watching the film and saying 'Let's be really hard on ourselves, talk about how we can be better,' and this game is no different. There are plenty of places where I can be better and that's where I'm focused and understand that I have a great opportunity now this Sunday to go out there and hopefully put a better taste in our mouths."

On if he's feels he is a "work in progress":

"Well, I think I'll always be, right? I don't think at year 16, if you're fortunate to play that long, I don't think you feel like you have figured it out. I remember when I asked Tom Brady after the game last year, 'When did it click for you? 'In a sense I asked him, 'When were you no longer a work in progress?' And his answer was what I would echo here, it is still clicking. You've never figured it out, you've never arrived. And the minute you think you have is probably when you're going to be gone. So I'm going to keep working and keep going and I understand that. I'll always view myself as a work in progress and I think that's how other people can view me too."

On if part of his development is learning to deal with coordinators who game plan specifically for him:

"It always will be, right? You know, defenses are going to go back and watch film. We're going to go back and watch film with them. It's an evolving game and it's not a static game. Guys are always learning and changing and adapting and guys are changing teams and it goes back to not having arrived. Just always continuing to grow and work, and, yep, people will start to figure you out and then you'll start to figure that out, and you'll start to figure them out. So, it's a back and forth deal that you'll have for as long as I'm playing football."

On staying patient when teams drop into zone coverage:

"I don't think it's as hard as I made it sound, maybe. I think that I just have got to take what they can give me and I think what's exciting is that if you do check it down there, you're probably in second and one, maybe get another first down. They're dropping enough where you're not just checking it down and now it's second and eight. You really have a pretty productive play. So that's where maybe you have got to remind yourself that a check-down can still really be a productive play, and we had a few of those. That's where I can continue to be patient knowing that it's still a good chunk of yards."

On working on timing to prevent false starts:

"We're talking about it and it's definitely a point of emphasis. Our offensive line and myself, we just have all got to be on the same page, and football's the ultimate team game. You know, we're all dependent on each other and if one guy isn't on that same page then we're all affected. So we have to all be together, all 11 at all times. And that's a challenge to get all 11 guys going in the same direction on every play. The snap count is certainly an example of that."

On his familiarity with playing against the Cowboys as opposed to a team like the Steelers:

"Yeah, the Steelers were a little different. Hadn't seen them since my rookie year and their scheme is different than most teams in a few ways, so there was some uniqueness to the Steelers that we may not even see the rest of the season. Cowboys, a little different, you know being division opponent, having played them twice last year. Now the same coordinator is back, a lot of the same players have been back now for several years. So there's some familiarity but it's not like Coach [Rod] Marinelli has been there for a decade so I've seen them eight or nine times. I mean it's still only been a couple, or a few, and as a result there's still a lot of studying to be done."

On the frustration of not scoring touchdowns in the red zone:

"It's a very important part of the game. I think last season we had gone back and looked at 2014 and saw how we weren't good enough on third down and in the red zone and we made that a big point of emphasis that we have to be better and we were. We were a top five team on third down, we were a top 10 team in the red zone and that's one of many reasons why we had an improvement. That hasn't changed. We've emphasized third downs and red zone but when we aren't as productive on third down and aren't as productive in the red zone, it's going to come back to haunt you in the final score and in your final result. So, we understand that and we have to make it a point of emphasis that when you get in the red zone, you have to come away with touchdowns 50-60 percent of the time to be a top 10 team in the league in that area and we weren't doing that the other night."

On if he has to prepare as if each defense will look different:

"Yeah, each team will be different and, you know, make no mistake, the Steelers have also had games where they've brought blitzes left and right. So, it's a game where they kind of feel what works for them in the game. If they had brought blitzes and we hadn't picked them up, they may have said, 'Hey, they don't have an answer for our pressures. Let's keep coming and heating them up.' I think we had an answer for a couple pressures, so they said, 'Let's not do that. They're picking it up. Let's play some zone coverage and drop off.' So, again when you get in first and 25, second and 20, first and 15, I would play, you know, a loaded zone coverage and play soft, too. So, part of it is situationally more than just the strategy against a team. You know, if we're going to get in penalties and put ourselves behind the eight-ball, it's going to be tough sledding all year long, no matter what you're prepared for."

On changes to the running game going into Week 2:

"I think avoiding the penalties, having a lead, or at least being within a close margin where you aren't running out of time and you can afford to run the football, you know those will always be the games where we have a better running game. You know, I felt like when I handed the ball off the other night, we were getting chunks here and there. There was a holding call and then we'd be backed up and it's like you've got to throw it, you can't run the ball in those long-yardage situations. In the second half it felt like we were chasing a deficit. We had to get back and those aren't situations where you want to run the ball a lot; you've got throw it. So, it's more the situations in the game that dictate how you end out coming out statistically. And that's where if we can come away with points in the red zone, as JP mentioned, and that kind of a thing, we're going to put ourselves in a better position to run the ball in the second half."

On the false starts:

"Whatever they are, whatever caused them, they need to get fixed. So the point is, whatever caused it, let's talk about it. How can I make it easier on you, how can I help, and you let me know. Let's communicate and let's make sure it doesn't happen again. And that's been the topic of conversation the last couple of days, and we've got a great chance on Sunday to be much sharper in that area."

On if there are specific statistical categories he uses to judge the effectiveness of the offense:

"Absolutely. I always like to look at third down and red zone as two important ones. You know, if you're over 50 percent in both of those, you're going to be near the top of the league, in a better position that most teams, so that's something we're always going to look at. And there are others – first down efficiency, yards per play, that kind of a thing – that you look at, that you can kind of measure yourself to see are we achieving the goals that are necessary that lead to wins, traditionally and typically. So those are statistics you can kind of look at to find where the holes are, maybe the gaps are, where you're being efficient and can feel good about."

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