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Quotes: Jay Gruden (11-22-2016)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On the injury report (all statuses are estimations, as the team conducted walkthroughs on Tuesday):

"Nick Sundberg, back, did not participate…. And then [Chris] Baker was limited with his hamstring. DeSean [Jackson] limited with his shoulder; [Ty] Nsekhe, limited with his ankle; Preston Smith, back, limited. And then full was everybody else – [Will] Blackmon, [Jamison] Crowder and [Morgan] Moses were full."

On his level of concern with T Ty Nsekhe's ankle injury and the overall assessment of the team's health:

"I think right now we're pretty good. You know, Nsekhe is a little sore. We're not really going to have a chance to really test it out because we're not really practicing; we're just doing mainly walkthroughs. I feel good about his status for Thursday's game. And in general everybody else is where they are. Normal bumps and bruises like you say, but I think they'll fight through it and be able to get through this game."

On how he's seen Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott evolve since Week 2:

"Well, like any young football player, they are going to get better the more reps that they get and they have proven that. Dak and Zeke, they've done a great job. You know, Zeke is a powerful runner. He's been bottled up from time-to-time in first quarter, but as the game goes on, that offensive line can wear you down and he gets chunks of yardage. And Dak has just done a great job. He's just been very poised under pressure. He doesn't make many mistakes, if any, and he gets the ball to the right people. So they've both been very impressive for young football players and they're getting better as the season's going on, as their nine-game winning streak proves it."

On the defensive challenges facing a rookie quarterback for the second time:

"I think you change it up a little bit but what's good about Dallas is their ability to run the football. So you can try different coverages and different things in the secondary and maybe blitz-wise, but still it comes down to stopping the run and Zeke. So you put too many guys in the box, you've got Dez Bryant and they've got good receivers that can hurt you. Cole Beasley's doing a great job. So they can hurt you a couple of different ways so it's just a matter of A) we have to stop the run, we have to do a much better job against the run, and then B) when we get them in third down, they did a great job of converting their third downs last time we played them, if I recall, and hurt us in that regard. We've got to do a better job on third down. Tighter coverage."

On what Dallas' defense does particularly well:

"I think what they do particularly well, they play with great energy. Their defensive line rushes extremely hard. They give you a lot of different movement upfront and then Sean Lee at middle linebacker runs the show. He's as good of a middle linebacker as there is in the game, and their secondary, they're disruptive. They get on you, they play tight man-to-man coverage. They grab and do a good job of disrupting the timing of routes and gives their defensive line that extra count or two to get home. So they can get you with four-man rushes. They do good with their three-man rushes with extra guys in coverages, so Coach [Rod] Marinelli does an excellent job of mixing it up and they do a good job of disrupting timing and they're always fresh because their offense stays on the field for a long time."

On CB Josh Norman's ability to force fumbles:

"Well, the one thing about Josh when you watch him on tape from where he's been is his ability to get the ball back for the offense whether it's an interception or forcing fumbles. We did have an idea of that before we signed him. It's hard to get corners that can create turnovers, so that was a major draw for us in my mind. He's a good tackler. He can create turnovers for you and obviously he can cover good people. He's been everything we want so far and he's going to continue to be. He's got a good match up this week."

On if Norman's ability to force turnovers adds another dimension to the defense:

"Yeah, well, he adds a dimension to it. Turnovers are a big part of this game and the success of a team so that turnover that he got against Green Bay – the 'Peanut Punch,' whatever you want to call it – was a huge part of that. To stop the drive, we were to get the ball back and go up by another score so it adds a great dynamic to your team and now it's just a matter of everybody else getting that fever an doing the same thing."

On what led the team to sign RB Robert Kelley as an undrafted free agent:

"As a free agent we didn't see a whole lot, he didn't get many carries at Tulane, quite honestly. We got him in here – as we got a lot of the rookie free agents in here – we worked him out in the rookie OTAs, and we thought enough of him to keep him on the roster and bring him to training camp, and he did some great things in training camp. First of all, he picked up the offense extremely well. That's step one, you have got to be smart enough to play in the National Football League. I don't care how skilled you are – so that was step one. Then step two, how he runs – what's his vision like. Then step three is ball security, pass protection, and then run after contact, which you can't tell until you get him in the preseason games where you're going live. That's where we saw him really doing a good job after contact – getting those extra two, three, four yards. We had Matt Jones, obviously. We had Chris Thompson. We had Mack Brown. We felt good about the running back position, but it wasn't until we got him reps, that the more reps he received, the better he got. He's proved us right so far because he's getting better also."

On what has impressed him most about the offensive line in recent weeks:

"I'll tell you what, I think everything, really. They've been very impressive – both in the pass protection, which is obviously key with the weapons that we have, but in the running game. They've been physical. Sunday night was a great indicator that they were physical. We got movement up front, some good running lanes for Robert [Kelley] to run through. Just overall, I don't really think there is a weakness in their game. They're good pass-protectors, they're good run players. They're smart. They can pull. So I don't really see anything that is hurting them. And we have got good depth. Obviously you lose a left tackle that's the best left tackle in football and you replace him with another guy who is playing at a very high level – that says a lot about the depth of this football team. Spencer Long is making a smooth transition to center. Brandon [Scherff] is continually getting better. Morgan [Moses] is fighting through the injury, but he's still playing at a high level, and obviously Shawn Lauvao is a consistent plug-in guy who is playing extremely well, too."

On what he likes about playing on Thanksgiving Day and his favorite Thanksgiving memory:

"What do I like playing on Thanksgiving Day? I like the fact [that] it's a historical day and there's always a game on Thanksgiving – it's great to be part of that, it really is. Obviously, the Sunday night game puts a little bit of a damper on it, but other than that, I think it's going to be an exciting time. It's against our archrival, the Dallas Cowboys. I think if you're going to play a Thursday game, have it be on Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys – that will get everybody fired up. No matter when you play, where you play, how you play – when you're playing the Cowboys it's going to be an exciting time and the guys will be fired up. But I don't really have a typical favorite Thanksgiving memory. I think they're all great and you're thankful every day for the family that you have and it just brings it more to light I guess that day being around them."

On the quick turnaround's effect on game planning:

"Yeah, the quick turnaround – I think giving them [the players] yesterday off helped the coaches as far as preparation is concerned. We used the bye week to really prepare also for the Cowboys, but they've had three games since then. But it helped us really come together with a plan. So when they came in today, we'll really force-feed them a little bit today with a couple walkthrough sessions and a lot of meeting time. So that will be the challenge for them. As far as their health is concerned, I think this time of year we're in good shape, really, health-wise. I think the guys feel pretty good. They're a little beat up now and they'll be a little bit sore now and grumpy tomorrow, but I think come Thursday they'll be ready to roll."

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