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Quotes: Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky (11-27-2017)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On injuries:

"Did not participate was [Montae] Nicholson, concussion; Chase Roullier, hand; Jordan Reed, hamstring; Trent Williams, knee; Terrell McClain, toe. Limited were Zach Brown, shoulder/Achilles; [Matt] Ioannidis, hand/ankle; [Morgan] Moses, knee/ankle; [Brandon] Scherff, knee; [Martrell] Spaight, ankle; Ty Nsekhe, core muscle. Full were [Jamison] Crowder, [Anthony] Lanier and [Samaje] Perine."

On DL Jonathan Allen's progress:

"He's coming along good. He's right on schedule to return when he's allowed to return. Hopefully he can start practice when we get back. That'll be six weeks I believe, for two weeks, and then hopefully he'll be ready to go – Week 15, I think."

On if Allen's foot has healed correctly:

"Yeah. Yeah, he's coming along good."

On what the defense has missed without Allen on the field:

"Just another strong, rotational player. He's one of those guys that's very good against the run and then you throw him in on third down and he's a good pass rusher. We have missed him, but guys have stepped up in his place. Stacy McGee is starting to step up his game. Ziggy [Hood] has played more minutes and done a great job and Lanier's stepped in and done a nice job."

On if he'll weigh where the team stands when deciding if Allen will return:

"First and foremost, we want to make sure he's 100 percent. Once we feel like he's in a position where he can play and play effectively, then we'll play him. I mean, he's too good of a player."

On if S Montae Nicholson had a setback:

"This is a different – this is a concussion this time. His shoulders were last time… He's with the independent doctors right now, so he's had some issues that he's just had to get cleared up with independents. It's out of our hands."

On how he would rate the secondary so far this season:

"How would I rate them? I don't know, five to six? [Laughter] I mean, they've had their moments of being spectacular and they've had their moments of not being good enough. I think inconsistency from the whole team probably is where we stand – offensively, defense, special teams. We've had our moments. We've had flashes of being really a good football team. We've had flashes of being mediocre. But, I like the way [Bashaud] Breeland, D.J. [Swearinger], Josh [Norman, [Quinton] Dunbar when he's stepped in, [Kendall] Fuller – I like the way they've played. The other safeties – D-Hall, [Deshazor] Everett and Montae – they've done some nice things."

On CB Bashaud Breeland's performance in a contract year:

"I think Breeland against New Orleans and the last two weeks has played extremely well. He really has and I think he's bounced back and done some good things, I really have. I like the way he plays. I like the way he tackles. He's a physical corner, so I think he's in a good position to get a nice contract."

On if Deshazor Everett will start at safety again in lieu of DeAngelo Hall:

"I think so. I think Deshazor played pretty well. We'll see how it goes though. We'll try to use both of them, but Deshazor right now is the starter and once Montae gets back, we'll see where Montae is and use him also."

On how he has seen CB Kendall Fuller improve:

"Yeah, I've mentioned it before. Number one, I think he's 100 percent healthy this year. He's always been a very smart guy. He studies the game tape. He's very good at leverages. I think he's running better this year. He's playing with a lot more confidence. He studies the film extremely well. He's prepared mentally, and physically I think he's at a point now where he feels really good."

On if he agrees with Cris Collinsworth calling Fuller one of the best slot corners in the NFL:

"Of course. If Collinsworth said something positive, I'm going to agree with him [laughter]."

On if it's hard limiting Hall to his current role:

"Yeah, I mean, I think a little bit. I think D-Hall is such a pro, he understands what it's all about. He's going to come in here and prepare like he's going to start and play, and when he does play, he'll play well. But it was Deshazor's opportunity. We wanted to give him some reps, see how he did, and he played pretty well so we just rode with him. But D-Hall is a pro. And when we call on him again, he'll produce."

On if the team talked about the 10-year anniversary of Sean Taylor's passing today:

"We have not talked about it, no. Not today."

On how much of Dallas' recent struggles are a function of RB Ezekiel Elliott's absence:

"I don't know. I think, well, he's a great player, Pro Bowler obviously, so I'm sure it has a little bit to do with it. But they've had some issues… You know, when you lose a game, you can't finger point the offensive side of the ball. They've had some other issues – it's a team game and teams have played well that they played. [Los Angeles] played really good football, they've protected the quarterback well, Philip Rivers was on point. Sometimes the other team just plays a little bit better than you on that given day, and that's kind of what happened."

On what defensive players do to improve their communication:

"Well, you've got to study. You've got to be prepared. They've got to prepare themselves. A lot of times, if it's no-huddle, give a quick signal out there and it's their job to relay it and make sure they get it communicated safeties to the corners, linebackers to the defensive linemen, what have you. Doesn't matter who is communicating and how they're doing it. Sometimes, against New Orleans, we communicated the wrong thing unfortunately. But last week was a lot better. It's the most important thing really defensively, especially when you're playing no-huddle teams and Dallas does some good things with their up-tempo things from time to time. So how we communicate, it's hard enough to play lining up in your gaps in play normal but when you're miscommunicating, you're having trouble communicating, it makes it almost impossible against these good teams. That'll be a critical element to our success Thursday night."

On if defensive communication was a big emphasis last week:

"It's always a big emphasis, no matter who you play. It has to be. The No. 1 criteria for a good defense is communication. Obviously talent, but communication is second."

On if he's had discussions with QB Kirk Cousins about protecting himself as a runner:

"Well, we want him to protect himself, for sure. If he's keeping himself out of harm's way, that'd be outstanding. But we also don't mind him ad-lib and having some off-schedule plays, that's part of football. All the great quarterbacks do it, whether it's adding two or three seconds in the pocket by moving around or getting outside the pocket or scrambling for first downs. He's had some huge scrambles for first downs. That's a big part of football. They can double cover everybody, play two-man across the board and have you covered pretty good, but they don't have anybody for the quarterback so he can escape out of there and make big plays with his legs. And that'll eliminate some of the coverages if he is effective at that. Hopefully he continues to do that."

On if the locker room has gotten closer:

"I think they've been close all along. We've got a great group of guys out there, for sure. We've had some injuries they've dealt with, but for the most part, the leadership that we have on this football team has been outstanding. Even some of them that have been hurt, they've still come to meetings, they've been supportive of the guys that are taking their place – like Trent [Williams] is missing time and he's been a great coach and leader on the field for Ty [Nsekhe] and Tyler Catalina and Arie Kouandjio. He's helped them guys out. Same thing when Brandon [Scherff] went down. Good group of guys, really. Jonathan Allen's been missing time but guys have stepped up and done well." 

Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky

On the secondary's performance this season:

"I think overall from week to week, we've had some injuries of course, from a safety perspective, from some of the nickel backs and corners, but overall, I think we are getting in a groove and last week was a good week for us to rebound back and do a good job."

On CB Bashaud Breeland:

"Right now, he is doing good. The last two weeks, I think his performance has been very good. He has been locking down receivers. He is doing a great job up there in press coverage getting his hands on them and actually making some good plays overall. He's doing well."

On CB Kendall Fuller:

"I think definitely from this year to last year, I mean, each and every week he grows. He understands route combinations. He does a great job of getting hands on the slot receivers, but overall, he is just a smart player, a savvy player that understands the game of football and we love him for it."

On how the Cowboys' recent inconsistency complicates the defense's preparation:

"Well, I think definitely they are going to do exactly what they do when even Zeke [Ezekiel Elliott] is in there. They are going to try to run the ball. They are going to try to get some play-action passes on us and then overall they are going to try to put the ball down the field if they show a little bit of a single-high and get after them. From our standpoint, we have to go into the game – whoever is playing, it doesn't matter because we have been in that situation as well. Those backup players are going to try to do their best and do it to the best that they can do, so we have got to know that when we go into this game, they are going to give it their all and it's going to be a Thursday night game."

On CB Josh Norman:

"I think overall, just from a DB standpoint, I think Josh has been playing well. I think you don't see it from a picks scenarios all across the board, but I'm saying from covering guys up the field, getting his hands on them and then covering some guys, he has done a great job."

On if Norman gives the defense more versatility with play calling:

"I think, yeah. I think from your standpoint as an offensive coordinator looking at him, sometimes when he is up there press bailing, sometimes he is up there catching them, sometimes he is playing off, it changes it up from receiver to receiver that he has been covering. From an offensive coordinator, it is going to give him a different look."

On what can be done to sustain defensive communication:

"I think that is the biggest thing that I always talk about is communication. I don't care what call we are on as long as we are on the same page. Overall, communication was a lot better last week. Sometimes it isn't and sometimes it is, but communication is vital and I think last week they did a good job of communicating. The previous week we did not."

On what he tells the defensive line when facing a mobile quarterback:

"Well, I think Dak [Prescott] does a great job of stepping up in the pocket and keeping his eyes up the field. So we definitely have got to get pressure with those interior linemen up the field to push and kind of spread him out to the outside. If he does, then we will have the outside linebackers or defensive ends there. We do need push every time. When you push that pocket, sometimes they get a bit little rattled when they try to throw the ball. So that is what we are looking for this week."

On how to keep the defensive players upbeat:

"Having a win like we did, and just overall having fun out in the field and actually communicating like we said before. I mean that's the biggest thing – communication between the DBs and the linebackers and then the linebackers to the defensive line. We just have to try to go through as many reps as we can during the walkthrough periods and then of course out on the field."

On how difficult it is to communicate effectively while replacing linebackers:

"Yeah, it's a little bit difficult but they have got to get on the same page. We have to scale back a little bit of what we are doing and that's what we kind of did last week with the Giants."

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