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Quotes: Jay Gruden And Kirk Cousins (10.07.15)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

Opening statement:

"Did not participate: [Chris] Culliver, knee; [DeAngelo] Hall, toe; Jordan Reed, he's in the concussion protocol. Limited was DeSean Jackson and Perry Riley. And then, full were [Ryan] Kerrigan, [Kory] Lichtensteiger, [Spencer] Long, [Pierre] Garçon, [Trent] Murphy, [Kedric] Golston and [Josh] LeRibeus."

On his level of optimism for WR DeSean Jackson's chances of playing this Sunday:

"Well, we know how much he means to our offense. It would definitely help, but it's also something that we have to see. You know, it's something that we can't rush him back because we don't want this thing to be a reoccurring, reoccurring incident. He got a little bit of work today. He's in the weight room right now working and we'll just have to see tomorrow what he can do."

On his level of optimism for LB Perry Riley, Jr.:

"I feel pretty good. You know, I think he's going to get a couple good days at practice then we'll gauge it from there. But I think that today, he looked good [in] the limited work that he did. Tomorrow, he'll get more reps, and then of course Friday and then we'll make a decision. But I think he felt pretty good on it so we're very optimistic with Perry."

On the difference in the team's efficiency on third down this season:

"On offense, we're making obviously protection, number one. Number two, we're staying in makeable — we're not having as many third-down-and-12s and 11s. We've had about 16 of them, I think, this year in four games. A lot of them were penalty related. We finally converted two third-and-longs last week, but we've been very effective on third-and-mediums, and that's good route distribution, good protection and obviously good throws. And defensively, I think it's same thing. I think it's a combination of pass rush and coverage. It's not really one thing when you're talking about a conversion on offense or a conversion on defense. It's 11 guys doing what they're supposed to do and being where they're supposed to be."

On how important time of possession is this Sunday:

"Yeah, they're obviously controlling the clock also. They do a nice job of mixing it up with their running game. [Devonta] Freeman is playing extremely well. The passing game is what it is with Matt Ryan and they do a good job possessing the football. That's been our strength other than the Giants game, so I think that'll be a big difference. You know, the team that can get the other team off the field on third down and the team that can stay on the field on third down will have a big advantage in this ballgame."

On the status of both TE Jordan Reed's legs and concussion:

"Legs, he came back and played with the legs. He sprained his knee a little bit and his ankle, I think it was… He came back and played. He did that at the end of the first half — came back and played. That's not that big of a concern. He's still getting treatment on it. The concussion thing and the protocol, our hands are really tied on that. That's going to be totally up to the independent doctors, our doctors, Jordan, how he's feeling. Each day, you just have to gauge and find out what type of symptoms he has. Obviously, it's safety first with the player. We want to make sure he's right and go from there."

On if he calls series a particular way against teams who share his desire to control the clock:

"Not really. No, we kind of let it play out the way it plays out. If a team is playing, you know, loose zones and we have to check the ball down and have some long 15-14-play drives, so be it. If we're able to take some shots down the field, shoot, I'd love to have two-play drives for 80 yards. We just haven't had many, you know? But, as long as we get in the end zone, I don't care if it's 15 plays and nine minutes or one play and 30 seconds. It's just play dependent and defense dependent."

On the team being stronger at home under Gruden and if they are doing anything different on the road or just generally trying to play better:

"I think just generally trying to play better. I don't what the reason is, to be honest with you. We've just been outplayed on the road for whatever reason. I guess the only game we've won was Dallas on Monday night. I don't really have a reason for it. I don't have an answer. We just have to come out of the tunnel and start fast and try to get some momentum on our side and take the crowd out of it. A lot of times, we go on the road, like the Giants game for instance, we weren't able to maintain the momentum and quiet the crowd. We've got to try to figure out ways to do that. That's forcing turnovers. That's obviously protecting the football and making some plays on special teams."

On how the challenge of not playing a game with a full secondary so far this season gets compounded against a team like the Falcons:

"It's a challenge every week. I'm telling you, every team has good receivers, but obviously, Atlanta has a special one in Julio [Jones] and obviously Roddy [White] still can play. [Leonard] Hankerson is doing some good things, who we had here. They're a very impressive group, but Julio is a different human being and it'll be a great challenge for us. He's a guy that can take over a game by himself. There are not many like that in the league. There's a few – Brandon Marshall, obviously, A.J. [Green], and a couple others, but it'll be a great test for them. Whether [Chris] Culliver plays or not, you know [Bashaud] Breeland is going to have to step up. Will [Blackmon] is going to have to step up, whoever it is, our safety is going to have to be aware of where he is. We're going to have to get great pass rush. It's going to take a team effort. It's not going to be one guy that takes Julio away. It's going to be pass rush, the linebackers taking their proper drops, obviously Joe Barry mixing in the coverages here and there and trying to give Matt [Ryan] some different looks and make it as uncomfortable as possible for him, but definitely great arsenal of weapons over there."

On if CB Chris Culliver missing practice was a function of his same injury from last week:

"Yeah, same thing."

On if Culliver did any additional damage last week:

"He just played and it was uncomfortable for him in the game. It's a concern. He relies obviously on his obvious flexibility and his speed. It didn't feel right for him throughout the whole game. I think he just feels like he didn't play up to his capabilities in that ballgame and he wants to get it checked out. We want to get it checked out. We want to make sure it's healthy. He wants to be 100 percent, no question, so we'll continue to get it rehabbed and get him an MRI today and see where it's at and see what he can do, hopefully at the end of the week."

On being able to throw the ball to the flat consistently:

"Well, it's a great comfort level out there to have that. It's a chance to flip it out there, not worry about the pass rush, not worry about anything. Just get it out there and get a positive gain. Sometimes he [Pierre Garcon] will break them. You know, last year against Tennessee, we threw a little five-yard hitch to him and he took it 70 yards for a touchdown. It's a great luxury. He's a great player obviously. I think he had nine targets. He two plays called back, two catches called back. He would've had nine catches for well over 100 yards, but we'll keep figuring out ways to get him the ball. He's a heck of player and great runner after the catch."
On the secondary:

"I think the big thing is, everybody's got to do their job, like I said. Whether it's a corner, whether it's a safety getting his proper depth, I think it's everybody involved and we've just got to do a good job of taking our drops, playing our keys and doing what they're supposed to do. Sometimes they see too much or they don't see enough, so we've just got to continue to coach them. Trenton [Robinson] is playing good, D-Gold [Dashon Goldson] is playing good, our corners are playing good. We've just got to make sure we limit the big plays over the top and make teams earn every yard. We've done a pretty good job of that with the exception of three or four plays. They are going to happen throughout the course of the season. We don't want them to happen. We'll coach the heck out of guys up, but obviously we'd much rather have them try to move the ball and get them off the field another way. I think overall we've done a good job – just a couple of instances."

On if he has heard from the league about the penalties called on S Trenton Robinson last week:

"Yeah, we always send in plays throughout the week and we get answers back. The big thing is we want to make sure we're clear on what we're teaching, and if it is a penalty, we want to know about it so we can teach the proper fundamentals. If it's not a penalty then we can let the player know he wasn't at fault. We got that information and we talked to Trenton about it and we're all good. Those are, like I said, bang-bang plays and sometimes officials think it's head-to-head and it might not have been. I don't think Trenton was at fault in those instances."

On if the league concurred:

"He was not at fault in those instances. No."

On if his concern for Reed is changed by Reed's history:

"I don't know how much you take into account the past concussions. That's the whole thing. I think each one has got to be its own entity and we have to just figure it out how's he feeling. The severity of it, I don't know. That's the one thing you can never tell with these things nor can I project. I don't even want to get in that business. We'll leave it up to the independent doctor and Jordan. The big thing is what symptoms does he have each day. Is he having headaches? It is whatever it is. And that's something he's got to communicate to the doctors, so that they can take the proper steps to get him better. But, I don't have any clue as far as past concussions and how they affect future concussions. That's up to the doctors."

On TE Derek Carrier:

"Derek has been another one of our pleasant surprises. We got him late obviously and he's done a great job of learning the system, number one, because it's not easy. Really when you talk about offensive football, other than the quarterback, the tight end is the most difficult position to play and learn because of the running game, all of the combination blocks in the running game, the formations, the motions and then of course all of the pass concepts that we have – and it's a lot. We have a lot of personnel groupings. Heck, when we're playing two tight ends, he could play the Y or U. When we're in three receivers, he's the Y, but when we're in three tight ends he could be the V, the Y or the U. That's a lot to learn for a guy and he's done a excellent job. Wes [Phillips] has done a great job of teaching those guys – he and [Anthony] McCoy. They'll both be ready to go and if have to use [Tom] Compton a little bit we could possibly. But, I feel good about the two we have if Jordan can't go."

On what RB Matt Jones has to do to earn back Gruden's trust:

"Well, he's never lost my trust. A couple of weeks ago, it was 'Alfred [Morris] is in my doghouse,' and he's not. It's just the way it works out with the handoffs and the carries. I like both of those guys. I could hand it to them... If I call an outside zone, whether Alfred's in there or Matt's in there, I'm fine just as long they continue to work on protecting the football. They're both excellent players and we're going to split them up the best way we can. But, Alfred should still [get] 17-18 carries a game and Matt should get about 10-12 hopefully, maybe 13. Maybe some games it'll be skewed a little bit one way or the other but [he's] not in my doghouse at all."

On if there are lingering concerns about Jones' ball security:

"No, Randy [Jordan] will take care of that in his room, that's for sure [laughter]."

On if the former members of the Redskins currently in Atlanta factor into the game plan:

"It doesn't factor into it at all really. There's some carryover. The good thing is what we've done offensively and we've kept from the Shanahan era. We've kept some terminology, we've kept some scheme things that we're doing here so they've gone against some of the similar bootlegs and some of the similar running game schemes all throughout training camp. That's probably where it stops. As far as knowing when they're going to call it and how they're going to call it is two different things. Kyle [Shanahan] does an excellent job of mixing it up with the run and the pass and taking shots. But, other than the fact that we're a little bit similar in how we approach things offensively, it stops there really."

On where he has seen the most improvement from QB Kirk Cousins:

"Poise and confidence, really. I think poise mostly. I think his ability to go back and scan the field and go to his first, second and third progression, throw the ball away when he has to, overcoming a bad series or a bad game is what we are hoping to see him continue to progress with."

On upon what Cousins can improve:

"I just need to see is him continue to get better. That's all. The more he sees at quarterback, the better he's going to get. It's a firm belief that repetition is king. The more reps he's going to get, quarterbacks are either going to take the next step or they're not and we want to make sure he continues taking positive steps towards getting better and doing what we think he can do."

On if Spencer Long has secured the starting spot at left guard:

"Yeah, he played a good game. He really did. We have competition. Arie [Kouandjio] is actually practicing very well also. Those two guys are good, solid offensive guards for us. But Spencer is right now the starting left guard. We'll go from there. It's his job to keep it and I have every intent that he will."

On to what he attributes to LB Ryan Kerrigan's missed sacks last week:

"I don't know. I think he's still pretty effective in the running game and I still think he is playing very good at the position that he's playing — outside backer and the defensive end in nickel. He hasn't gotten the numbers that some other guys have around the league but I think he's got the disruption and that's half the battle as far as making the quarterback step up. Making the quarterback feel the rush is important, making him feel like he's got to get it out, without having to hold the ball. I promise you that Ryan wants more and we want more from Ryan. But to say that he's disappointing is not the case. We're absolutely happy with the effort that he plays with and what he brings to our football team, which is a lot."

On coaching the team on how to win following a victory:

"Yeah, we do have to learn how to win, have to play after a win. We've only had back-to-back wins once since I've been here. We beat Dallas on a Monday night. That was a back-to-back win for us. After that, we beat St. Louis, we laid an egg against the Giants. So, it's sometimes equally as important to coach your team after a win than after a loss. After a loss, everybody is eager to get back on the field and they're ticked off and they want to compete again. After a win, sometimes, 'Ah, we don't need to do this, we don't need to do this, we're good.' But I don't think our locker room is like that. I feel like we had a good day at practice today. We're all working hard. We know we're 2-2. We're tied for first in our division. We're playing against an excellent 4-0 football team. I think they're ready to continue to show that we're getting better."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On the growth he has seen in himself since the last time he played the Falcons:

"I've seen a lot of growth. I feel like I'm a much improved player. Every week is a new week. You certainly try and draw on past experiences to help make you that much better going into the next experience but at the same time you've got to prove yourself each and every week."

On what stood out from that game:

"Well, I'm glad I had the experience. I think the fact that I've played there before and have been there, that familiarity I think can only help. I remember it was a game where we were able to move the football. There were certainly some plays you wanted back like in any game. It came down to the final drive, the final play and we came up short. It was a tough loss, one that was frustrating. We felt like we left some plays out there. It was a great game and hopefully we can do a lot of good things on offense this week as well."

On the deep passes to Rashad Ross and Jamison Crowder:

"Explosive plays are very critical to winning football games, so any time we can get big plays in the run game or the pass game it's going to make a big difference in our ability to get wins. That's always going to be a point of emphasis. We need guys who can go down the field or who can make the tough catch or who can turn a shorter completion into a big gain. When you have to go down the field, although we've been able to have good time of possession and have some long drives with a lot of plays, when you can score quickly and be explosive, it goes a long ways towards winning football games."

On his time with Falcons Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan:

"I came in and I didn't know what I didn't know. I was pretty clueless. I felt like I was fortunate enough to have great coaches in Coach [Mike] Shanahan, Kyle, Matt LaFleur who were able to help develop me, develop me quickly and get me ready for what is a very challenging league. I will always be grateful for the way they were able to develop me and the way they believed in me. It's been good to see them have success elsewhere. It'll be a good challenge this week."

On what Shanahan did to help him learn:

"Well, it was everything from spending a lot of time watching cut-ups to going out and drilling, whether it was very basic drills or team drills. I always felt like Matt LaFleur, who is the QB coach now in Atlanta, did a great job of just spending time with me, staying after practice, working hard to make sure that I was as prepared as I could possibly be. Sometimes I wonder at other places if rookies, especially rookie quarterbacks who are third or fourth string guys, can get forgotten about a little bit. I felt like when I came in as a rookie I was given a lot of attention and time and energy and was really developed quickly as a result of the focus they put on me and on Robert [Griffin III]."

On balancing time of possession and scoring points:

"I think it's important to score points, so whether you get them quickly or whether you get them on a long 15-play drive that eats the clock, you've got to come away with points. I would agree with you that too many times we probably haven't come away with touchdowns when we need to in the red zone. That will be a point of emphasis going forward – how can we get six instead of three? Certainly time of possession is important. When your defense isn't out there and exhausting themselves, it can make a difference in their ability to be productive when they are out there."

On what has been the biggest difference on third downs this season:

"I think it is a combination of things, I don't think there is one area that stands out. I do believe another year in the system, familiarity with the concepts. I've always believed that you get what you emphasize and I think our coaches went back and looked at last year and said 'we need to be better on third down, lets emphasize that.' So staring in April when we came back it was a point of emphasis. When you work on something enough and emphasize it, you get the results. I think that's happened with third downs but it's still early, we want to be able to continue this as we now go into the second quarter of the season, if you will. Make sure that it can continue. 

On what has changed when it comes to practicing third downs:

"I think it's detailing concepts, being more familiar with what's being called, really owning the plays. Making sure that when calls come in and we're in a situation of third down every one - offensive line, receivers, running backs, quarterbacks – knows exactly what to do. There's never coming back and saying 'Oh I thought I was supposed to do this, I was confused as to how to handle that.' That we can really own and detail our work."

On the details they want to take care of to be able to communicate properly on the road:

"You detail your snap count. You detail your communication in the huddle. You detail the play clock. Making sure that when the play call comes in you just have all the words right and make sure communication is as strong as it can be. As long as everyone is on the same page and has good preparation with practicing with noise this week I think it's something that we will be ready to handle."

On if there are times in the huddle where it is hard for his teammates to hear the play call:

"Yeah, there are times in the huddle and the line of scrimmage where I am literally yelling as loud as I possibly can. That's part of playing football and quarterback in the NFL."

On how his usage of hard counts and pump fakes has evolved:

"I think it's something that comes with time. When you first get into the league there are layers of learning. You can't be detailing your snap count if you don't even know the play. You've got to handle first things first. That's one of the points where I make, when you have continuity, when you have experience in a system, you can go to the next layer. It ends up being the difference between winning and losing a lot of times in games because of the parity of talent within the league. So it's so important to have that continuity where you can build another layer each year, each offseason and expand upon what you've learned. That's where experience and playing and learning things, whether it goes good or badly for you, having that experience makes a difference. Whether it is the snap count or progressing in your reads, movement in the pocket, all of that stuff improves when you go out there and play and learn from what needs to be done better."

On how young players stepping up makes his job easier:

"I've always felt like as quarterback I'm just a distributor. As a result I'm as good as the guys around me. If I've got great time to throw and guys are getting open and making plays, I'm going to look good. I certainly feel like I've just had great production around me this year. I feel like our offensive line has played really well both in the run game and the pass game. I feel like the receivers have done an outstanding job and the running backs as well. As a result it makes my job that much easier. I hope that we have depth all season long and hopefully as we get DeSean [Jackson] back and other things like that. Guys stay healthy and the more weapons we have, the better a distributor I can be the more games we will be able to win."

On what each running back brings to the team;

"I feel like we try to look at the differences, they are probably more similar than they are different. They all run hard. They're all smart guys. They're all great teammates. They can all catch the ball. They can all pass protect. They really have more in common than they do differences. They are all from Florida from what I understand. So there you go, there's another similarity. They're all good football players, guys I want in the huddle with me. I've always felt like Chris Thompson, who has come on in the last couple weeks, I've always felt like he could play. It was a matter of getting out there and showing it. I've said to him time and again, we need to get him the football more. We put him in there on third down and he has to stick his face on linebackers and pass protect. He can be pretty good in the passing game, so, it's my job to make sure he can get the football and show people what he can do once the ball is in his hands. Alfred [Morris] had a catch last week, Matt Jones certainly can do that as well. I'm excited about whoever is in there at running back. More than anything you want a guy who goes in there and he's a pro and he details his work. You know that when you call the play you can count on him to do his job. All three of those guys do their job at a high level and that's what comforts me."

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