Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Quotes: Jay Gruden And Kirk Cousins (12.16.15)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

Opening statement:

"Perry Riley will be out. Did not participate were [Jason] Hatcher, neck and knee; DeSean Jackson, knee. Limited were Jeron Johnson, [hamstring]; Trent Williams, foot; Keenan Robinson, shoulder; Andre Roberts, knee; Chris Thompson, shoulder. Full go were Will Compton, shoulder; D-Hall, toe; and [Dashon] Goldson, wrist."

On TE Alex Smith's familiarity with the offense:

"I think that's important. He has familiarity with the offense. He stepped right in here and knows all the terminology already. We needed somebody fast. He's a guy that can play multiple positions for us already — that's the main reason. He's big and can handle the in-line blocking, catch a ball and do some good things. What we're asking him to do… Jordan [Reed] is our tight end, we still have Tom Compton with the ability to line up in the big stuff and then he'll be part of the offense also a little bit."

On if there is any optimism for RB Chris Thompson's availability:

"Yeah, he did some stuff today, so there is optimism with him. We'll have to wait and see how it holds up tomorrow and go from there. It'll be a tough decision. I feel confident with he and Pierre [Thomas]."

On if RB Pierre Thomas can contribute more in the coming weeks:

"Yeah, I think so. Getting acclimated to the pass-protection calls is the big thing. I think the route tree — though he's run all the routes, it's a matter of knowing what they're called. They're called a little bit differently. I think he's progressing at a nice rate and I think he has a great understanding of the offense already a lot more now than I would have anticipated. So I don't have any hesitation whatsoever playing him in third-down situations or first or second down for that matter."

On which foot T Trent Williams injured:

"'Trent Williams, foot.' You don't get which foot. All you get is 'foot' [laughter]. I don't know. I'm not even going to guess. He just said his foot hurt."

On if Williams' injury is serious:

"I don't think so. I think it's just a little sore. It's this time of year. He's a big man. He plays very hard and he's had some wear and tear on that foot. It's the same one whatever it is — whichever one it was. I don't know — left one? I think it's more of a rest day for him."

On if WR Rashad Ross is starting to 'catch on' on offense:

"He is. He is. He had two catches. One was very important on third down. The other one he could have run through and maybe scored. We like Ross. Ross gives you that added element of speed. He's doing a good job. He's playing behind three, four very good receivers. He's waiting his turn. If Andre [Roberts] comes back, we'll have to make a decision there, so we like where he's at."

On if there is any doubt about WR DeSean Jackson's availability for Sunday:

"I think you saw him finish the game. I think that's a pretty good indication that it's not as serious as it appears to be, so I feel confident. When guys finish the game on Sunday, usually you feel pretty good about them playing the next week. I think that's the case with DeSean. I think he just needs to get into rehab — get the soreness out a little bit — get to running tomorrow, and then obviously Friday he'll be ready to roll, I hope."

On the difference in the offense when Jackson is available:

"Well, it's different. Obviously, it's different in a good way. I mean, he's fast. He's a very good player. He didn't have very many catches in the first half. He drew a 42-yard pass interference call, had two catches for another 40-something yards. You look at production and say, 'It's not that great,' but really, he stretches the defense and people have to account for him. He's a good player, obviously."

On Bills QB Tyrod Taylor:

"Oh, man, he's been impressive, really taking advantage of a situation where he had to sit behind a heck-of-a quarterback in [Joe] Flacco at Baltimore. [He] got limited reps there, and when he did, he showed Buffalo enough to take a chance on him. He's really made it pay off. He's a very good player. He's a much better passer than I think people would have given him credit for but he's very good with his legs — can run the ball extremely well out of the pocket and throw on the run. I've been impressed with him."

On if he has a new way of 'driving the message home' about winning back-to-back games:

"I think the message is pretty clear. We're 6-7 in a three-way tie for first place. That's really the motivation. We don't care about how many wins in a row it is. I think, really, it's all about playing Buffalo and maintaining that advantage — that small advantage — that we have in the NFC East. In order to do that, we have to win. The back-to-back thing is obviously something that we're going to eventually do to get to the division championship. I think everybody knows what's at stake and knows we've had trouble putting back-to-back wins together. Hopefully, they'll be ready and understand that."

On evaluating Williams' play on the field this season and what he's meant as a leader to this team:

"On the field, I think he's already established himself as the top tackle in the game. Heck, we paid him for it [laughter]. Off the field, man, he's just one of those guys that… I've really been impressed with the way he's worked this year with [Offensive Line] Coach [Bill] Callahan. I think when you're as good as he is and you bring in a new coach with a new set of rules and work ethic and all that stuff — not to say we didn't have a work ethic before — but sometimes, guys are resistant to change. He's been excellent about it. He's worked very hard. He's kept his weight down and played extremely well. I think the younger linemen like [Brandon] Scherff and [Spencer] Long and [Morgan] Moses, they all look up to him and it's been a great situation for everybody with him as a leader."

On if there is a common thread in the increase in sacks allowed by the offensive line in recent weeks:

"I don't know. I think it's kind of like the running game sometimes when you average only a couple yards a carry on certain plays. I think it's a combination of things. Sometimes it's interior. Sometimes it's a tackle. Sometimes the quarterback didn't see. Sometimes it's a coverage sack. I think the other day Chicago had a coverage sack where Kirk [Cousins] had nowhere to go with the ball and just pulled it down. I think we try to really harp on the fact that we don't want negative plays but sometimes that's the only play is protecting the ball and taking a sack for a four- or five-yard loss as opposed to trying to force the ball or get rid of the ball and get stripped and fumbled… Overall, I think we'd like the sacks to be down, obviously, but still, I think our rate of sacks per pass attempt is pretty good amongst the league."

On how much this season has helped him evaluate QB Kirk Cousins:

"I think, as a coach, you're evaluating everybody all the time, not just your quarterback. But obviously he's an important piece to the puzzle when you're talking about coaching in the National Football League — having a quarterback. I think his greatest achievement so far is his ability to progress and get better, really, and study and want to get better and learn and study each opponent on a daily basis, on a weekly basis and understand that there is going to be change involved and adapt to that change. We're still in the evaluation process but I'm tickled to death to see how much he's progressed. You can see his confidence just slowly — get more and more, obviously — become more of a factor for him in a good way. He's still learning, man. He's still fighting through some things. We're still coaching the heck out of him but I like where he's going. I like what he's about — what he represents as a football player and as a person. We'll go from there."

On if the clarity of the message for this week means he doesn't have to say anything to the team:

"I hope not. I'm sure I'll say something. You know, I'll come up with something later on in the week. These guys are pro football players. They know exactly what's at stake. The ability to have a chance to play for a division championship this late in the year is very exciting to a lot of people, it really is — football players, staff, everybody in the building is excited for this game on Sunday and next week and the week after. To be in this position, the energy is up. Everybody's excited, but we also have to stay focused. We have to work extremely hard. We know how close these games have been — the ones we've lost, some of them haven't been. The majority of our games this year, they have all been decided by a play or two, or a series or a turnover or something like that. We know we've got to work extremely hard — protect the football — but it is exciting."

On developing Cousins' ability to throw balls away:

"That's an opportunity. He's done that before. He had a couple in that game where he threw a couple away and made some good decisions with it. Sometimes you get pinned in that pocket and you can't escape to the outside because the tackles are pushed in. You can't go up because the guards are pushed up. You have to just, you know, eat it, but I think every situation is different and there will be times — there might have been a time or two in that game — he could have sprinted out of there and maybe thrown it away, but that's just a matter of playing. I think that will come with experience, I hope."

On how impressed he has been with TE Jordan Reed:

"Very impressed. Not so much with his hands and his route running and all that stuff — that's the fantasy football side of Jordan Reed that obviously is very impressive — but I've been more impressed with him as far as learning all the positions and blocking, becoming a pure tight end. That's the hardest part for somebody coming out of college who likes to just catch balls and score touchdowns. Now, you have to learn how to block these outside zones and inside zones and all that stuff. He had a great block on the double team to seal Matt Jones bouncing outside to win the game the other day. I was more impressed with that than his touchdown. I think him becoming a complete tight end, staying healthy, really buying in and working his butt off with [Tight Ends Coach] Wes Phillips has been the most impressive [thing] but he is really making a case for what you said [team MVP]."

On the success running the ball out of the shotgun:

"Well, a lot of the shotgun runs are out of different personnel. You get a linebacker off the field. It's more against the nickel runs. You get a favorable box count sometimes where you can pop them. We should be successful in all of them but… some of our shotgun runs have been better. Some of them have been in situations... We've hit a couple draws out of the shotgun, some of the one-back powers, but you are a little bit limited in shotgun as far as what runs you can run, but they have been effective. We do probably need to do more of those."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On the excitement of the playoff chase:

"Yeah, it's encouraging to have meaningful games in December, to feel like we're playing for something, to have a chance at the division title. All those things are in front of us. If that had been said to us in August that we'd have a chance in December to play for a division title, we would have taken it whether we were 6-7 or much better than that. We've still got everything we've set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season in front of us. So, lots to play for and lots to work towards. That's why we got to have a great week of preparation and maximize every chance we get to be ready for Sunday."

On the Bills' defense:

"They have very good players all the way through their defense and all the way through their team. So from a defensive standpoint, great pass rushers and also very good stopping the run. Talented secondary, very athletic, a lot of guys who are fast. Obviously the scheme itself can be very complex and throw a lot at you. It'll be a great challenge for us, but certainly will be something that we need to be well prepared for and be ready to adapt as the game goes on."

On the challenge of not looking ahead:

"I think what helps me stay week-to-week in this league is when you look at what you have to do each week it's a lot. When you start to look further down the road you just get overwhelmed. So for me, I just feel like I have enough to focus on with just the Bills alone, that to let my mind go the Eagles or the Cowboys or what's at stake, it just becomes too much. I'd much rather focus on the Bills and leave it one day, one week at a time. That helps me, but it's exciting what's in store. We just have to make the most of our opportunities."

On if there is a correlation to taking more sacks but throwing fewer interceptions:

"I don't know. I think as I play longer I'm able to gain more experience and continue to become a better decision-maker, which will be an ongoing process as long as I play. I do agree that a lot of those sacks were coverage sacks. I would look back at it and say 'How can I avoid this sack?' Throw it away, leave the pocket, whatever it may be to avoid that sack. I think even with the higher sack numbers they are still things that I can be doing better to, yes, avoid turnovers, but also probably avoid those sacks as well."

On converting turnovers into touchdowns:

"I think each situation is different but the one this past week I felt like the penalty we got then sets you back. It's hard to overcome those long-yardage penalties. Whether you have that after a turnover or on a normal drive, it's going to be hard to convert when you have them. I think the bigger issue then and that specific one, 'Oh, we didn't convert after a turnover' is 'We can't have those penalties' would be the bigger issue. That's what forced us to have to punt I think. There's no doubt, when you turn the football over or the other team does, you've got to be able to capitalize in this league and if you don't, you let teams hang around and that's where you can get beat. So it certainly is a point of emphasis, but more importantly it is, 'OK, once we get the football back, what is our job on each individual play so that we do stay on the field,' and for a couple of those times it's been, 'Avoid those penalties.'"

On his conversation with RB Pierre Thomas:

"I think you're always trying to gain knowledge from experienced players like Pierre, especially when they come in from other teams. He's had a lot of success with the Saints playing in one of the best offenses in football for the past almost a decade. I felt like he's got a lot to share and I just try to be a good question-asker and pick his brain. I think there will still be a lot more to learn as we go. Great to have guys like him and other vets that we've picked up as the year goes on who have that experience and know what it's like to win and win consistently. I think those guys can have a valuable imprint on our locker room and on the maturity of our team."

On the communication issues with the sideline last week:

"In that situation, third and one, I probably could have looked at the formation and said, 'All right, this is the personnel grouping we have in – what plays do we have out of that personnel grouping?' And I could have just called a play off the top of my head. In that situation, third and one, part of me feels like it's probably better to get the best possible play than to just dial something generic up in such a crucial situation. I think looking back in hindsight you might say to avoid the penalty, just take a look at the personnel grouping and call a play on your own off the top of your head."

On evaluating his season:

"I think it's my job to prepare, look forward to the next challenge. I think when the season is over, then I look back and say 'What did I do well? What do I need to improve upon?' I think the big picture, it's the team's job to evaluate, the coaches' job, your guys' job. For me, I just focus on the next game, the Bills, trying to finish what we started and finish strong. There will be plenty of talk in the coming months about how I did over the whole span. But I feel like I'm still in the middle of it. People remember how you finish, so regardless of what I've done the first 13 games, they're going to remember the last three. So there's still a lot of work to be done."

On if the team's mindset has changed when it comes to winning back-to-back games:

"I don't know that anything in the last 48 hours has suddenly made me feel like, 'Oh, we're going to win this week,' but I do think that it's unfortunate that we haven't been able to win two games in a row and part of the reason why we're 6-7 and not better than that is because we haven't been able to consistently win. I'll be the first one to tell you that that's got to change. Much like winning on the road, we've got to be more consistent putting a string of games together. I think we can all look at ourselves and say, 'What can each of us do better? As a group, how can we be a more mature football team to find ways to win consistently?' If we do that – because we've been in some of these games where we probably could have pulled them out with halftime leads or fourth quarter opportunities could have pulled out some wins – if you pull out a couple now you're sitting in a really good place and feel really good about not only this year but the organization, the team we have going forward. I think we're close but it's still a process and we're working towards where we want to be."

On how impressed he has been with TE Jordan Reed:

"Very impressed and a lot of fun, to answer your question. He's an outstanding tight end. He's elite at his position and what we need him to do, he does it at a high, high level. For me as a quarterback, I'm a distributor. I need those guys to get open. I need time to throw. Jordan makes my job easy because he gets open and he makes plays. What's exciting is how he's been able to stay healthy and be consistently productive whereas I feel like in the past you didn't know if you were going to have him because of injuries. His consistency has been a lot of fun to see as well. He's only in his third year, and because of some of his injuries, he's still a very young player. I think we've only scratched the surface as to what he's capable of being with another offseason of work and development."

On what he remembers from stretch run in 2012:

"I remember in 2012 we were playing catch-up because of the hole we had dug ourselves so every week was like a playoff game leading up the playoffs. We found a way in several tight games. Every week you win you build more confidence, the team gains that chemistry that you want to have. It's a results-based business, so when you win, everybody feels good. I remember that run just being a lot of fun, winning some big spotlight games down the stretch. Hopefully we can have a repeat of that type of performance down the stretch here as well."

On what changes he has seen in Reed this season:

"I just think when you play in this league and you're out there, you're going to get better every game, every practice. As long as you're going out there with the right mindset, you're going to improve. It could be an understanding of route running, it could be in his blocking, it could be ball security, whatever it may be. But there's also a level of building a rapport with the guys around you to have a chemistry, if you will, an understanding of how a guy runs routes and what routes he likes and where he likes the football. I still feel like we're in the early stages of that and that's something that could grow much further in the future, but we start to build that kind of a rapport with a guy like Jordan when you're out there together consistently and I think that goes a long way as well."

On staying committed to the run game:

"I just want to move the football. I think when you run the ball successfully, it makes my job much easier as a quarterback. When you run the ball unsuccessfully then you're behind the chains and I think it makes the job a little bit tougher. So whatever way is the best way to move the football week-to-week is how I want to do it. I've said this before, to just abandon the run game would be foolish because it is a great help when you can get it going. But there are times where maybe first and second down we've got to throw the ball more because we feel that's the best way to move the football. I think it just varies from week to week and defense to defense and what we feel like gives us the best chance to move the ball and ultimately win."

On his interception last week:

"I think if you don't see the defender… It's not so much, 'I have to see him.' I think it is, 'If you don't see him, don't throw it.' I think going forward you continue to feel like, 'Hey, if you're throwing a ball blind, progress and move to the next receiver in the progression or check it down to your outlet to a halfback.' That would be the coaching point there and you continue to learn from those, just try to avoid throwing a ball that feels like it may be a little blind."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.