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Ron Rivera | 'They encourage each other, they hold each other accountable'


On how the defensive linemen all push each other to be better:
"It's interesting because you watch a lot of things with those guys, especially during the drills, and they almost become competitive periods amongst themselves and really not just those four guys, but all of them, the rest of the group, they really do compete against each other. Every opportunity, they encourage each other, they hold each other accountable and even to the point where, I don't know if you notice, you don't get to see 'em, but they kind of run each other on and off the practice field, whenever they're going in for reps, they kind of run each other in, don't let each other walk. They're constantly pushing one another to work together."

On Sweat's growth this season:
"It's kind of the thing that watching [Defensive Line] Coach [Jeff Zgonina] Z and [Assistant Defensive Line] Coach [Ryan] Kerrigan both work with those guys about finishing. Last year it was getting Daron to finish and make those big explosives, which we saw and then this year, we're seeing that from Montez as far as finishing and that's been really kind of cool to see. You do see some of the things that they work on it. And you guys don't see it, but during the period transitions, like we go from offense to defense and defense back to offense. Jeff or Ryan will grab a group of guys and they'll step aside and they'll work on some hand stuff or they'll work on get off, stuff like that. So, they're constantly challenging the guys to work on their craft and it's been really good to watch."

On if defenses are playing them differently because of QB Sam Howell's arm ability:
"I think so. I think that, and I also I think it's got something to do with the receiver group that we have. We've got guys with terrific vertical speed and have shown that they have playmaking ability. We've seen [WR] Dyami [Brown] do it and then we got an opportunity to see it with [WR] Terry [McLaurin] this week or this past weekend. Some really good stuff. We know [WR] Jahan [Dotson] is more than capable of it, as is [WR] Curtis [Samuel]. So, when you've got vertical threats like that, I do think people will tend to play you a little bit softer. So those opportunities, they're going to be where Sam's got to be real calculated with that decision making, I believe. And that's part of the maturity that you're seeing from Sam is some of the throws that he makes or is making are really about what he's reading and then the calculation of when to throw."

On if the Denver Broncos defense playing less aggressive in the second half contributed to the explosive offense:
"That's where again, in talking with [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator] Eric [Bieniemy], he talks about balance and that's one of the things that can help balance things out is based on where the score is, based on where the time left in the game is, you sit there and say they're playing a little bit softer, they want to keep us in front of them, great opportunity. You know, you run the ball, you run your draws, you run new traps, your gap scheme stuff. I mean, those are things that help you keep the drive going."

On the feeling of playing the Buffalo Bills after going 2-0:
"Pretty big. To me, I mean, it really is. They're one of the elite teams in the AFC. I know they're 1-1, but records don't mean anything in this situation. This is one of the elite teams coming in and we've got to gear up, we've got to practice, prepare, get ourselves ready to go, and give us a great opportunity to see where we stand."

On how impressed he is with the offense's screen game:
"Very impressed. Very much so. What I've really been impressed with has been what's been going in the last couple of weeks in terms of the growth of our football team and then individually the offensive unit and then the players within that unit. The coaches have done a terrific job in all phases. But, when you watch the offense, the jump they made from last week to this past weekend was really good to see. A lot has to do with the coaching, the way these guys have worked with our players, the way they've pushed them throughout training camp right now into the regular season. It's been really cool to watch just because these are things that we're more than capable of doing. We just got to continue to get better at it and it starts obviously with the quarterback position, with what [Quarterbacks Coach] Tavita's [Pritchard] doing in terms of working with them in the quarterback drills, to how he's responding to what Eric is demanding from him. I think those quarterbacks have really grown and because of it, I think it's really helped the offense growth."

On what he has seen from the linebackers in Weeks 1 and 2:
"I think you're seeing steady growth. [LB] Jamin [Davis] has really come on this year and you see his ability to make plays. He's a high impact guy that really has a hit and run through mentality and he does a lot of good things getting around the ball. [LB] Cody [Barton] has grown in the last two games. You've seen the difference. He's learning and really kind of trying to shake some of the habits he had from when he was in Seattle. In Seattle, they were a gap-controlled defense, very strict, one gap, one player, whereas our guys are a little bit more, I don't want to say two gap as much as, [Defensive Coordinator] Jack [Del Rio] has given the tackles in front of the linebackers some liberties. So, really what the linebackers do at times is they have to make those guys right, you're asking a little bit of the linebackers, but at the same time, you don't want to keep Jonathan or Daron from having the opportunity to be explosive and get vertical and get up field. Those three plays Daron made in a row, those are because of some of his decision making, which puts a little bit of stress on the linebackers. But, if you're going to make plays, Jack doesn't want to stop that. So, it's a little bit tougher for the linebackers. You saw it in the first half. Cody started slow and then finished up with 10 tackles in the second half. He was playing off those guys and he's learning to play off the guys, that's a lot to ask a linebacker. Jamin's used to it, and so when you watch Jamin, he almost puts them in a bind sometimes because Jamin has a tendency, he sees something he'll run through it. So, they're kind of learning and developing and growing as a group."

On the excitement for another sold out home game:
"Wow, I think that's great. I really do. I think it's going to be very exciting for our players. This is going to be a good crowd. We'll probably have a few more Buffalo fans just because they do travel very well, but hopefully we'll have a lot more Commanders fans out there that'll drown them out. I'm looking forward to the environment. I mean, this is kind of what I've been hoping for just because having been here when it was like that back in the day, this is very exciting for our team, for our organization, for this community and city."

On Payne's significant growth over the years:
"Just the consistency in his play now. Last year, one of the big topics was always about him finishing and once he started finishing last year, it's apparent that he is a dominant player. Then the way he finished last Sunday was about as impressive as it gets. We have a heck of a tandem with him and Jonathan. Those two guys are about as dynamic a group of guys I've been around. I was fortunate to be around when [Former Panthers DT] Kawann Short and [Former Panthers DT] Star Lotulelei worked together. These two guys are probably more explosive, more dynamic and I was very fortunate to have those two guys when I was in Carolina. But you also coupled it with some of the guys that we have in backup roles with [DT John Ridgeway III] and [DT] Abdullah [Anderson]. We got a pretty stout bunch up front, and we're very fortunate to have that group."

On if he thinks the league needs to be stricter against illegal hits:
"Not necessarily other than discipline. I mean, that's the only thing that might be the biggest deterrent. Obviously, nobody wants to take a player and throw them out and then let alone, have to suspend them. But, if that's what is coming next, and hopefully the players they'll understand that this is a safety issue and not just for the player you're hitting, but for yourself as well. I know that's one of the topics that we go through every year. We look at all those hits that are flagged, and we'll even look at some of those that were missed and we'll discuss it. What can we do? Ultimately, what's going to happen is, you'd hate to see it happen, but you may have to start having a few more guys ejected or suspended. I mean, fining is one thing but when you start taking away playtime, I think that impacts players a little bit more and that'll be a big discussion probably in this offseason that we're going to have to have."

On what has made the screen game so effective:
Balance. And I agree with the way that EB talks about it, when I listen to them, him and the offensive coaches talk about putting plays in and putting plays in with the same action, with the same formation, the same shifts in motion. But yet, from that look, we run the ball, we throw the ball, we screen the ball. So, the more balance we can have, I think the much more productive we can continue to be as an offense. As I said, EB and his staff have done a really good job in the last couple weeks, obviously those first two weeks with the game planning and trying to mix things up and again, to continue to create that balance."

On if the Bills fans traveling to the game will test the Commanders fan base growth:

"I guess you can say that. To your point, I think you can kind of see it. If we can continue to be productive and play well and give our fans something to cheer about, I think we can continue to bring them back into the fold and hopefully get it to the point where you will see that 90/10 split, which would be really cool to have."

On Buffalo Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott and their growth from Week 1 to Week 2:

"It's one of those things that when you're prepping for the first game of the year there's a lot of emotions on both sides. Especially if you're the home team, there's a lot of emotions. So just because the Bills showed up and they're a very good team, doesn't mean New York's going to roll over. They had a hell of a game they had to play and it was a dog fight. You saw more so than anything else now was then the Bills got a chance to open at home. You saw the guys get the crowd behind them. They got energized that way. They played the way they're capable. This is a very good football team. This is one of the AFC standards, so it's going to be a great opportunity for us to measure up."

On if a win against the Bills would put this teams mark on the league:

"Yeah, I do think so. I think it's exactly what that is. I think it's an opportunity for us to establish who we are and who we can be. This is a very good measuring stick. What they've done for the last four or five years, especially with the young quarterback [Josh Allen] now he's coming into his own. This is going to be a heck of a challenge for us on the defensive side as well. We are a stout, solid defense. When you can play against teams like this and perform well then you really start making the mark as an organization and as a team can really step up and get some attention from some folks."

On how the team will handle early success:

"That's exactly it, is how are we going to handle it? That's the biggest thing more so anything else. If you sit there and you live off that success, you'll get punched in the mouth. One of the things that we're going to continue to stress is we're going to take it one game at a time. We're going to play it one game at a time. We're going to keep focused on who we're playing. We're not going to worry about what we just did or what's to come. We're going to worry about what's in front of us, and that's getting ready for this game, showing up on Sunday and playing the best football we can."

On TE Logan Thomas' status:

"He's in concussion protocol. He's going through the – I believe he's on probably the first or second phase and we'll see how he's gotten through it tomorrow morning."

On if it's a good sign that the biggest media topic is about the long snapper:

"Well, it's a pretty serious topic. It's probably the most serious talk topic I've dealt with in the last four years as far as football's concerned, other than the quarterback issue. [Laughs]. Not to make light of those other off the field issues, but it is kind of a relief. It's kind of a delight to be quite honest with you that we really have been focusing on our players and the guys and what they're doing and accomplishing on the field. I think that's really great. I think that's really cool to be able to do that. But it is an issue for us. We've worked with [LS] [Cameron Cheeseman] Cheese, the thing that's so crazy is he had one bad snap and then the next six were money. They were right where they needed to be, the laces were where they were supposed to be. It's one of those things, hopefully it's not the quote unquote yips and is just out of the abnormal and he'll settle in. We had the five guys come in, work out, and to be quite honest, his times, his placement were better with the exception of that one snap. It's only bit at us once and we're going to grit our teeth with him and give him the opportunity to straighten it out, but we have five guys that we've brought in, and we have a list now. We're prepared and we'll see what happens."

On trying to get RB Brian Robinson Jr. more first half carries and if he sees Robinson Jr. get better with more carries:

"Well, as long as we don't get behind 21-3 again [Laughs]. I do agree with what you're saying. You can see it. He got stronger as the game went on. He with that pop, that confidence that was kind of his trademark last year during that nice stretch we had with him before he got the quad injury. If we can continue to create that and get that early balance. Because if you look at it obviously things got a little bit out of the normal in the first half. Then once we settled in the second half and came out and got that first drive off the takeaway in the second quarter, and then we just kind of found that groove. Then you saw the balance come out early on in the second half. That's the balance we talk about. Now you can see him gain the confidence, you can see him running. The same thing was true for [RB Antonio Gibson] AG, being able to use AG and hand him the ball a couple times and he bounced it outside and turned it up for a nice eight-yard gain and then dumped the screen to him as well. Then put them out into a route and get them out in the flat and have them turn it up for six yards or seven, whatever it was. But you see those things because that's the rhythm that you're referring to because when you can keep the balance, and I think it was one of the questions earlier is that now they play a little bit softer, now they can't sit there and pack eight guys in the box saying, 'Okay, they're running on second and short. No, we could throw the ball and we're going to throw the ball if you're going to do that.' It goes all the way back to what we're doing on the offensive side and how we're taking advantage of the takeaways and stuff like that too because getting takeaways every now and then is a great opportunity to throw something big, get the ball downfield in a hurry to feed off of that energy you just created."

On Robinson Jr.'s patience creating the 27-yard run:

"Yes. You really begin to see it the last few weeks, probably the last week of training camp, and then the first two weeks of the regular season. That's been an emphasis with the two older guys. It's funny because [RB] Chris [Rodriguez Jr.], he's got that naturally because of the style of football that he played at Kentucky. Now, BRob was being a downhill guy in Alabama and AG learning the position the last couple years. They've got to understand that some of this is a little bit more patience when you're running that zone play. You got to stretch it out a little bit and then when you see it, you stick your foot and get downhill. That's the things you're starting to see from both those guys. That's what's been exciting because it's been about the coaching with [Running Backs Coach] Randy [Jordan] and [Assistant Running Backs Coach] Coach [Jennifer] King and then you take one more step and you add EB into the mix because you know the worst position to play on our team is running back because you got EB and you got Randy, both guys played in the league and now they're coaching that position. They're constantly being corrected and straightened out and they're really being demanded of. It's been great for those two young guys because you see their development and hopefully last Sunday is just indicative of what they're most certainly capable of. At least we believe they are."

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