10-9-17 Marvin Lewis Press conference transcript: Young players earning stripes quickly
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis held a press conference on Monday to recap Sunday's 20-16 win over the Buffalo Bills and look ahead to what will happen during the bye week:
Initial comments ...
“After looking at the tape of the game last evening and today, one of the areas I was probably most pleased about was that we continued to do a good job tackling on defense. That’s important, and we have to continue that. For the most part, the 11 guys on defense fit pretty well together. We had a couple breakdown plays — things that are very manageable and fixable — and we have to do that. Defensively, it was a good job. We stayed after the quarterback for most of the day. We had to get used to the speed of things early in the game, and then the guys adjusted and did a nice job as it went.
“Offensively, we had some of those chunk plays that were huge, but we have to be more consistent on the plays in-between in identification of being on the right people and staying on the right people. As we continue to move forward, those 11 will continue to work better together.
“On special teams, it probably wasn’t our sharpest game of the year. Randy (kicker Randy Bullock) handled the elements very well and did a good job. We need to do better in some of the other phases and make sure we don’t allow a return that puts us in jeopardy. Those are things we can do better. We had a penalty that we have to eliminate. As is typical for any game, we have some things that we want to improve, and we have to continue to (grow).”
Even though A.J. Green had some errors yesterday, is he one of those guys that you will always trust no matter how his day is going?
“We’ve had a lot of football with A.J. The maturity and responsibility he took — even when he got tackled from behind and came back in the game right away — showed that he’s the best player in this building. He continues to show why. To continue to come back from not his best day. I can probably now count on two hands the amount of balls I’ve seen come off of his hands. That was not a day that you never see from him. But, he fought back, and he showed everybody why he’s such a good person and player.”
How great was it to get more playmaking out of Tyler Kroft?
“He had some big catches for third-down conversions and some plays there in the last drive for the field goal. Big plays. He continues to do a good job and keeps growing. He continues to make positive strides forward.”
Are you surprised at how quickly your young players have taken a grasp of this team?
“They’ve done a really good job. There was a time yesterday when we had three (rookies or first-year players) on the defensive line, one in the secondary, and whatever you want to call Nick (second-year LB Nick Vigil) on the field together. That’s huge that you’re getting such positive plays (out of young players). We aren’t missing a beat. The human nature — or coach nature — is to throw Michael (DE Michael Johnson) or Carlos (DE Carlos Dunlap) back in there. But then you see Jordan Willis make the plays he’s making or Glasgow (rookie DT Ryan Glasgow) make the plays. Obviously with the plays Carl (rookie LB Carl Lawson) is making time and time again, and with Andrew Billings doing a great job inside, and William (second-year cornerback William Jackson) in the secondary — they’re earning opportunity. We have to make sure the level doesn’t drop.”
What has Michael Johnson added to the defensive line now that he’s been able to play in the interior?
“It’s huge. It’s ironic that Justin Smith was (at the game) this weekend, because (Michael Johnson) reminds me of Justin. Any time you can take those guys that are used to rushing out there on the end and now put them inside where they have a little more two-way-go ability, it makes a difference. The smart guys understand it and take full advantage of it. The communication he’s having with the ends has been great. And it helps Geno (DT Geno Atkins) — the fact that he has another guy in there working with him. We’ve taken steps. Wallace Gilberry was here for (five) seasons, and he was a great model. And now you put Michael in there, who’s bigger and stronger that way, and he’s done a good job in there. Very good.”
Is there some selflessness there? He was brought in as a defensive end, paid as a defensive end, and now he’s moved inside because it might help the team ...
“I think the money is already on the books, so that’s the good part (laughs). But yes, there’s no doubt (that there’s selflessness). Mike is one of the leaders of this football team. He always has been. He took a year away from us and came right back and assumed the position again. He shows that selflessness daily, in everything. He’s played through injury and pain, and goes out gives you a great day of work every day. He’s having fun because he’s reaping the reward now. It’s all paying off and all coming together for each and every one of them, and they’re taking great pride in it.”
Nick Vigil is looking pretty strong in the nickel package ...
“He has been very special. He keeps growing and understanding (the game). He’s very coachable when you’re trying to show him the finer points of things, both with coverage and at the physical line of scrimmage.”
Does this defense give a different dimension than some of the great defenses of years past?
“That’s probably true. We have 11 football games for these guys to continue to grow together and play great. They can play lights-out defense. But they have to do it play after play, and don’t let one play bleed into the next play.”
How are Adam Jones’ and Dre Kirkpatrick’s injuries?
Do you think the bye week will help them?
“The bye week will do well for us. Not having to play this Sunday will do well for the football team. We have some guys that are going to be sore the next couple of days.”
Was it back spasms with Adam Jones? Because he seemed to be in a lot of pain ...
“He’s in some pain. It’s a little more than a back spasm, but it’s nothing that he needs any sort of medical intervention on. He just needs some time.”
Are you going to take any days off during this bye week?
“We’re going to do a good job of taking time with our players and us (the coaches). Then take a forward look at what we have coming up.”
A.J. Green said something about if you won, you would take Wednesday off?
“That was floated out there Wednesday after practice last week. When I told them on Wednesday, when I reiterated the schedule for this week, I watched a couple guys jaws hit the table (laughs). They always just assume that, as it was, they take care of me and I’ll take care of (them), so they took care of me yesterday. They’ll be off Wednesday.”
He also did throw out ‘Victory Mondays’ ...
“We’ve got work to do. As I told them, they’ve worked hard for nine weeks — the offseason, and for whatever weeks we had in training camp — and now they’re five weeks into the season. From (the beginning of) training camp, they’re halfway (through) and there’s a lot more left, and it’s worth it to put their heads down, go to work, and be as great as we can be. It’s worth it. Yeah, you’ll get days off in March, but if you want to make it special, you don’t want to waste time.”
With all the players in rotations in so many different areas, is this a different kind of bye week in terms of evaluating those players?
“I can’t quite follow that one Dave (Lapham). Every season is different, and this has certainly been a different season with (regard to the) people. We knew we would be younger. We just need to keep pressing them.”
Three weeks ago you were hearing about the heat that your quarterback was getting. Now, with how well Dalton has been playing well, is it what you expected him to do?
“It’s expected from him. To be able to rise from any adversity is expected from Andy. That’s one of his great qualities — to learn and move on. The whole building had to learn and move on. They’ve done a really great job of that — around him and with him — in every way.”
You guys had a couple turnovers, but it doesn’t snowball. There’s an injury, but then Andy scrambles and plays well ...
“He’s a fine, fine player. He’s a tough player — a tough man — and he shows it. He’s got the inner drive to just keep going, to overcome it, to move on to the next one. It’s a great quality that he has. I think the belief of everybody around him, of him to get the group going, and of A.J. (Green) to fight back and do the things that he does — all in all, it’s been good, and now we have to keep going.”
Your tackles have looked better the last couple of weeks ...
“Well, we just need to keep going (laughs). We’re still working. We’re going to keep coaching and keep working.”
Are you trying to find two main tackles?
“We’re just trying to find what’s successful in everything we do, in whatever it is. I can’t tell you whether it’s two, or four, or three, or whatever it is.”
How do you think the guys have responded to it?
“I think they’ve responded well. This is an opportunity-based situation. You’ve got to take full advantage of your opportunity all the time. I think we’d be cheating (someone) if we weren’t doing that.”
What did you think of guard Trey Hopkins in his return?
“It was good to get him back in there and get going. I think he’ll continue to move forward and pick up where he may have been, but I do think playing real football against some big, good players was great. You don’t find (many combinations like) the four tackles they (the Bills) can throw out there at you. They’re very good because they’re good athletes and they’re explosive. We know what kind of guys they are.”
With Hopkins and T.J. Johnson splitting reps, was that just his way of trying to get his wind back?
“To get back to playing football. That was a little bit of a concern, and want to make sure we have the right guys playing.”
What’s the update with wide receiver John Ross? Will he be ready to play against Pittsburgh in two weeks?
“Whenever John Ross comes out there, looks like everybody else and I watch him practice, we’ll have an idea. We’ll see whether or not he deserves to dress.”
There’s a report out there that Tyler Boyd has a sprained MCL, is he going to be out for a few weeks?
“Again, we can’t know how long healing will take. He has a sore knee (laughs).”
With Ross, have you been able to gauge his frustration?
“Yeah, I’ve talked to him about it. He’s not been out with the football team enough. He needs a lot of time and a lot of practice. That’s important. That’s probably as important than getting back healthy where he can begin to practice football again. He needs that. We have to get back to that point first.”
Has that been the most frustrating thing for you?
“I don’t think I ever get frustrated. You guys use that word a lot. I just move on (laughs). What I can’t control, I don’t worry about. I don’t spend any time worrying about (things like) that. The best thing going is that guys here know, when you show up and you’re out there practicing, then you have taken steps toward getting a chance to play. Then it’s doing it right — doing it consistently — so that way, we don’t worry about that. It’s easier on the coaches, (because) they don’t have to worry about it. We know that we see better than we hear. I think it makes it a (clean) slate. Guys can earn it. And right now, it’s the best thing for John (Ross) as a young player — to get himself back and healthy. He’s doing well, and the doctors say he’s right on schedule with what they wanted him to do. We’ll just stay the course.”