AUGUST 23, 2012
“In trying to analyze the first half of the game from the sideline, I think the key element on defense is winning on third down and keeping the quarterback from extending the drive. He (Aaron Rodgers) ran for two scores. We have to do a better job on that. It wasn’t very good today. We have to recognize a mobile quarterback and make sure that we get him strapped to the ground.
“Offensively, it comes down to being able to rush the football better in the first half. We have to do a better job of that. Both quarterbacks were leading ball carriers for their teams. Those are things that we will improve on. But it was good that our guys got a lot of good snaps in that we needed, so they will be ready for the regular season. There were close to 40 snaps for the defense and maybe 30…(for the offense). That’s what we needed to get tonight. Our numbers are down as far as playing is concerned.”
You had a lot of key contributors that did not play tonight. How does that hinder your ability to judge where this team is?
“I don’t think that you have to judge where we are right now. We just have to know that some guys we are going to need to play (in the regular season) are getting an opportunity to play. Obviously, we want to get all the other guys back and healthy and ready to go for the regular season. I don’t want to sit and judge. I know what we need to do. These don’t count for much, except for the fact that we are getting an opportunity to play. We are down some guys. We’re down some numbers. We can’t take our guys further in to the game because they are getting a lot of snaps in practice.
“The positives include that the receivers continue to show well.
Are there early indications about
“He had a muscle pull. I don’t know how severe it is.”
It seemed like health- wise the team escaped fairly well:
“We had a couple guys suck it up and keep playing at the end — some of the young guys. I think Manny was the only one that left the game.
Did you have a good view of the play that was called a personal foul against
“I did. I thought I had a very good view.”
What did you see?
“It was shoulder-to-shoulder. It was exactly shoulder-to-shoulder. Unfortunately, the guy that made the call’s explanation was not correct. It’s one of those things. They are getting better. Hopefully, it will get closer and closer to what we need. His understanding was that the player was a defenseless receiver. He was, but you are allowed to hit a defenseless receiver shoulder-to-shoulder. There is no such thing as a defenseless player unless he is hit in the head with your head. It was a misinterpretation of the rule. I know they are working hard. The league is working hard to get this stuff corrected. They are working overtime on it actually. It’ll get better and better. It’s a good thing because Taylor (Mays) is learning. He’s doing good things physically. He is a good physical presence back there.
“We got Nate (Clements) some snaps at safety. That’s a good thing. We didn’t get as many as we wanted because we are a little bit thin at corner until we get our guys back and going. We will have Dre (Kirkpatrick) back next week, so we’ll be able to get him some snaps. We’ll have a chance to have Jason (Allen) back and Adam (Jones) possibly, so we’ll have an opportunity to show some more flexibility in some of the things we are doing. These guys are playing a little more than what I would like, but it is where we are right now. We don’t have much choice.”
It looked like you did show some flexibility on that first series:
“We did. But, again we are doing a good job. We are getting in some things that we wanted to work on. We are getting good work in at practice. Then we are coming in to the game playing pretty vanilla. We are trying to do things the way that we need to. We didn’t have the energy that we needed to have coming out tonight. That’s important. That’s something that has to get better. We need to have better energy, better zip, better speed and play with that. That’s going to be important.”
Knowing who your 22 are going to be, how much of a delicate balance is it to bet them snaps, but also get them to the season opener?
“You are probably looking at your 30 and not 22. There is some great competition. I think
What is your assessment of the first-team offense’s performance tonight?
“We didn’t play very well tonight. We didn’t get anything going. We had too many three-and-outs. We weren’t getting into it. It’s unfortunate to see, but we were close. We missed on a couple things, but this will be a good film to learn from.”
Did the Packers defense use more zone blitzes than you expected for a preseason game?
“Yeah, they were moving around a lot up front with looping lineman — zone-blitz stuff. They did a good job tonight. We’ve just got to be better up front. I’ve got to be better on the back end, and we’ve got to catch the ball. We can’t point our finger at one thing that went wrong tonight. We didn’t play well enough.”
What happened on that third-and-goal?
“I should’ve taken a timeout. The clock was running down and I made a check. I should’ve taken a timeout. We didn’t have the right protection call, and with the way we blocked it up, that guy was free. I should’ve taken a timeout. It’s something we can learn from. When we get down in the clock and get in a situation where it’s not a good look, take a timeout. It’s not going to hurt us.”
Did you expect the Packers to throw that many zone blitzes at you?
“It’s part of it. It’s the third preseason game — the starters are going to be playing more. They did a good job tonight and we didn’t do a good enough job.”
How much stock do you put into the performance of the starters tonight?
“I don’t think this game defines how we’re going to be during the year. It’s a preseason game. We’ve got to find ways to get motivated and get going. This film will be good to look at and see areas where we need to improve.”
Packers wide receiver Tom (Crabtree) left the game with a shoulder injury, not a head injury. Do you think you got robbed on that (penalty call against you)?
“I don’t know — I didn’t really see the instant replay of it. It was just a bang-bang play. It was still kind of a high hit, so I still thought about lowering my strike zone. I’ve just got to go back and look at the film and listen to Zim (Bengals Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer) and Marvin and see what I could have done differently.”
Talk about Aaron Rodgers’s play tonight. How tough is it to defend a guy like that?
“We knew he could run coming into the game, but he showed his athleticism. We had guys covered downfield, and he took off. He’s a good quarterback and we needed that as a defense. We’re trying to figure out what we need to get better at, and that’s’ something that we need to definitely get better at as a whole (defending a mobile quarterback). We’ll watch the film and find out how we can get better at that, because we can’t win all our football games if we don’t.”
You guys — you and Taylor Mays — have a nice battle going on at the safety spot — talk about the competition out there:
“I just think we both help each other get better. We’re already helping each other; we’re almost kind of like a brotherhood. I help him, he helps me — we push each other, so it’s kind of like we’re just growing into the position. Like I said, it’s not really up to us (who makes the team), it’s up to the coaches, and I feel like they’ll probably try and find a way for us both to get on the field.”
You make friendships here and it’s part of the NFL that sometimes you have to say goodbye to friends and it’s that time of year. Do you just go out there and try to put as many good snaps on the field as you can?
“Yeah, man. Personally, I just go out there and give it my all. From what I’ve seen being around, anything can happen, so I’m not always feeling safe. That’s what drives me to play as hard as I can, and I say that for everybody — you just go out there and give it your all and it’s not up to you. It’s up the staff and the coaches.”
Talk about your touchdown catch tonight:
“I had single coverage, man-to-man, and (the Packers defender) was real close to me. Me and Bruce (Gradkowski), we changed (the play a little) and he threw a good ball, a back shoulder ball, (and I caught it).”
Did you guys make eye contact (prior to the pass) — he changed the play obviously at the line of scrimmage — and did you hear that out there or was it just an eye contact thing?
“It’s just a contact thing. He did an audible, and right when he audibled, I knew it was coming to me, and that’s one of the things we go through in practice. We feel real confident between the QBs and receivers because that’s what we do in practice. We practice that and nailed it in the game.”
Every single game (this preseason) you’ve made a big play, and this time you put the ball in the end zone. How do you feel about how your camp’s gone so far?
“I feel great about it. Coming in, I’ve gotten very comfortable with the offense and I love the offense. I think that’s just what I bring to the table — making big plays consistently. Whatever the team/coaches want me to do, whether it’s on special teams or catching the ball, I feel I have a great sense of pride in accomplishing everything the team needs me to accomplish. They trust me, the quarterbacks trust us all of us as wide receivers to make big plays, and that’s what we hang our hats on.”
(Bengals Special Teams Coordinator) Darrin Simmons had you back there returning punts — you’ve been a return guy … Did you do both punts and kickoffs (in college) at California?
“Just punt returns my senior year. The other years, the coach didn’t really want me back there, so I finally got the nod my senior year. I’m still learning, and I’m beginning to get more comfortable.That’s another aspect of my game I can bring to the table, being explosive in all areas.”
You said last week the offensive line needed to get the run going, find a little cohesion, a little chemistry … Your reaction after tonight’s game?
“You know, obviously, it didn’t go the way we thought it would go or wanted it to go, but then again we’re going to have to go back and look at the film and see the things we didn’t get accomplished.”
Did they throw more at you than you anticipated?
“No. They’re a good defensive team. They’ve got some athletes up front, some big guys and I think they did a good job. We need to be better and whether it’s tight ends, offensive line, running backs, whatever it is, I just think we all just need to work together and be on the same page so we can get this stuff done as we go into the season.”
So you don’t put that much stock in (this game)?
“Well you do — you have to. We’ve got one more game and then the season is around the corner and we’re facing a good team in Baltimore on Monday Night (Football). Obviously, you’ve got to go back and look and take a hard look at things and really diagnose it and look at yourself in the mirror and see what we have to do to get better. If we’re going to beat the teams we face in this division, we have to be better.”
Marvin talked about a lack of energy tonight — did you feel that or think that played into it at all?
“You know, I don’t know — a little bit, I guess. We could have been a little more upbeat and uptempo ... It’s hard to say I guess.”
How much is containing the quarterback something you guys are beginning to stress (in practice) now, and what do you think is the biggest thing you guys have to improve?
“I think you go out and say to yourself, looking at Rodgers, you wouldn’t think he’s as fast as he is. (He’s) very elusive. I think for any defense that’s trying to get a rush on him, you have to stay in your field lanes because he will take the ball and run with it. Not only is he a throwing quarterback, he’s a running quarterback as well.”
Is that something with Green Bay that you get so concerned with their receivers in the passing game that you kind of forget and lose track of that (running) element?
“I can see how that can happen, but you have to scout the entire offense. That’s one of those things that you have to pick up on and that we have to be better at. Get your stance down, improve our technique and stay in our field lanes.”
That’s something that wasn’t a huge issue for this team last year. Is anything different this year or is it just working out the kinks in the preseason?
“You know what — (it’s) just working out the kinks. Nothing’s really different. Our personnel is (essentially) the same, our coaches are the same, we have the same scheme. We just have to fill in (and work out) the kinks.”
On the interception (you made), it looked like a miscommunication on their part, but you were probably happy to see it regardless, (no)?
“Yeah. I’m not trying to take credit, but it’s cool. It was just something were we had a safety coming over the top and staying in two man (deep coverage) and I just tried to look back and tried to see if he completed a ball or if the ball was in the air and it was. It was just a pretty routine play to get up and catch it.”
Something Marvin was talking about was containing the quarterback:
“Yeah. I think they run a lot of those boot(legs) to try and wear out the defensive line and get those guys moving and come back. He’s a guy that’s always scrambled in the pocket — look over the last 3 years. He’s made plays with his feet. Not just rushing the ball, breaking the pocket, getting first downs but also with his arm. It’s tough to play quarterbacks like that.”
He makes you defend every square inch of the field:
“That’s what’s tough. You get your linebackers stuck up on the play fake and then he’s (bootlegging) back the other way. As a defensive back, it’s easier because you understand the rules that once he’s out the pocket, you can push guys around. I was trying to use that to my advantage once I saw the boot(leg) and getting into my press technique, be physical and get guys out of bounds and keep guys in front of me.”
The third preseason game is supposed to be like a dress rehearsal for the regular season. How do you feel about where you guys are (as a team)?
“I feel pretty good. Obviously, tonight is going to leave a pretty sour taste in our mouth. Preseason, it doesn’t matter — nobody likes to lose. We just came out flat in the first half, didn’t do anything well to be honest with you. (We) made a couple plays and gave up a couple more plays and it will be interesting to look at film tomorrow to be honest with you. The one thing that is a constant is we can get better. We can improve upon what we didn’t do well tonight on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. That’s just what we’re going to look to do.”
How satisfying was it to see the first team put points on the board and move the ball like they did?
“The first team offense was really productive. It all started with Aaron (Rodgers) and his excellent command of the offense. They were rushing four most of the time, and he (Rodgers) did a good job pulling the ball down and making plays with his feet. I thought we were productive, but I am sure that when we evaluate the film, there will be things that we need to correct and get better at. I really thought that the whole team improved today.”
What did you think of Cedric Benson?
“I liked the rotation with Cedric (Benson) and Alex (Green). We really wanted to accomplish that rotation in the first half. Cedric looked very natural carrying the ball tonight. Obviously there are some language adjustments that still have to be worked through, but he is an instinctive and powerful player. That much was evident in those hard, inside runs that he had. I thought he got off to a good start.”
How much is Cedric Benson going to help your play action game?
“I don’t know how you would like to quantify it, but anytime you have another weapon on your offense, it certainly helps. I thought he got off to a good start.”
Defensively, you were able to get some good pressure throughout the game:
“I thought our defense — and really the whole team, for that matter — had a lot of juice and bounce in them. The pressure on defense was good. Our guys were able to cover down in pressure situations and get good pressure with a three-man rush. We played smart out there. Overall, I was very pleased with the defense. The turnovers really made a big difference in the second half as well.”
What stood out to you on that goal-line stand that they had in the first half?
“First-and-goal at the one, and the favor generally goes to the offense. The big loss on second down was a huge play, and those are the type of things that I talk about throughout the preseason. You can’t simulate those things in practice, and when you have a chance to learn from those, it is always a good thing. You can either build off of them, or clean them up if it doesn’t go the right way.”
Was it important to win?
“Winning is fun. I’ve never had a problem with winning. The bigger objective is the evaluation of our team. We come out here to win, but the preseason is different. There is a lot of conversation throughout the game about play time, and making sure the players get enough of it. We go through things in this game that we don’t go through in a normal game. Once we watch the tape and evaluate it, I hope we hit all of our targets in the timing category.”
Does this help you feel ready to start the season?
“We got better today, so, yes, we are a step closer than we were when we left Green Bay, so we accomplished that. We want to improve and grow, and we did that today. However, the video will tell the true story.”
Where is Graham Harrell in terms of where you want him to be?
“Graham improved tonight. Once again, he had some different situations on the field, but he handled them well. His scrambling ability really helped him out when there were some free runners coming in. He was able to make a few of them miss and step out of a few of them. He is in command of the offense, whether you are aware of that or not. It’s part of preseason football. He is trying to play above everything, and when we look at the tape, we will get the true story.”
How do you feel about Erik Walden’s play tonight?
“Erik is the perfect example of a guy who played a lot of snaps for us last season without an offseason and now has had an offseason to come around. He now has a total understanding of the defense and what his responsibility is. He has had a heck of a camp, and when we grade him out, I am sure he will grade very well.”
How do you feel about the offensive lineman playing in the reserve roles with Graham on the field?
“It’s not about doing Graham a favor, but rather getting better as an offense. We had a lot of offense that went out the window in the second quarter, and our offensive plan for the number two group was minimized greatly. We had some injuries that took players out. We ran some plays that we hadn’t run in practice, and it happens. It has happened in the season as well. That is something that you won’t see, but we will take it into account on his grade. Games go like this, just like in Kansas City last year. You have to overcome these situations and Graham will learn from it.”
How did you find out about Jermichael Finley this morning?
“We were at the hotel together. He came to me and said he got the phone call about his wife being in labor. We got him the quickest flight that we could. He’s where he should be right now.”
Did this game make you feel ready to start the regular season?
“We did a lot of the things we wanted to do. It was good for our conditioning. It was up-tempo and we did some good things. We scored 17 points, had a bad turnover, but overall did things well.”
What happened on that turnover?
“I just threw a bad ball. It was a bad throw. I gave them an early Christmas present there.”
Can you talk about the addition of Cedric Benson?
“Ced was great. He’s still getting his feet wet with some of our no-huddle stuff. I helped him a little bit, but he was great. He made some runs out of nothing. He had a nice catch on a checkdown. We’re really excited about him.”
Does he provide another dimension to this team?
“He knows the game. He has a good running style, hits the hole quickly and makes the most of his opportunities. I think the best is yet to come. I think once he gets his legs underneath him, you’ll see more explosive runs and he’ll continue to be a great addition to our offense.”
Do you feel you’re close enough, after this game, to being ready to start the regular season?
“Yeah I think so. We moved the ball effectively. We still have to get healthy, and it would have been nice to have Jermichael (Finley) here, but he had a family celebration. I think we’ll be ready.”
Were you surprised at how quickly you and Greg Jennings connected?
“Not really. We’ve been playing together for five years. I can read his body language pretty well. His role in the offense will be as big as it possibly can. Having him and Jordy (Nelson) is fun. They can be matchup problems for some of the best corners in the league.”
You ran a play action fake with Cedric Benson the first two plays of the game. Will the respect that he will command help the offensive game?
“I hope so. He’s a big-name back who has had success in the league. He’s rushed for over 1000 yards for the last three years. I wanted to get him a rushing touchdown, because I know what that would have meant to him, but he made the most of his carries.”
What did you think of the defensive performance?
“They did a good job. It’s fun to see them play to their capabilities. The young guys did a good job finishing the game. We’re pretty deep on defense. Even though it’s preseason, it feels good to win. The coaches treat you better when you win. As fun as this is, tomorrow will be a tough day because we go from 90 to 75. Fifteen guys won’t be with us anymore. It’ll be tough. As fun as this is, we know that’s coming.”
In reference to the potential interference play down the middle — are the replacement refs on your mind when you’re playing?
“That was pass interference. I think that what you’re seeing is the referees having reluctance to throw flags at times. It seems like there are less penalties being thrown. I know they’re doing as good of a job as they possibly can, but they’re still learning. If we have to go with the replacement officials, I think you’ll see them improve in their overall game management, just from learning on the fly.”
How did you feel about the timing of the offense tonight?
“I wasn’t where I’m supposed to be, especially this late in camp. It’s not a big concern. We missed on a couple of things where normally, it’s pitch and catch. It’ll be there. It’s great to feel that and to see that happen.”
What’s important about the preseason?
“This is where you work out the kinks. In the regular season, you don’t have that opportunity to get a mulligan. These are mulligans, so to speak. You’ve got to take them as seriously as you would a mulligan shot. We’re a growing team. We’re making progress. We made strides tonight.”
What did you think Cedric Benson gave the Packers tonight?
“If nothing else, excitement. I talked to him for maybe 15 minutes on the sideline about the excitement he brings. He’s a name back that you know is proven and can get it done. In this offense, you have everything open for you. Everything is wide open for him. He’s going to be a huge asset in this offense.”
You’ve had so little time to learn the playbook. How is that coming along?
“It’s coming along really good. I’m getting a lot of time studying it. I do a lot of walk-throughs and sit down at the quarterback meetings.”
Is there any feeling like this is your last chance?
“I’m making the best of the situation. I plan to end this season on a terrific note and let the rest take care of itself.”
Have you ever been in an up-tempo, no-huddle offense?
“I’ve never been in an offense like this. A few times last year, here in Cincinnati, we tried to attempt it, but I wasn’t the back used in that set. It felt good. My coach has been a lot of help. The other running backs have been a lot of help in getting an understanding of the offense. I was up-tempo. It felt good to get those runs against those six-man boxes.”
Is the single setback with the shotgun a different look for you?
“Absolutely. We ran a lot of that in college (Texas) my junior and senior year. It kind of reminds me of that.”
What does that look like when the defense is spread out against the Packers offense?
“It makes you feel like a kid in a candy store. All I have to do is press the hole and let the linemen get their heads to create a hole.”
Why was tonight not just another preseason game for you?
“I wanted to get the team a win. I wanted to get the running game off to a good start.”
What’s it like to be in the Paul Brown Stadium visiting team locker room?
“It’s funny. I always wondered what the visitors locker room looked like. I guess now, I know. It’s pretty nice.”
What did it mean to have the reception you did tonight from Bengals players?
“It felt good. Those guys missed me. Those guys know the type of player I am and how I work. I developed some good relationships over there.”
It’s the preseason, but how good does it feel to win?
“Everyone’s always in a better mood when you win. That’s why you play the game. To win. Winning makes everything a little more fun. I feel a little better. We have plenty to improve on and we did a few good things. We need to try to improve.”
Do you feel you improved tonight?
“Yes. The Bengals were offering some different blitz pressures and did a decent job on defense. We did some things (on offense). It’s all about handling that and getting better. We did some positive things. There’s plenty we can watch film on and do better. I haven’t watched film. Once you watch film, you can have a better understanding for how the game went.”