Home Press Conference: Washington coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins

Press Conference: Washington coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins


redskins_scriptrWashington coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins talk with the media on Wednesday. Washington (1-5) hosts Tennessee (2-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m.


Coach Jay Gruden

On the injury report:

“[Quarterback Robert] Griffin [III] did individuals – did not do anything else. [Cornerback Tracy] Porter did not practice. [Safety] Ryan Clark – ankle – did not practice. [Linebacker] Akeem Jordan – knee – did not practice and [tackle] Trent Williams – knee – did not practice. Limited was [cornerback] David Amerson with a concussion, [linebacker] Perry Riley [Jr.] with a knee. Full go was [linebacker Brian] Orakpo – ankle – [safety Trenton] Robinson – ankle – and [fullback] Darrel Young – hamstring. And then guys who returned to practice were [defensive end Stephen] Bowen and [wide receiver Leonard] Hankerson.”


On changing the team’s practice schedule this week:

“Yeah, we’ve changed a little bit around today and then tomorrow we’re going to change the schedule around a little bit. Other than that, it’s a matter of preparing the best way we know how for Tennessee. The preparation as far as watching tape and installing offenses and defenses can’t change, but maybe the way we practice and change up some periods here and there like we did today [will] just give a little freshness to everything and keep moving forward.”


On balancing change:

“You know, we’re not exactly changing the whole scheme of things. I think the big thing is emphasis – what we’re going to emphasize, and obviously third down is a major emphasis on both sides of the ball. Creating turnovers is a major emphasis, and not turning the ball over. So those things have to be addressed and have to be emphasized, and they should have been emphasized. And if they weren’t then it’s a poor job by us, but we like to think they were emphasized, we’ve just got to do a better job of making sure everybody on the field knows what down it is, everybody knows the situation on the field and take care of business.”


On if he sees a pattern with not converting on third downs:

“No, it’s a little bit of everything. You know, I’ve broken down every third down for the whole season and the ones we didn’t convert on, sometimes it may be a protective issue, sometimes it’s a route issue, sometimes it’s Kirk coming off the receiver too quickly and not giving the play a chance to develop. Sometimes it’s just a poor throw. So it’s a combination of things. I wish I could say, “Hey, it’s one thing and we could just do this then we’re OK.’ But it’s a little bit of a combination. I think just guys have to understand that on third down, you’re going to get the defense’s best pass rush. It could be a stunt, it could be whatever it might be, but you’re going to get their best pass rush and their best coverage. Conversely, we have to challenge them and give them our best pass protection and our best routes and our best throws and that’s the way it’s got to be on all third downs for us to be successful, and they haven’t been like that so far.”


On quarterback Robert Griffin III’s progress:

“Yeah, he just threw to the receivers today during individuals. He looked fine. He got a little bounce in his step and that’s about it – nothing new. Everything else is going to be up to the trainers and the doctor. There’s nothing I can do as far as rushing him back. They’re going to let me know as far as when they will allow him to progress into the team drills, so we’re just going to take what [Head Athletic Trainer] Larry [Hess] and the team doctors tell us and we’ll go from there.”


On defensive end Stephen Bowen and wide receiver Leonard Hankerson:

”I think they’re both in track. They both look good. Obviously, stamina will be an issue. We’ll see how they do getting more reps throughout the week, but it’s a good first week, first day for both of them – very impressed with both of them. Hankerson gives you a little bit of a different feel out there. He’s a bigger guy, did a nice job for his first time with knowing what to do, knowing how to line up and running routes for the card team. And of course Bowen is a big, physical presence inside, so two good players to have back on our roster at this point.”


On linebacker Brian Orakpo’s production this season and if he is disappointed in his stats:

“Well, let me start by saying we’re disappointed in everything about this season so far. We still have a lot of games left obviously, but Brian, the whole defense in general, the whole offense, the whole special teams, we’re all disappointed in ourselves and in each other. That’s just the way it is when you’re 1-5. I don’t think there’s anybody on defense that’s really performing up to par, up to our standards. There’s nobody on offense performing up to our standards. We just have to keep pushing them and making sure that everybody knows that the standards we’ve set, we’re not close yet, obviously, from coaching staff on down to the players. Brian has given great effort, obviously. The production doesn’t say it. He’s getting some pressure. Some of the sacks don’t show up on the stat sheet that he’s created some sacks, but I’m sure he’s a little frustrated, as we all are with our total production as far as the team is concerned. We are looking for more from Brian and from everybody else.”


On a timetable for Griffin III’s return and if he is encouraged by what he saw today:

“I’m encouraged with what I saw, obviously. But like I said before, that’s totally up to those doctors and trainers in there as far as his timetable is concerned. I can’t project, I can’t guess. Obviously, we’d like to have him back but he still does need some work as far as getting back under center, getting reps, getting the footwork back down – just the whole process of being a quarterback again. It’s not just about going out there and running half gassers and throwing the wide receivers in routes versus air. It’s about handling the protections, the running game, the audibles, all that good stuff, the zone reads. All that good stuff he’s got to be able to handle and show that he can do it. As far as an exact timetable, that will be on the doctors and then we will evaluate him once he gets back into the team effort, or the team drills, and go from there.”


On if he takes Griffin III’s past recovery times into account when evaluating his potential return:

“Yeah, there’s a fine line between rushing too soon and getting your best players on the field when they’re healthy. If he feels like he’s healthy then he’s going to play and until that time comes, until the doctors tell me he’s  healthy, until Robert says he’s healthy then we’ll just have to wait. Anytime you’re a professional football player, you’ve had an injury and you come back, if you try to be careful and, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I should lower my shoulder in this tackle or I don’t know if I should run and do the zone read,” or all that stuff, you’re going to have problems and issues. You won’t be as effective. His most effective trait is his versatility and if he can’t play with that type of versatility and running with the football then he won’t be himself. So we’ve got to make sure that he is full himself before he comes back on the field, because anything less than that, he won’t be doing himself any good or the team.”


On if cornerback David Amerson wearing a helmet today is a sign he could play Sunday:

“I think it bodes well, but it’s just baby steps for those guys. It’s just he’s going through the typical protocol that they have to go through, but it’s a very positive sign. Let’s just say that. As long as tonight and tomorrow he doesn’t have any recurring instances or any headaches or any of that, then we fully expect he’s got a good chance to be ready. But we’ll have to wait and see tomorrow how he’s doing.”


On how to keep the team focused after a slow start:

“I just think that you have to preach that every day is a great opportunity for everybody to show what they can do and play football, coach football, have a positive outlook moving forward. We just have to take all the things that have happened so far and learn from them but we got to move on and understand that every day is a new opportunity for us to get better and show why we are here, play with a great passion for the game that we have and play a lot better. I know we can play better. We haven’t proven that yet, but I still have total faith in this team, this coaching staff that we will turn this thing around and we will play better. That is the only way we can coach. We can’t just hang our heads and [say] ‘You stink, you stink, I stink, everybody stinks.’ You guys can say that but around here we are going to be very positive and I know that we have a lot of talent in this room and all the guys want to play hard. And we are going to get the most out of them, I promise you that.”


On what he can build on with Kirk Cousins at quarterback:

“Yeah, that is a good question. I think that Kirk’s done some good things. Obviously there are some catastrophic mistakes that have been made by all of us in the fourth quarter late in games and a couple very meaningful drives and possessions we haven’t converted on. Third downs, turnovers are very, very a direct reflection on play calling and the quarterback position. Although sometimes both get a little bit blamed too much might be the protection, might be the route, might be blocking by the receiver so to speak but it’s up to the quarterback to convert these, it’s up to us as a team to get these converted and not turn the ball over. He is facing quite a bit of scrutiny and obviously if things continue in this downward spiral there is always a chance to see Colt [McCoy]. But I think Kirk will play himself out of it. I have total faith that he will, and we are going to coach him like he will and he will be ready but I know Colt will be ready also.”


On if it is a tough sell to get wide receiver DeSean Jackson to block:

“It is not a tough sell. I think he wants to block, he just is little. He is just a little son of a gun, man. He looks tough with his visor on but he is quite the little guy… I think it is hard for a guy like that for a guy who runs as fast as he does and the playmaker that he is to try to convince him that ‘Hey, it is important to block that safety right there.’ Kam Chancellor, six-foot-five, 228 pounds. But it has to be done and it is something that we have to preach. Andre [Roberts], Pierre [Garcon], DeSean [Jackson], Jordan Reed when he is in there, when it is time to run we’ve got to run and we’ve got to all buckle up and we’ve got to do a better job all of us. And a lot of times the offensive line gets the blunt the criticism but really when you look at it the tight ends, the outside guys aren’t doing their part in the running game either. So we’ve got to do a good job of really supporting Alfred [Morris] and making sure that everybody gets a hat on a hat. Obviously we can’t block everybody, there will be one or two free guys and we will leave those two for Alfred, but the guys we are supposed to block we’ve got to get on them and stay on them.”


On if Cousins’ differences between halves are related to a young player still learning or a player pressing:

“It could be a little bit of both. He is pressing and it is a lot easier to play in the second half when you are playing with a lead than when you are in a frenzy trying to come back all the time. We weren’t so much in a frenzy last week against Arizona until we got down by 10 with about four and a half to go where we had to score and throw almost every down. But against the Giants we were in a frenzy, we were down, we had to throw it every down against Seattle, we were down, we had to throw it quite a bit. So that is not a great position to be in for any quarterback, we got to do a better job of keeping the game close so we can hand the ball off in those situations and not put too much pressure on a young quarterback and tell the whole world we are dropping back and throwing this, it is not easy.”


On what signs he sees when a quarterback is pressing:

“I just think it’s just the mechanics. When you see him in the pocket sometimes everything is kind of rushed, everything is rushed. He feels pressure he just rushing he is ready to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry and sometimes he sails some throws and isn’t as accurate as he normally is that I see him every day. Not as poised as he might should be in a normal situation. You just got to calm down, everybody has to calm down and undermans the importance of each play, each drive and maintain good fundamentals in the pocket and deliver strikes, which I know he can do.”


On the plan once Griffin III gets cleared to play:

“What’s the plan once he gets cleared? Well, he has got to get cleared first then we will have a plan. Once they say he is healthy and he practices with us and we feel like he is ready to go mentally and we have a good game plan for him then he will be the starter… I don’t know when that will be yet. It is hard for me to project – could be one week, two weeks, five weeks, I don’t know yet. He looks good so far. He is making good progress, as we knew he would – the type of worker he is. But making progress in the training room and making progress on the practice field are two entirely different things. We just have got to make sure he is right both mentally and physically before he gets back on the field.”


On what he can do to calm Cousins down in pressure situations:

“We could probably protect him a little bit with some of the simpler play calls. But really it is all about just him. He has just got to continue to play and you got to play through it. And I don’t know, people expect so much more, they see all the quarterbacks like Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and all these guys have dynamic games and great production but these guys have been playing for a lot, a lot of years. This guy has been starting for eight games and he is seeing things he hasn’t seen before. The speed of the game is totally different than what he is used to out here in practice. So all this stuff is just a transition that quarterbacks all go through and hopefully he learns from his mistakes, he has made a few, he has made some great plays, mind you also. So moving forward he just got have to have the same poise he has early in the game he has got to have that times five late in games. He will learn from it and the only way you learn is going through it. And sometimes unfortunately you are going to have some rocky times and he has had a few but those are the best ones to learn from.”


On if the limited threat of read option has affected the running game:

“That is there a little bit, you get some chunk yardage on those read options here and there they add to the run totals, but as far as our running schemes are concerned we have been running the same schemes around here for a lot years and our guys are good at blocking those schemes, for whatever reason we just haven’t been as successful. Defenses are playing them better, we are not staying on blocks long enough, sometimes it is the receivers blocking support, sometimes it’s the tight ends at the point of attack, sometimes it is the center not getting the cutoff. We are just not sticking on blocks and getting up to the next level as fluidly and cleanly as we have when it is working very well. And it is something we’ve just got to continue to stick with and I’ve got to do a better job of not giving up on it too soon, giving Alfred more cracks at it and he will pop a couple more.”


On potentially having his full arsenal available on offense sometime soon:

“Yeah, it’d be nice to get everybody out there on the field. Same with defense. You know, defense, last week D-Hall is out, our first corner. Tracy Porter hasn’t played and of course Amerson, there’s our top three corners. Your starting nose tackle is out. There’s a lot of guys – Perry Riley was out. There’s no excuses here but we’ve had a lot of guys – unfortunately, key players – that haven’t been part of this process. When you lose those type of good players, good leaders, you’re relying on younger guys to step up and play a little bit sooner than you’d hoped, but now it’s time for them… they have to learn from what they’re doing and it’s time for them to step up. But when we get the healthy guys back, it’ll make it even more exciting because now our depth will be better, we’ll have our starters back in place and obviously all systems go. But we totally expect our young guys to step up and fill the void for the veterans until they can come back. We’ve just got to do a better job.”


Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On the team’s performance on third downs:

“Yeah, all the third downs have been different, but the bottom line is we’re not converting enough of them. It doesn’t give you a chance to stay on the field. If you can stay on the field, you can give your defense a rest, you can get your run game going. So, when you don’t convert third down, a lot of other problems start to show up. I think the third downs and the turnovers are two of the biggest issues that if we can correct, I think good things are going to happen. Why we’re not converting? There’s a number of things. I don’t think it’s trying to do too much. Maybe it’s trying to do too little? I think there were a couple where maybe I should have progressed and gone to work a deeper route than throw a shorter route incomplete. You can’t name any one thing as the reason for why we’re not converting. It’s a whole list of things, but that will definitely be an emphasis this week in practice. And we need to be better not only this Sunday but the rest of the season.”


On if he changes mentally or physically from the first half to the second half:

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s a big change in my approach. I really don’t think it’s the pressure or the moment, I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s just trying to do too much, trying to get us back in the game and forcing things. If I could point to one thing it’s trying to force things, trying to do too much. I guess in the first half, I don’t feel the need to do that as much. Maybe…maybe that’s it. I don’t know. It’s been two, two and a half quarters where I’ve thrown seven interceptions. That’s just atrocious but the other quarters have not been consistent with that. I think the other quarters for the most part have been good football. But it’s been two, two and a half quarters that have really got away from me. I need to make sure that doesn’t continue to happen.”


On receiver Pierre Garçon not being targeted as much in recent weeks:

“It’s kind of been up and down. There’s been games he’s been our No. 1 guy and extremely productive and there have been other games where he hasn’t had the volume of catches that we would like or he would like. You know, it can vary from teams we play to coverages to plays we call to not converting on third down. When you have to go three and out, you don’t get on the field and stay on the field, it’s just hard to get different receivers a lot of catches. I think if we can covert third downs, if we can stay on the field, if we can prolong drives, I think that’s going to allow a guy like Pierre to continue to show up with a lot of catches week in and week out. He’s still playing at a high level, and there are a lot of times where he’s running great routes and he’s just not getting the football, but it really is no reflection of how he’s playing or what they’re doing against him.”


On having tight end Jordan Reed available as an option for the first time:

“He’s a great player, a very talented tight end who can do a lot of different things for us. I think he’s a guy on third down who can help us. It’s going to be a continual process of building that chemistry with him because like you said, this was the first game I’ve played with him. This last week was the first week of practice I’ve really repped with him with the No. 1 offense. Just trying to continue to build that chemistry and understanding of how we can work together the best.”


On how the running game could help the team:

“Anytime you can run the football, it’s going to take pressure off the passing game and it’s going to be a much more consistent way of producing yards and points and time of possession and all those things that are important. So, if we can run the football, it’s going to really help. Again, I’ll go back to if we can move the chains, stay on the field, get back to another first down, second down, it’s going to give us more opportunities to run the football, which in turn can give you more chances to squirt one out and get some yards. We’ve got to be able to stay on the field.”

On if the eventual return of quarterback Robert Griffin III will affect his preparation in any way:

“It can’t affect my preparation, and if it does, I’m not going to be where I need to be. He needs to get ready, he needs to do what he needs to do to be ready to go. However that gets worked out is great for the team. I’ll do the best I can with the reps that I get and go back to controlling what I can control, focusing what I can do and not worrying about what I can’t change.”


On his confidence and the team’s confidence level:

“I think we just try to be consistent. We talk about never getting too high or never getting too low. Whether we started 5-1 or 1-5, if you ride the roller coaster and try to make decisions or change your approach based on your emotions, you’re just not going to be consistently successful. We need to just continue to stay consistent emotionally with our focus, with our preparation regardless of the record or what has transpired in the last few weeks.”


On how comfortable he is making plays on the run:

“Yeah, I feel good. We had a good bootleg on a fourth down conversion against Arizona. It was a good play for us. It is always there. As far as pulling it and running it a little bit, that’s always there too. It is just a matter of having it get called and once it’s called the defense is opening it up to us and allowing it to be there. I think it is something that we do well and we will continue to do and continue to emphasize. I do believe there are times when I don’t give myself enough credit as an athlete and I probably could move around a little more, scramble a little more and do a little bit more athletically than what I give myself credit. I think that could help our offense. But I can’t force it; it has to come naturally. It has to be something I do instinctively I can’t make a decision before the snap ‘I’m going to scramble here.’ It has to be something I react to.”


On the importance of winning at home:

“All the games are important, especially at home. You want to win all your home games. That is always going to give you a chance to get to the playoffs. So, with a home game looming this Sunday, we need to get a win we understand that. For a lot of different reasons we want to get a win and it is important to win games, especially in a home game like this when a lot of former alumni are coming back.”


On his accuracy on shorter routes:

“Every play is different, but I do see a play here or there where if I wait a second longer, let the route develop, I will have a better idea of where he’s going and I can lead him better. I really don’t think it is an accuracy issue. I just think that is one of my strengths. That’s what has gotten to this point to be here in the NFL. So to say I am not accurate or I’m struggling to locate where the football needs to go, that’s not it. It’s more the timing of a concept, just chemistry with a receiver, my feet, having my feet in balance and being able to move in the pocket and stay balanced because it is an imperfect world and you can’t always have a perfect pocket around you. So, I think it is more those elements than it is just accuracy or ‘I am struggling with throwing shorter throws.’ I just don’t think it is that.”


On how he is dealing with this stretch after being successful throughout his football career:

“Yeah, I have been in tough spots before. I started my career at Michigan State as a starter 1-3. So, it hasn’t always been roses, it hasn’t always been great. I have been through my fair share of challenges. So I think if you play this long enough, sure on the outside it looks like you have had a lot of success to get here, but there have been plenty of valleys and difficult times to push through to get to this point. So this is by no means the first time I’ve faced this and as a result you are experienced. You know what is like to go through a tough experience. It is just a matter of continuing to move forward, continuing to be tough on yourself so you can get better and try to prevent future mistakes and find a way however possible to get a win.”




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