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Doug Marrone: "It's like baseball. We want to be strong up the middle"

Posted Oct 1, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about the injury situation, playing on Thursday, and the challenges of facing Cleveland's defense.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Opening statement:

The following players did not participate in practice. (Ron) Brooks, (Stephon) Gilmore, (C.J.) Spiller with an ankle, Gilmore with a wrist and Brooks with the foot. Limited in practice, Mario Williams with an ankle, (Marquise) Goodwin with a hand, (Stevie) Johnson hamstring, (Leodis) McKelvin hamstring, (Kraig) Urbik knee, (Dustin) Hopkins right groin, Aaron Williams lower back, (Fred) Jackson knee, Kyle Williams the achilles. Full participation in practice is Jairus Byrd, so that was our business of the day with our short week.

Q: What are your thoughts on playing on Thursday?
A: I think it is what it is. I’ve always saw it as, I think it’s a tough situation, but for both times. I think when both teams go through it, it’s fair and we’ll go out there and play. I get concerned on short weeks.

Q: This is Jairus’ first full participation. What are your thoughts on having a chance for Thursday?
A: I spoke to him and we’re definitely getting better and getting real close. I don’t want to give you guys the wrong thing, we’ll see tomorrow, make decisions and then after that we have some time to rest and then I think after that depending on how it goes I’d like to be able to say day-to-day after that.

Q: How does this week of preparation go compared to normal?
A: What we normally do is Sunday after the game was over, the coaches we got to see our families a little bit and then after that game was over we immediately came here. We started working, so we look at the previous game we played, try to get that put to bed and then start working on our game plan that night. Sunday night we were here working as most people are. I think most people have the same schedule; they may change it a little bit. A Monday, you want to push the players back as far as possible to give yourself more time to game plan so you can have it prepared. We pushed them back; we kind of handled all the stuff from the Baltimore game quickly. Obviously it’s not a full scale thing and then immediately try to turn their attention on Monday night towards Cleveland. To go out there after a game, it’s a true walk through type practice. Putting in a lot of the base type of game plan. Sometimes you may get a little bit of the third down. When Tuesday comes obviously you’re putting in a lot. The meetings are a little bit longer, extended. Your practice time and your practice reps are a little bit shorter. We extend the walkthrough time again for the players and basically we’re getting our Wednesday and Thursday in. Then tomorrow on a Wednesday, we’ll get our Friday and Saturday in and repeat it. We’ll probably meet a little bit longer because it’s a night game at the hotel, but that’s pretty much it. The number one goal is obviously making sure the players are rested.

Q: The theory is that it’s a disadvantage to play on the road on a short week. Do you get a bit of a break in that you don’t have to travel very far to get to Cleveland?
A: Oh yeah. I think travel comes in to it. Whether you’re traveling from the West Coast coming back home and then getting ready to travel again for a Thursday night game or even if you have one at home. I think the short distance is definitely something that’s more of a benefit.

Q: You could have had a worse trip right?
A: Obviously. You’re absolutely right on that.

Q: What have you seen from C.J. Spiller and will he be ready?
A: Today he was out there. He went through the walk through with us, the plays and then we had him on the side with the trainers working on a lot of straight line stuff. There’s really not a lot of swelling. It’s a situation where it’s really day-to-day. I’ll really know more tomorrow on it. The signs I think I look for as a coach are encouraging. He’s out there working; he’s trying to get back. That’s all you can ask for a player.

Q: Will you work Tashard Choice in to the game more?
A: He wouldn’t be on this team if we didn’t feel that way about Tashard Choice. If things don’t work out in our favor and we have to bring somebody up, like I said before we look at the practice squad first and we’ll bring up (Ronnie) Wingo.

Q: Do you expect your decision on Fred Jackson to come right around kickoff?
A: No, I feel very confident about Fred.

Q: What are your thoughts on Marcell Dareus and if he is coming around to what the Bills envisioned him when they drafted him?
A: I had heard some of that coming into the job, but I have not seen any of that. I think he’s played really well. He got injured in the one game and was a little bit limited from a snap standpoint. Other than that, he’s been doing a heck of a job. He’s been very very productive so I think that in my mind that’s the player that we envisioned and he keeps getting better and better each week. He’s working extremely hard. Again I think if you remember back in the OTA’s, I was really excited. He had a smile on his face, he’s going around, he likes to play and he’s having fun. I think that’s what you see now, players having fun and getting better. I think you’re seeing a lot of production out of him.

Q: What do you see as the challenges of Cleveland’s defense?
A: I think they’re very difficult because of a couple things. Obviously Coach Horton does a great job. You have 11 guys on that field that are playing extremely hard. You have a front seven that is similar to the front seven we’ve seen this past week. They’re very strong; they do a very good job of holding the edges, similar to what the Steelers did when Coach Horton was there. Not identical for what they do defensively, but I think that’s a good reference for how they hold the point. Outside, the corners are fast, they play well with their hands, they reroute you very well in their man coverage. The safeties do a good job of reading. People have had a very difficult time driving the ball on them and scoring. I think they’re playing at a high level. They do have some veterans on that field. They’ve got some younger guys that are coming in to it. They’ve got guys who have won, bringing people over from championship teams. It’ll be a really, really good test for us. I know I say that every week, but those are the type of defenses that we’ve seen.

Q: What have you been able to see of Brian Hoyer so far?
A: You’ve got two games. You can see a lot of what people are trying to do. People have asked about him and I said the same thing. I try to judge quarterbacks; I judge them quite a bit by wins and losses. So he’s won two in a row, so he’s done a very good job of managing that team and they’ve been doing a good job getting the ball down the field and throwing it.

Q: How did Leodis McKelvin look today?
A: I think it’s the same thing. He’s out there doing things; he’s trying to get back. I would view him as day-to-day so I don’t get myself in trouble. The only reason I say that is because if you ask me, I want him to play. So it’s hard for me if you ask me, he’s out there he’s going to play. For me as the coach I want him to go out and play, but I think it will be day-to-day and I think we’ll know a lot more tomorrow. If we don’t know a lot more tomorrow then I think we will go again like last week with a game time decision.

Q: You said during minicamp that you had to pull Kiko Alonso aside at one point because he was playing too aggressively in a non-contact drill. Was that almost a sign of how hard he would play once he got in to live game action?
A: I’ll go back to what we saw in college. He was a player that made tackles all over the field that stayed on the field for three downs that made a lot of plays. That’s one of the things that we liked about him, knowing that he could play three downs, knowing that he could run, knowing that he was physical. He played at a large stage, so it wasn’t too big for him and then when he came in right away it was like he’s moving a lot faster than everybody else. That’s what I talk about when you start seeing that separation. Our expectations are high and we’re excited about him. He’s actually getting better and better each week too, all little things that maybe people can’t see.

Q: What time did you get on the field today?
A: 3:10 pm.

Q: For your defense how important is the middle of the line?
A: I think it’s a lot like baseball. We use that expression; we want to be strong up the middle. I don’t think there’s any difference in the sport that we play of football. We really want to be strong up that middle because that’s something that’s very difficult to cover from a standpoint of leverage. From the outside you can get some leverage points, force people inside. Inside if you go in there and you don’t have the right players in there they can just go right down the field on you.

Q: Marquise Goodwin was catching passes today. Was that the last hurdle for him?
A: Looks good, looks good. What do you mean by final hurdle?

Q: Final hurdle to get back in the lineup.

A: Like final hurdle as is he going to play this week? I think it’s really two days now that he’s been catching, so we’re still going to make sure he’s still progressing along.

Q: Any update on Hopkins?
A: I think we’re still working on the kickoff part of it, so I think he’s still a little bit day to day on that. As far as PATs and field goals, I don’t think there are any problems with that.

Q: Have you had a linebacker so young put in a position like Kiko?
A: Yes. I was with the Jets and we had Jonathan Vilma.

Q: Does he remind you of that?
A: I always get in a problem of trying to compare players and stuff, but way back then I think Jonathan came in and we had a lot of high expectations for him. I was on the other side of the ball, but I had heard what the defensive coaches were saying and he came in and played extremely well for us. Kind of the talk of what was said, not comparing the two players, I think it was the same type of situation. Both guys were productive; obviously Kiko might have a little bit more intangibles with the height.

Q: Has Cleveland changed their offense at all around Brian Hoyer?
A: Well Coach Turner, we all know each other, we’ve all seen each other, coach Chudzinski obviously I know very well. You’re seeing the elements and the base foundation of their offense and what they’re trying to do. Schematically obviously they do a good job. To say what they have changed, I don’t think there’s anything drastic that you can tell from film that they might have been doing with one quarterback compared to another.

Q: Does Hoyer bring anything different to the table?
A: I don’t know what difference they bring between him and Weeden, but the one thing that we see is that obviously they’ve won two games, they’re playing extremely well, he’s managing the game and they’re winning with him. They’re probably better at answering that question than me, because I really don’t know.

Q: Can you comment on the whole primetime game atmosphere?
A: I think the players can probably answer that better than me. For us as coaches we’re going in there playing a game and we’re worried about and our focus is on what’s going on on the field. At the same time I think I would be lying if I don’t think there’s awareness from a player’s standpoint to know that all the other players that are not playing on Thursday are probably watching that game. They’d probably be better at answering that question than myself. As far as the other coaches watching it, we all watch each other’s films.

Q: How does this Thursday game throw the players off?
A: I don’t think so. I think there’s two situations in football. You either play at our house right over here or you play at their stadium. There’s two situations that you have, home and away and we’re going away. I think the point of it being a short trip; I don’t even think the plane will get to 10,000 feet.

Q: Where do you stand on the short week and are the players for or against getting ready for a short week?
A: Does my word mean anything in this league? What are you trying to get me to say? I think it’s very difficult. I think it’s a challenge and I do have concerns about it. My concerns if I want to voice those concerns, I would do it the right way and I would call the league and tell them or write them a letter and tell them how I feel, I wouldn’t do it openly in public.

Q: It’s a tough situation in the NFL.

A: I’m criticized about everything. I have a great appreciation for this game in the other way, for what it’s taught me and things like the structure. I try to keep my mind focused on the great characteristics of it and not get myself leading away to some of those other things that people talk about which may be true or not.

Q: So you don’t have a problem playing then?
A: As long as the other team has the same amount of time and preparation I don’t have a problem. I think when you have fair time and preparation it’s good. I think when other teams have a little bit more time or a little bit more rest, I think that creates an advantage in a league where we’re trying not to create any advantages.

Q: Do you think it will give you an advantage with the way you play offense because they’ll already be short on rest?
A: I don’t know, we held the ball for 35 minutes the other night, so maybe not. I think that’s a double edge sword. That’s a good point. You have to watch what you’re doing too, how many plays you’re running, what you’re doing and you have to look at where you are too in the season is a big thing. Early on a short week or later on a short week. I think things change that way schedule wise. I know that’s what my thought process is. If it’s later in the year it’s probably going to be a little bit shorter than what we’re doing now. I think you have to watch what you’re doing from that standpoint, from a health standpoint because the number one goal, at least for me I can’t speak for the other coaches, is to get the players as healthy as possible to play Thursday.

Q: With both of your kickers practicing, might there be a decision coming because you might need a roster spot?
A: As soon as Dustin Hopkins is ready to go, there has to be a decision made. Whether we keep two on a roster spot or we don’t. You’re correct on that.

Q: Would he be ready to go on Thursday?
A: No.

Q: Are you confident with EJ heading in to his second road game since he has the first one under his belt?
A: You always want to see improvement, not necessarily from road game to road game, but from game to game. I think we’ll see that. He’s improved; he’s getting to a point now where automatically he knows right away which is a good thing. You really don’t want those mistakes, but he’ll know right away and work on correcting them. I think we always use the word experience quite a bit and that’s what we’re doing. Every single day, every player that is out there whether he’s a four year player getting another year experience or a rookie getting experience, it’s valuable and it’s probably even more valuable when you’re younger. I think that everything that happens to him, everything that we say to him, everything we coach, everything about playing this game I just think he’s evolving all the time in to a better quarterback.