Doug Marrone: "This is a very challenging situation"

Posted Sep 25, 2013

The Bills head coach updates the injury situation, the possibility of Aaron Williams having to play cornerback this week, and if he would consider changing the pace of the offense.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Opening statement:

Start off with the players that didn’t participate in practice. Obviously (Stephon) Gilmore with the wrist, (Dustin) Hopkins with the right groin, (Marquise) Goodwin with the hand,(Ron) Brooks with a foot, (Kraig) Urbik with a knee, (Leodis) McKelvin with a hamstring, (Alex) Carrington with a quad, Stevie Johnson with a hamstring, Mario Williams with an ankle, Kyle Williams with an achilles. Limited was (Jairus) Byrd and Marcell Dareus. Full participation in practice was (Doug) Legursky and (C.J. Spiller).

Q: On Kyle Williams, is that the same injury as last season?

A: I wasn’t here; they just said it’s sore. I’m not sure if it was from last year. I didn’t ask that question.

Q: Thoughts on having Legursky back?
A: Good, really good. He did a very good job of working during the rehab. Pat Morris and I talked this morning about it; I thought in the individual drills, that he actually looked better now than he did when he was going. Just a matter of looking at him during the week and then making that decision.

Q: What concerns do you have on defense knowing that right now your starting lineup is somewhat unsettled?
A: Specifically unsettled from the standpoint of the secondary, from the back end?

Q: More from the defensive line.

A: No, we’re going to be fine there. We’re fine up front.

Q: The back end?
A: The back end, what we’re doing is obviously Leodis is in the mix still. It’s day to day. While he’s not out there we’re going through different combinations being obviously ready for him to come back, different combinations of players, different combinations of schematics, man, zone, matchup’s, things like that. Seeing what the best thing for us, so it gives us the best opportunity to be successful. So that process is really going to be day to day as we go and practice and evaluate it afterwards. The great thing about it is we do have a lot of flexibility with Aaron (Williams). We’ve got Jimmy (Leonhard), (Da’Norris) Searcy and Duke (Williams) back there. We have the corners and Aaron can go back and forth and Leodis is still in the mix. It’s exciting because people are going to have an opportunity and see what they can do.

Q: When you look at that situation with Aaron Williams being a third year guy who has played two years of corner, with the lack of experience with your other corners, do you almost have to look at Aaron as your corner if Leodis can’t play?
A: I don’t know if I would ever say, ‘He has to be that guy.’ I really haven’t thought of it that way yet. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be thinking that way later on in the week. Like I said, I think I’m at a point where I feel good. I think the way I look at the situation is, I really think Aaron Williams was developing in to a really, really good safety. A potential top tier type safety for us. Moving him back to corner and watching him play, it’s difficult for me because I don’t think people realize it’s obviously much different, those two positions. He went in the game and you watch what he did when they threw the ball his way, he was very good, tight coverage of a position he hasn’t played in a long time. Up on the ball, in somebody’s face and going. For him to do that, I look at it as we’re losing that development from that situation here we know that’s where he’ll be with us back there.

Q: How do you pick up Justin Rogers after his performance against the Jets?
A: We’re all competitors in this game and Justin Rogers is not the first player to have a poor game. The one thing about it is that he’s on this team, he’s out there practicing and like I said after the game is one thing I appreciate is competing. It would be different if he fell down, if he wasn’t near the player, couldn’t do it. He’s right there to make that play and we know it was very close. We just keep pushing him to be able to do that. This sport, you have to be some mentally tough, especially at corner. The two positions where you’re out an island, people talk about corner and left tackle. You’ve got to be able to forget and come back the next play because if you can’t, you’re not going to really last in this league. I think that’s something that you all know. He’s got to shake it off, he went out there today, competed his butt off and that’s what we expected out of him.

Q: Might this week be the week when Jairus Byrd wakes up and is ready to go?
A: I don’t want to use words like wake up and things like that. I would rather say he’s working extremely hard to get back. Again I keep going back to that same statement I said because it’s the truth; it’s a condition that we haven’t been able to get over this one last hurdle. I think when we get over the one last hurdle; he’ll be ready to go.

Q: Can you comment on Alan Branch and what you’ve seen from him?
A: He did take a lot of snaps. We obviously had to put him in there with Marcell coming out. We were planning going in to it to work him in to more snaps. We were kind of forced to do that. We don’t think it’s a very high number for him, but he’s productive. He’s very difficult to move, he’s a big bodied guy. He might get upset with me for saying that, but big bodied in a good way. He can cause things, cause problems, hard to move, frees up linebackers. Has a pretty good pass rush for a big guy. We’ve been very happy with that acquisition and he’s been a very good professional and very good for the young guys.

Q: What are your thoughts on the run defense right now?
A: We just have to tackle. We’ve got to be able to tackle. When we’re tackling better and squeezing more and not overrunning some things, I think that it’s all a matter of, it’s easy if it was just one guy. It’s really a combination of making sure we’re squeezing, pressing, getting off blocks up front. Linebackers make sure we’re filling; make sure we’re taking advantage of what we see. If we see it, we need to go get it and then obviously tackle better.

Q: Is the way you’re running your offense keeping the defense on the field too much?
A: I think that what’s contributing to that is third down. I think third down from both sides. I think when you’re talking about 46%, what our opponents are converting on third down and offensively we’re only converting 31%, I think that’s what equals the time of possession and the amount of plays.

Q: In the Jets game, you got the ball with 1:40 left in the first half and had a quick three and out which gave them the ball back with enough time to get a field goal before the half. What are your thoughts on being more conservative in that type of situation?
A: Well the situation was this, looking back at it. I’m no different than the players; I have to look back at the game management portion of it. We had a pass interference call on that series that led to a Jets field goal. That’s not the point of this conversation. The point of the conversation was where we were prior. Here’s a situation of exactly what was going through my mind. We were going to get the ball in the second half; I tend to be aggressive before that. What happened was we took the sack for minus-nine, we come back, we make it up on second down so we get nine or 10 yards and then we get another short throw, now we’re down to a manageable third down. We actually wanted to take a shot vertically down the field and we wound up throwing an intermediate route incomplete. That was the thought process going through it at that time, trying to be aggressive and make something happen. In hindsight, looking back and going through it, when we took the sack and we were at second and 18 or 19, I told this to the team that we all make mistakes. In hindsight, we go back we take the sack, the percentages of making second and 18 to a first down, run the football, they either use the timeouts or the time runs down and we go. You’re exactly right. I’m not going to sit up here and defend it was the right decision. It was the decision that I also questioned after the game.

Q: Besides two big runs, the running game hasn’t been producing much. What has to change?
A: If I’m not mistaken I think we’re fifth in rushing yards and eighth in rushing average.

Q: Yeah but you take out those two huge runs, it just seems like it’s been a lot of carries of zero or negative yardage.

Q: We have been. I don’t disagree with that. I would disagree with the overall thing because they all count, but you’re right we do have to be more consistent. We have to do a better job of running. I think it’s a combination of everything again. I think we have to do a better job up front, I think we have to do a better job of running it and I think we have to do a better job of putting in situations, game planning strategically, getting more looks, getting more situations and running the ball more.

Q: Do you see the line creating gaps, the running backs have had trouble it seems just not picking the right hole and getting sent outside.

A: I’m going to go back to the same thing. It’s very difficult to get a question like that and say, ‘This is the one problem.’ It’s very easy to fix, or easier to fix one problem. One play it may be that and the next play we might not get a push and the next play we might get beat. I think that’s what is going on, the consistency of the run game, is that everybody has to win to a certain extent. If one person breaks down and everyone else is doing the right thing it’s a negative play. That’s what makes it such a great team sport. We have to do a better job of all those phases, but that’s something that we’re definitely working on. And schematically putting them in better situations.

Q: How do you balance teaching or mentoring EJ (Manuel) in handling pressure, like what he faced against the Jets and what he may face against the Ravens?
A: I think we’re very much aware of that and those conversations take place. I don’t mean this in a poor way, but those conversations are private. We work on that, we work together on that. Myself, I’m heavily involved in that in talking to him about that.

Q: You must be confident that now he’s seen it, do you feel he’s more capable to handle it?
A: I’m confident. I am. I think here’s a player that’s going to get better and better.

Q: Can you talk about the play of Manny Lawson?
A: He’s done a much better job than I saw him do last year on film of setting the edge in the run game. I’ve seen him do a very good job of being off the ball and playing some dime for us. He’s on the field, I think he’s done a great job, he’s earned those snaps. He’s someone who has gotten some extra snaps.

Q: Does he bring some leadership?
A: I think he’s an outstanding pro, someone that we tell a lot of our younger players that they need to talk to about being a pro.

Q: What stands out about the Ravens defense and how similar are they to the Jets?
A: There’s a difference from just a pressure situation. Not to say that they wouldn’t do the same, those things happen, you’ve got to be prepared for that. The Jets defense is one or two right now in the NFL; I think the Ravens defense is obviously up there quite a bit. What I see is a tough defense, I see a defense that has not given up a touchdown since the first game, that’s very difficult to do in this league. You’re talking about eight quarters. They have not given up a rushing touchdown. They’re tied for first in that. I believe that you see a team that is, I think they might be number one versus the rush, either one or two. They’re built from the standpoint of they’re strong, powerful and they’re fast outside. Again I think obviously this is a very challenging situation for our team, we’ve been challenged the last couple weeks, every week is a challenge for us to go out there. We’re playing against teams that are in the top 10. I’d rather do that now and see where we are against them.

Q: With how you play offense, you’re not going to win time of possession a lot. Would there ever be a time where you would consider modifying your style if these numbers persist?
A: If that’s what it takes to win, absolutely. I would say I’d be careful writing that it’s not ever going to be that way because I think that we’re able to see last weekend that Denver held the ball five or six minutes more than Oakland and they were running a no huddle type of attack. That’s why I always go back to, I believe it’s the third down conversion rate what you need. Obviously if you’re running at a 46-48% third down conversion rate on offense and you’re somewhere in the 34% on defense, you’re going to have the time of possession in your favor.

Q: On EJ, can you be specific on what he needs to work on in terms of pressure?
A: I don’t see anything specific. I was addressing a question to more of confidence and educating, that’s how I was answering that question. If that question was asked in the way you are, then that was wrong. It’s overall. He’s no different than what I might be saying to Robert Woods. What I might be saying to all the younger players that are playing. I think it’s very important. There’s ups and downs in everything that you do. People are different. Some people, they react differently to things. I just want to make sure that they understand where I’m coming from, what’s expected of them, what this league is, what goes on on the outside, what is said and trying to help them with my experience being around of maybe how to handle some of those things. Paul Lancaster we have him obviously, he’s our (director of player engagement), I think there’s a big difference in first year players then I think there’s another category of second and third year players and then I think after your third year, I think you’re a veteran player. Those are three phases that the players go through.

Q: So do you think EJ, among your rookies, is having to become accustomed to off the field responsibilities? Obviously there are adjustments for all rookies.
A: I think for the whole league. I think for everyone that’s playing, all of us, all 32 teams are doing a very good job with their player development program. We all work together in making sure we’re developing those players to become better adjusted to what the NFL is. It goes back to being a pro and that’s important. We have some great examples on this team, Murph brought up Manny Lawson. We also have some great examples on this coaching staff; we have Ike Hilliard with us. There are a lot of good things with that because I think we may tend to forget that’s an important part of how we’re developing them. Not just on the field, but more so off the field. It comes to every asset of their life and I’m a big believer in that. I’ve always done that everywhere I’ve been as a position coach, a coordinator in the NFL; it’s not just something that happens in high school and college and in the youth football program. What’s interesting about being around players and I don’t know if anyone gets to appreciate it because I don’t know if you’re around them enough, but you can put yourself in a position where you can learn from them also. I tell them all the time that I learn a good bit from the players in becoming a better persona and how they react and speak with me.

Q: As competitive as he is, is he trying to bite off more than he can chew?
A: High competitive nature. High competitive nature. It goes back to I talk to him all the time, ‘Hey I have a high expectation of you’, he has a high expectation of himself. He’s extremely competitive and at the same time I think anyone who is extremely competitive, you have to channel that to being productive.

Q: What do you make of Joe Flacco?
A: He can make all the throws. I mean he can throw it. When I watch the film and I look at it, I’m thinking he can throw that thing around. He can flick it out there; throw it around, he can move well enough in the pocket to get it done. I think they’re big and strong up front to protect him. When he gets hot he can put it on those guys. He can put it anywhere on the field. I’m very, very impressed with his arm, I really am. Even when we were watching film with the defense, when I was watching with the defensive staff, I was like, ‘Look at that throw. It’s coming out there.’

Q: With Legursky being a full participant, is a candidate for some first team reps?
A: I don’t think we’re at that stage yet with him.

Q: When he gets to that stage might he?
A: We’ll see how he’s doing.

Q: How difficult is it to establish the next man up philosophy with the injuries you’ve had?
A: It’s one that is a fact, but you don’t want to keep saying it. It’s the reality of the situation and we don’t get a chance to deal in hypotheticals, we have to deal with the reality of the situation of players being injured. We have to be prepared for it. It’s tough because you’re always trying to manage it and get the players healthy. The philosophy that I have is we have players on the practice squad, that’s where we want to bring them up from. If we don’t have players on the practice squad, then obviously Doug Whaley and Jim (Monos), they have a list of players for us to bring in.

Q: Is it getting exhausting with the injuries?
A: Here’s a situation. If I came up here today and said, ‘Oh gosh, we don’t have this guy, we don’t have that guy, I really don’t, I don’t really know…’ Now the team is looking at you and what are they going to say? “I don’t know if we have a shot.’ It’s important. This is a great challenge, this is a great opportunity. We say it all the time, players when they come out and they’re new, they’re going to be targeted. That’s the way the league is. It’s been that way forever, so it’s not anything new. As you become targeted, you also get an opportunity to show that you belong in this league. That’s the exciting part about it and we’ve seen that year in and year out with players. I don’t know, he practices okay, we’ve got to get him out there, but he can’t beat this person out and that person got him. He gets injured and we feel sorry for that, but if that happens now this player goes in there and all of a sudden you’re going to know. You want an opportunity to be a starter? Here it comes. That’s really how I look at it.