Doug Marrone on the Bengals: "They're playing with a lot of energy"

Posted Oct 9, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about the challenge of the Bengals defense, the injured cornerbacks potentially playing on Sunday, and how Thad Lewis did in his first practice as the starting QB.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Opening Statement:

Participation in practice, the following players did not participate: Stevie Johnson, obviously with lower back, he also had a death in his family, so he’ll be back later in the week, so he’s dealing with that personal issue. Obviously (Dustin) Hopkins we still have to list, even though we put him on IR with a right groin and then obviously (E.J.) Manuel has the knee. Limited was (Stephon) Gilmore came back today with the wrist, (Ron) Brooks with the foot, (Marquise) Goodwin with the hand, (Marcus) Easley with the ribs, Kyle Williams who was limited, normally today we usually rest him. Full participation was Jairus Byrd. So again we’re getting some players back which is a good thing, they’re out there running around and I thought they had a good practice today, we’ve had some time and they're getting themselves ready to go for this week with Cincinnati.

Q: How smoothly did things go with Thad Lewis today?

A: It was good, I thought he had a really good practice today and that’s what you’re looking for. Obviously it is practice so you are preparing him for it, and I think that if you’re out there with a coach and they're struggling in practice and you’re out there giving him some tough looks, you get concerned but he had a good practice today so if he can continue on during the week he’ll just get better and better. I thought he looked good today.

Q: What challenges do you face against a defense that hasn’t given up much? Did what it did to Tom Brady, did what it did to (Ben) Roethlisberger and (Aaron) Rodgers.

A: I think each week you’re faced with different challenges obviously with the different defenses that you see. Obviously I competed against Coach Zimmer, have a lot of respect for him and he does cause problems offensively and does cause problems for opposing quarterbacks and I think we have to do a good job as Coaches, put them in the right position and have the right game plan, and giving us the best opportunity, giving the players the best opportunity to be successful, so those challenges change week to week but every week is a different type of challenge. They're playing extremely well right now in Cincinnati.

Q: How about the trademarks of their defense from a personnel standpoint, what jumps out?

A: I think they do a very good job upfront, putting pressure on the quarterback. They make you make quick decisions. Obviously they will bring guys up, mug them up on third down, also sometimes in between the downs. I think that they are getting healthier too. (Leon) Hall is coming back, he’s a very good corner, that will give them more depth in that area, the linebackers can run and hit and they tackle extremely well, so they played really well in the field, I'm sure they want to improve on their red zone situation as far as the touchdowns, but teams haven’t been in there as much on them. Again, I think you’re facing a defense that’s playing extremely well, that’s hot, they're playing with a lot of energy, and again they got a great boost last week and what they did with New England.

Q: Is it a reach on Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks who are limited today, that they will be ready for the weekend?

A: Yeah, I think Gilmore I feel good about, but I still don’t want to go out there and say, “Yeah, he’s going to play Sunday.” I’d rather be out say day-to-day, but I felt good about the way he looked today. With Ron, I’d still say day-to-day, with that one I am still not sure about yet.

Q: That’s because Brooks is dealing with a foot?

A: I just think it’s however you come back from whatever injury, so it’s hard to put it on that. The foot is kind of like C.J. (Spiller), he was out there today before and doing things limited, he was limping a little bit, but it was a lot less then it was last week before the game. Each one is a little bit different and how they come back, I am just trying to give you guys a good feel on how I feel. I feel good about Gilmore; I’m still not ready to say about Brooks.

Q: Is there something about Thad’s background that makes you feel pretty good that he can handle this or do you see any previous coaches leaving an imprint on him?

A: Yeah, it’s been interesting for me, obviously Coach Cutcliffe and I know each other. We both have the same ties with the University of Tennessee. We did our work beforehand when we took Thad, I wound up calling Coach Cutcliffe and it was interesting this week when we made the decision, Coach Cutcliffe actually texted me twice about the decision and how much he appreciated Thad. His high school coach is a guy also I know, Jerry Hughes, down in Key West. I have done some things for Jerry before and he also got in touch. It’s interesting that you get a player and all of the sudden you have a lot of players pulling for him to do well and take advantage of this opportunity. I think it’s great. I’m happy for Thad, a lot of times in this profession, you don’t get an opportunity. Sometimes you’ll never know, but now you have an opportunity and you’ll go out there and be able to prove. He has a lot of people pulling for him. David Cutcliffe is someone who, even though he hasn’t been in the NFL, he is very respected in this league.

Q: Would you agree that Thad is smart enough to be able to handle this offense and that he’s smart enough to make the most of what he has athletically within your scheme?

A: Yes. Yes. He went to school at Duke. I have a lot of respect for Duke.

Q: Did you see the documentary or have you read the excerpts from League of Denial?

A: No.

Q: It’s about the concussions in the league.

A: No, I have not (seen it). I’ve read a lot of concussion stuff obviously for the last four or five years as a head coach.

Q: You talk all the time about what the game has done for you. Are you conflicted at all knowing what it has done to a lot of guys along the way?
A: I’m not as schooled up on it as far as the legal aspect of it. I do think that there’s risk and reward in everything that you do in life. Especially in how far you continue in this game. I think that I’ve always thought that there is great reward in this game. For me personally because I can’t really speak, haven’t played at all the different levels and coached at all the different levels, I’m not here to say, ‘Hey, this is how coaches feels about this and this is his opinion and this is how it should be.’ I don’t want to be that type of spokesperson. Personally, I always felt that I knew what I was getting myself in to and everyone that I’ve been associated with and I’ve been cut by so many different teams, I always felt we had great care, people that looked out after us. That’s the truth; I was never on a team where the trainers and doctors weren’t probably over the top. Everywhere I’ve been as a head coach, the trainers and doctors have been over the top to a point where the best recommendation I can say, if something ever happened to my son, I would recommend him to the doctors we have here and when I was at Syracuse. I was going to recommend him to the doctors there. That happens a lot. People call me up, “Hey coach, I’m really not sure, my son,’ I say, ‘Hey take him to this person right here, he does a great job.’ That’s how I feel about it generally. I haven’t read anything. I’m too busy getting ready.

Q: After dealing with all of the questions and uncertainty regarding Jairus, is there a level of excitement with him returning?
A: Oh, I definitely think the level of excitement. I would think so. I’m really excited to see him back out there. We’re working him in different things going forward, but he looks better and better. It was interesting, right before the Cleveland game when he worked out I had a great sense of excitement there and now it’s carried over. I’m looking forward to him going out there and playing.

Q: Assuming he does get back in there, what can we expect out of the secondary?

A: Obviously I’m going to play the coaches card about being paranoid a little bit about letting things out schematically, but we’re working a lot of different scenarios because we do have players coming back. Right now we’re kind of working out the scenarios of if this guy gets back, just coming back, he gets injured, what we can do to make sure we’re backed up. We’re working out a lot of different scenarios in how we’re going to play in those positions. It’s a multiple position thing right now.

Q: After all of this stuff, do you think Jairus’ head is back where it needs to be?
A: Absolutely. I have no questions whatsoever about that. I don’t think that his mind was ever anywhere else outside of getting himself better. He would be better at answering that question, but as far as my perspective, what I saw, all I saw was a player coming back and just what I used to say and it wasn’t a company line, ‘Hey the kid is working hard to get back, he’s really trying to get back on that filed’ and that’s what I saw. Him studying and I never saw anything else, but him working on the injury. I didn’t see the business side of what was going on, on the outside.

Q: So you expect him to play, but aren’t certain yet as to whether he will start?
A: I got in trouble a long time ago and I’m going to elaborate a little bit (on what I said) to the production crew one time. They said, ‘Ok, who are your starters?’ and I named them all and they get through naming them and I went with 12 personnel in first and I didn’t have the fullback in the game and all of the sudden afterwards it’s like, ‘Hey you told us…’ Again depending on the personnel and what’s in the game he could easily be out there on the field, jogging in with the first unit, but we expect him to be able to play.

Q: How do you feel about Marquise Goodwin?
A: Fired up. You get a guy back there like that, I’ve always said that when he’s on the field, he looks fast and he’s had some time to rest. He kept himself in great shape; he ran a lot today and ran extremely well.

Q: You sound pretty confident that he’ll be able to go on Sunday?

A: Yes. He’s day-to-day and I feel good about him.

Q: Given all the adversity, have you given a message to the team?
A: Yeah, we work on quarters. I think I’ve said that before. We break the season up in quarters. We’re concentrating on Cincinnati right now, but knowing prior to this it was going to be a tough quarter, one game at home, three on the road. We have a six game stretch right here that we have to do a good job and I think that it’s going to say a lot about who we are and what we’re doing. That’s really the truth. The guys are playing extremely hard which is one thing I’m excited about. We have to make plays. We have to get over the top and we have to win in these games that have been close. That’s what we keep striving for. When these schedules come out, people evaluate them, you see it in the paper, you see coaches. For a coach, I know for me, I look at them too. I remember when the schedule first came out I said it was a pretty tough run right here in these next six weeks. We’ll be faced with some good challenges.

Q: It wasn’t like EJ Manuel was lighting it up so far in his rookie season. With that in mind would it be reasonable to say the drop off from EJ to Thad won’t be as huge as people may think?
A: Two things. Saying in the beginning, not lighting up, compared to maybe the rest of the NFL veteran quarterbacks, I wouldn’t disagree with you there. I think if you go back and study all the first year quarterbacks and where they were in those games, I think he’s pretty darn comparable when you look at it. You’re looking at it from the standpoint of development. For your second question, I’m going to wait to hold off and see how Thad plays. If Thad goes out there and plays extremely well, I’ll be able to answer that question saying, ‘Hey, you know what? Yes, there’s not a big difference and Thad went out there and took advantage of this opportunity.’ If he doesn’t I’d say, ‘Hey, you know what? It’s a difficult situation.’ I think a lot of it will be based on his performance in the game because in practice he looks good.

Q: How much did EJ hurt himself as far as development goes and helping the offense to find its identity?

A: Sure. I think I would be wrong to say that it hasn’t hurt him. Obviously he missed some time with the first one and obviously Detroit. Got himself ready to come back, real short, which obviously everyone appreciates and again now missing some time here. Any time where you miss that type of time, my philosophy has always been, the greatest experience in the world is being in there playing. Some people don’t have that philosophy. Some people think sitting behind and seeing someone, so I think yes it does. Now the challenge for us is how do we keep him mentally ready, how do we keep him getting better and we’ll go back to that original plans. He’s in all the meetings; he’s in everything that we’re doing which is great. Obviously we’ll take him with us, he’ll be up in the booth, he’ll be able to see things up there, how things work and we think that’s a good way to keep him training mentally as we go forward.

Q: As far as identity?
A: I don’t think we’ve really changed. The thing that you have to watch when you talk about strength and weaknesses for what you’re doing is just a matter of maybe; well not maybe, it’s definitely in the passing game. Each quarterback is a little bit different so you have X amount in the playbook and then you play to the quarterbacks strength. It really doesn’t change the run game or what we’re trying to get accomplished.

Q: You mentioned the area of third-and-two or three as something you want to focus on. Is there any time in the week to make that an emphasis?
A: Absolutely. In other words, when you do a practice schedule, you have time to dictate any type of emphasis. I think that sometimes we have to be, I know I’m conscious of it because I make the schedule, so when I look at situationally what we’re not doing well, we build it in to the schedule. Make it a point with the players, this is the situation, this is what we have to improve on and try to create the confidence to go out there on Sunday and be able to get it done.

Q: Would that be on your third down day or would you wait until Saturday which is more of a fluid day?
A: No it would be on a third down day for sure and it might be an extra day depending on where you are. We’ll definitely address those situations.

Q: What do you hope your quarterbacks get sitting in the coach’s booth that they couldn’t get on the field?
A: You get a whole different perspective you really do. I think that anyone of us that has been around, when you’re in meetings and you’re preparing and you go out and play, it’s a whole lot different. Even from a coach’s standpoint, I know that I’ve only been upstairs one time when I was at the University of Tennessee, the rest of the time I’ve been on the field with adjustments. When I was upstairs I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. It was much easier for me personally to see what was going on, where the safeties were, be able to get the plays right and what we wanted to do. Plus the environment is so much different. Things kind of get a little crazy on that sideline; I don’t care where you are. A lot of people with multiple personalities, different players, different coaches. In the booth it’s kind of quiet, depending on where you are. You’ve got something good to eat next to you, something to drink.

Q: What does Ty Powell bring to your team?
A: We think he has a lot of talent. He was someone that we were tracking. He’s big, strong, smart. He had a really good preseason, he did some things well. We wanted to bring him in there. Like him and Antoine McClain also was a guy we were tracking. At every position and I think this is where I can clarify some things, at every position, our pro personnel department is always looking to see who is playing well, maybe who is trying to hide somebody, who is moving somebody up and down. Things like that, which you see around the league and making the decision whether that can better our decision or not.

Q: What’s the biggest hurdle for Jairus Byrd to get over to become an every snap player?
A: I don’t know. I haven’t been with him before. This is the first time I’m actually seeing out there. I think if it was a player that I’ve been around for quite a bit of time, it would be easy for me to tell. Obviously he’s played at a very high level last year so we’re expecting him to get back to that level. I think it’s the same thing, we’ll see how he does in performance when he gets back out there.

Q: Any firm timetable for EJ yet?
A: No and talking to the doctors they’re not ready to tell me a timetable. Obviously I’m trying to push them because I understand that I’ll get asked that question every week, so the doctors just and that’s the truth, the doctor says. ‘Let’s just get everything to calm down, see where he is, start working him a little bit and we’ll be able to put more of a timetable for it.’

Q: If there’s a silver lining in this injury to EJ, how much will watching from the booth help his development?
A: I don’t think I’d use the term silver lining because I’d rather him be out there. I think it’s the same thing; the challenge is how do you keep him developing? If we just had him in meetings and didn’t take him with us, we have him conditioned to exactly what we want done, so he’s game planning just as he would be as a starter, as all of our quarterbacks are doing or should be doing. I think in the box gives him little bit added perspective of what’s going on and I think that’s helped Thad. I think you’d have to ask him, but that’s what we’ve seen from the players that we’ve done it with.

Q: What prompted the call up of Brandon Smith from the practice squad this week?
A: Like I’ve said before, a lot of these guys that we’ve acquired whether we’ve acquired them late, we want to see what they can do. We like their skill sets, so we’re going to try to bring them up and get them out there. I think the worst mistake you can make as a coach is to have people on your roster and at the end of the day not knowing. Then the year is over and you’re like, ‘Well I don’t really know, let’s keep him around for another year. Well we really like him.’ Let’s go out there, this is about playing and being productive and winning. Let’s put them out there on the field and see if they can do it.

Q: Have you ever had a concussion?
A: No. Actually, I take that back, yes I did. I did when I was in Miami.