What is Steve Smith's situation?
Steve has a fractured scapula. He will probably be two weeks maybe, and then week to week.
Is there any kind of surgery on that?
No. At least in this case, no.
Plaxico has a sprained finger and sprained ankle, do you know his status for next week?
Well, he has had this ankle, so hopefully he knows how to work with it and we can get him back.
Any thoughts on the defense?
The first and second down run defense obviously got better during the game. Now that is not to say the third down run that bounced out of there didn't disrupt all thoughts of that, but the first and second down run defense was better. They ran to our right side and we did a better job there as the game progressed. Now if we can generate more pressure and put ourselves in position... A couple of times, not as an excuse and not as an all the time thing, but a couple of times technically we would give up the alignment position that we took; we would take an inside position and get beat inside, you can't do that. You have to be able to maintain leverage in the position that you are given. I think it's the continuous technical advancement, trying to get better in those areas. When (Aaron) Ross played he played decently and we certainly would like to see more of him. You just have to keep working at it. On some occasions, not as many as the week before, the underneath coverage was not as good as it should have been, it wasn't like it was the week before, it was a little bit better, but it still has a ways to go.
Are you concerned at all about morale?
No. We talked about, as we always do, to be very honest, very open, about the reason that we lost the game, and having to go ahead and improve on the areas obviously that are getting us beat. Primarily what we have to do is go back to one of the oldest axioms in football and that is to keep from beating ourselves before we can expect to go forth and beat someone else. I think that is where we are. With regard to the penalties that took opportunities off the board, the chances that we had to establish the kind of momentum that people feed on we seemed to take away from ourselves. We would score in two plays but we would get down there and then go backwards because of penalty or we would get down there and we would stall and then miss the field goal as we did in that first series, which gave us really something to reinforce what we were doing. We wanted the touchdown and we didn't get it and we turn around and miss a field goal. I just think those are the things we have to improve upon. We have to be able to play when behind with a little bit more of an idea of continuity and consistency, rather than a good play and a bad play and a good play and a bad play. I think special teams definitely have to improve. We had some breakdowns there; some of our young people not performing quite the way we expected them to. We did have the fumble, we did have the missed field goal, we did have the couple of long kickoff returns, and we did have the one foolish penalty, so that is an area where we do have to sure up as well.
Do you see Aaron Ross eventually being able to get in more and help the defense?
Well we will see. We certainly would like to see him. This was a perfect game for the role that he had and he missed the whole second half, if you will. I would like to see him play more but he did have a role that would have allowed him to do that because of the way they play.
Is it a delicate balance for you between a sense of urgency to turn this around and not losing the player's confidence?
Obviously we have to win a game. We have to win. I think some of what we are going through may be a confidence thing. You have to earn it; you have to earn that confidence. There was an opportunity against Dallas late in the game to do something about that, there were opportunities yesterday. I know we all want to sit and reflect, me especially, and look at the score and be embarrassed by that, but that is a 21-13 game when the fumble occurs and then it is only a two score game even after that. Plenty of time to play. Admittedly a good defensive team we were playing against. It might be uphill but there are opportunities, there are chances, and we have to take advantage of it. Even though you might say meaningless, that last drive was 15 plays, getting the ball to the ten-yard line and not scoring there. That bothered me. All those things bother me. There are a lot of areas we can improve upon. You would think some of the things we would have ironed out for week 2; we didn't get that part of it done, we didn't improve to the nature that I would like to, there are obvious reasons for that, but still they are facts.
Was there an area above all else that bothered you the most?
I wouldn't go there. I think there are areas in all phases that bother me. There are individual breakdowns that definitely did, but not one over the other.
We were told that press coverage was going to be a big part of this defense and we are not seeing that, why is that?
We are in that alignment position and we do play it. I would think you are saying that the majority of the time, but it is not the majority of the time, it is an in and out thing. We do want to feature some of it. We obviously want to be good at it if we are going to feature it. Getting into the other phases that go along with it, when you are not pressed how are you going to play and what are you doing to disrupt their timing and their rhythm. I kind of thought your question was going the other way…
My question is, is it an execution thing?
It is always that. It is percentages that you play within the scheme too. It is not an all the time thing, it never was intended to be an all the time thing.
What gives you hope that this defense is moving forward?
Just that we keep working at it and the players are on board with what we are doing in the scheme. As I said, there are slight areas of improvement that we can point to. There are other things that we believe we are going to get better at, pressure being one of them. I just think the improved caliber of play certainly is going to do something about those numbers and the issue is bringing a lot of people along as fast as we can in order to necessitate that aspect of it.
Are there any changes to the starting lineup that you might do?
Well there may be. The players that we have are the players that we have. They are going to be utilized as best as we possibly can in different alignment groupings and different scenarios. The development of a couple of these young guys is going to enhance our defense as well, one being (Aaron) Ross if we can continue to bring him along. I thought (Mathias) Kiwanuka played better yesterday in the role that we had for him.
Is Kiwanuka being used properly?
I think he is being used properly, but as you say, there are a couple of schemes where he is not involved in the rush in a substituted package and then there are other schemes that he is. The big frustration right now is no one getting home when the opportunity is there. That is something that we continue to grind away at.
Is Michael Strahan just working his way into the game?
As you know yesterday the ball was run primarily on the other side. He did have a couple of chances, one you saw him make a nice play on a run at him, but I think he is still getting his timing, getting his rhythm, getting himself in position for where he can call upon his abilities as we rush the passer, and I think he is in the process of that. He certainly is not there yet.
How long is that going to take?
Hopefully fast. Hopefully as soon as he can.
Is it a combination of things that has not allowed you to get home on the pass rush?
It always is that. The ball came out fast yesterday. The shorter pass game, that kind of thing, that is certainly part of it. Let's face it, if it is the three-step drop game or the short pass game, you are not going to get there with much percentage because the ball is going to be out quick so you do have some of that. There are other times when he did take the full drop, which we talked about after the game, where we did have some pressure and it did result in an inaccurate throw or something of that nature, but we need more of it. We need more of it.
You mentioned there are some situations where Kiwanuka is not on the field. The whole reason to make him a linebacker was to get him on the field, why would there be any situations when he wouldn't be out there?
When he does come off the field, there is one particular unit there when we substitute a defensive back for one linebacker and the four front people remain the same, that is the only scheme. It is not an all the time scheme, but it is a sometimes scheme.
Last year didn't you rotate him in as a defensive tackle to put your three best pass rushers on the field? Why take him off now?
Obviously we are trying to get four of them on the field. There is also a level of how many different things are you going throw at a guy. He is still trying to make sure that he has the opportunity to be the linebacker that he thinks he can be. We never have played all four of those guys down. (Justin) Tuck is the guy right now that slides inside, plays over the guard, and shows you that he does have the ability from that spot. He pressures, he pressured yesterday and got a sack. He has done a good job. (Fred) Robbins has rushed the passer from the other tackle position and the two ends have remained the same. As we move forward will we improve or increase his play time at end? Maybe. Maybe that will be something that we will go to. I haven't talked to the coaches yet this afternoon, which I will do when I go back upstairs, about moving forward and where we need to go from here. Perhaps that is something that would increase our pressure, we will see.
Last year the defense did not come out strong and they turned things around after the bye week with a couple of changes, is that something that can be done?
Well I think so. We will use whatever we can possibly use to help that. It is a different set of circumstances obviously. One of the things that is again a little bit frustrating is because we do have the three ends plus Kiwanuka, so we do have the four ends available, we aren't suffering from any injury, although Osi (Umenyiora) didn't get much practice time last week and anytime you don't practice you are not going to be as sharp, you can't be. We do have those guys and they are playing but they are at different stages and we have a long way to go here. We have a long way to go. Hopefully we will get to the point where all of these guys are firing with the same level of speed off the ball and we can improve that pressure.
We have seen a lot of different defensive schemes, is there any thought to keeping it simple?
We do have a sense that we are pretty basic, to be honest with you; we do have a sense about that. I don't really care to go a whole lot more basic, to be honest with you, but we keep pounding away at the fundamentals, pounding away at that.
Were you surprised to see the stats that you were limiting them to only two yards per run before the long run they had?
Not really because, like I said, I had a sense that our first and second down stuff have really improved. The thing that happened though was that we were forcing them into those second and eights and those second and tens and they were making first downs. You didn't get a grasp of if we were firing on all cylinders, but we did have some success against the run.
You have seemed to have a lot of problems against covering the tight ends?
Well they hit us on some short passes where our coverage, on occasion, was a little soft on them. You would be three or less than five and we would be a little soft in coverage, they would catch the ball, and we would get the initial tackle, but they would have the first down. We do need to tighten that part of it up a little bit too.
Did you think that after sitting out training camp that it would take a few games for Michael Strahan to get back up to speed?
I think you have to be realistic. As exceptional a football player as he is, he had no work until he got here. To expect that there wouldn't be some time involved in the process I think is a little bit unrealistic. To be honest with you, because of the injury to Osi (Umenyiora) in the first game, he played more than the expectation was. Then the injury carried over and he has practiced and played more than the expectation might have been yesterday as well. He has actually probably played more snaps than I would have intended that he would. You can look at that two ways; he has had more time to work at it but he is in the process, that is all I can say.
His absence has certainly hurt him a few games of getting back into his old self?
Remember what we said when he did come in, that was in the past and we are going forward, lets go. It still doesn't mean that you are going to be unrealistic of what you are going to see for a while. To be honest with you, he has done an outstanding job. His post game, he doesn't seem to be fatigued, he doesn't seem to be overly sore, and from that standpoint he has done well.
How do you deal with the penalties yesterday?
Well I deal with it just like I deal with anything else; I am open and honest about it to the individuals and to the team and the players know exactly what the circumstances are. Again, it is done. The fact of the matter is that they occurred and we pay a penalty for it, we pay a price for it. They certainly are aware of it and they obviously wish it didn't happen, but it did happen.
Did you understand how Shockey's penalty was enforced?
That is a very good question and I am going to ask for an interpretation. On the field at the time the referee very hurriedly announced to me that he couldn't stay there long but…etc. My simple position was if it is going to be called a delay of game, delay of game is a dead ball foul, if it is a dead ball foul the play is already over so why aren't we going to subtract five from here instead of going back and replaying the down.
Were you harmed in some way by having them have a penalty because then the penalties offset?
I don't know. That may be what they come back to me with, I am not sure.
Is there any definition of different delays of game?
That is what we have to find out. On paper, delay of game is delay of game; it means the game is not going on.
It had to do with the spiking penalty?
They called it. It was called, we know what the rule is, and we know how it is going to be called.
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