Bill Cowher Press Conference -Week 3-

<b>BILL COWHER</b><br><br>OK. First thing I'd like to do is announce a roster move. We've released Erik Flowers and brought on Dante Brown and we've signed him. That's our current roster. <br><br>The health of our team going into the Cincinnati game, we have three players who are questionable. Jeff Hartings has a left ankle. Verron Haynes has a left knee. And Joey Porter is questionable at this time. Three players are probable.

They are Clark Haggans with a knee, Chris Hope with a groin and Mike Logan with a quad contusion.

We know we're going to play a football team that lost a tough game last week and, at 0-2, this becomes a very, very important game for them. They're playing at home and Marvin (Lewis)'s first game against our football team will be somewhat special to him, so this will be a big challenge for us.

Q: Could you talk about what the addition of Dante Brown means?
A: We'd be hard-pressed to go into a game with just three backs. We were contemplating it last week, doing it, and I think at this point it's the right thing to do at this time.  

Q: Are you considering changes in your starting lineup?
A: No. Be very careful after only two games to suddenly try to make changes, which would maybe implicate one player here and one player there. We recognize we have to run the football better. We recognize we have to play better red-zone defense. Those are some observations you make after two games. It might be a little bit of a stretch to imply we lost the game because we didn't run the ball. You look at last week's game and in my mind there were five very big plays. And of those five big plays, we were on the wrong end of four of them. That had a lot to do with the outcome of the game. You've gotta run the ball. We're striving for balance, just like when we were running the ball and everybody wanted us to throw the ball more. Yes, we recognize we need to be more effective running the ball. We need to be more effective playing red-zone defense as well. When you watch the video, if we could hold them to field goals, and a lot of top defenses do that, it would be a better indication of how we played instead of every time they got down there they scored. We understand where we're at, and I think there are some things that are very correctable.  

Q: Any reasons for problems in red zone?
A: I wish there was. It just seems like it's one thing here, one thing there. It just seems like we can't make a play down there on third down. It's hard to put the finger on it. Again, we're looking at it as a staff to make sure we do a good job of getting our guys more aware, and maybe not try to do so much, maybe limit what we do and do it well. We're looking at it as a staff first, maybe get some awareness.  

Q: What changes in the red zone?
A: Obviously the field people have to work with and there are voids you have to be tighter on. The coverage that's three or four yards down the field might be acceptable, but down there it's not. You're looking for tighter coverage. This is not to say we're not playing good pass defense or we're not playing good run defense, it's a combination of the two of them.  

Q: Was it problems with coverage or was it their superior returner?
A: I think a little bit of both. The first kickoff, no one got a hand on him. They did a good job of executing their return and we didn't do a good job of keeping leverage on the returner. It's all how you want to look at it. We weren't very good. That was a good kick. On the punt return they had, it was not one of Josh's better kicks, but at the same time we lost containment on the outside and we had a chance to have it contained. We had a chance to make a play down there. He has good speed. He can make a lot of people miss. And when there's a hole, he returns kicks a lot like Priest Holmes runs the ball. If you have one guy out of place, they have a way of finding that and exploiting that. Give credit to them, but at the same time we've got to get better at it.  

Q: Any changes on special teams?
A: There might be a few.  

Q: When Marvin was he, did you have any inkling he might be a coach some day?
A: I don't know if you foresee. I know when Marvin was here he was coaching the linebackers. When he went Baltimore and kind of branched out on his own there and went to the Super Bowl, and really had a defense some people call one of the best defenses. When you talk about a whole year of coordinating and running that, I think you realize he had all the qualities. He's a guy who's paid his dues in the league. I remember him coming in. He was part of the fellowship program in Kansas City. And I knew him from playing football against him at Fort Cherry. And I know when I got the job here he was one of the first guys I contacted. He's always had a great passion for the game, and I though he was always good working with players. You could see that the more he was here. And he got thrown into a pretty good group. You want to talk about a young coach who was the same age as some of the guys he was coaching, like Greg and Hardy and J. Williams and David Little. A couple guys were older than he was. Bryan Hinkle. That's kind of how I got started. You're coaching guys you could probably be playing with. There are a lot of pluses with that. I think the players learn to respect you; you learn to deal with players. He's paid his dues. He's a good football coach who understands the game and I think his players enjoy playing for him, and you can see that. Even though they're 0-2 they've gotten a lot better from Week One to Week Two. You can just see the whole approach they have to the game is one of renewed energy that they have down there.  

Q: Did you know him in high school?
A: Carlynton and Fort Cherry is a pretty good rivalry. I remember we had about six guys go up to the IUP Football Camp. They had about six guys go up there. There was some trash talking done at that camp about the game we were going to play that next game. They won 6-0 on a kickoff return for a touchdown. How ironic is that?  

Q: Were you on the coverage team?
A: No I was not. And even if I was, you'd have to go back into the films to find that one. I wouldn't tell you. But, yeah, we did. He was a quarterback. It was a big rivalry. We kind of knew each other there. When we were in Cleveland, we practiced in Albuquerque and he was at New Mexico at the time. He'd come over and we talked a little bit down there. Ended up going to Kansas City. He was out of Long Beach at the time. I believe that's where he was. He came in through the fellowship program and I watched him pay his dues along the way. You respect people who do that. He's worked for everything he's achieved. You can only respect guys who do that.  

Q: Do you try to avoid using starters on special teams?
A: We use starters on special teams. Our punt team has Farrior and Haggans on it. Brent Alexander has been on the kickoff teams. We use them sporadically throughout. We don't want to use them on all four phases. We don't have a problem using them.  

Q: Did you have to sit Joey down and explain his status?
A: Oh yeah. I said until I see him practice he's questionable. He's not real happy he's questionable. In his mind it's not even a question.  

Q: Has the bullet wound cleared up?
A: He's had some tests done and everything looks good at this point. It's just a matter of watching him work, watching him hit, watching him run and accelerate, move when he has to not think about it. He has to react. So I'm sure he'll be upgraded at some point.  

Q: If he plays, will he start?
A: We'll see where he's at. I want to see where he's at by the end of the week. He probably would start. How much he plays at that point? Clark's played pretty well in his place. A lot of it might be more from a conditioning standpoint. He ran pretty good last week. He pushed himself pretty hard. Again it's not football shape. He's been out a couple weeks now. A lot will have to do with how he feels.  

Q: Are you satisfied with the play of the pass defense, even with the penalties?
A: Yeah, we've had some penalties, but to be honest with you I look around the league and I'm seeing penalties in every game. When you play bump-and-run coverage, which we've probably played more of in the first two games than we have in the past, there's going to be contact and some situations where there's going to be judgment calls, and I think those are some of the things you have to be willing to live with. But at the same time, I think our coverage has been tighter. I think we'll get a good test this week because of Kitna and Johnson and Warrick. He's put up some big numbers the last few times we've played him. But like I said, you come out of the game in Kansas City, we had a few breakdowns in the running game and Priest exploited them, but I thought we did a pretty good job handling some of the checks. When they went to the empty sets, we kind of got them out of that a little bit. So if these are the problems we have to correct, I don't think the running game is going to be a problem. I don't want to speak prematurely, but I'd rather have to correct that problem than what we were facing a year ago all the time.  

Q: Do you have to be careful not to take Cincinnati lightly?
A: No. We've played them. We know the last couple times we played these guys it goes down to the wire. Last year we had to make a play in the end zone to stop the game from going into overtime. We were fortunate the first game last year because we got off to such a big lead. And then the year before they beat us. They were one of the few teams to beat us down the stretch. We know. We play Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore and people don't look at records. They know us; we know them. They're not intimidated by us. This is a football team whose backs are against the wall. A new coach, playing at home, talking about getting their fans involved – this is a big, big game for them, an early-season big, big game and we recognize that clearly.  

Q: Do your offensive linemen enjoy run blocking more?
A: They enjoy it when you do it effectively. Again, I think we all recognize we have to have more balance. We need to do that and be more efficient doing it, and we need to be more persistent in our approach to it as well. Again, it is a situation we have to address. At the same time we're not going to abandon throwing the football. It's something we do pretty well. But we do recognize the balance that needs to be there.  

Q: Was Amos tentative or are the holes not there?
A: I don't know. Sometimes you have to make your own holes. Sometimes they are there. Sometimes he does a great job of making something out of nothing. Again, I think it's got to be our persistence in staying with it. As with anything else, the more you do something the better you become.  

Q: Do you need more balance in the passing game itself?
A: No. We're going to take what they give us. We set up plays and there are No. 1 and No. 2 options, but if they're taken away we feel comfortable with the other elements that are involved with it. The other day Tommy tried to force a couple balls down the field, and some of it might've been more situational with him feeling like we needed more big plays as opposed to taking what they gave us. But I'm comfortable with his decision-making and our utilization of people. All we're doing is taking what teams give us. That's how it's unfolded in two weeks. Again, after two games, be careful not to make too many generalizations about our philosophy.  

Q: Will the league follow Kansas City's lead on attacking you?
A: We've got to be prepared to see the blitz and a lot more pressure. Until you stop something like that, people feel like it's effective against you. We were close to hitting a big one, a quick slant to Plax the other day. He almost broke the tackle. Those are the types of things you've got to be able to do something so teams watching say ‘we've got to be careful.' At the same time, if they feel they're affecting your rhythm, your timing, your efficiency, then you're going to keep getting it until you show an ability to beat it. We anticipate pressure and it will fall into a lot of the approach Cincinnati's already taken in their first two games.  

Q: What did the Bengals do well in Oakland?
A: They did a good job defensively of taking away the big play. They were close to their receivers. And I thought offensively they moved the ball. They converted some third downs, did a good job there. They had a tough interception near the end of the fourth quarter going in, then came back to tie the game. They played well. They ran the ball well. Dillon had a good game. Bennett stepped in when Dillon got hurt there for a period of time, and he played well. And I thought defensively they did a good job. They didn't give them any big plays and they kept Oakland pretty much off balance.  

Q: Will they use four and five wides?
A: At times. Bob (Bratkowski) is still down there, so it's still the same offense. They know us. They didn't look much different from what we saw last year against them. The defensive side is a lot different because it's the first year with Marvin being down there with that defense, but the offensive side is still the same. Brat's still running their offense.  

Q: What are they doing so well in pass coverage?
A: They're mixing up base coverages with some pressure. They've got two tackles who can get some push in the middle, Thornton and Williams. Justin Smith's a good edge rusher, and James and Burris have played well as the two corners. They've made a lot of plays. Tory went back to play his ex-teammates last week and you could see he relished making a few plays there. They're playing very sound, not beating themselves. They got behind real early against Denver in the first week but they were very, very impressive last week.  

Q: What's Tommy's best asset against the rush?
A: His decision making without a doubt. And he's got a quick release. He's a guy who stays in there. He threw a couple passes in the face of pressure the other day. He sees things coming, knows where he has to go with the ball and he can get rid of it very quick.  

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