Bill Cowher Press Conference Week 15

<b>BILL COWHER</b><br> Let me give you the injury update. Marvel (Smith) is out this week. He's better than he was last week but he will not play this week. Again, it'll be week-to-week. We have a player who is doubtful and that is Verron Haynes with an ankle and a knee. He sustained both in the game. He kind of played throughout it but MRIs are being done today to see the extent of the injuries.

Four players are probable: Jerome Bettis (quad), Brent Alexander (ankle), Chidi Iwuoma (groin) and Deshea Townsend (shoulder).

Q: Coach, you ran the ball pretty well against Oakland. Now the Jets are last against the run. Is that encouraging?

A: Rankings are one thing. I think when you watch the New York Jets you look at their front four. It's a pretty stout front four. You have Jason Ferguson and I think three number ones, Shaun Ellis, Bryan Thomas and Dewayne Robertson, then a pretty good group of linebackers, so again we'd like to go up there and have good balance.

Q: Bill, Oliver Ross has been serviceable on that right side the last three weeks or so, is he doing anything differently?

A: No. We had zero sacks. That's the good news. The bad news is we had five holding calls. Maybe that's why we had zero sacks. I think we have gotten better. I think Kendall (Simmons) and Oliver (Ross) have certainly been playing with one another and have gotten acclimated with one another. Not all the holding calls, as we looked at them yesterday, I think of that one commercial where the guy says 'we could call holding on every play; we decided to call it now just to peeve you off.' I look at that and on some we have to do a better job of keeping our hands inside, and sometimes the effect of how a player falls down. None of the officials see the end. There's no question I think the right side, Oliver and Kendall, have gotten acclimated to one another and they've played better.

Q: What special qualities is James Farrior bringing?

A: He's a very consistent player. I think you look at it and know it's kind of a vague statement but with him you know what you're getting each week. He's got a lot of versatility; he's understood the dime package; he's a very instinctive player; he runs the defense, calls the signals. He's very natural at doing that. Some people look at that as a burden. He kind of accepts that. He likes that. He's invaluable. Like I said, he's kind of grown into this position. He was thrown into it his first year but he's been a very consistent performer, very productive. He's been a very good leader for us.

Q: Was it tough to give him that much responsibility last year?

A: Yeah. It's kind of like a rookie, particularly with our defense. Our defense is not one many people are able to walk in the first time and feel comfortable in. We had John Fiala ready to take that position but James is a football player. He makes plays; he can run; he's got excellent speed; instinctive. I think he brings more speed to our defense when he's on the field and he was able to handle it. It was a little on the job learning the last year, particularly when I was going through the New England and Oakland games, all empty backfield. He got indoctrinated early into the system, into the checks, how to run it, and probably as a result of that became more comfortable quicker.

Q: Jeff Hartings was concerned about his knee, but hasn't he been one of your more reliable players?

A: There's no question, Jerry. He has been so quietly dependable. I go back to a week ago and they said he's going to be out a week or two and he said 'no, no, I'll be ready by Friday.' And he got out there Friday. He's played every week. He's been very solid. You look at him and Alan (Faneca), those two guys have anchored that offensive line. He's played very well and actually has not missed many practices at all. As much as we wanted to monitor him, he feels like it's his responsibility to be out there. I've got tremendous respect for Jeff and how he's played this year and how he's approached this year.

Q: Could Faneca become a Pro Bowl tackle and if so would there be consideration into leaving him there? Or has Oliver Ross played himself into a starting position for next year?

A: Those are things you reflect on for next year. We're not going to sit here and talk about next year. We're just worrying about the Jets. But I think I said this about Alan Faneca: I think he's a Pro Bowl offensive lineman. Wherever you put him, he's going to excel. I think he's that good. You could put Alan wherever you want. He's a very good guard. I think that's a very natural position for him. And I think with what we do, it's nice to have that guy there. But right now he's gone out to tackle and like I said he's taken a very unselfish approach to this. He's a good football player.

Q: In the defense you run, what do you expect out of your front three?

A: We don't look at it from the standpoint of what we expect out of our linemen. You look at it from the standpoint of first and second down. There are certain things we're doing. Our linemen all the time aren't just sitting there all the time playing two-gap and coming off. They slant, penetrate. We want them to be into the backfield creating pressure. The fact we have four linebackers and three down linemen, you're going to have more sacks by the linebackers than a 4-3 would have just because of the mere numbers. But I look at our down linemen and they have been very consistent. They are very much a part of the foundation for a 34 defense in terms of using blockers in the running game, getting penetration where one guy should not be able to stay blocked, and I think sacks sometimes become a product of that. Sometimes they're a product of where they end up being. A couple times we had him flushed out and Kimo (von Oelhoffen) was where he should be. Another time he just beat the tackle. It was a great rush on his part, so sometimes those things run their course.

Q: Was that as good as the coverage has been all season?

A: It was good. We played well on defense. It was a very good effort, even two weeks before that against Cleveland, with them coming off a 400-yard game against Arizona. The confidence with which they came into the game with was probably a little more impressive, given on the road. It was good. When you give up 161 yards total offense, that's a good effort. When you hold them one for 12 on third down, that's a good effort. It's hard to say it wasn't, and so certainly we're going to get tested this week. The quarterback is a very good quarterback. He's got a good group of weapons in Santana Moss, Curtis Conway, Anthony Becht and having to stop Curtis Martin, so we'll have a good test and we'll be measured this week.

Q: Why haven't the Jets been better? Or are they getting better since Chad Pennington's come back?

A: There's no question they've gotten better since Pennington's been back. He's a solid quarterback. He's mobile. He's accurate. He runs that offense very well. You saw what they did to Tennessee on Monday night two weeks ago. They played a tough game against Buffalo last weekend. They're a good football team. They got off to a tough start because they didn't have their starting quarterback but since he's been back they've been a very, very consistent team and has played as well as anyone in the league has played.

Q: Why do you think Pennington is a good quarterback?

A: He's a great student of the game. I think he's always been a great student of the game. I think he's always studied the game. I think he has very natural leadership skills. He's got good awareness, good field presence, makes good decisions, has a good touch on the ball, has decent mobility and knows how to feel the rush. He's got all the qualities you're looking for and his record speaks for itself.

Q: Was it ideal for him to sit on the bench a few years and learn rather than throwing him in there?

A: Yeah. I think it worked out well. McNair was the same way. He sat for a few years and was able to watch the game and see the game and get acclimated to the speed of it. That's the thing that makes it hard to adjust to. If you're not thrown in it right away maybe your confidence isn't dampened a little bit. But you still need the experience and that's going to come. I've been impressed with the kid ever since he's come in and played and he's never really looked back.

Q: What's been the big difference in Kimo von Oelhoffen this year?

A: It's hard to say. I think he's healthier. Last year his shoulder was bothering him. It seems like he's healthier this time of year than he's been in years past. But he's been playing very well, as Aaron (Smith) has and Casey (Hampton).

Q: Does it help to have the playoff hope alive?

A: It's motivation when it's there. It's a very remote possibility at this point. The more important thing is making them look at the big picture. The challenge we have is can we put together consecutive performances. That's the challenge we have. That's the one thing we've not been able to do this year to this point is win back-to-back games. You've got to crawl before you walk and right now we've got to be able to do that. We recognize the playoffs are there, as remote as it may seem, but the most important thing right now is we take this one game at a time and try to win two in a row. That to be is the biggest challenge we have.

Q: Is that indicative of another problem?

A: Yeah. We've been consistently inconsistent. That's the frustrating thing when you look at it not just from a coaching standpoint but from a player's standpoint. It's hard for them to put the finger on it. I don't see us all of the sudden relaxing and saying 'OK, we finally won one.' We realize what you have to be able to do at periods in a season. For whatever reason we have not been able to string together consecutive wins. It's recognized and that's the challenge, not worrying about what Oakland does, what Cincinnati does. Our concern right now is just getting ready to play the Jets and trying to put together another performance.

Q: Coach, why does Ike Taylor have more kickoff returns than Antwaan Randle El?

A: We've tried to get Ike the ball. Returning kickoffs takes a different mindset than returning punts. There's a lot more timing with kickoffs. You have to hit things and hit things fast and trust it. It's a different, different mindset. Dante Hall's probably unique in that respect. That's the thing we've tried to talk with El about because he's become more patient as a punt returner, but too patient for kickoff returns. You see it, you've got to hit it and trust it. That's the thing you try to understand when you go out there.

Q: Is Ike better equipped to handle kickoffs?

A: Yeah, just the way he just goes. He sees a crease, he goes. El's done it. Not that El's bad at it. Right now he's in a zone returning punts and I don't want to screw around with what he's thinking. Just let him go, do his thing on the punts and hopefully we won't have too many kickoffs and won't have to worry about it.

A year ago, you knew he had it in him if he could let his body catch up with his feet. Sometimes his feet are going too fast. And then as he started to get a feel for the returning part of it, setting up blocks, you could see him getting better and better. I think last year we had a return late in the season, here, you could kind of see him kind of get the feel for it. He's a special guy with the ball in his hands. There's no way anybody knows where he's going because we don't know where he's going.

Q: Is that why he gets so many ear-hole blocks? Is it his patience?

A: Plus we got some kicks. That's what happens at this time of year. To kick a ball is not the most predictable thing when it's 30 degrees with swirling winds. It's not the same as it is in September. We're getting some balls that were returnable. We were able to give him some space. And we do have some design to our return, and he has done a very good job of setting a lot of those blocks up.

Q: Is talent a problem here? Or do you rank with the best teams in the league in terms of talent?

A: I don't sit there and assess that. I have not looked at the other teams. To me it's all what you do on the field. Results are the bottom line.

Q: How did you rate Pennington? Did you come close to drafting him? Do you recall back that far?

A: Yeah. Sure do. Oh, we liked him a lot, spent a lot of time, a couple days down in Tennessee. He worked out down there. Sat down with him. Spent a lot of time with him. Got to know him and his father. He's got a great upbringing. His dad coached him. Like I said, he loves football. It didn't work out that he came here but there was no doubt I think that he was going to be a successful quarterback. I shouldn't say there's no doubt because I don't think you ever know about anybody until they come in. He certainly has the right mental makeup. He loves the game of football. There's no question.

Q: If the statute of limitations is up on such things, can you now confirm that you tried to make a draft-day deal?

A: I don't think it serves any purpose to even go back there.

Q: Is Casey Hampton having a good year?

A: He's having a very good year. Let's see how the season's over. It's hard for me to reflect back on last year but he's playing very well.

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