BB: On the injury update, we think these guys are really working hard to get healthy. They're sleeping in the training room. They were there all night. Yesterday the three guys that didn't practice were Joe (Andruzzi), Damien (Woody) and Troy (Brown). I think they're all making progress. Everybody else is out there and at least did something in varying degrees. So I think we're going to come down to wire on just about everybody. But, I feel good about the fact that they're really pushing to be out there. Our trainers are working hard with them and we'll just have to see what happens. Today is a day where we want to get started a little bit, normally we wait until Friday to get into the red zone, but we want to start a little bit early just because of the proficiency that San Diego has shown in that area of the field on both sides of the ball. They've really done a good job of converting opportunities offensively and getting touchdowns with them and nobody's scored on them on their defense so that will be a big challenge for us to see if we can get the ball in the end zone down there in that situation and create some points. So that's where were at in terms of our preparation. We'll just take these guys day-by-day and see what it looks like.
Q: Are you more likely to bring those guys, even you said you didn't want to because it was so far?
BB: If we bring them it will be with the expectation that they have a real good chance to play and if we don't feel that way I don't think there's a lot to gain by traveling back and forth across the country in two days. If they have a chance, we'll ride it out and see what happens.
Q: Are you going to miss the opportunity to chase Doug Flutie around?
BB: Well, we have to certainly be prepared for that. Just like everybody else that we play, he's one play away from being in there. We got into that situation against Buffalo two years ago where Rob (Johnson) got hurt and Doug came in. We didn't really expect it to start that way, but that's the way it went.
Q: Marty Schottenheimer mentioned yesterday that he can't think of anything more difficult for a defensive coach to have to deal with than Doug Flutie after a team has spent time getting ready for somebody else. Is Drew Brees at all similar to him?
BB: Drew can move around a little bit back there, he's not a statue in the pocket. I don't think he has Flutie's escape ability; I don't know if anybody else does either. Not many do. Doug has just a lot of quickness in the pocket. Drew is athletic and they run a bunch of bootlegs where they're rolling out of the pocket. That's one of their favorite plays so you know your going to get that several times in the game. We've seen him step up in the pocket and pull the ball down and run for first downs and that kind of thing. He's not in the Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair category, I don't mean to advertise it that way, but he's not going to just stand back there in the pocket and be a statue in the middle of the pocket. Either they move him out and he will step up and he can throw on the run and they'll run some misdirection plays with him.
Q: Even though it wasn't an injury situation with (Michael) Vick and (Chris) Chandler last year. Does it make it a little bit easier for you guys to prepare for two quarterbacks?
BB: Well it's not easy. It's tough. But that's what you have to do because that could happen at any time in the game. That's out of our control. Right, Vick/Chandler is a good example, Flutie/Rob Johnson last year was another where he go got hurt in the game.
Q: How different is their defense from the other three defenses you have faced this year?
BB: I think all four defenses that we faced this year, the three that we played and San Diego, they all are quite a bit different. Pittsburgh, of course, was 3-4 based and a big zone blitz team. The Jets were more of a cover two team. Of course, Kansas City was a real multiple team between, kind of all or nothing, either all out blitz or a lot of guys in coverage. San Diego I think is maybe a little bit more of a conventional defensive team. They run more of the conventional coverages. They're a lot of four man rush. They will pressure, they're not in a three man rush very often. They do it a little bit in some sub situations to bring an extra guy to try and confuse the offense similar to (Bill) Arnsparger's original '53 defense back when he was at Miami where they bring different guys as a fourth rusher. But that's more of a sub-defensive passing situation call. They play a lot of man-to-man press coverage and their corners are good and they've got another one with (Quentin) Jammer. The receivers are really going to be challenged at the line of scrimmage, there are not a lot of free releases into the secondary. I think they do a lot of things that we have all seen before, but they do them well. They're not pulling stuff, you know, a lot of grab bag stuff, pulling stuff out of the blue. They do what they do, but they do it well and it starts with their front four, their front seven. They put a lot of pressure on you at the line of scrimmage. But their secondary is good, they are active and they do a good job of jamming and harassing the receivers and making it difficult for the receivers to get into the secondary to run their patterns. And while the quarterback is waiting for them to get open, then the problem is whether or not you can hold off the pass rush. That's what has happened to Houston, to Cincinnati, and to Arizona a little bit too. They fell behind and San Diego could crank up the pass rush and in a lot of cases it went from bad to worse during the game because they were able to really put a lot of pressure on the passing game.
Q: Not to chalk up this game as a win before you play it, whether you finish the month 3-1 or 4-0, just what does it mean to you as a team knowing that you set this goal 'targeting September' in training camp?
BB: Right, well can't do any better than we've done to this point in terms of wins and losses and there is one more game on that target so that is where our attention is. I think that it's good to get off to a start where you are, and again, we all know it's a long way from being over and nobody's won anything, I'm not saying that. You're off to a decent start and you're in position to be in position to play for your division and that's where you want to be and we're going to have to, during the course of the year, we're going to have to meet a lot of challenges but right now our opportunity is to take this game and finish our goal which was to target September and to win those four games. I think getting off to that kind of start just helps your overall opportunities through the course of the season. We certainly understand that it's where you are at the end of race not at the beginning that really matters.
Q: Are you going to have t-shirts every month?
BB: We might have something for October; maybe a little Halloween t-shirt for you with some pumpkins and witches on there. We'll see what we can come up with.
Q: Can you talk about Deion Branch's maturity to this point?
BB: Deion is a real mature kid. I think that's a good word you used to describe him. He's a mature player. He had a real good career at Louisville and he does a lot of different things. He returns kicks, he can play inside, he can play outside. He can run a little bit after the catch as a returner. So we've asked him to do some different things. That might have slowed his development down a little bit asking him to play inside/outside, learn 'x' and 'z'. What we wanted to try and do was build up our flexibility with him in preseason and be able to get into a situation where if we needed to move him during the season, he would have some background as opposed to, say he plays 'x' the entire preseason and then you get into the middle of the season and something happens and you need to move him to 'z', now you're starting all over again. But it's credit to him, that he worked hard and learned those assignments and learned how to play those different positions because there are a lot of … some of it is the same but there are a lot of things that are different. He's done a good job to try to work and learn from guys with experience like Troy, like David (Patten). Charlie (Weis) and Brian (Daboll) have spent a lot of time with him as well trying to show him how certain things have to work for a pass offense to be effective. He's worked hard.
Q: Talent wise, what does this group of receivers have that is different from different receiver groups that you've had in the past, say at Cleveland?
BB: Yeah, we had a pretty good group in Cleveland. We had (Derrick) Alexander, we had (Keenan) McCardell, we had Michael Jackson. (Andre) Rison came in there the last year so there were some talented players in that group. I think this group … they compliment each other is probably the big thing. We've got a couple of guys that can fit in our offense in certain positions, in the outside positions. Then we have other guys that fit in well in the inside positions and it seems like right now we have a decent compliment with that group so that there's a good distribution for the ball the quarterback can go to different people inside or outside and have some options so where not just locked into just one spot. So, I think the versatility from that group is helping us. But overall they work well together, they've been unselfish. They really try to help each other out and they all understand that if they do their jobs that is going to create opportunities for somebody based on what the defense wants to do. Then whoever gets the opportunity can take advantage of it whether it's Donald (Hayes) or David, Troy or Deion, they've all had their chances. They've all taken advantage of it to a certain degree and made some plays.
Q: On the other side of that, could you comment on (Alex) Molden and (Ryan) McNeil?
BB: Good corners. McNeil is a guy that has had some really, really big years in the league. He's had some eight- nine-interception years, 100 tackles one year with Detroit. Ryan is a big corner, he's tall, unusually tall, 6'2" whatever he is, long arms. He is a hard guy to get around and he really does a good job at jamming and re-routing and disrupting the receivers. Molden is not quite as big. He's probably a little quicker. He has real good instincts, both guys have good hands and if the quarterback makes a bad throw they will make you pay for it. They don't drop a lot of interceptions. In fact, they make a lot of real good interceptions athletically, you know, jumping for the ball and taking low balls off the ground and stuff like that. It's a little bit of a contrast in style, but both of them … Molden is more with his quickness, McNeil is more with his size. They both have a lot of experience so they don't make a lot of mistakes, you know, biting on double moves, jumping routes when there is somebody behind them that they should be covering things like that. They're well disciplined and Molden moves into the slot on third down or at least that's what they did last week with Jammer. They put Jammer outside and moved Molden inside and he replaced Tay Cody who had been playing in there. So between Cody, Molden, McNeil and Jammer, that's pretty good depth at that position. They've got some good players there.
Q: Does it seem like they will match up according to your receivers' height?
BB: But you know, the interesting this is they don't ever match up. McNeil is always on the offensive left; Molden is always on the right unless he comes inside on the slot.
Q: Do you think they (San Diego) match according to height?
BB: Well they haven't done that. I can't tell you what they're going to do Sunday. But they haven't, that hasn't been their thing. They always keep McNeil on their right, our left and Molden vice-versa until they put the third corner in the game, then they bumped him into the slot. And it looks like they're real comfortable doing that. That's what they did last year as well. McNeil always played outside on our left. Even when Molden got hurt, they put Coty over there to play on the defensive left the offensive right and never flipped McNeil over. I think they must feel that those guys do a good job in that spot and for whatever reason don't really want to move them.
Q: Can you talk about the offensive guys you have brought in for this season, specifically at the skilled positions?
BB: That was one of our real targets in the off-season, was to try to improve our overall production from the skilled players on offense, tight end, more depth at receiver. So that was the intent. We brought in some veteran players like Cam (Cleeland) and Christian (Fauria) and Donald and also supplemented that with a couple of draft choices there (David) Givens and Branch and Graham. I think that the combination of the people that were here and the new people that are in, through training camp which I know at times it didn't always look great out there especially in some of the preseason games. Through that time frame we tried to really evaluate and see what everybody could do and learn what the best combinations were or what we thought they were. Now as the regular season has started, we've tried to put people where we think they'll be most productive relative to the other guys who were out there. That was kind of a learning situation, a work in progress if you will, in training camp. I think those guys have done a good job of adapting to what we've asked them to do and also trying to be versatile so that they're not just locked into one thing. We have some flexibility on offense.
Q: One of your tight ends said that one of the toughest thing to do coming in here was getting (Tom) Brady to look for the tight end because he wasn't used to really doing that. Is that true from your side?
BB: I think it is. It started mini-camp, and then in training camp. We chart all the passes that every quarterback throws. We chart them not when they're running scout team stuff but when they are running our plays we chart all throws. How many throws to the 'x', how many throws to the 'z', how many throws to the fullback, how many throws to everybody and then what the percentage is within each practice and also at the end of the week. If a guy if 6-for-7 with the full-back and he's 2-for-9 to the half-back, why are we completing to one guy and not the other. It was interesting the way it started because we had several days that would cumulatively go by and three or four practices, the tight end gets one pass, the tight end gets two passes we're 1-for-1 to the tight ends, we're 18-for-29 to the 'z' and 2-for-4 to the tight end. It was something that we talked to them about. Each of them individually were the same way Tom, Damon (Huard) and Rohan (Davey) were all the same way. In fact Rohan was really the worst of all of them. He'd go three or four practices with no attempts to the tight end. But it was something that we kept mentioning to him, we just can't keep throwing all these passes and then one week one guy would have maybe 10 passes to the tight end, not a week maybe in three practices, one guy would have 10 passes to the tight end and the other guy would have one. It's not that the tight end is open for this quarterback and not open for you, you know you've got to start looking there too. I think it was a gradual thing. But there's no question, it started out that way at the beginning of camp and even back in mini-camp and when we showed the quarterbacks those charts and made them aware of how few balls the tight ends were getting, again not with the idea of forcing it in there, but just look at the field, let's take what's there. That was something that we definitely became aware of. We became aware of it early in the running, all the way in mini-camp.
Q: What are some of the subtle things that most people don't pick up on that explain why having good production from the tight end is so important?
BB: One of the main things is just the fact that he is in the middle of the field. He's virtually involved in every single play. There's not any play that … I mean there's some plays where if you run the ball to the right, I don't know if it really matters what the receiver on the left is doing, I mean it does, but it doesn't. Where as with the tight end it's pretty much every play. Even if you're running the ball the other way, it cuts back to him where you're running at or in the passing game if they blitz a lot of times he's involved in some type of route adjustment, which happens very quickly, and the ball is on him in a hurry. So those are key plays. If you miss two or three of those then pretty soon you're going to be looking at blitzes every play. If they bat one up in the air for an interception or something like that, then all of a sudden you start changing your whole passing game so that doesn't happen. They are important in every single play, whether it's a pass play, whether it's a run play, whether it's pass protection, they're involved in all those facets of the game. If you have a well-balanced attack and you have a tight end who has some versatility, then you're able to threaten in a lot of different ways. If you're not then the defense can say, 'ok, well here's the five things the tight end can do and they only do two of them, so we can just pretty much forget about the other three.' A lot of that comes in when, especially if you're substituting tight ends, you have a pass-catching tight end and a run-blocking tight end, then a lot of that then just by who is on the field not only dictates the play but it dictates what that particular position is going to do and that changes the way the defense defends you.
Q: How did you have to adjust your offense from last year?
BB: I think you always try to take your team, whatever it is offense or defense, and you try to work into your strengths and you try to work around what you think are your weaknesses. If you have a tight end that isn't fast, you don't want to be sending him deep a lot. You might as well find somebody else that can go deep and have him run the shorter routes. If you have somebody that doesn't block very well then you want to try to run some plays where you feel like he can make his blocks rather than having him block down on the defensive end, you set it up so that he ends up blocking the safety and maybe your full back blocks the defensive end. Some how you have to try to work around it or else just bang your head in the wall and come off the field and say, 'well you know the guy missed eight blocks and we knew he was going to miss them and he missed them, and he's going to miss them again next week.' Somehow you try to be creative and solve the problem.
Q: I know you don't like to categorize but how much better is the tight end position compared to last year?
BB: Well, it's better. I can't put a grade or percentage on it or anything. I mean we've played three games. We're not even a fifth of a way through the season. To this point it is better. We hope that in time as they get a little bit more familiarity and especially a guy like Graham who has only played a couple of games in this league, as he develops, hopefully it will increase and improve it. Just because we want it to doesn't mean it will.
Q: Are you a little disappointed in Donald Hayes' offense up to this point? Were you looking for him to be more of an impact on the offense sooner?
BB: As I said, I think we talked about it last week, I think that we've had decent production in the passing game. I mean it's been ok. So, you're going to be able to sit here and say 'ok, well let's look at all the receivers, well this guy hasn't caught as many balls as somebody else has, are you disappointed in him or is he a bad player?' No, I don't think that's necessarily the case. I think they've all made their plays when they've had their opportunities. Graham got an opportunity last week and made a play. Hayes got an opportunity against Pittsburgh and made a play. Branch got an opportunity against the Jets and made a play. You know, if they're making plays, you hope that the next time they get an opportunity they'll make another one. I'm not going to sit here and say that these guys aren't any good and they didn't make any plays and all of that. When you throw the ball, somebody is going to catch more than somebody else, I mean that's just the way it is. We're always going to be able to pick out somebody, I mean Troy Brown comes in here and next week it will be well how come we aren't getting the ball to Troy Brown, you know he had 16 last week and only caught seven this week. You're always going to be able to do that with somebody in the passing game.
Q: Is it more of a case that maybe the opportunity to use Hayes, specifically his size, just hasn't come up as much perhaps or that Tom doesn't really know to look to him yet?
BB: No. I think the big thing is just really the number of plays he's been on the field. It's not like Donald has been out there every single play. He hasn't been. He's been out there in certain groups and probably for the number of plays that he's out there, the production that he's had ahs been pretty good. Now if you double that number of opportunities, maybe you double the production, maybe you triple it. I don't really know. Again, it's not like he's been out there every single play in three games. He's been out there situationally and when he's had an opportunity for the most part he's been productive. Now other guys have gotten the groups have showed that if the play time has come out differently then the opportunities get spread around a little bit differently.