Head Coach Jay Gruden
On being in contention at the halfway mark:
"That's the intent. We have a long way to go obviously, but there's no question we'd much rather be where the Patriots are at 7-0. We are where we are and we're working to get better and improve this team every day. We've got a heck of a tall task ahead of us come Sunday but we're going to show up and give it the best shot we've got."
On if the team is creating turnovers or other teams are simply making mistakes:
"You can call it whatever you want to, the big thing is to get them. Sometimes they're fortunate. The big thing is protecting them when you're on offense and trying to get them somehow when you're on defense. We've done a good job of getting some. Some of them are self-inflicted by the opposing offense. Some of them are because they're hustle plays and guys getting their hands on footballs and finishing plays. It's always about finishing the football play. Turnovers are there to be had. It's just a matter of going out and forcing them and then actually making the play. We've done a better job of that. That's going to be crucial this week."
On Patriots QB Tom Brady's ball placement this year:
"Right now? I've been impressed with his ball placement since he came into this league. He's very good with his ball placement. His decision making is always top-notch. He's an excellent player, there's no question about it. I don't really anticipate him throwing any balls to us. If we want an interception, we're going to have to make some great breaks on the ball. We're going to have to get some hands up and get in the passing lanes and try to get some deflections. They're possible, but he's not going to hand us any. We've just got to go out and make some plays."
On how the return of WR DeSean Jackson could change the dynamic of the offense:
"We'll have to wait and see how he is, first of all, how he recovers after today's limited time that he was in there and see how he feels tomorrow. I know that anytime you add a player to his caliber, with his speed, with his play-making ability, it can only help. I mean, they say this all the time, if you look at our stats from last year, he had 15 or 16 40-plus-yard gains and we've got one this year. He's a big weapon for us, so we're looking forward to his return, but we're going to wait and see how he is on Friday."
On the game plan to try to stop TE Rob Gronkowski:
"Well, I think it's going to be a group effort. You can say you want to double him and do all this stuff, but if you double him, you leave the other guys one-on-one. I think it's going to be man-on-man in certain situations. Our guys are going to have to step up, whoever is on him, and compete for the football. Rob Gronkowski, he's like a great basketball player; Steph Curry, LeBron James, he's going to get his points. You've just got to make sure they don't kill you. We've just got to try to limit his big plays and when he does get the ball we get some people around him and try to force some turnovers and go ahead and play."
On in what areas QB Kirk Cousins has improved this year:
"Every area, to be honest. You're a young quarterback. You haven't gotten a lot of starts in your career. You've got a few sporadic starts, but really this is the first time the offense has been catered to him. He's done a good job and he's getting better every day. He has his ups and downs like young quarterbacks do, and Tom [Brady] will tell you he had some as a young guy coming through the ranks in his first, second, third, fourth and fifth year. I mean, quarterbacks are going to have some ups and downs, but the big thing is how he responds to them. How he prepares is consistent – approach to the game, understanding each game, each situation is its own entity and just building his core fundamentals and his thought process. I think he's coming along."
On what has impressed him most about the Patriots' defense:
"You know what? I think what impresses me is their physicality, really. And I think you're not just talking about the big guys. You know, I think, obviously, Chandler Jones, I think their linebackers are extremely physical. I love the way the way they play. Their secondary gets their hands on you, they reroute you and they cover man-to-man. I mean, [Dont'a] Hightower's obviously a force. Jamie Collins is playing excellent. But they do it with a lot of different guys. You know, [Rob] Ninkovich is — if I said that right — he's steady. Then, they have a bunch of defensive linemen that come in there easily. They've got guys, Malcom Brown, these guys are all coming in and playing and producing. Everybody who seems like they play over there produces. They do what they're supposed to do and they play well. It's a great team defense, great concepts that they have. You take away the good players and they compete."
On what is critical for preventing linebackers from 'raising havoc' on interior blitzes:
"Well, I think you have to… you want to stay out of third down a lot of times. I think they're going to have some A-gap success here and there. The big thing is whether it's your running back or your guard stepping down and protecting, whoever steps up and picks them up has got to have their pad level down because I've seen Hightower run people flat over and same with Jamie. They do an excellent job in there, but whoever's responsible for those guys, they've got to be ready to buckle up and bring their — get their pads down. It'll be a great matchup for them but I think the big key is to stay out of third downs — third down and longs, third down and mediums — where it gives them the freedom where they can get in the A-gaps and blitz and they don't have to really worry about the runs and all that good stuff."
Quarterback Kirk Cousins Conference Call
On if the team can carry its strong finish from the Tampa Bay game over to this week:
"I feel like every game is its own entity. They each count one. Every game is its own challenge, especially this one against a great team at their place. I think it was a confidence boost for us. A good character-building experience for us to come back from the deficit we had gotten and be able to find a win, but we definitely have a whole brand new challenge this week and we're excited for it. I think they're kind of separate entities."
On his growth this season:
"I think it's still a work in progress and a process all its own. Continue to get better and more confident each week as I play and learn from experiences both from successes and failures. I said at the beginning of the year that I'll be a much different and much better quarterback by Week 16 than I was Week 1. I'm on that journey and on that process. What better way to continue to grow and get better and improve than to go into New England and play against one of the best teams – if not the best team – that's out there."
On being selected by the Redskins in 2012:
"I used to tell people that in 2012 when I was trying to understand where am I most likely to be drafted and who are the three or four teams that have pursued me the most and it would make sense that they would pick me, I never thought of who would be least likely to draft me. But looking back I would have told you the Redskins of all the teams – the 32 teams – I would have predicted they would be least likely to draft me because of the situation they were in drafting Robert [Griffin III] No. 2 overall. When I went there I was shocked but I guess that's how it is sometimes. I just knew I had a great opportunity to be drafted anywhere. It was a dream come true and then had a lot of work no matter where I went. Right away when I got here, I was excited to be able to work with Coach [Mike] Shanahan and understand his system. I had great coaches. Being able to work with Robert was a great blessing to me because they had to get him ready to play. As a result, they really devoted a lot of time in developing both of us. I kind of wonder if I had gone to another team that had an established veteran that I may have been kind of passed off or forgotten about or just kind of expected to figure things out on my own. As a result of coming in with the No. 2 overall pick at quarterback, I was given a lot of attention and a lot of time was spent getting us ready. I think that was a huge blessing for me in developing and learning the game as quickly as possible."
On his emotions after the Tampa Bay game:
"Yeah, I was just excited. It was a great team win. I was just coming in the tunnel from the field and just kind of yelled that to nobody in particular with just a lot of excitement and passion. It was kind of a funny thing. Just the world we live in today with social media and the opportunity for something like that to take off and get spread quickly… With the response and the attention that was being drawn to it, we were presented with the opportunity to sell some T-shirts and then give that money that was raised over to a charity that I've been working with called International Justice Mission. So, the opportunity to raise awareness for International Justice Mission and promote them and send some money their way I thought was a great thing. We did that and I think that's kind of it. We'll see where it goes from here."
On the impact Jeff Christensen has had on his professional development:
"Jeff's a guy that I started working with last year. So, it's been a little over a year of working with him. My agent is based out of Chicago where Jeff is based out of. Really my agent, Mike McCartney, recommended I see Jeff. He had sat down with Jeff and felt like Jeff had some really good perspectives and ideas on the fundamentals of playing quarterback and throwing the football. So, I thought I'd give Jeff a chance. I'm always looking for new ideas and good coaching. Right away after working with him, I was really impressed with his knowledge, what he had to share and some of the new ideas I had never heard before that all made sense. So, we started working together pretty consistently I'd say over a year ago. I'd say it's probably been about now two years because the first time I worked with him was March of '14. We got a lot of work in and continue to improve. I think he's a part along with the coaches here in D.C. and my own work in film study and experience have been a part of my development as a quarterback. I'm always looking for guys like that who can help me and take me to another level and challenge me in developing me."
On if he has crossed paths with Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo:
"I've only crossed paths with Jimmy last year in training camp when the Patriots came down to Richmond and we practiced with them. I didn't even end up talking to him, but he was there and I saw him. Through Jeff and through just understanding quarterbacks around the league, I know he has a very quick release, throws the ball really well. It comes off his hand really well and I think he's got a bright future. So, I'm excited to see where his career goes."
On the Patriots' defense:
"I just think when you go through their personnel, I just see a lot of guys who are smart football players and are instinctive and aware. I have a lot of respect for them because at this level everybody runs fast and while, yeah, you want to find guys who run 4.3s, not everybody has that. So what you really want is guys who are smart, who are aware, who understand the game. I see their defense being filled with guys like that. On top of it, they're well coached. When they have that much ability and experience and instincts and well-coached, you're going to be a productive defense. Then they obviously have some star players. Chandler Jones I believe leads the league in sacks. They've got some playmakers. So all that combines to make a pretty good defense and gives us a great challenge."
On the importance of finding offensive balance:
"It's very important. We've said it all along since the beginning of the season, when we can run the football effectively, it opens everything else up and it allow us to really dictate the tempo and what we're going to do. It opens up our whole offense. So, we want to commit to running the football. We don't want to abandon it, don't want to get away from it. Week-to-week, things vary, but we definitely want to be able to run the ball and establish that. When we can do that, it's going to help our offense be balanced and be effective."
On how tough moments this season can serve the team going forward:
"We knew going into the season in the NFL it's all over the map. I mean, you're going to have just heart-breaking defeats and then victories that put you on top of the world. We can't ride the rollercoaster. We've got to stay consistent. When things are down, we can't hit the panic button, and when things are up, we can't relax. We've just got to stay consistent. I think that's what, you know, when you look over the years, I feel like that's what the Patriots have done. They just stay consistent and keep working and they ignore the noise. They ignore what's going on on the outside. They just stick to the task. That's something we have done and need to continue to do regardless of what the result is – just keep focusing on the process, keep chopping wood and see where we end up. No matter what happens going forward, no matter what we've gone through going up to this point, we just need to continue to work. If we do that, I think we'll get the results that we want down the stretch."
On the team's struggles on the road:
"I feel like we went to overtime with Atlanta this year and we're driving, playing well in overtime, then, we had the turnover and that was it. I don't know that we're playing horribly on the road. We had a halftime lead against the Jets. I think we're playing good football in spurts. It's just being consistent. I think whether home or away, it's playing a full four quarters, doing good things on offense all the way through the game rather than just in spurts. If we can do that, we feel good about our ability to come away with a victory whether at home or on the road. Certainly, it's tough to win on the road in this league, you've got to have a mature football team that's well-prepared and focused and I think we've had that this year. We've got to do it for four quarters and put a full game together."
On how much he looks forward to potentially having WR DeSean Jackson back:
"Yeah, I mean, he's a huge member of our team and a big part of our explosiveness on offense. We're excited to get him back and he just gives us options. That's all you can ask for as a quarterback is a lot of options to throw to, a lot of guys who can make plays and bringing him back will just give us one more guy who can really make a difference."