BB: I'll just make one quick comment here. Just a quick comment on last night on the decals that the players had on their helmets and we wore the pins for the TAPS families. Always good to participate in that recognition of the servicemen and women who have given their lives for our country, mainly from this area. It's something that we've done for a number of years and players and coaches have all been very active and willing participants. Yeah, just want to take a moment to recognize the families and the losses that they've suffered and how much we appreciate the people who defend our freedom and who have given their lives as part of that defense. I forgot to mention that last night.
Q: Kyle Dugger played quite a bit in the game last night and the stat sheet shows he had 12 tackles. How much did the film reflect that number when you watched it over again?
BB: Yeah, that sounds about right. He was involved in quite a few plays, but I thought he pursued well, tackled well and gave us some perimeter run force, which was a big part of the game. A lot of the running game was directed toward the perimeter and the outside, so he definitely helped us there and we got some good interior play, as well, on some of the inside plays. Maybe that helped push the ball out a little bit, I don't know.
Q: Last night was the fifth straight game that J.C. Jackson recorded an interception. What stands out to you about his ability to play the ball in the air?
BB: Yeah, he has a real good knack for finding the ball. On several of those plays, he didn't see the ball thrown and he turned and located it. Obviously, he has good hands and quick hands the ability to locate and catch the ball without seeing it all the way in. So, not all of his interceptions came that way, but those are the hard ones for a defensive player when they turn late and have to find the ball and not only locate it to break up the pass, but just to then take it another step further and make a clean catch. Those are tough plays, but he does an excellent job of that and has very good ball awareness.
Q: Is that something you can teach, or is that natural ability?
BB: Well, yeah, we definitely work on it, but sure, I think some guys have more natural hand-eye coordination and the ability to do that than others. He's made a number of plays for us through the years like that, just finding the ball, locating it late and then being able to intercept it. But, no, we definitely work on that. We work on our back to the ball and playing the ball with proper technique and when to look for it and we do look for it and try to locate it. But, yeah, some players have more natural skill in that than others, but we definitely try to improve it and work on it and keep it sharp.
Q: The NBC broadcast shared a statistic that Devin McCourty has played more defensive snaps since 2010 than anybody in the NFL. With all the moving parts that you have had on defense this year and over the last few years, how beneficial is it to have a guy in Devin that you can rely on to be there every game and play almost every snap?
BB: Yeah, he's incredibly reliable. Anything in the game, you'd like to have consistently, but for that position, the free safety position that handles so much communication, formation adjustments and decision-making back there – kind of the quarterback of the secondary, if you will – that's a critical role. Not only does Devin have great durability and consistency in his play back there, but his ability to handle those game plan adjustments quickly and decisively is a big help to our defense, no question about it.
Q: Are you seeing the rookies get a little more acclimated now that you're halfway through the season?
BB: Well, sure. Yeah, when we started the season, those were really like preseason games for them. I mean, it was their first action in the NFL. Yeah, we're a ways past that and I think there's certainly been some growth, but we have a long way to go. We'll see what kind of progress they can make over the second half of the season and what opportunities they get, whether they're earned or whether they're through necessity if we have injuries at positions and so forth, and see what they're able to do with those opportunities.
Q: What have you noticed from Carl Davis in the time he has been available and how he's been able to make an impact on the field in his limited time?
BB: Yeah, Carl's transitioned well when he's been on the field. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, he missed a little bit of time there. But, he has some experience and I think some of the techniques that we use are similar to what he's played in the past, whether it be in college or in the NFL. Lawrence [Guy] played with him at Baltimore, so I know he's helped him some in the adjustment and acclimation period. But, yeah, Carl's been a guy that's been able to give us some depth at a position that we've needed it and hopefully he can build on the last couple weeks here going forward and see how that all works with the defensive line rotation and their playing roles and so forth. But, he's definitely helped us the last couple weeks.
Q: What did you see from the film watching the offensive line's play? How big of a role do they play in the success of your offense at this point?
BB: Well, I think our offensive line and running backs, the time that they've been able to work together, both in practice and in games, has given an element of timing and consistency that is good to have in the running game. The timing of the blocks and having a feel for how the back runs and how the line – you know, the pulling and the timing – the timing of the space of the holes and so forth, especially on some of those outside plays where there are crack blocks involved and some of the trap blocking inside, as well. The more you can do those things and practice them and get comfortable with them – you know, Rex [Burkhead] and Damien [Harris] have both been able to develop some consistency there with again more continuity on the offensive line than we had earlier at times in the season where we've been able to get the same five guys out there on a more frequent basis here recently with the running backs and the tight end, with Ryan [Izzo], and a fullback, Jak [Jakob Johnson]. So, those are all good things. The more you can work together, the better chance you have of having timing and also making adjustments when things happen a little bit differently from play to play based on what the defense does. Then everybody gets more confident and can maintain their aggressiveness because they have done it before and know what to do and are confident in doing it. So, that leads to some good downhill runs, and Damien's certainly done a nice job of moving the pile and breaking tackles and running aggressively when there is an opening. So, he's maximized a lot of those plays.
Q: Two of your contributing players last night were undrafted players in Jakobi Meyers and J.C. Jackson. When you're bringing in a player, is there something that you look for specifically in their skillset to know that they can contribute and stick on your team?
BB: Well, the process of acquiring those players is usually pretty competitive after the draft. So, each team has a limited number of roster spots to fill, usually call it a couple players at each position – a couple receivers, a couple offensive linemen, a couple defensive linemen, a couple defensive backs and so forth. You try to target the players that you feel would have a chance to compete on your team based on the skillset. But, again, you're in competition with other teams on those players after the draft, so a lot of times it comes down to a combination of factors – the financial offer, opportunity, what else you have on your roster, how much the player or agent feels like you're the right fit for his client or that player feels like the team is the right fit for his skills and so forth. Yeah, again, we try to target the best players that we can. Some of those we get; sometimes we get our second or third choice, depending on where those players end up going because those are negotiated guys, not draft choices where you select them and they have to go where they're picked. So, it's, like I said, a very competitive process after the draft. We try to do the best we can to identify the players that we think will fit into our program, and again, sometimes that's maybe not initially – you know, thinking an undrafted player's going to come in and make a big impact right off the bat, that's not why you're signing them. If you felt that way about the player, you probably would draft them. But, you usually feel like, over a period of time, if the player can develop his skills, gain some experience and you have an opportunity to work with him, that maybe he can improve to be a roster player and be a contributor from there. That's usually how it works out. Usually those players, it takes a little time for them to either gain the experience, or sometimes with the linemen strength, and sometimes it comes from some physical development, as well, before those guys are really in a position to challenge. But, Jakobi's a smart player that has worked hard and really has done a good job of taking the opportunities that he's had and also adapting his skills as a receiver and his size inside the slot to a level where he's been pretty consistently productive over the last year-and-a-half when he's played. So, it's a real credit to him and his work ethic.
Q: When you took the turn into the fourth quarter last night up 23-17, the way that fourth quarter unfolded, how much did the game strategy for you shift even more towards field position? How much was Jake Bailey's ability to execute in those conditions significant in the way the fourth quarter unfolded?
BB: Yeah, Jake did a great job for us, as he has all year. His ball handling, both punts and field goals – I mean, I know you're asking about punts here because there weren't field goals in the fourth quarter – but his ball handling in those situations and certainly challenging conditions last night and his ability to change field position with length and hang time and ball placement to give our gunners a chance to get down there really eliminated the returns last night. He does an excellent job and has done a great job for us all year, the last year-and-a-half really, in all those areas. You're right, I think as the elements last night deteriorated, as it got windier and the rain increased and so forth, field position was certainly more important. Just trying to go on a long field in that situation is hard anyway, but it was harder in the conditions that the game ended up in.