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Coach Whisenhunt's Sunday Press Conference

Posted Aug 24, 2014

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(On the defense against the Falcons)

Obviously, we feel like we want to progress with our defense. We’re making progress, but the thing that really irritated me more so last night was what we gave up. The two slants on third down that turned out to be big plays. Those are simple plays, and you can’t do those kind of things. There are a lot of good performances on the tape. We’ve just got to clean some things up. It’s a process that you go through, and it’s hard for me, based on the way the first half went to say we are getting better, but I’m encouraged by a lot of the things that we’re doing, just not happy overall with giving up some specific things.

(On comparing the Falcons game to the first two preseason games)

It’s different every week. I think one of the things, too, is we’re trying to evaluate players. A lot of it is one-on-one matchups. We’re not scheming opponents, and that’s the area because it’s an evaluation and because we’ve got a lot of guys. That’s one of the things when you’re together for the first time that you have to work through. Obviously, we’re all competitors, and we want to do better than what we’ve done, defensively, but there are individuals that are playing very well in the defense, and I think that as we continue to clean things up that it will get better.

(On Tommie Campbell’s performance against Atlanta)

Tommie (Campbell’s) getting better. I think that’s the way you have to assess it, from where he started. Competition at that position, we’ve got a number of guys that are competing for spots, and Tommie’s working at it, so hopefully he can continue to progress and get better.

(On individuals who are playing well)

Jurrell Casey’s playing really well. I think Ropati (Pitoitua) responded last night and played better. Sammie (Hill’s) playing good. The outside guys, Derrick (Morgan) and Kamerion (Wimbley) are doing a nice job, and I think Zach (Brown) is playing well. We’ve got guys in the secondary, I don’t want to go through and single out everybody, but individually there are times where we’re playing very well, we’re just not playing it well as a team. We’re making mistakes. It seems like one after the other, different guys are making those mistakes. Even though a guy has 45 plays like he did last night, he has one play where he makes a mistake and the other 41 or 42 are good. That one mistake is costing us, and that’s what we have to get cleaned up.

(On perfecting tackling in the preseason)

I think that’s something that you have to work through. It seems like every year we’re talking about tackling at this time of the year. Hopefully it won’t be a problem early in the season. We didn’t tackle very well last night. We made a couple of spots, we missed some secondary tackles that we have to make, so you’ve got to continue to work on the drills in practice because, obviously, you can’t do the live things, and it’s got to translate into the games.

(On the defense’s mistakes)

We’re just making mistakes in how we fit. It’s part of the process of coming together as a unit the first time.

(On players adjusting to the defensive scheme)

I’m pleased with a lot of it. It’s hard to sit here and say that when you give up some of the things that we did last night, that you’re happy. I can’t do that. I’m happy with the individual performances, but as a unit, that’s what defense is. It’s more team, so we’ve just got to continue to improve in those areas, identify them and correct them. You feel like you have the right guys that are going to respond, but you’ve got a lot of different guys in your playing combinations. You’re trying to look at players, you’re rotating guys, so they’re not playing together as a unit as much as they will be. When we focus in our practice reps on what we’re trying to play and making sure that we’re in the right spots together, you’re counting on that they’re going to fit it better and play better.

(On Bishop Sankey correcting his runs)

He responded to what we asked about. There was one where he took a little bit wide of a track on the same thing he’d been doing, but we managed to get the exchange off. Overall, it was nice to see Bishop (Sankey) do a lot better in that aspect.

(On Bishop Sankey getting reps with Jake Locker)

He’s gotten a tremendous amount of reps in practice with Jake (Locker) and those guys, so the actual fundamentals of doing that position, he has been doing. You’re trying to get him in reps with everybody, but we have to get other guys reps, too. We’ve got to get Shonn (Greene) reps, we’ve got to get Dexter (McCluster) reps, Leon (Washington’s) been playing well for us. There are only so many carries that you can get in 20 snaps or 30 snaps that we’ve had those guys in there for on the individual games. Bishop (Sankey) has gotten enough in practice.

(On Zach Mettenberger in the third preseason week compared to the first)

He’s more comfortable, I would say that. I still think that at times he struggles with some things, which is not uncommon for a young player, but it’s been invaluable, the amount of reps that we’ve gotten him and how he’s performed. I think it’s been fantastic. He’s done a good job. He’s really made some plays for us. I think some of the things that stand out about Zach (Mettenberger), he’s got a good pocket presence, he’s made some accurate throws. It was nice to see him throw balls only to our team last night. He’s taking advantage of his opportunities to improve, which is good to see. He’ll play a lot in the game Thursday, as it should be. Whether he starts or not, I don’t know that yet. We’ll have to see where we are from our team standpoint.

(On Jake Locker’s playing time in the final preseason game)

We haven’t even talked about that. At one point, I would have said that we needed to see a lot of Jake (Locker) because we didn’t know much about Jake as far as operating this offense, but he’s performed pretty well. I’m certainly comfortable with where he’s going with that position.

(On the possibility of Zach Mettenberger being the backup quarterback)

Unless it was an injury situation, no.

(On Charlie Whitehurst as the backup quarterback)

Charlie (Whitehurst’s) had a very good preseason, too, and a very good camp. I’ve said Charlie was the two coming in. I don’t think that that’s going to change. I think we’re very lucky that we’ve got a group of quarterbacks that we feel comfortable with.

(On the pass protection against the Falcons)

The mental led to the physical, so maybe it’s a combination of both. It’s pretty obvious on the one where Shonn (Greene) missed the corner coming off the edge. That was one. We missed a protection inside, which led to the other one, and there are little things that we can’t allow to happen.

(On Charlie Whitehurst playing Thursday)

We’ve got to see what he can do in practice this week.

(On having two quarterbacks Thursday)

I think we’ll have to see where we are from Charlie (Whitehurst’s) standpoint. If it’s Charlie and Zach (Mettenberger) to go through the game and Jake (Locker), too, if Jake gets a couple of snaps in the game, then we’ll certainly feel comfortable with that. If something changed, then going in with potentially one quarterback, with Jake and with Zach, then you’d have to look at it.

(On playing Charlie Whitehurst against Atlanta if Zach Mettenberger had been injured)

Maybe. It depended on where the game had gone. I might have put Jake (Locker) back in there, just depending on where the game was. We could possibly have done that, but I want to see how Charlie (Whitehurst) does this week, too, in practice.

(On special teams penalties)

It was a problem last night. It’s trending that way in preseason, so that’s something that we need to get corrected. If you asked me about penalties in general, I would have to say I don’t really know, because I don’t know kind of what the baseline is on penalties, because there have been a number in preseason. Specifically about special teams, that was not acceptable last night. The three penalties that we had were legitimate penalties, and it’s something that we’ve got to do better with.

(On the kicking competition)

It was interesting last night that we got a chance to get some kicks and get some evaluations on those guys. We’ve got one more game, so we’ll obviously use that to continue that evaluation. I would say it’s still open. It’s been a close competition. I think, statistically, if you count everything, and there are a lot of kicks that we’ve charted through practice and the games, it’s really close.

(On Travis Coons’ 63-yard field goal attempt)

Nate (Kaczor) tried to sell me that it would have been good from 57 (yards). It may be a dumb thing to say, but one of the valuable things we got out of that, other than having him try that, was we got a chance to cover with our field goal team. I’m sure you all remember the Alabama-Auburn game last year and what happened in that game. That’s something that you work on in practice and you don’t ever get a chance to work on live. If he had made the 63-yarder, that would have been a great bonus, but also you thought that this would be an opportunity to work on coverage by your field goal team, too. Sometimes those things happen in preseason. That was good.

(On the offensive linemen covering the field goal miss)

Michael Roos looked pretty good in space. Although (Brian) Schwenke came over and said he turned it back. I don’t know if I can actually buy into that.

(On the Falcons’ 47-yard kick return)

We made a mistake in the coverage. We didn’t play it correctly. We had a double team on Daimion Stafford, which is tough, so that means when that happens, the next guy has to play it outside a little bit, and he didn’t get there.

(On adding players to the 53-man roster after sorting through other cuts)

That could potentially happen, yes. I’m not going to say it will for sure, but in my experience in the league, that’s something that does happen.

(On the cornerback competition)

A big thing is how we respond to some of the corrections from this game and then getting an opportunity in one more game to see it. I’ll go back to what I said. Both of those guys, when we talk about Coty (Sensabaugh) and we talk about Blidi (Wreh-Wilson), I really like. I got angry last night because we didn’t play it as well as we should have, and Jason (McCourty) was a victim of that, as well, but both of those guys are good young players. They’ve got a lot of the intangibles for that position that you really like. From the size, the speed, how they work, and it’s good. The competition’s been good, and I want it to be good for another week, because those guys understand what creates a sense of urgency there.

(On making Tuesday’s roster cuts)

We may make some (cuts) tomorrow, and we may save a couple for Tuesday. Some of it depends on where we are health-wise, too.

(On how much work players need in the final preseason game)

Once again, I think it depends on where you are injury-wise and then where you are competitive-wise. We’re a team that hasn’t played a regular season game together. We’re still working on a lot of positions. The thing that would trump that is a health thing. I don’t know yet where we’re going to be as far as that goes. I’ll have to see as the week progresses.

(On players who did not play against Atlanta potentially playing Thursday)

I’m hopeful that they’ll all do something in practice this week that will give us a better idea if they’ll have a chance to play.

(On injured players)

Tommie (Campbell’s) okay. He’s been checked out and doesn’t have a concussion, so he should be able to come back and participate this week. Ropati (Pitoitua) actually broke his hand. (It’s) very similar to what he did last year. It’s almost going to be the same progression for him. He actually, I believe played in the first game last year. Jackie (Battle), we’ll have to see how he progresses from the stinger or what the technical term for it is, I don’t know. Those are three guys that we’ll have to evaluate.

(On Ropati Pitoitua’s broken hand)

I do not know how he broke it. I know he played through three quarters with it that way. He’s a tough sucker. That’s not something that’s going to prohibit him from playing. He won’t play this week, but he should be ready to go. I base this off of last year. Same thing, he just did his other hand.

(On Ropati Pitoitua playing last year with a broken hand)

We played him in the third game, and at that point I remember specifically thinking that he surprised me, because I didn’t know that much about him, but I do remember thinking that he was playing good football.

(On Charlie Whitehurst’s role as the backup quarterback)

I think I’m comfortable with Charlie (Whitehurst) from a standpoint of having spent a lot of time with him. I said earlier this off season, we’ve run a thousand plays in the three or four weeks that we’ve practiced, so I’ve seen Charlie, even in preseason games last year and practices, do a lot of good things. He’s played well for us this year in the preseason, so I think you know what he is and what he brings to the table as far as understanding this offense. He has played in this league, even though I know it hasn’t been a tremendous amount.

(On Antonio Andrews’ game performance)

I was happy to see that. I was glad he got a chance. A four-minute situation like that at the end of the game, you’ve got to start somewhere as team, because being able to run the ball and get the first down and run the clock out was big for us. He made some nice runs. It was nice to see him break off that long one and then get tackled. It was good to see that. He’s had a nice camp for us. I think he’s gotten better, and it was good to see him get a chance last night.

(On the hit that Jackie Battle took)

What happened on that one is that was a product of the penalty. We had a push, and that propelled that guy into him, and it was an unfortunate situation. I can understand why Jackie (Battle) didn’t see that coming.

(On Jake Locker getting hit by the Falcons)

I don’t like the fact that Jake (Locker) got hit as much as he did last night. That’s an area that we’ve got to clean up, but that happens. You don’t like it. As far as the turning in part, it really doesn’t do you any good at this point in the season. I didn’t see anything from the tape, other than what happens with quarterbacks at times. There were a lot times when we were close to (Matt) Ryan, and we didn’t quite get there. It could have been a similar situation, but there were a couple of times where we’d gotten more push in the pocket than what we want. We’ve got to clean that up a little bit.

(On communicating with NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino from the league)

I worked with (Dean) Blandino on the competition committee, so I know Dean, and I have no issues calling and talking with him about things that happen in the game or what are his thoughts on this or that. The interaction with the league has always been good.

(On Blidi Wreh-Wilson’s pass interference penalty)

It was actually out of the endzone. I haven’t talked to (Dean Blandino) about that yet. I don’t know the exact ruling on what they consider uncatchable. That’s something that I would call Dean and ask him his opinion on that. There are a couple of things that came up last night that I had already marked down to ask him. It’s not in the line of complaining. It’s more of just making sure that we’re clear when we’re talking to the team. That was unusual. We had one, remember New Orleans, I had a conversation with him about the grounding on the one where he was in the pocket and he threw it down the field, and they ruled it as a non-grounding play, but I had a specific conversation about that with him just to make sure I was straight on my view of it. It sure looked like Blidi (Wreh-Wilson) had his space, and (Roddy White) ran through him. Once again, that’s something that you’ll talk with them about. There’s a lot that we’re all working through with the way it’s being officiated right now, and I think we’re getting a better idea of what’s acceptable as we progress, and I think the officials are working through that themselves. You can always learn from that.

(On penalties against defensive backs in the regular season)

I really don’t know how that’s going to be the first game. I know this, I don’t want to give up a slant for 50 yards on third-and-three, so if we have to play a little bit more aggressively, and I’m not saying that we’re going to come out and play aggressively and get a lot of penalties. I’m just saying that I don’t know for sure how it’s going to be called, but we’re going to work to make sure that we play correct techniques so hopefully we won’t get into those situations.

(On Shonn Greene’s recovery)

He looked good last night running the football. He had a couple of good runs. He’s done a good job. He’s gotten to the weight that we asked him to get to, and he’s working hard in practice. I think you’re seeing the results in how he’s running the football.

(On addressing the team intensely at halftime)

I think sometimes you have a feel for when it needs to be done, and I felt like last night it needed to be done. As far as on a scale of one to 10, what intensity that was, it was definitely more toward the 10 side than the five side. I’d probably say it was a seven or an eight.

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