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Whisenhunt Reflects on Preseason Opener

Posted Aug 10, 2014

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(On finding plays from the game to evaluate players)

You can always get something out of it. When you have rain at practice, you can still get something out of it. It was an opportunity to evaluate our team. There’s always something that you can assess from that situation.

(On players who stood out)

There were a lot of things that were typical of a game like that. There were some good plays and some plays, it seemed like, for a lot of guys. Bishop Sankey, he did okay. He had a couple of things that we’ve got to get cleaned up. Damion Stafford, like I said, both of those guys last night. They had some good plays. They had some things we have to correct, but there were a number of guys that did good things, but there’s also a lot of work to do.

(On using scheme plays during the game)

We did at times, and at times we didn’t. It was dictated a little bit by the weather. I think the periods when it was raining really hard, there were times when both our team and the Packers had exchange problems, balls were on the ground, so it’s not like you can spread it out and throw it down the field. You have to do some things to account for that, but we still got some work on some different aspects of our game.

(On assessing Zach Mettenberger)

He can’t put the ball on the ground. He did some things in the pocket where he’s got to keep two hands on the ball, but he made some good throws. He’s got a long way to go, as a lot of young players do, but there’s no substitute for taking a team down the field in the fourth quarter and scoring a touchdown. That’s a big deal, and it was good to see him do that.

(On injuries in the rain)

The only thing I’ll say to that is, I don’t know if maybe it’s a benefit, because the field’s slippery. There’s maybe not the chance of you getting a foot or something stuck in the ground where you might have something that you don’t because of that. To get through a game like we did last night and not have any big epidemic of injuries was good.

(On Chris Spencer and Colin McCarthy’s injuries)

I don’t think either one of those things had anything to do with the weather last night. They’ve been checked out today, but we’ll know more as the week progresses.

(On Dexter McCluster’s carries)

I wanted to get Dexter (McCluster) a couple of carries and see how he handled that. It just so happened that he had a good run right at the end of that first quarter, so at that point I felt like that was what we wanted to accomplish and made the change. I didn’t intend to do that.

(On Zach Brown)

Zach (Brown’s) done some good things for us in camp. I’ve really said all I wanted to say about Zach and that situation last night. We’re moving forward, so I think Zach is understanding of what he has to do. He’s got physical ability to play that position, and he needs to continue the way he’s been doing, and that’s showing us that he’s going to buy in.

(On Maikon Bonani’s extra point attempt)

It’s hard to tell from the tape, I thought we’d be able to see more. It was tough conditions for all the kickers last night. Those kind of situations, I haven’t had a chance to speak with him yet to confirm or just to get his viewpoint of it. We’ll have a chance to do that. Really, you’re not going to make a decision on a kicker based off of conditions kicking in that last night.

(On giving returners opportunities in preseason games)

We’ll have a plan for how we’re going to do that. We’ve got enough returners. We’ll get a chance to get them all some work, so I’ll have a good feel for that by the time we get to the first game. They do need to get some work in the game, so at some point we’d like to try to get all of them some work, and then we can make a decision on who’s going to be the primary returner once we get to the season.

(On Daimion Stafford)

He’s come a long way since we’ve first gotten here, and that’s one of the things that I like about Daimion (Stafford). His trend is going up. He’s working hard. From where we started in OTAs, he’s continued to improve. As with a lot of young players, especially players new in the scheme, he made some mistakes, and his job is to correct those. He’s doing some good things. He made some good hits. He fit the run well. He’s a physical guy. I’m excited to see if he can continue that.

(On using tablets during the game)

I didn’t hear any glitches, I heard more positive feedback from the tablets. I think it’s just getting accustomed to those. The access that you get from that, the pictures, they’re tremendous. I think, especially up in the booth, I don’t know how they’ll be when we get the sunlight on the screens, but one of the concerns that you had was the rain and how it would affect that, but it didn’t affect it last night. The players seemed to like it, too. The ability to zoom in or zoom out and see those looks is a pretty neat thing. I think as the season progresses we’ll get more involved with those, because it is a tremendous tool.

(On Ray Horton’s coaching at the end of the first half)

That’s during the course of a game. I think that there were a lot of things, defensively, that we did last night that were good and bad. It’s hard to pin a defensive moment on one play. Different teams have different philosophies on that. It doesn’t mean it changes week to week based on your plans. It was one play in a preseason game at the end of the half.

(On the plan for Jake Locker getting snaps)

We have a plan for Jake (Locker) as far as trying to get him some snaps. The conditions last night were very difficult. When Jake was playing, it was hard to throw the football. You can say all you want that you should call more passes to see if Jake could throw it in that, but you’re being counterproductive from the standpoint of if you can’t throw the ball, which both teams were struggling, it’s not really doing you any good. His play time during the course of the next few weeks, he’ll get opportunities to see where he is, but you’ve got to understand, too, we’ve got to see a lot of him on the practice field, and it’s been very positive from what we’ve seen. Hopefully, the way the games play themselves out, we’ll get to see all the things we want, but like I said, all along I’ve been very excited about Jake and very pleased with how he’s working.

(On his philosophy for playing starters in the preseason)

It’s been different every year. A lot of it depends on the team. A lot of it depends on your depth. A lot of it depends on the number of young players you’re trying to get a look at. Once again, I don’t have a set plan for how we’re going to do it. Some of it’s going to depend on our injury situation. We do that, we talk about that at the end of the week before the preseason games. I’ll say this, the one thing we have done consistently is try to get them more plays, especially our starters, so they’ll be prepared for the season.

(On calling plays on time)

We had two. We had to call one timeout in the red zone, and we had one delay, which is not great. Definitely in the red zone, you don’t want to lose yardage, so you have to use it there. That’s all part of operating and getting used to that. Last night, with the conditions, we lost a headset a couple of times, and that was hard to deal with. For the most part, I was pleased with that.

(On defensive linemen who stood out in the game)

It’s hard to say with 11 snaps or whatever the amount of snaps that they’ve gotten. Sammie (Hill) played well, Jurrell (Casey) did some good things. Up front, Ropati (Pitoitua) was Ropati last night. I thought (Karl) Klug and DaQuan (Jones), who probably got more of the snaps than anybody, did well. I think DaQuan ran out of gas a little bit, so we’ve got to continue to work with him on the conditioning part of it, but they’ve shown flashes of being able to do what we want to do in there.

(On Derrick Morgan’s coverage)

There’s been a raging debate about that play, about whether it should have been an interception or a PBU, a pass break-up. We’ve talked about that a number of times today. I thought he played that very well, to be honest with you. He was disciplined in his coverage drops. He carried the seam one time on a ball down the field and did a nice job. His discipline and his technique for what we’re asking him to do, in a position that was a little bit different for him, I thought was really good. It was hard to get a judge as an outside rusher, because the normal ability of those guys to bend in on the edge was negated a little bit last night because of the field conditions. I thought he did a nice job. He’s done a nice job in camp and did as well last night. Of course, as an offensive coach, I’m going to say he got two hands on the ball, so he should have caught it. As a guy that’s had his hand in the ground a lot for a number of years, there was a number of them that were just pleased that he actually batted it down.

(On Brian Robiskie’s catch)

One of the things we talked about before the game was, this is your opportunity to make plays, and the guys that make plays are going to get more opportunities. He certainly warrants that from the catch he made in the Atlanta practice and the one he made last night. That was good. It was good to see him do that.

(On Packers QB Scott Tolzien grabbing Brandon Copeland’s jersey when he lost control of the ball)

The referee, Bill Leavy, actually came over and explained that to me and said that that was legal when you’re going for the ball like that, you can actually grab his jersey the way he did and pull him back. As much as I hate to say it as an opponent, it was a heck of a play by the quarterback, to pull it back and then to actually recover the ball himself. On that kind of situation, when the ball’s on the ground, especially when it’s just the quarterback, you figure it’s your ball, and the next thing you know, they’ve got it. That was really one of those “yeah, I didn’t know that” kind of plays.

(On the impact of getting a win)

I’m hopeful that our work’s been productive, consistently through camp. We haven’t had a bad day where the guys haven’t worked, so I don’t expect that to change. I think the win was great, but to me what’s more important is in the fourth quarter, defense stopped them, and the offense scored, and we won the game. That’s a great lesson to learn as a team. To be able to go down and score the go-ahead touchdown and then for our defense to keep them out, even though it’s the fourth quarter of a preseason game, that’s significant, I felt like, for our football team. There were a couple of things that I was really pleased with on our team, which are stats that are important, red zone and third down. I thought offensively, we were good. I think we were, like, 46 percent, and defensively, we held them to the low 30s, and in the red zone we were 100 percent. If we can continue with that trend, we’ll have a good season. Those are all big things. I was pleased with getting the win. It certainly was nice, because you go through all that struggle in the rain, so that’s a heck of a lot better to walk out of there with the win, that’s for sure.

(On Jackie Battle’s versatility)

That’s good to see Jackie (Battle) do that. There were a couple of plays that he’s got to clean up, especially the one bouncing off of his face mask into the air, but I was happy to see that out of Jackie. That’s an important piece of it. It certainly adds versatility to that running back group, and when you have the 46-man active roster on game day, you need guys that are versatile. Jackie’s trending toward having a chance to get one of those spots.

(On players responding to mistakes)

It’s always about how they respond to it. That’s important, but it’s also not about one or two plays in a preseason game. It’s about a body of work. There’s a lot that you’re evaluating over the course of preseason and camp. I think the one point, which is accurate, is that it is important how these guys bounce back, because you’re going against good football players. There’re going to be times when you make mistakes, and if you can respond from those, that’s what’s really important.

(On opposing teams not playing their starters)

I look at it more as an opportunity to go against another team and evaluate your team. The competitive side of you always wants to get their best, but just like us, there’re reasons why certain players aren’t going to play. Everybody’s got their progression of how they do things in the preseason, so that’s part of it.

(On giving players feedback)

You have to be very clear about we’re going to get the best 53 players. That’s what our goal is. I don’t think that there are many players there that are under the illusion that they’ve got the roster made. I think Taylor Lewan’s got a pretty good chance of making the team. There are certainly a couple of others that are established players in the league, but one of the things about this business is they understand it’s very competitive, and it’s very tough. It’s a tough period in a couple of weeks when we have to cut the roster down to 53, because you get attachments to these players. Ultimately, in order to build a team, you have to work hard to pick the best 53, and to tell somebody, “hey, you may make it or you may not make it,” is just not an accurate thing to do. You can tell a guy he’s doing a good job and that needs to continue, but really, ultimately, it’s what they do on the field.

(On Taylor Lewan’s performance)

He didn’t do badly. There are things he’s got to clean up, but he played 48 snaps, I think, which is a lot for a preseason game. It was somewhere in that neighborhood, and there’s a lot that he can gain from that, having played in a game against those guys. I like Taylor (Lewan). I think he’s got a chance to be a good player.

(On players practicing after the first preseason game)

We’ll see tomorrow. We’ll have a little session in the morning where we get a chance to stretch them and do a little run, so hopefully everybody will be good by the time we get to practice.

(On injured players returning to practice)

We’ll see. I don’t know how their treatments went today or exactly where they are. Todd (Toriscelli) and I will talk about it tomorrow, and when they’re ready to go out there, they’ll be back out there.

(On making decisions on the roster)

I like a lot of the guys. There are a lot of young guys, like Daimion Stafford’s a guy that we mentioned previously that’s doing some good things. After one preseason game and the way that one went with the conditions, it’s a little bit hard to say, going forward. Based off practice, I’d say we’ve got some guys that are stepping up, but we’ve got a lot of young guys that potentially didn’t get as much play time last night that we’ll get a chance to see over the next couple of weeks.

(On snaps in the hard rain)

It would be kind of hard to replicate the one we had last night. I hope we got good work with that. Two underestimated things were the snap to the holder on kicks and the snap to the punter in those conditions. Those aren’t just gimmes when the ball’s that wet, so we did get good work with that.

(On having enough footballs in the game)

I’ve been around a lot of NFL games, and that was the wettest I’ve ever seen footballs, last night. I just don’t think there was any way you could keep them dry. You don’t go into a game with an unlimited amount. You only have (24), so they were all pretty wet.

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