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Quotes: Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins (12-20-2017)

Posted Dec 20, 2017

A transcript of Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins' press conferences Dec. 20, 2017.

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On injuries:

Zach Brown, Achilles, toe and hamstring, did not participate. These are all [players who did not participate]. Stacy McGee was sick. We’ve got the flu going around the office. Morgan Moses was sick, also ankle. Ryan Anderson, knee; Trent Williams, knee. Limited were [Jamison] Crowder, hamstring; [Terrell] McClain, toe; [Kendall] Fuller, foot; and Mo [Maurice] Harris, back.”

On if there is a chance LB Zach Brown could return:

“There is a chance, yes, but I have no idea.”

On Denver’s defense:

“Anytime you talk about Denver’s defense, I think they have a couple stars that you have to start with and that’s Von Miller, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris. I think those are the main guys – Shane Ray, but he’s out. [Shaquil] Barrett’s playing extremely well, the other outside linebacker, so they have a very talented football team. They play well against the run. They can stack the box because they have great corners that can play a lot of good man-to-man. Overall, I think they’re No. 1 in the league in total defense, so a lot stands out.”

On how much wear and tear he’s seen in TE Vernon Davis this season:

“You would think that could be the case, but I don’t think it has been. I think he keeps himself in unbelievable shape. He should do his own workout videos, really. I mean, he’s unbelievable. I haven’t seen any wear and tear on him. He hasn’t slowed down and he’s still strong at the point of attack, so I haven’t seen it.”

On the growth of DL Anthony Lanier II and what he has done to get to this point:

“I think a lot, really. Not only obviously the sack production is starting to increase a little bit, but his disruption – just simple things like getting his hands up in passing lanes. He had three deflected passes last week, which you couldn’t get him to raise his hands last year, so he’s been disruptive. He’s learning the defense. He’s learning about leverages and taking on double teams in the running game. It’s all a process. Alignments, whether you’re a three, a four-eye or five, whatever it is, all that stuff, penetration, he’s doing a good job just overall. He’s still got a long way to go without a doubt but Coach [Jim] Tomsula’s in his ear all the time when he’s in this building and he’s learning.”

On if he expected CB Kendall Fuller to make the Pro Bowl roster:

“I think Kendall – it wouldn’t have surprised me if he made it, but it’s hard for a nickel, probably, to get the votes with all the quality corners in the league. From his consistent play this year, I think he’s worthy of some votes but it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t just because he’s mainly featured in nickel.”

On TE Jeremy Sprinkle and what it would take for him to see more snaps:
“Yeah, Jeremy’s just coming it along. He’s a young player out of Arkansas and he’s learning the position. He’s mainly playing the Y position – he’s not doing a lot of moving around. He’s featured in our three-tight-end sets right now and if something were to happen to Vernon Davis, he’d probably jump right in there in some of our run sets. But, I think he’s got to continue to develop without a doubt – all his skills, really, his blocking skills, his route running, his knowledge of the system. I think he’s on pace where I thought he would be at this time, he’s just got to continue to develop, which he will. He’s going to get a lot stronger in the weight room too, which I like.”

On if WR Jamison Crowder’s hamstring injury was from practice or “hangover” from the game:

“That’s a hangover from the game. [It’s] just a tweak, which I don’t know what that means.”

On if the idea of T Ty Nsekhe playing guard has been tabled because of injuries:

“Yeah, that’s been put on hold with the tackle uncertainty, and it has been put on hold probably for next year. I think with Ty, he is much better suited when he is playing one spot, tackle, and you start moving him around and all that, it’s not that easy to go inside at guard. It’s a different set. It’s a different technique. It’s different calls for you and all that stuff. I think Ty is a big man and a very good tackle, but in the offseason when we have more time, maybe we can feature him at some guard when we’ve got all our guys back.”

On S Fish Smithson:

“Fish has done a good job. In the preseason he had a nice interception. He’s learning. I think his special team play out here has been improving on kickoff cover and some of the punt return stuff. He can help us in that regard also. But overall I just watch him move around, and when we do scout team, he’s done some corner, he’s covered the slot, he has played some nickel, he has played the deep safety, he’s played the strong safety. So he has done a little bit of everything.  I like his movement skills, his ball skills and I like just [his] overall knowledge of the game right now. I think he is a good player. He is a great project for us. We are fortunate to keep him on our practice squad this entire time and I’m glad that we had a chance to activate him. [It’s a] good Christmas bonus for him and hopefully he can help us.”

On how QB Kirk Cousins feels physically:

“He’s holding up good. You know, he took a nice shot the other day. He’s holding up. [He’s] been durable. Just the nature of the position there, John. Quarterbacks are going to get hit from time-to-time [laughter].”

On if he would prefer Cousins to be hit less:

“Has he been getting hit that much? Did you keep stats on that? [Laughter]. No, we never like to see our quarterback get hit, for sure. We have to do a better job of protecting him. It would help if we stayed out of some of these third-and-longs. A lot can be done to protect him. We have got to do a better job.”

On motivating the team these last couple of weeks:

“Yeah, well, it’s similar to last week. I think all these guys are pros and they want to win. Anytime you step out on the field in a competitive situation in front of fans, you want to perform well. You want to perform well for your family, for your fans, for your organization, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue, really. I think Denver’s in the same situation. They played very well last week against Indianapolis, and they’re going to come in here with every intent to show their defensive dominance that they have over the years and we’re going to have every intent to try to get our offense going and defense and play a heck of a game.”

On if there will be any new tricks out of him in these final games:

“Nah, I put the reverses to bed. I might try something else, it just wasn’t pretty.”

On hurting his hand a little bit at practice today:

“I did. I bruised my hand. Samaje [Perine] has got these big, fat elbows and I tried to poke the ball loose and hit my hand, but it’s OK. I’m not going to hit the injury report today. Now, my hammies are a different story. I almost pulled a hammy [laughter].”

QB Kirk Cousins

On how having continuity at the quarterback position helps the team:

“I’d like to think that the continuity at the quarterback position is always preferred, but it’s not a luxury that you have at all times. So you have to be ready to roll with whatever happens and I would like to hope and believe that we can continue to have continuity but time will tell.”

On how cognizant he was of Arizona’s offensive struggles last week in his decision-making process:

“It goes back to situational awareness. I do keep harping on that term, but that really is what it is all about. I remember a play I made against Dallas on Thursday night, scrambling to my left and threw it to [Jamison] Crowder. I think we were down 17-0 at that point. That’s why you make that throw. If it’s a 10-10 game and tied and we have been moving the ball well and our defense has shut them out, there is not much need to force that ball there. But when you’re down 17, you need to get a spark, you force it because that’s being situationally aware. And I think the same is going to be true in every single game. You evaluate everything – the weather, how you’re defense is playing, how your run game is going, how you have been doing on third down, how much time is left in the half or the game, timeouts that are left. Whatever it may be, you have got to factor in all those different variables that determine how you play the game and the decisions you make and how aggressive you are.”

On how he evaluates tape with situational awareness:

“That specific game, I just go back to third downs. I counted six third downs that I felt were there to be made that didn’t get made. Then I think you had a total of nine. So we were one-for-nine, so six that didn’t get made. So that’s seven-out-of-nine that you would like to say were there and we had one that was third-and-24 and then we had one that was four-minute offense where we chose to run the ball to force them to use their final timeout in the fourth quarter. So that was another burned one. So really, you look at seven of the nine third downs were very makeable and we only made one of them. I think those are the plays I feel like we or I left on the field. Outside of that, not a ton but I go back to third downs as the ones that probably caused us to not have as explosive of a day as we would have wanted to have.”

On not running many plays and if that changes his mindset:

“Yeah, if you were to factor in total plays in every game, that certainly is an interesting number because I’ve had games where we have had double the number of plays that we had [Sunday]. So think about having double the production on offense that we had on Sunday as well and that makes for a pretty productive day. We said after the Chargers game, ‘If we are going to run 51 plays, it’s going to be hard to have a dynamic day on offense, period, even if you are playing well.’ Then we had a similar day against Arizona. Fortunately we got the win, but we have got to find a way to get more plays. Any number of circumstances can create that, starting with converting third downs.”

On his reaction to T Trent Williams and G Brandon Scherff being selected to the Pro Bowl:

“Thrilled – and Ryan Kerrigan. And Zach Brown and Josh Norman being alternates. It’s just a great honor. It says a lot about not only this season but their body of work that they have put together for years now. It says a lot about our organization, the scouting staff, their ability to draft. Three of those players were drafted here and two of them were signed in free agency recently. So it really reflects good decisions by our entire organization bringing those guys in and developing them. Hopefully we continue to have people in the Pro Bowl discussion year in and year out.”

On Williams making the Pro Bowl despite his injury:

“Well, they say that you get selected to the Pro Bowl a year probably after you should’ve gone because it takes time to earn that reputation. Then they say once you’re in, you’re kind of in. I think that it’s pretty clear the Trent Williams has established himself as one of the best left tackles in football regardless of AFC/NFC. Whether he is a little banged up or not, he is going to get the votes and people are going to give him the respect he has earned and deserves. I think it is a credit to that and you could also say the same for the others guys who are voted as well. People know what they can do regardless of their injuries.”

On Williams saying Cousins should’ve been selected:

“I think it means that Trent is a little biased. He’s a bit of a homer, which I appreciate. He should be, right? It’s a competitive league and when you look at the quarterback play, there are several quarterbacks who could justify being in the conversation. I think it is important that every year you’re at least in the conversation and you’re discussed. A lot of it is going to come down to other factors that affect your individual statistics and how games go and that kind of a thing. You can’t get caught up in all that. But I think to be in the discussion at this time every year is an important thing and hopefully I can keep playing at a level that allows that to be the case.”

On if a quarterback can learn how to take a hit:

“Well, I think it’s important to know your limitations a little bit. Get out of bounds when you can get out of bounds, slide when you can slide and just try to have a sense of where people are coming from and not ask for trouble – not step up into something, but be able to just step back or avoid it. Maybe you don’t throw with your feet set in the ground because you feel someone falling at your shins, so your front, lead foot slides back and you kind of just throw with your hips and shoulders. There’s little things like that you try to do to protect yourself. You rarely can throw from a perfect platform, so I think a lot of guys in this league who have success are guys who can still make accurate throws without their feet or their platform being perfect. Those are things you try to do to remain injury-free, but you never know what can happen.”

On if his mind will give thought to Sunday potentially being his last home game at FedExField:

“I’ve had multiple years here where it was the final year of my contract, so I guess those possibilities have come up before. I guess now that it’s been the third go around of that, you just kind of go out and play and let the chips fall where they may. I just want to make sure that in and of this season that we leave FedExField on a high note and give our home fans something to feel good about as they leave FedExField for the last time this season. That’s really where the focus is –trying to have a finish here that causes the tenor of the season to feel much better as we walk away from it.”

On how it feels to be able to play the final home game of the season on Christmas Eve:

“It’s great to play on Christmas Eve. We did it last year as well, and then we get the off day on Christmas Day, which works out really well. It’ll be fun to have Cooper in his Christmas pajamas. My wife got matching pajamas for the three of us and I will definitely be forced to wear those on Christmas Day [laughter], so we’ll have a good time. I’m sure there will be a lot of family pictures and we’ll be opening presents and doing the traditional things, so always looking forward to Christmas. The football schedule kind of throws a wrench into your Christmas plans. It’s not like the days in middle school and high school when you just go on Christmas break and have two weeks off, so those days are over, but that’s the real world and we’ve got a job to do. No better Christmas gift than trying to get a win on Christmas Eve and go into Christmas Day feeling good about the job we did on Sunday.”

On if there are any consistent themes with teams that have put up points against Denver’s defense:

“That’s a good question and I’m still asking that because I’ve got to get in my studying further and get a feel for why did those couple games happen – what was different. Because even with those games being factored into the stat pool, they still are statistically leading the league in several categories or in the Top 5. It goes to show how dominant they were in all the other games to be able to create that. We’ll take a look and see, but I’m sure it’s a combination of great quarterback play, great receiver play, offensive line play, play calls, protecting the football … all kind of things factor in, I’m sure.”

On the rule governing fumbles through the end zone and if it’s hard not to instinctively reach the ball out:

“Yeah, and a similar situation happened to me against Minnesota this year on a zone read when I am literally at – not even the half-yard line – like the quarter-yard line, and it’s just so tempting to reach out, but you know the minute you do that, your ball security is jeopardized and, in my case, it was and I fumbled but fortunately we had crossed the goal line. It’s a tough thing to coach. I was always coached, going back to college, never reach out unless it’s fourth-and-goal, never reach out. But it is tempting when you have it there to just reach out and get the six points. I go back to situational awareness. When he had already gotten the first down, it was going to be first-and-goal, there was enough time on the clock, those kinds of things start to factor in… you don’t need to reach out quite as much as if that was third- or fourth-and-goal, there was no time left, those kinds of things start to affect the decision you make in that moment. But, a tough play. And it just was a reminder to me of how fragile the game is when you can leave that game feeling on top of the world and the difference is just so small. It doesn’t mean that the Raiders are bad and the Cowboys are great, you know? It just shows that the margin for error is so small and you have to do whatever you can to fight for those inches.”

On if he is going to wear his Christmas suit on Sunday:

“You know, I think the Christmas suit plays much better if we win. So I would love to get a win and then I’ll wear whatever my wife picks out. But if we don’t get the job done, you might see one of the more boring outfits from me. So it’s much more fun after a win.”

On the challenges of facing the Broncos’ defense:

“Well, I think it starts with the pass rush, just very good defensive line play and outside linebacker play. Then you look at a guy like Brandon Marshall, who’s a star linebacker. Then I have a lot of respect for Darian Stewart in the secondary and really their entire secondary, their safeties. And then, they really have three corners that are all legit, elite cornerbacks that can really cover and are savvy, veteran players. So it’s no secret as to why they’re a top defense in the league and we’ve got our hands full and [we’re] going to have to be on the details, on the screws, making plays, executing, and hopefully staying penalty-free protecting the football. And hopefully as well, our defense can do a good job and keep us in it and we’ll see what it leads to, but it’ll be a great challenge.”

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