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REX: Young DL’s Really a Strength of Our Team

Posted Oct 31, 2013

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's news conference following our Thursday midday practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:

Everybody, happy Halloween. I figured I’d drop that one in there on you. Practice today, really, really good practice, both sides of the ball, communication is excellent, so that’s encouraging. Still have a lot of guys out. Willie Colon is still out with a calf. [Jeff] Cumberland, out with a concussion. We had Alex Green out with a hamstring, so that’s a new one, and Santonio Holmes with a hamstring. Guys that were limited today, Stephen Hill with a foot, Nick Mangold ribs and David Nelson with a quad, he was limited today.

On if he is concerned about the injured players not playing on Sunday…

All those guys concern you when they don’t practice. It wasn’t like we were just resting somebody, so all those guys concern you. I’m not going to say that all of them are out or anything, but anytime guys can’t practice, it concerns you.

On if he has a gut feeling on Willie Colon playing will play on Sunday…

Again, I know he never practiced, but like with all these guys, I’m hopeful he’ll play. I know he wants to awfully bad.

On how practice has been the last couple of days…

It’s been good. I think the concentration’s been great. I think the communication, as I said, has been good. Obviously, this team is very challenging and we’re getting ready to play. A lot of personnel groupings formation and talent, to boot. [Drew] Brees is a guy that really they want to push the ball vertically, so we have to be on top of it and we’ve done a decent job in practice.

On how Jimmy Graham compares to Rob Gronkowski…

Oh man, they’re both outstanding. Gronk is probably a little more physical down the field than Graham. Graham has probably a little more speed than Gronk, but both of them, I’m not saying it’s impossible to cover them, but sometimes it looks like that.

On Graham’s foot injury limiting to only 18 snaps last week…

And only two touchdowns [laughter]. So I think he was three targets, three catches, I got it. And really, coming all the way here, it’s not good for him to fly [joking, laughter]. I wouldn’t. I admit if it was our player, no way, and Sean [Payton] shouldn’t bring him [joking, laughter].

On how Antonio Allen did covering Gronkowski two weeks ago…

He did a good job. He was targeted about 18 times or something. Again, I think from a body type, he’s long and all that, so I think he did a good job.

On how he would characterize the pass protection this year…

I think we do a good job in pass protection. I think the numbers, as you said, I think the numbers sometimes, it doesn’t appear that way. I think we’re 30th in the league or something. But again, this is not a whole lot different. When you have a young quarterback, sometimes they have the tendency to hold the ball a little bit longer. And I’m not putting everything on Geno [Smith] because that’s not it, but that’s part of it. The one thing I will say is he’s protecting the ball better. So that’s encouraging. But I think our protection has held up pretty well. We’ll be challenged, certainly, this week. But even when you look at them when we had the eight sacks against Buffalo, it’s a rookie quarterback, and again, they don’t want to make the mistake down the field, so they have the tendency to hold a little bit longer.

On how difficult brother Rob Ryan's Saints pass rush is to deal with…

It’s difficult. There’s no doubt. And you’re right, he’s getting pressure from a lot of different guys, he's very multiple in what he does. I think my brother is the only one without a sack on that team. It is impressive that he has that many guys. It just shows that it’s really about the team, it’s not just trying to set up one individual, even though the one kid [Cameron Jordan] has six sacks for them. But again, the pressure comes from everywhere.

On if they want to exploit the Saints’ low-ranked run defense…

We want to exploit it anyway we can, run, pass, you name it. I know the numbers. My brother in the past is willing to give up some run yards and then set you up on the pass. We’ll see how it plays out, but I understand where you’re coming from. It’s weird. When you look at them numbers-wise, everything is near the top and then here’s the run defense that’s down at 32nd. But some of that is you get big leads on people as well and you’ll concede the run.

On the struggles on offense last week…

I think you have to give the opponent credit. They did a lot of good things defensively against us. But I think the game kind of got out of hand in a hurry, so it kind of took us out of really our natural flow or our natural game plan.

On Darren Sproles…

Look at him, the all-purpose yards, when you look at all that kind of stuff, the guy still gets it done. Phenomenal, his quickness, change-of-direction, that’s what it is more than his overall speed. Obviously, it’s speed, but it’s his change-of-direction and that quickness that’s uncanny. He’s tremendous out of the backfield. He can run with the ball, a great returner. So yeah, that’s pretty scary.

On if Sproles is like C.J. Spiller…

He’s different. Spiller has blazing speed where Sproles is as fast going sideways as he is going forward. So it’s a scary combination he has.

On if Sproles’ role has diminished…

Last week they never played him a whole lot, so I don’t know if there’s an issue there or whatever, I’m not sure, but the week before he had a monster game. They have a good group of backs. Pierre Thomas, he does it all, and then you have this [Khiry] Robinson kid who really shows tremendous run-wise, his burst off the tape. And obviously you have Sproles, so it’s tough.

On if Zach Sudfeld will start if Cumberland can’t go…

Him or Konrad [Reuland], either one, one of those two, so it’s giving one of those deals. They’d both play. One guy, probably a little better skillset as a receiver, one’s probably a little better blocker. So if Konrad starts, expect run and if Sudfeld starts, expect pass [joking, laughter]. No, it’s not like that, but we will play them in different things. It’s not just a set starter.

On how much the bye week factors into playing Holmes on Sunday…

Well, if he’s ready to go, then he’s going to be out there. I get what you’re saying. I understand that I would make sense if he’s not 100 percent or close to it, then the bye is another week, so I understand that.

On the chances Holmes will play on Sunday…

I don’t know. I guess you have to ask him. But the doctors and trainers, we will lean on heavily on this.

On if he would like to see more production from Stephen Hill…

Again, I’d like to see us all more productive. Last week, obviously, no one was productive. But he’s a guy that certainly has made some nice catches for us. I’ll tell you where he really showed up the other day. In crunch time he had some monster catches against New England, obviously, so we’ll see. Hopefully, he’s a guy with that size and that speed that you’d love to get going.

On why Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson have been so productive…

I think you look at it, it starts with really that whole group. They push each other, there’s no doubt. Nobody wants to be the weak link in there. And we’re deep on the defensive line. You mentioned Snacks [Harrison], you mentioned Sheldon, both those guys have really played well for us, they’re both very active guys. And then you have Mo [Wilkerson] and you have [Quinton] Coples and you have Kenrick Ellis who’s been the same and [Leger] Douzable. It’s really a strong group without question.

But the common trait I think is that they play extremely hard. I think that’s it. I think they’re well coached. I think Karl Dunbar and Jeff Weeks do a tremendous job with that group and they take to coaching. Again, they drive each other. So, really it’s been, when you look at it, it’s really a strength of our team right now, that young defensive line.

On how Brees overcomes his lack of great height…

It’s unusual. Most quarterbacks in this league are much taller. And the thing he’s uncanny about, he has phenomenal vision down the field. You would think, it just makes sense, you have bigger guys, he’s not going to be able to see, but it is amazing how he can. Number one, he’s smart and he’s done it, but he can visualize the whole field. He’s just uncanny that way. He also does an outstanding job of slipping and moving through open lanes. He doesn’t get many passes blocked compared to a guy that you would thing. A shorter guy would get a lot of passes blocked. He gets open windows and that’s what he throws through.

On how he would rate Brees’ accuracy…

Probably about as high as anybody in the league. I think he’s over 70 percent [actually 67.5]. And the amazing thing about that, like I said, he pushes the ball down the field. It’s not just checkdowns, curls and whatever, he’s hitting them all.

On having to sit on a loss instead of a win going into the bye week…

Well, if you have to sit on it for two weeks, that always is tough. There’s no doubt about that. This is the New Orleans Saints, so this is about as good as it gets in the NFL. So if we find a way to get a win here, it would be huge. This is an outstanding football team. Again, we expect to win, but we also know it’s a huge challenge. There’s no doubt. It’s going to be a huge challenge.

On if they would gain momentum if they win on Sunday even coming off the bye…

I would think so. I would definitely think so. This would be one of these type of teams, one of these springboard type things, I would believe.

On New Orleans ability to be successful even though they don’t run the ball or stop the run well…

I think the game’s changed a little bit obviously, but, when you are that prolific at throwing the football as they are, as New England, as Denver, that’s how you get away with it and you go way ahead of people. Sometimes, like I said, you’re willing to give up more rushing yards than you would and I think that’s why they’re playing the way they are. They’re getting takeaways on defense and their scoring defense is outstanding. I think that’s probably the [reason]. If you want to lay your hat on something, with their team, that’s what you want to do. They’re outstanding in those categories. They’re also outstanding at getting pressure on the quarterback.

On if Antonio Cromartie might cover Graham…

It’s a thought.

On if Cromartie can handle covering Graham…

I think size- and skill-wise, yeah, I think he could handle. But that guy is a unique cat now. Graham has the speed of a receiver, the size of an offensive tackle, so it’s a huge challenge for anybody that’s asked to do that.

On if he has tried to analyze if the team’s approach or motivational factors have contributed to the win one, lose one trend…

No, I don’t think it is really that. It is probably coincidence more than anything and the fact that we’re not there as a football team yet. We’re not consistent. You can’t classify us as a great team right now. We’re not. We’re working that way. We’re working to be that kind of team, but we’re not there yet. I think that’s probably why you see more of this [as he moves his arm up and down] than you do other teams, maybe.

On if the win-one-lose-one trend can be attributed to having a rookie quarterback…

I don’t think it’s fair to do that. I think it’s the team. I think when our team plays well, we win. When we don’t play well, we lose. I think it’s simple as that. Is Geno a big part of it? Of course, but it doesn’t just boil down to him.

On his assessment of the defense so far…

Right now, it’s incomplete. There are so many areas we can improve in, and we have to improve in them, and we have to do it in a hurry, especially with this opponent coming in. We’re doing a decent job, but we know we have to do a much better job. Really, it starts with fundamentals, techniques and communication, all that. Communication is getting better, it’s just fundamentally and all that, especially with some of the young guys, we just have to get a little bit better. I think when we do, much greater things are ahead of this group.

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