(Do you have a pecking order for the running backs yet?)
We're going to work through that. DeShawn Wynn did not practice today. He had a neck spasm. Ryan Grant has gotten more work than he has in the past, and Brandon Jackson is back in the fold. And Vernand is kind of limited. So we're working through that.
(Do you still think Brett can make the deep throws?)
Absolutely. He had a big-time throw just yesterday in practice, a 55, 60-yard throw. He has plenty of arm strength left.
(Against Denver, can you get something going with the running game, considering they're better against the pass than the run?)
They haven't statistically played real well against the run, but they've changed some things on their defense through their bye week. They had a bye week before Pittsburgh. There's some things just from a basic schematic standpoint they have changed, and we're fortunate to have the long week to prepare for that. But I feel we can run the football this week, next week and the week after. We need to continue to work at the fundamentals and the things we haven't done very well to this point. And I think we've had two very spirited, physical practices to build off of.
(Are you wavering at all on the zone-blocking scheme, thinking of going in a different direction at all, maybe not entirely, just partially?)
To answer your question, no. In my view there's no reason to. Whether it's zone-blocking schemes, pattern-blocking schemes, it still comes down to the fundamentals of footwork, pad level, and those types of things. Our issues are fundamentals, and we need to do a better job.
(That's the whole issue here to get this thing going?)
Absolutely. That's what the self-scout tells you.
(So what's the answer?)
Well, number one, the answer is we're winning football games. And I know I come in here and talk about one aspect of our football team. We've had a lot of success throwing the football, and teams need to stop us from throwing the football, too, so you need to take that into account with what's going on with our offense. Do I want to runt eh ball more? Yes. We will run the ball more, and we'll run it better, and that's all I've got to tell you. I answer this question every single day. It's not that bad, in my view. You obviously feel differently. That's your viewpoint. We will run the football. How many times we'll run the football, the game will dictate that. The most important thing is fundamentals and attempts. I really haven't given our players the opportunity to grind the game out. But there are other things that we've been able to take advantage of from an offensive standpoint that have been productive, and we'll continue to do that.
(Why do you think your team hasn't gotten the same respect as the other no-loss and one-loss teams?)
I'm probably not the one to ask that question, because I don't follow it that close. Frankly I really don't care what other people think of us. It's really a viewpoint I share with the football team often. We really focus on what's on the coaches' tape, whether we're evaluating ourselves, evaluating our opponent. Perception a lot of times is not reality, and that's what we focus on. Once again, we're six games into this season. We're not interested in being judged after six games. We understand it's a long journey. We have this week to come off the week off to prepare for our 10-game stretch, and that's really our focus. And we have to go beat a good football team in Denver, which is a tough place to play, from my experiences there.
(With the bye week to reflect, what do you think of your team?)
I think we're an improving football team. I think we're a good football team that finds ways to win. There's some consistency through our football team as far as being a lot more physical than we were in the past. That was a focus coming off the offseason. We're a better football team in areas of fundamentals. Special teams, I think our run defense has been very good. We've been a little up and down in explosive gains on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively we've been a lot more productive with yards after the catch in the passing game than we were at this time last year. The run game is something we've addressed over and over again here. I think there needs to be more of a commitment from myself, the play-caller, and we need to do a better job of fundamentals. I've hit that already. So there's a lot more positive aspects of our football team this year. We're a good football team, but we really have not played our best football. I cannot sit here and tell you we've played a bunch of complete games. We've had some good games, beat some really good teams, but that's what I'm excited about, I feel that's what our players are excited about. They see the area of improvements, they see we can improve, and that our best football is ahead of us.
(Is it difficult to get the game tempo back after such a long layoff?)
That's a concern. I think that's an excellent point. That's something you always worry about when you come off a four- or five-day layoff. But if you had the opportunity just to watch the whole practice yesterday and today, we finished our practice schedule 14 minutes ahead of schedule. That's just a reflection of how fast the tempo was going, didn't have repeated plays. So they were sharp, they were focused. Yesterday's practice was probably a little too physical. But we've had two really good practices, probably our two best practices of the year.
(Is that a product of success, that they're anxious to get back to work?)
Clearly. Success clearly helps that. It's important to everybody, but when you do have success, there's more energy. There's no doubt about it. I think it's part of the constant message of our football team of trying to improve. Our players are clearly into what needs to be done. I think that's a reflection of our structure, communication from the coaching staff and everybody being on the same page.