GREEN BAY – The Packers' three coordinators plus three offensive assistant coaches met with the media on Thursday. Here's a sampling of their key comments.
Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia
On Amari Rodgers' job as punt returner:
He knows what's at stake. Anytime that someone carries the ball, they're carrying the hopes and dreams of the entire team. So he understands the ramifications of when it doesn't go the way we'd like it to go. But again, we're going to lean on the work. Right now he's still in the mix to be our punt returner, and I saw last week, he and Keisean (Nixon) were both back there in the kickoff return mode, along with PT (Patrick Taylor). That's kind of where we're at right now.
I felt like he has some want-to when he goes back there. He wants to change the game, he wants to make something happen. And that has to do in part with the muffs. I think you can see, he was trying to take off before he actually had it caught, so there's a lot of positives in Amari. He's got great work habits right now, he's been a good catch guy when he does it the right way. I think he sometimes gets a little too anxious to make a play before we secure the ball. Hopefully the work he's putting in this week will keep him going in the right direction.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry
On Bills QB Josh Allen, if he compares to anybody else:
He's a hell of a player, man, hell of a talent. I think it's shocking if you guys haven't actually seen him in person, especially in pads. But I think the main one that people usually go with is Ben Roethlisberger. This is nothing against Ben – because Ben was, in his day, incredible – I think Josh is even bigger and faster. Cam Newton is another one. I think he's obviously more of a pure passer than Cam, but those two guys, at least as far as body type, you're talking about a guy that's over 6-5 and 240 pounds and can run and create like he can. Arguably, he probably has the strongest arm as far as just pure arm talent in the league, so he's a really, really good player.
I've never seen a quarterback not slide like this guy. I mean this guy is looking to get every inch of grass that he can get and in a violent physical manner
On the defensive struggles in the second half:
When you've got to an opportunity to get off the field, you've got to cash in. You can't give that offense new life, whether it's a takeaway opportunity – we had plenty of takeaway opportunities in Washington the second half that we just, we made plays on the ball but we could've really gotten takeaways, we've could've gotten interceptions. Had a handful of penalties that really hurt us as well. When we get them in positions whether it's us taking the ball away or we get them to third down, we've got to get off the field. And we just for whatever reason in a handful of those games in the second half hasn't gone our way. We stress takeaways every single day – because takeaways are huge, that is a life blood for any defense – those are things we have not been able to consistently do this year, but really the last two weeks if you look at the way we've challenged receivers, we've gotten our hands on a bunch of balls. So if we can just turn those into takeaways and get them back for our offense and get their offense off the field, it's going to help.
Offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich
On facing Buffalo's top-ranked defense:
Their linebackers are extremely athletic and extremely physical. They do a really good job playing the run and playing the pass, so they can cover that second-level space really well. So that's one thing you have to take into account when you're trying to attack their defense. Up front, Von Miller, obviously really good pass rusher, so you've got to be aware of him, where he's at at all times, and then their interior guys are physical big guys. So it's going to be a challenge in all phases to really get after these guys.
On what getting WR Christian Watson back could mean for the offense:
It definitely opens up things for sure, when you can utilize him in a lot of different ways, and we kind of got into that in earlier parts of the season. Right now he's coming off a hamstring injury, so you kind of have to manage him still. You don't want to put too much on his plate. But yeah, he brings an element to our offense that we haven't had in a few weeks.
On Zach Tom's emergency start:
First off, when he got the news, he's not a very emotional guy to begin with. He was, all right. The moment wasn't too big for him. He didn't have the wide-eyed look you're hoping not to see from a rookie. He did a great job. He competed. He didn't have any mental mistakes or anything like that. Yeah, for the most part, just battled his butt off, and I was happy to see that.
Receivers/passing game coordinator Jason Vrable
On the potential impact of Watson's return:
In any offense, you want a fast player on the field, right, at least at one of your receiver positions to open things up. Early in the year he had a double move on the left sideline, I think it was against the Bears, and before the guy even turned he was three steps behind him. So people naturally respect his speed. He's strong, he's big. You guys all see that stuff. Obviously when you're watching the tape and you're a defense, you have to respect that speed, because he's going to run by people with his speed. He's done a great job rehabbing and getting back and feeling great, so I'm excited to see where he's at going into this game.
On minimizing the mental mistakes:
Every game is different. Some of the mistakes are maybe coverage recognition. You might give them reps with this – there's only so much time on task – and all of a sudden it turns to Cover-2 or Cover-3 and you're supposed to cross the field and you don't see it and it confuses you. Sometimes Aaron Rodgers gets different looks than maybe other QBs would. Our practice habits have to carry over. You can feel comfortable on the practice field, but if we're not there in the heat of the moment in the game, being in the right spot at the right time, then you're not performing at the level that we need, and then the results are going to be inconsistent.
Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements
On QB Aaron Rodgers' thumb and if it affects his accuracy, such as the low third-and-2 throw to WR Romeo Doubs on third-and-2:
I played with a sore thumb at times. I'm not sure bad Aaron's thumb is but it does bother him. The third-and-2, that was a little miscommunication. If you recall, he had the double-clutch so that's just the way that particular play worked out. It was not a verbal communication, it was physical, and they weren't on the same wavelength there.
On the meetings with the receivers and how Rodgers handles those:
We watch film with the receivers and he is great with them in the room. He tries to explain to them on a particular play what he's thinking, what he has to do, where they fit into that particular play. If the progression starts on this side and the receiver's on that side he tells them, 'You have to understand that because I'm not going to get to you real quick, so you have to get open when I take my proper footwork and when I get to you in the progression. If you get open too soon or too late, then I can't get to you.' He talks to them consistently about plays like that. They're all trying to get their assignments but he's trying to get them to think a little bit more about the whole picture. If you can do that, if you understand the whole picture, you can make adjustments easier and you can do your job a little better. But he's been great with those guys in the room.
Running backs coach Ben Sirmans
On getting AJ Dillon going again:
The biggest thing for him is just playing that bully-type football. That's the one thing that we talked about, and that's really it in a nutshell for him. Just getting out there and attacking things. Some of the opportunities haven't been there in terms of putting the ball in his hands. We talked about it's a long season. I don't think there's any frustration with him. It's all about resetting each game. It's about going about there each game in an attack frame of mind.
On the hits Aaron Jones takes:
That's his style. We talk about you've got to be ready to accelerate on contact, and that's something he does a really good job of, when he takes shots, is to continuously keep his feet moving. Helps him re-establish his balance, and we talk about finishing north, north and south, as opposed to sideways. He's taken on that type of mindset as a runner, and although he's not a real big guy, he's not a real powerful guy, but he is a strong guy. So he utilizes the strength that he has, and I think that's why he's able to take on those hits and be successful at keeping the chains moving.