Opening Statement: I'll give you the injury report and let you fire away with some questions – Tyvon Branch didn't practice didn't practice today. Andre Gurode, Tony Pashos did not practice. Menelik Watson was back out there today, limited, and Andre Holmes was limited with a hamstring.
Q: Do you change tempo or anything during practice when you're facing a team that has an up-tempo?
Coach Allen: Yeah, we practice the no-huddle offense a lot over the last couple of days just so our guys get used to the fact that they're on the ball pretty quick and being able to handle that communication process that we have to be able to handle. Our guys, really to this point, have done a really good job of that, but it'll be a big factor in the game of our ability defensively to get the communication out that we need to get so that we're all on the same page.
Q: You had Peyton Manning already who does some of that and other teams that have done it. I think Tracy Porter was saying that these guys are even a little more extreme in terms of how fast they run it. Is that the case?
Coach Allen: Yeah, they're pretty fast. They may be the fastest we may have seen as far as getting on the ball and running plays. That's part of what the philosophy of that offense is to get on the ball and run plays and try to get the defense in a situation where they're not aligned properly, they're not focused on what their keys are; they're just trying to get back to the line of scrimmage and get lined up. That's something that we've practiced a lot this week. We'll practice it again tomorrow and hopefully we'll be ready for it.
Q: Do you limit the amount of substitutions that you can make defensively when they're going at that pace?
Coach Allen: If they're on the ball, it limits what you can do from a substitution package standpoint. Obviously, if they substitute, we have the ability to match. That's all part of what we have to prepare for, when can we get our subs on the field and when do we have to stick with the group that's out on the field. We have to have a plan to prepare for whatever package they put out there to start with in a series that we can potentially have to be in that package the whole series.
Q: You mentioned that they're fifth in the NFL in rushing even though they run this spread, up-tempo style. How has LeSean McCoy able to be so effective in this offense?
Coach Allen: He's a good runner. I think they do a good job up front. I think the type of scheme they run fits his running style. He does a great job with his patience in running the football and being able to pick his spots and pick the soft spots in the defense and get up inside or use his speed to get around the edge. I think their offense fits the personnel they have.
Q: At the same time, they've struggled to get their run game going the last two games. What have you seen from film that teams have been so successful against them?
Coach Allen: I think the key is you have to be able to get lined up and you have to be able to attack the line of scrimmage. You have to get, as I always say in the run game, you have to get 11 hats around the ball. That'll be critical again because this guy is a good back and he can make a guy miss in space. So we have to try to limit the space that we have to make tackles in and then we have to get multiple guys to the ball to make sure we get this guy down.
Q: How has your interior run blocking been?
Coach Allen: The run blocking with our offensive line? I think it's been solid. Like I said, the first half of the game last week we rushed the ball pretty efficiently. Not so much in the second half, but part of that is the team we played last week is pretty good on defense too. I've been pleased with what I've seen run blocking-wise. We're beginning to make a little bit of progress from a running game standpoint and hopefully we'll be able to continue that through the rest of the season.
Q: Some of the players on offense yesterday were speaking on the importance of finishing strong versus how they start. How do you stress that this week?
Coach Allen: We made a big point of it. Right now we're in the Top 5 in the league as far as first-quarter scoring differential. We've been able to start fast and I think that's a critical aspect of playing good football, especially at home because the crowd gets in it, the crowd gets excited. But we've got to do a better job of finishing the game. We have to do a better job of staying focused and maintaining the same attitude, the same mindset, throughout the football game.
Q: How much special teams prep do you do, particularly against DeSean Jackson?
Coach Allen: I think we all understand that they've got a couple of really good returners. They haven't used DeSean back there a whole lot, but obviously if he's back there, he's very explosive with the ball in his hands and we have to do a great job with our coverage teams of being able to get down the field. And again, coverage teams are just like defense – it's about getting 11 hats around the ball, 10 usually when you consider the punter and kicker, but we have to get a bunch of guys around the ball. We have to keep him contained. We can't let him get outside of our special teams.
Q: It's almost half the season in the books now. The decision to bring in Charles Woodson, has it been everything you hoped it would be, maybe more?
Coach Allen: He's been a huge addition to our football team. Like I said when we brought him in here, we didn't bring him in here just to be a leader for our football here. We brought him in here because he's a good football player and he still had the ability to make plays on Sundays. He's gone out there and done that. He's done a great job for us, both in coverage, he's one of the best tacklers we have on the football team, and as well as that, his swagger, his demeanor, his leadership ability I think has really rubbed off on, again, not just the defense, but the whole football team.
Q: He said the other day talking about DJ Hayden and people had asked what he'd said to DJ and he said, 'Not much. He's just got to go out there and make plays.' So he's not constantly in the guy's ear, but is that just kind of the way he approaches things usually from what you've observed?
Coach Allen: Yeah, listen, Charles is a guy that sits back, does his job, he understands what he's looking for, but he also has some … A lot of times everybody looks to it that you have to be talking to the guy constantly, having private meetings with him all the time. It's really more about the little things and where you need to put your eyes and what you need to be looking for so you can anticipate the things that you're going to see on Sunday. With every offense or with every defense, there are certain tips and tells that give you an idea of what they're going to do, whether it be run or pass or what type of route you might see. Those are the little bitty things that I think he can help, and I think he has helped, DJ with.
Q: With your return game, is it Taiwan Jones and Ford again or are you still tinkering with that?
Coach Allen: We're going to go with Taiwan back there on kickoffs and Jacoby on the punt returns, and I did see some explosiveness in our return game. We still have to work to improve that, but our guys are working hard and it's just a matter of time before we're able to hit one.
Q: Going against a team that thrives in space and certain young players like Sio Moore, what are you really looking for from those younger players?
Coach Allen: I'm looking for them to go out and execute and do their job. I think we got some athletic players on the defensive side of the ball. I think our guys are playing with a lot of enthusiasm and I think they're running to the football really well. When they get there, they arrive with a bad attitude. Sio is one guy that demonstrates that. I'm just looking for guys that want to go out there and execute their job and play really hard.
Q: You have a lot of different responsibilities as a head coach, but as a former defensive coordinator, how much time do you get into that defensive game planning, get your hands dirty?
Coach Allen: I spend a lot of time with the defensive staff and game planning and what we do defensively. But I have a great staff in there. They've done a great job, not only [defensive coordinator Jason Tarver] J.T., but the rest of the defensive staff. I think that being for the most part all of us are here together for the second year, I think we have a better feel of exactly what we're looking for and how we want to attack different offenses and I think our players have done a great job of buying in to that system.
Q: With the group of backup receivers, is there a separation between the guys that are active and Juron Criner, or is it tight? How closely is that competitive?
Coach Allen: It's pretty tight. I think really I feel comfortable with all our receivers. I think we have a good solid group of wide receivers. I don't know that we have that [Lions WR] Calvin Johnson, [Texans WR] Andre Johnson, [Bengals WR A.J.] Green in Cincinnati, I don't know that we have that guy, but I think we have a real solid group of receivers and I feel comfortable with any one of those guys we put in the game.
Q: Can I ask you a quick football philosophy question about special teams?
Coach Allen: Sure.
Q: What does a kickoff add to the sport and what would the sport lose if you took kickoffs out entirely and replace them with a punt or something?
Coach Allen: Well I hadn't really put a lot of thought into it, to be honest with you. But it's part of the game. Ever since I can remember, that's always been part of the game and I think it's an exciting part of the game. I'd hate to see that play being taken out of the game. I think the league's done a good job of changing some of the rules on the kickoff to eliminate some of the violent collisions and some of the injuries, but I'd hate to see that taken out of the game.