Head Coach Hue Jackson. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: Did [Sebastian] Janikowski have some kind of setback today? Anything going on with him?
Coach Jackson: No, no setback. We just, again, are going to take it easy until we make sure that he's totally healthy. I think he's getting there, very close but obviously I think I'm learning the way of a medical report. If a guy didn't do much, you've got to put him on there. So that's the way it works, so he's on there.
Q: These guys that are questionable – any of them you feel good about having a chance?
Coach Jackson: Honestly, I probably feel good about all of them. Maybe except one or two, I think everybody's going to be okay. Yeah, I think we'll be fine; I really do.
Q: Is it harder for [Michael] Huff because it's a short week?
Coach Jackson: Yeah, I think it is harder for him and that's just where it is. We're not playing on Sunday; we're playing Thursday night so it'll be tough. But, I know he wants to and I know he's going to do everything he can to be out there if he can.
Q: Who do you put up there at corner with [DeMarcus] Van Dyke out?
Coach Jackson: We'll put Lito Sheppard. We'll put the veteran player out there who knows how to play.
Q: How did he look last week? He came in late, but did he look…
Coach Jackson: Yeah I mean again, he knows how to play. I mean he went out there and competed, just like I knew he would, and got a good week of practice in. So, I think he'll be ready to go. Obviously, it's an opportunity for him. I mean that's why I always say, 'Next man up.' This is an opportunity for the next guy. They're not going to cancel the games because you've got everybody hurt. They're not going to move the game to Sunday night; the game is Thursday night so here we go.
Q: With [Antonio] Gates in the past, Huff has matched up against him and he's done well. Are you inclined to use one guy against him or are you going to mix and match?
Coach Jackson: We'll do what we need to do. In the past, it's really been [Mike] Mitchell – it's been Mike Mitchell that's been matched up against him.
Q: Well, I meant years ago before he got here…
Coach Jackson: Yeah, maybe so. True, but I mean lately it's been Mitchell. We have a host of guys that I think - I mean obviously, that's a hard match-up. I mean the guy's a really good player, but we've got to find a way to slow him down. They're going to throw it to him, we know they are and we've got to do everything we can to make sure we limit his catches and his opportunities.
Q: You confident that you can cover him with just one guy?
Coach Jackson: Well, I'm not going to say – I mean it's hard to cover him with one. That means you're covering somebody else with one too, so we're going to do whatever we think defensively that it takes to slow down this offensive football team. They have a stable of receivers, and runners, and a quarterback who is very good at distributing the ball around. What we have to do is be on the top of our game – whatever coverage we're in, whoever is covering somebody whether it's man-to-man or whether it's a zone coverage. We've got to make sure that our eyes are in the right spots and that we're reacting and communicating at all times because this is a team that if you make a mistake, they make you pay for it.
Q: How important is it going to be to start fast and take the crowd out of the game and really get into a rhythm?
Coach Jackson: Very important. I think every game we play, that's the goal. We need to, but the key to this thing is we need to play consistent football from the first snap to the last snap. Play the way this team can play, at the intensity level that this team can play, and everything else is going to take care of itself.
Q: What is the identity of this team halfway through the year and has it changed from the beginning?
Coach Jackson: It's changed a little because obviously, we don't have all the pieces that are out here. What you do is week in, week out – you have to do what you think it takes to win a football game and then you manufacture points, you manufacture opportunities for guys. So what we've become on defense, we're still a team that will get after the quarterback. Our mantra is that we've got to stop the run and we need to do that better. On offense, we still want to run the ball. We're still one of the better running teams in football, but we also have to create opportunities to score points. You run to win, you throw to score so we have to do a better job in all phases of those things I just talked about. I mean we've done them really well early, we've been a little inconsistent but I understand where that's coming from. But I think our players know that if we just get back, grind it out and play the way we can play that good things are around the corner for us.
Q: I know Mike [Bush] is probably one of the best, if not the best, backup backs in the league. But in the running game, you don't make changes very much. Because of the Darren's [McFadden] versatility and multitude of ways you could use him, are there things you just can't do as an offense with Darren out?
Coach Jackson: Well, I mean obviously we have to be creative and find another role for another player and I think that's what you all were eluding to last week. I mean that's what we were doing. We were creating more different roles and different opportunities for different guys so that you can make up for some of that lack of production that you maybe have. I mean when you look at the numbers from a week ago, you're happy with the numbers; you're not happy with the points. So, I think we know how to do it – myself and Al [Saunders], we know how to put together whatever that is on offense that will be effective regardless of who is playing for us. The problem is you can't turn the ball over because when you turn the ball over, it leads whether you're heading for a score or whatever that is, you lose opportunities to score more points. So our number one thing is we've got to take care of the ball. We'll find a way to get it up the field, we'll find a way to run it, we'll find a way to create big plays. What we have to do is be very consistent in taking care of the football.
Q:Is that where Taiwan Jones kind of fits in where he can kind of do some of the things that Darren can do?
Coach Jackson:Yes, he does and he can and he has. But I mean again, where I see a young player who hasn't played a lot, you know, to all of a sudden assume that role, sometimes that's hard to do. I mean sometimes guys are ready for maybe 20 percent of that maybe not for 80 percent of that. So, you have to lean on other guys and that's what we've done. I mean I think – honestly I really think we still got the makings of a really good offensive football team probably without our best player and what we have to do as I said, just be very consistent, be very stubborn about the things we do, and make sure we take care of the football and we'll be fine on offense.
Q: Is T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] ready for a bigger role?
Coach Jackson:Yes he's better; he's understanding the system better. As I said, T.J. has a role on this team and I think I kind of carved it out and know what it is but I'm not going to take away from our young guys. Our young guys are the future of this organization and they're the guys – Jacoby Ford was outstanding last week. I mean the plays he made I don't think anyone has seen that young man do what he did last week. Catching the ball and running after catching the way he was. I mean he threw it short and he ran deep. I think those guys are really starting to hit their stride. Denarius Moore had a good game last week. Obviously, we didn't hear much from Darius Heyward-Bey but that's going to be week to week. One guy's going to have one, another guy's going to have one and then on you go but I think consistently the young guys, the young receivers on our team is where we're going to get our bread and butter and T.J. is the old vet guy that brings a whole different experience and vibe to that group. So, I think he's helped them. I think if you asked those young men, he's already helped them by being here, by what he's done, the things he's been able to show them. Sometimes, your value is not just measured in how much you play. It's about information you're able to impart about different things and I think that's very important for this football team right now.
Q:Did you see Carson [Palmer] take any steps forward this week in terms of just getting acclimated even further?
Coach Jackson:I think so, I mean he's - I mean I say this all the time and I'm not saying it being gullible. He's done a tremendous job. I mean if you really think about what this young man's done over a three-week period of time, I mean, I don't know if anybody's had that kind of pressure put on them. To playing in a football game, to starting a game, to getting a team behind him, to rally them and obviously there were some throws he made last week that were phenomenal, I mean, phenomenal. I think we've all seen them and there were some passes we'd like to have back and you're going to have a little bit of that right now. But I think if we can manage that, which I know he can, that he'll get right back to where he was one in this league which was one of the better quarterbacks in this league because he can throw it with the best of them. He's very smart, he's hungry, he wants to do well, he's had a great week of practice this week. Obviously, we didn't get to practice a ton but enough to make sure this game plan is rolled up and ready to go. So, he'll play well.
Q:You talked about leadership yesterday and leaning on your leaders getting through tough times. Who are the offensive and defensive leaders now? I know you said Jason Campbell was before, but who stepped into that role?
*Coach Jackson: *Right. On offense, obviously the guys that I really lean on on our offensive football team is Darren McFadden. Darren McFadden is a leader on this team. Rock Cartwright is a leader on this team and I know he does more special teams, but he's on offense too. Sammy Satele; I mean those are guys that I know that I can push buttons with at any time when it comes to what's going on with this football team on offense. Obviously, there's several on defense from Richard Seymour to Tommy Kelly to Kamerion Wimbley to Tyvon Branch to Michael Huff. I mean the list goes on and on and on, but there's about a group of thirteen guys that I really have that kind of connection with. We understand what's going on and we know what needs to be done you know to win football games and those guys are excited about this opportunity. They know what's gone on the last couple weeks and where we are, but this is a long season. It's a grind and we need to get back to winning football games.
Q:Will Darren [McFadden] stay behind and get treatment?
Coach Jackson:I haven't made that decision yet but probably so. I want to get him as healthy as fast as I can because we miss him; there's no question about that. I mean we all wish he was out there playing with us but we also need to get him healthy and get him back to what he is, as one of the best players in this league.
Q:Does it make it easier to sit him out because you have extra time for the next game?
Coach Jackson:Does it make it easier? [Laughs] No, whenever you don't have your best player it never makes it easier, you know? But again, you have to do what you have to do to get him healthy and I know he's working at it; he's doing everything he can. Our medical staff is burning the midnight oil doing everything they can to get him up and back to where he was and eventually he will be. How fast that will be? No one knows, but I know we're closer to him being back out here than we are to having him not be back out here and I think that's what's most important.
Q:He still hasn't run?
Coach Jackson:No. To me, that's not really the issue if he's running or not when I look at him. Obviously he's a running back so he has to run, but I mean being able to – that mid-foot sprain is really something you know, it's something that you have to get back to just walking first before you can do anything. You guys have all seen him in a boot so first of all, my most important thing is to get him out of the boot first. If we can get him out of that first I think there will be huge progress and I think he's getting closer to having that happen.