Offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: How's Carson [Palmer] looking this week after having much more time to get ready?
Coach Saunders: Well, obviously, much more comfortable in what he's doing and what we're doing. He's had five full days of practice with the first unit and any time you take more reps, certainly your skill level and comfort level improve dramatically and it certainly has.
Q: The fact that Carson hasn't played a game or started a game, is he helped more by the fact that he hasn't been hit for eight weeks or is he hurt?
Coach Saunders: He probably feels better [laughs].
Q: Would you rather have that or have him playing the first eight?
Coach Saunders: Well, I think, and he alluded to this after the game two weeks ago, that it was probably beneficial for him to have an opportunity to get in a game-contact environment. Obviously, the speed of the game and the way it unfolds is beneficial. So, we're glad that he's healthy at this point and we want to make sure he stays that way. I think having the opportunity to play a couple a weeks ago probably helped him and I think ultimately would be a benefit for him.
Q: So you hear a lot about Carson before he got here, but was there anything that surprised you having him this close for a couple of weeks. Anything surprised you about him in terms of what he can do?
Coach Saunders: Not really. I mean he's a very efficient and accurate thrower and he's got a great history of success at that position. I mean goodness; he's won the Heisman trophy, he was extremely successful at USC, he had a nice career in Cincinnati and Hue's very familiar with him and that really makes, I'm sure, for his comfort level to be at a very high point.
Q: What does T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] bring?
Coach Saunders: We had him last year in Baltimore and he's an excellent route runner, he catches the ball real well and I think he gives, once again, Carson another familiar person. It's somebody that knows you and somebody that you feel comfortable with is a real advantage, so he gives us one more dimension to Carson's game that I think will help him in the short-term and in the long-term.
Q: He was talking about working the middle of the field. He likes to work the middle. Is that what you saw from him last year?
Coach Saunders: Yeah, you know you hate to use the term 'possession receiver' because what really is that? I would say he's someone that can get in the short range area, catches the ball extremely well, learns and knows who to ward off defenders with his body, knows how to get in the right place and he does it very, very well. So when you have a receiver like that in your arsenal of people, it's a real comfort level for the quarterback.
Q: How much does this offense change with [Michael] Bush if Darren [McFadden] can't go and it's Michael at running back?
Coach Saunders: Well, I don't know if it changes. The things that you emphasize are probably a little bit different. You still try to do the same things because the offensive line is programmed to do what we've done since day one and the addition of Carson shifts some things as it does with the running back. We're personnel oriented and we do a lot of things based on the personnel we have available. So, we won't do dramatically anything different than we've done the first part of the year.
Q: Coach, what does Denver like to do on defense now that you have seven weeks, eight weeks of material to look at compared to week one. What do they like to do and what challenges do they present?
Coach Saunders: Well, they like to sack the quarterback. Those two guys coming off the edge are pretty good and their corners are outstanding. They've got an outstanding defense. They play hard, they're very, very well coached, they get to the right spots, and the effort that those guys, the front seven utilize, is tremendous and Brian Dawkins is a sage veteran back there that gets the secondary in the right place. When they have all their people healthy and they're playing like they're capable of playing, they're a very good defensive football team.