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Coach Sparano: "Practice was outstanding today"


Opening statement: **"All right, injuries today: David Ausberry didn't practice today with a foot; Vincent Brown was full today; TJ Carrie was limited today with an ankle; Chimdi Chekwa did not practice today, hamstring; Gabe Jackson is knee, did not practice; Keith McGill was limited today with a groin; [Jamize] Olawale was limited today with a shoulder; Carlos Rogers did not practice with a knee; Justin Tuck was limited today; and Kenbrell Thompkins did not practice today and that was an excused absence, he's dealing with a personal issue. Practice was outstanding today, probably two of our better days in a row here. Tempo-wise, guys worked really hard today, got some good third-down work today as we needed."

Q: Do you see Kenbrell Thompkins being available for this game?

Coach Sparano:"I see him being available for the game, yes."

Q: With Carlos Rogers not being able to practice for an extended period, is there a concern that he will be out on Sunday?

Coach Sparano:"At this point in time it's hard to tell. Again, we'll have to evaluate it tomorrow and see where Carlos is. He's making progress every day, but that probably looks less good than it does, less good in that he wouldn't make it."

Q: If he can't go and TJ Carrie can, do you foresee taking some of the special teams stuff off of Carrie's plate?

Coach Sparano:"No, I don't think so, not right away. TJ's a big factor in what we do in the special teams area, so we have to look and pick and choose some spots during the course of the game I think maybe where something like that would happen."

Q: Do you think that the communication between the quarterback and wide receivers is where it needs to be?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I think it's getting better. I think it's getting much better. I don't necessarily think it's really bad. I think it's getting much better. Again, I'm assuming you're referring to when you say it looks really bad, the play in the game the other day, but really that play was mostly on Derek [Carr]. Derek has already said that."

Q: If Gabe Jackson is not ready to go and you have to use Khalif Barnes inside, how much does that compound the situation against DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller?

Coach Sparano:"Well, it does. It compounds the situation in a lot of ways. Khalif really hasn't played inside this year, has played inside in the past obviously, but hasn't played in there. Khalif has kind of been a jack of all trades for me since I got here, so that doesn't really bother me. As far as the extra tight end stuff, if Gabe can't go, then there's some other options there if we need it and if that's part of the package this week."

Q: Is Matt McCants the next guy up if you do that?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, usually. McCants is the next guy up at that point."

Q: Any update on Rod Streater?

Coach Sparano:"No, not right now."

Q: After all these years, what could you possibly throw at Peyton Manning that he hasn't seen before?

Coach Sparano:"Well, there's not much that you're going to throw at him that he hasn't seen, that's for sure, or that he hasn't studied and over-studied in some situations. That guy, he's a football junkie. He loves it, studies it and spends a lot of time at it and he's got his own routine I'm sure that he deals with each and every week, and he does a great job, there's nobody better at it than him. But, I think from our end, it's going to be about more what we do on that side of the football, how well we execute on that side of the football, some different looks maybe that we can throw at him, get him to think a little bit and just hold it for an extra tick, because he gets the ball out so fast and if we can get him to hold the ball just for an extra tick, sometimes that can mess with his rhythm a little bit. We need to do something, I mean because as I made this point yesterday, in two football games against us a year ago, although it was a year ago, he completed almost 87 percent of his passes, he threw eight incompletions in 65 attempts in two football games against us. In those two games, it was like for 650 yards, but 333 of them were run-after-catch yards, so that's something that we've got to limit. Peyton is a great player and he's going to make some plays out there, but we have to limit the yards after catch. We can't let these guys catch and run and have explosive plays in those situations too."

Q: You've got to believe that over the course of 60 or 70 plays, somebody on the offensive line will make a misread or mistake and you would hope that a black shirt would be there.

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I mean, you hope that the black shirt is going to be there and can make the play. It was interesting, last week in their ball game, there was a turnover that occurred in the ball game and all of a sudden that changed the game a little bit and ended up in a short field and of course Tom [Brady] takes advantage of those situations too, and for us, I mean we have to be able to force some of those. We've had our hands on a lot of footballs here in the last few weeks. I just spoke to the team today a little bit about areas of improvement over the last four weeks and where we are since we put a football in the ground. The fact is we've lost four football games but our team is getting better in a lot of areas. One of the areas that we're not better in is that we had five takeaways in those first four games, we have one takeaway right now and had our hands on a lot of footballs. So, the reality is, offensively, although it looks like we've turned the ball over quite a bit because they've come in bunches in two games, we're two less turnovers right now in our last four games than we were in our first four games. The problem is we're not taking the football away and we've had our hands on quite a few. So if that happens, we have to take advantage of it because he's not going to make many of those."

Q: How do you balance your offensive play calling when you've got guys like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller wanting to have Carr strike downfield occasionally, but also keeping him upright?

Coach Sparano:"I don't think you can shy away from that. I think you've got to trust the protection a little bit in those areas. We know it's going to be a tremendous challenge. When you turn the film on and you watch those guys, they're probably hitting and affecting the quarterback 15 times a game right now in one way, shape or form – whether it's hitting the quarterback, being around the quarterback, disrupting the quarterback – somewhere around 15 times a game and that's pretty consistent. That's one of the things I do, I spend a lot of time looking at [that] for the line. That can't be a factor. Derek, he's been pretty good about not feeling that and our line has been pretty good about handling some of those situations, but we know it's going to be a huge challenge for us. We just can't dink and dunk the whole day though. When there are opportunities to take shots, we have to take shots, because they're going to take them against us when there's opportunities there, and we need to be ready to answer the ball on our side."

Q: You've talked a few times about how important it is to be honest and blunt when you're talking to the team about what they're doing right and wrong. On Monday, you were pretty blunt about saying that Seattle had beaten you up front. I imagine that was relayed to the offensive line in those terms. How has the response been this week?

Coach Sparano:"Really good. Their response has been really good. Listen, it is what it is. I'm not one of those guys that's going to come out here – I don't tell the team, stand in front of them and tell them lies and tell them things that they necessarily want to hear all the time. I have to tell them everything; I'm not going to tell you those things. At the end of the whole thing, that was the truth. We didn't block them well enough, and that's not a popular answer I guess out there, from what I can gather. It doesn't appear to be a popular answer, but it's the truth. In other words, we, collectively, me included, did not block the Seattle Seahawks well enough. Now that's a game in the past, we're moving on. We're at Denver right now and we have to do a better job. We just watched two games from Denver last year versus ourselves where we had an average of 14 rushing attempts a game. Now we were fifth in the league in rushing at that point going into the last game of the season and we had 14 rushing attempts. The score was 34-3 I think, or something to that effect, going into the fourth quarter, so you're not going to run it many times there. So we've got to be in a good, solid football game here; we've got to create some pace; and we've got to be able to run the football. Listen, I know those people are built on trying to stop the run, but we've got to be able to do that and do a better job of it, and it starts with me and trickles down to them. So the only way for me to make them understand it is to tell it to them."

Q: There has been some criticism, "Why do they keep going up the middle when it's not gaining any yards?" When you play a team like Seattle, the attempt itself counts for something, doesn't it? You have to at least try…

Coach Sparano:"Yeah. Listen, you have to believe in what it is you're doing. If at every point right now when something doesn't go wrong for a team in the National Football League, they switch offenses or they switch defenses, that isn't a philosophy, that isn't a belief. All of a sudden, your team looks at you like you've got two heads. That isn't what you want. You have a philosophy, you have a belief; you stand behind those things. We have plenty of ways to get the ball on the perimeter and some of those ways are not always conventional runs, but we have plenty of ways to be able to do that. There's some things in the middle of the defense that are core, staple plays for us that we have to be able to run. Up until last week, those core, staple plays – and again, I say this to you – have been efficient plays. Your version of efficient – again, and sometimes even a fan's version of efficient – I get it, they want to see Darren [McFadden] run down the field for 60 yards. I'm telling you, the team that we're playing this week is giving up about 72, 74 yards a game rushing right now; that's after eight games, there's not a lot of those. In fact, plus-four runs against this team are better; there's only 25 of them in the entire breakdown – that's 375 plays. So 25 times, the ball gained four yards or more against this team. Rushing yards in our league are hard to come by – they really are – and a lot of teams are built to stop the run. But we need to stay the course, continue to run the football. We're going to try to do that, but we're not going to be stubborn about it. When we get to a point where we got to be able to get the ball down the field, we're going to do that."

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