Opening Statement**: "Injury report – Khalif Barnes was full today. Tyvon Branch was limited. Mike Brisiel, Jason Hunter, Rashad Jennings, all those guys were full. Nick Kasa was limited. [Darren] McFadden did not practice. Denarius Moore was limited. Sio Moore was limited. Tony Pashos was full. Jeremy Stewart and Vance Walker did not practice today."
Q: How has Barnes done as a guard?
Coach Allen: "He's done a nice job. Obviously the first game he was a little bit rusty going in there, but I think the more and more he gets in there, the more comfortable that he's going to be, the better he's going to perform. And that was something that we looked at from the very beginning of the season that we wanted to try to be able to do and unfortunately with the injury situation, we weren't able to do it. So we've been able to do it the last couple of games and he's continued to improve as he's gotten more and more reps in there."
Q: Greg Olson had said that Khalif actually went to the coaches and volunteered?
Coach Allen: "Yeah, I mean, Khalif understands the game and he knows how this thing works. He just wants to be a part of it. He wants to do anything that he can to help this football team. That's indicative of the type of guys we have in that locker room."
Q: How hard has it been since the middle of camp the guys that you probably thought were going to be on the line, I don't think you've had those guys out there all year, right?
Coach Allen: "I think we've had eight different offensive line starting combinations or something like that that we've gone through. Yet, we're still fourth in the league in rushing, so I think Tony Sparano has done a great job with that offensive line. I think [Olson] has done a nice job of doing some things that those guys can do well and putting them in position to have success and I think we're getting a little bit closer back to full strength up there. I think we'll see some improvement over the last three weeks of the season."
Q: How has Jared [Velheer] done now that he's back in the flow?
Coach Allen: "He's done a nice job. He's done good. Obviously he's only had an opportunity to really have a couple of weeks of practice and play two football games. He missed a lot of work and there's still a lot of fundamental things that he needs to work on and improve. The more he gets in there, the more plays he plays, the more comfortable he's going to get back out there. But he's done a pretty good job."
Q: These are NFL guys so of course they're self-motivated, but what kind of message have you tried to deliver to the team this week for these final three games?
Coach Allen: "Listen, I focused on the positives and the things we've done well and where we've improved because I want our guys to understand we've done some good things. We're not where we need to be yet. We're still working to get there and you try to motivate them and keep them going to continue to get better. When you're that close, you don't want them to slip. I think our guys have done a great job. Again, like I've said before, I think it's indicative of the guys in that locker room. They want to be good. They want to compete. They love football and they'll keep working over these last three weeks."
Q: Is it hard to receive that message on their part when you're not getting a payoff?
Coach Allen: "I think sometimes if you lose sight of the process and you lose sight of the things that you're doing and what you believe in, then those things can be difficult. If you believe in the plan and you understand what you're trying to get accomplished and focus on that and not let anything deter you from that or distract you from that then it's not quite as hard."
Q: How do you do that with a lot of guys under one-year contracts who maybe not looking at the same long-term plan that you are?
Coach Allen: "Well, listen, everybody's got someth8ing to prove. Everybody's got things that motivate him. Obviously, when you're on a one-year contract, there's 32 teams, including us, that you have to put something out there on your resume and really it's about who you are as individual and it's about what you're made of and what your character is. The record shouldn't define how you go about doing your job and that's what those guys have done a good job of."
Q: Have there been any moments where a vet or one of the leaders on the team has stepped in there and maybe tried to give a speech, whether it be in the locker room or even on the field?
Coach Allen: "Listen, we've got a lot of guys that try to step in the leadership role and continue to preach the right message. I don't know of any player-only meetings that we've had or anything like that. I think our guys full understand the things we have to do and where we're at and where we're at in the process. I think they understand that. I think they're continuing to work to get better."
Q: Coaches understandably are focused on their own team and their own problems. You played the Redskins earlier this year – is there any discussion about what's going on there? Do you coaches say, 'we're glad it's not here?'
Coach Allen: "No, again, I have enough on my plate to worry about, so it's hard for me to worry about what's going on in other places. I'm just focused on what we're trying to get accomplished here, the things we need to do to continue to get better to get this team where it needs to be. And we're making progress in that direction and we're going to keep making progress in that direction. I think we have a clear vision of what the plan is."
Q: After both the Dallas game and the Giants game, you used the phrase 'worn out' in terms of the defense. I'm curious whether you were talking about snaps on the field, time of possession, the natural attrition of a season?
Coach Allen: "I think it's little more the natural attrition of the season. We've been in a lot of close games and a lot of battles and I think what happens sometimes is it's not just a physical thing, it's also a mental thing because when you grind that hard to try to dig yourself out of a hole, it takes its toll. We've done some things this week to try to freshen them up. Hopefully we'll be able to do that and we'll be able to go out and fly around on Sunday."
Q: What things have you done to freshen them up?
Coach Allen: "Just a little bit more walk-through type of things. We've changed the schedule up just a little bit and hopefully that gives them a little bit of a boost."
Q: Has Vance Walker cleared any part of the NFL protocol even for meetings or anything?
Coach Allen: "No, he's still having symptoms so he's very questionable this week for sure."
Q: Is Denarius Moore making progress or how is he doing?
Coach Allen: "He had another good day today, so obviously, I'm not ready to make that decision yet, but it's moving in a positive direction."
Q: If he's good to go in some form, Andre Holmes has done a nice job stepping in, would you work him in?
Coach Allen: "It's another element that we have, another weapon that we have, that we feel like we can utilize. I think the more guys you have like that the better you're going to be. Obviously it gives us a boost and there's only so many guys that can be on the field at a time, so obviously if you add another guy into the mix, somebody is going to lose a few reps here or there. All those guys are guys that we still plan on using and plan on having in the plan a significant amount."
Q: The fact that your starting quarterback [Matt McGloin], your lead running back [Marcel Reece], your tight end [Jeron Mastrud] and both your receivers [Andre Holmes and Rod Streater] [against the Jets] were all not drafted players, does that speak to your ability to locate players or the fact that you need more talent?
Coach Allen: "I think it's probably a little bit of both. Like I said, I think…every one of our skill players in the Jet game were undrafted free agents and I think it speaks to what those coaches have been able to do with those players. I think it speaks to those players and their determination, their work ethic, and the way they go about doing their job. And I think also it's one of those things where that's something we have to continue to work to always develop our roster and try to add pieces here and there that we think can help us."
Q: Marcel Reece did really well in the Jets game; do you guys have any plans in the next three games to maybe get more reps or more snaps?
Coach Allen: "Listen, Marcel has been part of our game plan since day one. As of late, we've been able to feature him a little bit more. We've been able to get him the ball a little bit more and we'll continue to try to work to get him the ball. Now, again, there's one football out there and there's only 11 positions on the field and Rashad Jennings is another guy that's done a really good job back there at the tailback position. We'll find ways that we can utilize all of our talent."