Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
(On the oddity of the number of interceptions QB Jameis Winston has thrown on opening possessions this season)
"Yeah, it's hard to try to repeat that – it's hard to try to repeat what's been happening. It's been happening [so] we are just going to make sure this week we try to correct it and change it, so it doesn't happen again."
(On what happened on Winston's first interception vs. Houston)
"It's a guy making a play on the ball. It's probably ball location not [being] where you want it and it's probably [a question of] if it should even go there – that's all in one. It's all a thin line really right there with all of those three. You put all those three together and you kind of get that result. If you get one of those, you probably don't get that result, but [there was] a lot of borderline stuff that happened. We can learn from it. We can really, truly learn from it, especially learn from early in the games how people are going to try to play us, what they're thinking and all those sorts of things."
(On what has been the key to Winston's deep-ball accuracy this season)
"It's just timing – timing on when to get the ball out to give yourself the best chance on completing the ball. Everything in this league has a timing to it [and] has a different point where that guy is going to be most open. From the time we got in here, I've always tried to explain that to him – explain when we've got to get the ball out, when is the timing [and] why we're going here as opposed to going there. Once he has an idea and an awareness of that, he'll hit those balls. Most guys in this league will hit those balls once they have an awareness of what to do. I always have a saying, 'Every quarterback in the league can hit their first read, no matter who it is.' We're all great on that first read. The first read is there, I throw it, he's clean and I hit him – perfect ball. It's getting to the third and fourth reads and still being accurate. That comes with awareness. Just being aware – trying to make him aware of why the ball is going there [and] why it should be going up at this time. We've seen improvement with that throwing process."
(On if there is anything he has changed about Winston's mechanics to improve his accuracy)
"Well, you work on technique every day. We work on technique – Clyde [Christensen] works on technique with him everyday [on] things that we know are going to show up in the game. We don't just do anything. Everything we do has a rhyme and reason for it, so we're always getting him ready even when he doesn't know he's getting ready for the game. We're always preparing him for game-like situations."
(On if he has seen Winston improve from a technique standpoint)
"I think across the board. I don't know how [good] he was from the technical standpoint early. You see him getting better and that's just awareness. When any player has awareness of what to do, how to do it, how am I going to get it done [and what's] the best way to get it done – you have results. Then you do something wrong and it [doesn't] happen – you don't have the results you want. Those are great opportunities for us to learn. We've had enough of those opportunities now, so he's beginning to learn these things on his own. He's beginning to do things where we don't have to repeat coaching. He's getting better across the board. I've watched him get better from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."
(On if the lack of production in the run game falls more on the running backs or the offensive line)
"I think it's a combination of both. [When] running the football, everybody has got to be on the same page. We've all got to move together – [it's] the timing thing I'm talking about – the run game has a timing to it too. Sometimes we haven't been there because maybe our footwork was too quick. Sometimes we've gotten beat maybe up front. It's not one thing that you can really put your hand on and say, 'This is the reason why. That's why you take the offseason, you look at it, you improve on it [and] get better. That way you can determine exactly what [were] the issues and you have a chance to fix them. It's really difficult to look at 15 games right now and say what [are] the issues of why we're not getting more in the running game. It's something we'll look at. It's something where we never feel as though we are shorthanded with the running game. I'll say that. Never as a play caller am I feeling that I'm shorthanded because of what's happening in the run game."
(On if the running backs need to have better awareness of the holes to run through or if they need to be more patient in letting holes open up in order to show the change of pace that Saints RB Alvin Kamara and Jets RB Le'Veon Bell possess)
"It's a combination of [both]. You just named two of the best guys in the league, so everybody is chasing those guys. Everybody is chasing guys that have played at this high of a level of football for so long. You don't really compare to those type of guys. We all learn from each other. We just want to get the timing down. Sometimes it may be him speeding up, sometimes it may be him slowing down, but the goal is to put him in enough situations and scenarios so he knows which one to do when the time is right. Whatever one the time is right, get to the proper technique, get to the right lane and try to get as much as you can."
(On if he feels as though an improved running game could help lift some of the weight off of Winston's shoulders)
"No, not really. That's what I'm saying – I never feel as a play caller as though we're deficient there. I think sometimes when you get in games – especially when we were healthy, when you've got Mike [Evans] and Chris [Godwin] – sometimes your best option is to throw Mike and Chris the ball. Sometimes your best option is to throw two of the better guys in the league the ball [and] to throw Cam [Brate] the ball, to throw O.J. [Howard] the ball. I don't know if you have that personnel if you [can] ever just be a smashmouth team where you're lining up with two tight ends [and] a fullback. I don't know if we'll ever do that when we have this personnel. I think we can be more efficient in the run game and I think we will better at that. I really have no issues with that. We will get better with that once we get an opportunity to have an offseason and correct what we need to correct. Those are things we feel as though [and] I feel as though we'll get corrected."
(On what goes into getting more mid-yardage gains in the run game)
"It's just everybody doing their job – everybody getting a hat on a hat and just getting to the right spot with the football. There were so many runs early in the year that we got flagged on [and] got called back. I'm pretty sure if you add [those] numbers to what our total numbers are, it would look completely different. But hey, flags were called, penalties were made and we didn't have an opportunity to make those plays. If we just make half of those plays, I think our numbers look different from a run-game standpoint, but I never feel as though it's deficient. I never feel as though we're deficient there or [that] it's something that's hurting us throughout a game. I am never in a game afraid to call a run because I think it's not going to get enough. I always feel as though we're going to get what's needed on that play and it never really has affected me yet."
(On how much better Winston could be in year two of the new offense)
"I think any quarterback that gets that opportunity in the second year of an offense – what's the big talk of a rookie quarterback? Going into their second year and now they have an idea of what it is – that's where they take the biggest leap. He's a veteran guy. Me – I'll be a better coach for him. Each year you're with a guy, everything gets better, so I think all players [will be better]. I think RoJo (Ronald Jones II) will be better. I think Mike [Evans] and Chris [Godwin] will be better. I think everybody will be better going into their second year of the system."
(On what has allowed WR Breshad Perriman to find so much success over the last couple of weeks in this offense)
"We think he always fit it. It goes back to he was the third wide receiver with two guys that [are] in the top three in yards [and] the top three in catches. He's been open the whole time. It's not like he's just getting open. It's just when he's open, Mike [Evans] and Chris [Godwin] might be open too, so the ball went that way as opposed to coming his way. What I liked about him – he's a veteran guy that understands football. [He] never wavered. He does the same thing pregame. He does these drills that show up on Sundays, dragging the toe [and] the catches that he makes – I've watched him make [those] catches before practice every day. We felt comfortable with having him as [our] three. We knew how good he was. We [were] in love with him this offseason [and] we were happy to be able to get him, to be honest with you – to have him as our three. We never wavered from a confidence standpoint on B.P. I knew eventually the ball would work its way through once teams decide how they're truly trying to play us. They're doubling Mike, they're doing this to Chris [and] they're leaving B.P. one-on-one. Now, as a whole, it took us to be in those situations to learn where the ball should go. That's us just learning, being a part of each other in the offense. That is part of the offense's growth of being together and being in those situations. You can teach it on paper, but sometimes you need it to happen in an actual game, in person, so they can see it and say, 'Okay, if I do this and this and this, maybe we can get this result.' You're seeing us from an offensive standpoint getting the different steps of where we can go offensively with still so much to prove."
(On what it would mean for Winston to be able to eclipse 5,000 yards passing)
"That's crazy. I always say anytime you can do things that very few people [have done] in this league – [with] as long as this league has been going on – it speaks for itself. You allow everybody else to judge it, but any time you start speaking, 'No one else has ever done this. Very few single amount of people – six or five people have done this,' I think that's a beautiful thing for any player. Any player that has played in this league long enough to have the ability to do that – there are a lot of good football players in this league that never have those type of opportunities or those type of things said about them."
(On if it means more to a guy that has endured a lot of criticism like Winston has)
"You'll have to ask him, but I'm quite sure any quarterback that throws for 5,000 yards in this league [would be happy with it]. This is a hard place to do that."
(On what he says to a guy like TE Cameron Brate who has been so reliable but dropped a ball on a critical play in the last game vs. Houston)
"You just design the next one to put him in that position again and he'll make it. He's one of our better players. We couldn't find a better guy to throw that ball to. Sometimes you don't get the result. What you do [is] you come in the next week and you design the same – not the same exact play but the same type of play to put him in position to make those plays. [With] the type of player he is, he'll make 100 of those plays before he's ever in a position to [have] what happened last [Saturday]."
(On where he gets his belief that he can go right back to Brate and he will make the play the next time)
"I get that belief from [Brate]. I watch him go every day. I watch him practice. I know what he is. You guys have been here longer than me, you guys know him – that ball is caught 1,000 times, right? That ball is never dropped. What you do as a play caller [is] I try to find my best [and] quickest chance in the world to put him in that situation again, so he can make that play."
(On if the philosophy is one he's always had or if he got it from Head Coach Bruce Arians)
"That's just how I feel about him (Cameron Brate). I know the game of football. I know those type of plays happen, from really good players also. When they happen, you move on [and] allow those guys to move on [and] go to the next play, next snap."
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles
(On how important it is to keep the front seven together given the success they've had this year and how much say Bowles has)
"You're right, I don't have a lot of say. You're right I'll be talking to them. You try to keep as many as you can. It's a business and every year things change, but I think the guys have played very well."
(On what CB Carlton Davis was able to do against Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins)
"I think he's still a great receiver. I though Carlton played a heck of a ball game. I thought he had help from certain guys, and I thought he played him when he had the opportunity to play him. From a mental standpoint I thought I saw a lot of growth in Carlton from that game."
(On the defensive rookies and how excited Bowles is to work with them for a full NFL offseason heading into their second season)
"Well, I'm going to try to enjoy my offseason first of all [laughs]. And then once we get back to work, you know I think after the first year, you usually see a mental jump the second year, so hopefully that continues and everybody stays healthy and they continue to grow together."
(On reuniting with Head Coach Bruce Arians and turning this defense around)
"I mean it's football. I love coaching football. The fact that there's a lot of chemistry with all the coaches on the staff that Bruce put together was very helpful. The guys that we've been able to coach have been outstanding mentally from a communication standpoint with us. As far as bringing them along and coming together, I thought we gelled pretty good."
(On if he has seen another group of young cornerbacks make a rapid improvement)
"I don't know because I haven't looked at all of them, but I'm sure there has been. But to see these guys grow – personally that I can speak for. They still have some ways to go, but the way that they're growing together has been very good."
(On the young cornerbacks growth due to matching up with WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans)
"It helps in practice, but you still have to understand the mental part of the game for the team that you're playing against. Going against elite talent, it's helpful from that standpoint, but from a mental standpoint attacking the game, how they're going to attack you, that's a lot of the things you have to learn."
(On what it's like to see OLB Jason Pierre-Paul go through everything he has this year and seeing him have a hat-trick on Sunday)
"That's a credit to him. He's an extremely hard worker. He's a prideful guy and in his mind – and the mind you've got to have in football – there's nothing he can't accomplish, which is a great thing to do. I think that carries over for a lot of the guys. To see him get three sacks I think he's just getting started. I think he's finally healthy. He's finally got his legs under him and his fundamentals and techniques have gotten cleaned up, so we're just looking forward to him getting better this last game. "
(On Carlton Davis turning penalties into pass breakups)
"I think just film study and understanding how they're calling the game, and you growing as a player. I think he's done a great job growing as a player and understanding the things he can and can't do to commit those penalties and he did something about them."
(On the upside of OLB Shaquil Barrett)
"I mean there's meat on the bone. I think he can get better, but that may not equate to sacks. I think he can get better as a football player – sacks come and he gets rid of the football or whatever the case may be, but I think he has a lot of growth as a player, yes."
(On ILB Devin White coming into his own and making impact plays throughout the course of the season)
"Like I said, he's up there. There's a lot of rookies who have done what he's done. He just has to continue to get better, but the fact that he's getting his hands on balls and being around the ball and making some impact plays can only help us."
(On if injuries held OLB Carl Nassib back)
"It held him back a little bit. It's part of the game. I think all of us get nicked up during the year, it's always what you can and can't play with. Carl's a trooper and he's a tough guy. When he came back he does everything for us that we ask him to do as far as the run and the pass, so we're very happy with him."
(On ILB Lavonte David and what he's meant to the team)
"He's one of my favorite players. I think he's a complete football player. He plays the run very well. He plays the pass very well. He can blitz. He can play zone. He can play man. He's very intelligent – he has a lot of football savvy and he understands the game, and that's priceless. I think Devin [White] has learned a lot from him in that aspect of the game and the team in general on defense he's one of the leaders over there and I can't say enough about him."
(On Lavonte David adjusting to the new system and essentially playing a new position)
"That goes to the kind of football player he is – from a mental standpoint he can adapt to every system and I figured that out early on. That's a credit to him. He's had good coaching when he was growing up and college and obviously, before we got here, so a lot of that has to be credited to a lot of people."
(On the Atlanta Falcons offense)
"I think they're playing good football. They're running it better. They're throwing it better. Obviously, they got [Devonta] Freeman and [Austin] Hooper back, but they're playing good football. Their chemistry is good – [Matt] Ryan is making great decision, they're making big plays, they're grinding it out, and they make you play all over the field. They're doing a heck of a job."
(On listening to head coach offers and seeing his name in the media)
"Honestly my desire – I don't read or hear any of those. I watch NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, and NCIS: New Orleans. I really don't pay attention or hear about any of those things. You deal with the offseason after the season. I'm working on Atlanta."