"Good morning and happy holidays. Good to see you guys every week, so we get to do this on Wednesdayinstead of Thursday."
Is this a different week at all for you guys as far as how you have time budgeted?
"Not really. It's the time of season where you pretty much know what the routine is and you try to keep it as much of a routine as possible. The only thing is traveling to Detroit on Saturday instead of Friday, but I think that that's not that big of a deal."
WR Anquan Boldin is one catch away from joining the 1,000-catch club. Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell today was talking about his competitiveness and his drive. Where does Boldin rank in those categories among the players that you've coached over your career?
"You know, it's funny because I was with Anquan as a rookie where his first game was in Detroit against [former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci] Mooch of all people. So, right from the get-go, ironically I think he had a dozen catches for over 200 yards, a couple touchdowns. Ironically, what I remember is we didn't start him. But, he was involved in the three wide receiver package and from the very beginning, he was competitive. We knew what his 40-time was, but it never seems like he plays to that. He would get open and catch the ball and make plays. And so, it's fun to go back to Detroit and have that as a memory."
You mentioned his 40-time and getting open. How does somebody who's not fast get open like he's able to?
"You know, he almost trains like a boxer trains in terms of his upper body, in terms of his willingness to turn every game into a 12-round battle. I think it's great for the younger players to see how much he puts into it and how passionate he is about football. So, that's been a great lesson. Even guys like [WR] DeAndre Smelter, who probably won't see the field for us this year, I think some of the lessons he'll learn, he'll carry forward hopefully through all that he does."
So, why didn't he start that first game?
"You know, he came in as a rookie, we also drafted a guy by the name of [former NFL WR] Brian Johnson from Penn State. We were kind of a team that was in transition, [former NFL QB] Jake Plummer had left us. [Former NFL QB] Jeff Blake from East Carolina, who [quarterbacks coach] Steve Logan coached, was our starting quarterback and we were just trying to find a collection of young receivers to get going. We knew that he had a pretty good menu of plays on our three wide receiver set. We didn't start in the three wide receiver set, so he didn't get the start."
For this week, in terms of your running back depth, every week it's a question mark. You have to catch RB DuJuan Harris up to speed I'm guessing, but is RB Shaun Draughn going to practice at all this week? Are you expecting him to be back?
"You know, he's really truly day-by-day. He was not available for us at the walk-thru. [Running backs coach] Tom Rathman's done a nice job. We know the routine. What's always tough in a game is when you lose someone in the first quarter. You've got three quarters yet to play, and so the attitudes of all the players that we've brought in have been great and the attitude of Tom working with them and trying to get them ramped up. So, in some regards, maybe we'll all be as lucky as having Shaun come in before that Atlanta game, but there's a lot of extra effort being put in even though it's a holiday week. There's a lot of extra effort being put in to get people ramped up, DuJuan ramped up."
Is it just determined that RB Jarryd Hayne isn't ready to play yet?
"No. I think we know who Jarryd is. The other thing that you always want to evaluate is who you're going to dress out on that 46. It's not just the 53, but also the 46 and where does that fit with the special teams. Often times any backup, whether you're a backup running back or a backup linebacker or a backup tight end, what's the value within the offensive or defensive plan and then what's also the special team value. But, Jarryd's done a nice job. There's a couple other practice squad guys that have done a great job. [WR] DiAndre Campbell's done a nice job all year. We've got [QB] McLeod Bethel-Thompson in. Those guys kind of toil anonymously day-to-day. Jarryd definitely fits in. We're excited about his future, but I think it comes down to maybe what the special teams roles are and who's going to get that uniform of 46, not just the 53."
We asked QB Blaine Gabbert yesterday about him checking down on third down and a lot of those throws coming short of the sticks and he said he's taking what the defense dictates. Obviously, a defense isn't going to dictate you to get first downs. So, how do you juggle taking what the defense dictates and making an aggressive throw, maybe where the coverage might be tight to try to get a first down?
"Yeah, I think the score and the time of the game often times will dictate that. Let's say you're in the first quarter, I think we went in the first series, we had a negative rush. The second series, it was second-and-one, we had a personal foul penalty. It's still a zero-to-zero game and you don't want to make an overly aggressive throw into tight coverage at that point in time. Now, in the third and the fourth quarter, the time and score of the game, we were behind and needed multiple possessions to get back. I think that that felt differently and I think the decisions that Blaine made were appropriate for what the score and the time of the game was."
How is C Marcus Martin?
"You know, the play that he got hurt on was a hustle play. He was trying to hustle downfield on a screen and it was unfortunate that when guys hustle, he was kind of diving to get a cut, that that happened. I think, again, he's in the concussion protocol and we're respectful of that process, just like [TE] Vance [McDonald] was a couple of weeks ago. [TE Garrett] Celek was in that too. So, we'll just see day-to-day and then when you go out there, you'll see he'll have a blue jersey on as part of that process. So, it's always kind of a race to the end of the week and see where he's at knowing that we've got to be smart first with that and then once you clear the first hurdle, you get to the second hurdle."
That Bengals linebacker didn't seem too pleased.
"You saw that too, huh?"
Could you look at that and say that's kind of a dirty play to go down at the guys knees like that?
"I think that if you think back to that second-and-one throw, Cincinnati has a very good defense and they're a fun team to watch. In fact, talking about Tom Rathman, Tom Rathman characterized it as kind of an old school defense, a come down hill and ask no quarter, give no quarter. But, remember Anquan got kind of barrel rolled low on a second-and-one throw in previous games. The Pittsburgh game the previous week was kind of a salty game. I think that's just how they want to play the game and unfortunately for a guy like Shaun Draughn, he got caught up in that on the rush by [Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze] Burfict when it was second-and-one and you're just trying to compete out there. They're a very good defense. I think there defense will make some plays, but you've got to know that there's going to be an edge to that defense too. I think that that's a football play, not anything outside of the boundary and definitely not anything that they would be offended by."
As a play caller on third-and-long with the defenders defending the sticks, couldn't you use a double move and go long? Aren't there other things you can do?
"Sure. In fact, that was what the interception was at the end of the game [Santa Rosa Press Democrat columnist] Grant [Cohn], was a double move. And again, probably at that point in time, you're trying to be aggressive to the point of, because guys are going to be back behind the sticks and waiting to see. So, you try to be appropriate with the time and the score. But, early in the game, when we were struggling, we were in some third-and-longs and yet it was a zero-zero game, not until the turnovers kind of came up in the second quarter did it feel like the game tilted out of balance. And then, once that happened, I think we had to be more aggressive on first down, second down and third down. I think that's where the pass totals started to ramp up, especially in that fourth quarter."
Could you explain the decision to put G Andrew Tiller at left guard?
I know Marcus, his background in college was at left guard and center.
"Sure. Well first off, again, looking at Cincinnati, I think [Cincinnati Bengals DT] Geno Atkins is well deserved to have a Pro Bowl honor given to him. I think he, along with [St. Louis Rams DT] Aaron Donald, are probably some of the best three-techniques in the league right now. And so, we liked the matchup of having Till next to [T] Joe [Staley] on the left side and early in the game they did a really nice job of handling him. We've been probably training Marcus here more on the right side knowing with [G/T Alex] Boone on the left side, we were trying to solidify the left side. So, I think just the reps that he had up here for this season when he wasn't playing center was pretty much almost exclusively at the right guard position."
And how do you think OL Trent Brown played?
"Trent is such a good talent. We talk about running backs all the time. The hardest thing for them to do is the pass-protection element. We threw it I think 35 times in the fourth quarter and Trent was more than holding his own. You know, he still has, it's not him not knowing the assignment, it's what the defense is doing. We get three down looks and four down looks and overhangs with safeties blitzing and overhangs with linebackers blitzing and that's a full menu. And so, we're excited about how Trent worked during the week and he was prepared when he went in there and I think had some success. So, that's a great sign moving forward."