Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (12.26.23)


Opening statement:

“Okay, Jets week, Thursday Night Football. Excited about this one, excited about this opportunity that we have. I know Coach (Robert) Saleh well. I know a bunch of their coaches. They have very good players, really good schemes. So you got to go to get your homework done during a short week. You don’t have the same amount of practices, you don’t have the same amount of walkthroughs, meetings, et cetera. So you really have to do a good job as coaches and as players of preparing for Thursday night. And then as you know, getting your bodies ready for Thursday night is another challenge for both sides. But offensively, you know, score a bunch of points last week versus Washington, possessed the football for a long time and I thought played really well. Trevor Siemian’s a guy that I know, we’ll see how that plays out over the course of this week, but Trevor is a guy that has played and won in this league. Zach Wilson’s extremely athletic, can make all those throws, so we’ll see how that plays out. But really good players. I think Garrett Wilson’s as good as there is in the NFL, really. He’s a special player. So we’ll have our hands full when we’re facing their offense. Defensively, again, Coach Saleh, Coach (Jeff) Ulbrich, they do a great job. It’s a scheme that is similar to ours. There’s enough difference in some of the things that they do versus what we do on defense. But really good players, great players in the back end, great players up front, linebackers that can run and then special teams. They’re ranked very high, good specialists, sound schemes. So we’ll have to really be about our business on Thursday. On the injury front, Dustin Hopkins is week to week with his injury, he will not play this week and then Dorian Thompson-Robinson will go on IR with a hip injury, unfortunately, that he suffered in that last ball game. So disappointed for both those guys, but we’ll obviously continue to get the guys ready and with that I’ll take any questions.”


When did DTR get hurt?

“It was when he know bent up a little bit there during the game.”


What about (Corey) Bojorquez? 

“We’ll see. Not sure yet.”


And who would be your holder? 

“Working through it. It would be the punter.”


Did Corey get hurt on the kickoffs? 



Just because it’s unusual. 

“Exactly. Yeah.”


What do you think it’s going to be like Thursday night at the stadium? You talk about it every week, but a chance to win and get in the playoffs.

“Electric. Yeah, I can’t wait. Our fans have been incredible all season long. I feel like I say that over and over, but I mean it. I can’t wait to get down there. Our team can’t wait to get down there. Just need them to behave themselves for most of the day so that they’re able to be with us in the fourth quarter.”


Kevin, what about Riley (Patterson) and the initial conversations with him? 

“Yeah, came in, did a nice job in his workout, obviously has production in this league in this season. So a guy we’re comfortable with.”


He kicked for the Jaguars all last year, kicked in the playoffs. How important is that he has postseason experience? 

“Yeah, I think just the experience period is important when it comes to a kicker in this situation. But a guy that I think had a good workout, has good tape. Believe in him.”


He’s down at the stadium today?

“Correct. Yes.”


Did the amount of injuries affect your kick coverage team last week that allowed that long return? 

“No, I don’t think that’s fair to say. I think we need to better and we will be.”


Guys talked about that Jets game last year and watching that back and stuff. I mean, just how crazy is it to look at where you guys are now and Joe (Flacco) in this building, for example, and looking back to that game?

“As you know, Ashley (Bastock), you can’t predict this league. That’s why everybody watches and yeah, things happen throughout the courses of seasons and that type of thing and faces change and different people come in. So in a lot of ways it’s similar teams schematically and in a lot of ways it’s different.”


You’ve had success taking deep shots with this offense, but it just feels like with Joe you guys have connected on more of those opportunities. Why do you think that is? And just what type of shot in the arm has that long game with Joe infused in the offense? 

“Yeah, I think it’s always dependent on the scheme that you’re playing oftentimes. And then with shots, there’s games, you go a bunch of games in a row, you hit all of them. You go a bunch of games in a row, you can’t hit a shot. It just – those come and go as well.”


With a gunslinger like Joe, do you just have to live with some of those interceptions or are you verbalizing to him that he needs to cut down on them? 

“Well, and I wouldn’t necessarily call him a gunslinger, Mary Kay (Cabot). The interceptions, I mean the deep shot to Marquise (Goodwin) was a shot. We encouraged him if you got a similar look, I don’t think maybe the ball hung up more than he wanted it to and then the one at the end of the half, you know a normal situation, you’re kicking a field goal and those don’t happen, so I appreciate that he’s just given our guys a chance in that situation.”


Did you just not like what you guys saw out of D’Anthony Bell to kick that last? 

“Yeah, I didn’t want to put those guys in a tough spot, even where we were. I know it’s a shorter field goal, but the operation, you could get it blocked. I just didn’t feel like that was the right thing to do.”


If I recall, Dustin had a hamstring issue when he was out in LA. Is this the same hamstring? 

“I’m not sure. I’m not sure.”


Is it worse or better that it’s the plant leg? 

“Probably better. Yeah.”


With Bojorquez, it’s his kicking leg, though? Left quad. So, that’s not good. 

“We’ll see.”


Will your emergency punters and kickers get a little work this week to practice? 

“Yeah. We feel good about, you know, we feel good about our plan. We know we’ll have a kicker and a punter that we feel good about. We know that.”


Has the seamlessness with which Joe has stepped in, has that even exceeded your expectations for what he would be able to do so early on taking over for you? 

“Yeah, I’d say being around some of those veterans over the years, Jake (Trotter), they’ve seen a lot of football. They’ve played a lot of football. They’ve been in different systems. So I think there’s guys that with that amount of turns and with that amount of years in different systems, they can come in and operate pretty quickly. Now, you got to be very intelligent, and you got to work like crazy to do it. And I think Joe’s done both those things, but I think there’s enough similarity to the things that we’re doing that he’s done in the past, and I think he could lean into that experience.”


At our age, the fact that the arm looks like this… 

“Who were you pointing to when you said that?”


You. The fact that his arm looks like it did when he first stepped in the league? What do you make of that? 

“Yeah, it’s a great gift from God, I guess. He blessed him with that ability.”


All those characteristics you’re talking about. Does that allow Joe that extra half click to allow place to develop on the field, for routes to get deeper, all those kinds of things? 

“Yeah. I think the big thing, Tom (Withers), is he does have the ability to push the ball down the field into all areas of the field. So not just the deep ball, but to be able to throw the ball from the right hash all the way outside the left hash. I mean, those are plays that obviously Joe can push the ball down the field.”


For Amari (Cooper) to have a game like you he against Houston. Do you expect the next defense to go above and beyond to try to take him away? 

“I mean, I’ve seen it all when it comes to Amari. In terms of attention. You can cloud him. You can rotate a safety over the top and cover two. You can take your post safety and lean to him. You can bracket him. So we’ve really seen it all, even on that first play. I mean, it’s quarters. He’s getting bracketed, but he ran through the bracket. So he gets attention, it doesn’t mean that he can’t still win, but it does open up opportunities for all the other players.”


Amari was talking about this the other day, that he knows that even if Joe is getting dragged down, that doesn’t mean the play is over because he has the arm to get it all the way across the field, even when he’s almost on his back, you know. So how does that help you guys? It’s just never over. 

“Yeah, I think it’s a good point, Mary Kay, because that play in particular, Joe’s so big, he’s got people draped all over him. But he’s hard to bring down and has the arm talent. He doesn’t need to step into it. He can let it go with his wrist and still put enough on the ball. So that’s, again, a factor of his ability. But also, we’ve made plays off schedule. We’ve made some scramble drill plays, which, as you know, are so important and hard to find sometimes.”


I hear you say, of course that you take shots and sometimes it doesn’t work. But his ability, how much does that open up the playbook for you? 

“Yeah, a lot of the plays we’re running, you just continue to run different iterations of things that you’ve done. But again, like we’ve talked about before with shot plays, quote unquote, you still have a read. You have a top down read oftentimes in that regard. So if the top guy is open, you give him an opportunity, and then if he’s not, you bring the ball down. So there’s times where you call him and you may call ten shots in a game. If they don’t give it to you, the look that you’re anticipating, or they don’t play it a certain way, you’re never bored taking a nice completion on a checkdown.”


You’ve been increasingly creative in scoring zone running play this year. Is it out of necessity you’ve gone that way, or do you just look at the Chiefs and say, they do it pretty good, so let’s try?

“Yeah, hard to copy what Coach (Andy) Reid does with his guys. No, for us, it’s always, Tony (Grossi), just trying to find different ways to score. I mean, as you know, you get down there, it’s hard. The field dimensions change. It’s hard to throw it in. It becomes hard to run it in because you can’t block everybody. So I think our coaches do an outstanding job of trying to find little wrinkles or nuance to things and to give your guys a chance. And we’re very fortunate in the players that we have down there.”


Guys around the league talk about or on this team go out and we talk about guys stepping in and talking to them and helping them get ready in the locker room, even when they’re hurt. For Dustin Hopkins specifically, like, what can he do and what conversations can we have with Riley while he’s out preparing him to kick in Cleveland in the Dawg Pound on Thursday night? 

“Yeah, that’s a good point, Cam (Justice), because I think the big thing is kicking in Cleveland is a little bit different than everywhere else. So naturally he can share all the secrets of our stadium and the wind and those type of things. I think that’s extremely helpful to have Dustin here with Riley in that regard.”


Was he the only kicker in for a try out?

“I think we had a couple guys in.”


Hopkins has been clutch for you guys. You would think that if you did make the playoffs, he would be a real weapon for you in that type of setting. Are you confident that when you say week to week that if you did make the playoffs, he would be ready? 

“I can’t say. I don’t know.”


We talked to Joel (Bitonio) about getting creative. Have you ever run as much, I know it’s only been a handful, but as much wildcat as you have and what about now has made you go to that?

“I don’t know the numbers offhand. I know with Tony Sparano at the Vikings, we ran a bunch of it. God rest his soul. He did a great job. Tony did that in Miami, if you remember. So we did it at the Vikings quite a bit, maybe 2017,18. Yeah. It’s always just what, sometimes you see things on film where you feel like there might be an opportunity if we do this, what would their reaction be? But it truly is a week to week thing. It’s not you have to do a wildcat or you have to do something special. It’s really just based on what you think you’re going to get from the defense.”


Do you feel just as good about using P.J. (Walker) and some of that spot duty that you did for DTR and why are you pretty confident with him as your backup? 

“Yeah, we’ll see in terms of the role, like you mentioned, Mary Kay. But yeah, very confident in P.J. He’s started games for us, won games for us, come in and won games for us. He knows our system, so very confident.”


Some of the guys said they looked at that Jets game last year. Is that on their own or did you show it to them? 

“I think you always look at, if you played somebody the year before, you watch that because you want to see how they operated in third down or short yardage, goal line. You always go back and watch it.”


Kevin, because you guys has the early bye and I know these Thursday night games are hard, but is there some benefit, especially for you guys as a coaching staff, that you’re going to have ten days between games that kind of get this mini bye coming up? 

“Yeah, I think that’s always the benefit of the Thursday night game for sure is it’s so hard to make it and I say it’s hard. I just have to stand on the sideline. These players have to get their bodies ready to go. So it’s hard from that perspective, once you get to Thursday, you do get a little bit of a breather on the other end. So every team kind of treats that as a mini bye, if you will, and pretty unique to have our bye so early and this one’s so late, but you’re going to use it to your advantage and try to make sure the guys are getting healthy.”


Will you guys kind of do, I know you always do the self scout at the bye week. Will you guys kind of do a condensed version of that? 

“Yeah, a little bit of that as you evolve and you do it really throughout the season.? You’re already doing that, but you will use that opportunity just to see where you are in the last month or so.”


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