OC Alex Van Pelt (9.21.23)
Do you have to change the offense significantly, slightly or is it just going to stay the same with the guys you have in the backfield?
“In fact, I’d probably say slightly. I don’t think significantly is the case. Obviously, it’s a huge loss for us as a team. Not just the player, but the person and the leader, in the locker room. It’s rough, but that’s life in the NFL. Obviously, those are huge shoes to fill and we’ve just got to find a bunch of different feet to fill them.”
Deshaun (Watson) just said part of the reason the offense is struggling, passing in particular, because people are not on the same page. What do you make of that, considering you all had the whole offseason together?
“Yeah, I don’t know if that’s the case, and obviously if that’s how he feels about that, but I think we’re doing good things. We’re close. A couple plays here or there, I think we’ll better. Not 100% synced up right now and it’s second game of the year, so we’ll continue to grow, grow together. I think that’s where we’ve got to stay positive and keep moving forward. I mean, we’re doing a lot of good things offensively, and we’re not clicking 100% yet, so I feel good about the direction we’re heading, and I see it all coming together as we move forward. It’s like any other season. Very rarely, teams start off and get hot and stay hot the whole year. So it’s finding your way through and just continue to grow together.”
Jerome (Ford) tried to fill those shoes. How do you think he did on Monday night? And what’s your confidence level in him going forward?
“Got a lot of confidence in him, obviously, the huge play. He’s got that ability to break away and run away from guys. He’s got really good vision, exceptional feet. I think he’ll be part of those shoes. He’ll at least go in one of those shoes. But I was really proud of the way he played. Made some big plays for us in the pass game and the run game and is also really sharp and on top of protections on third down. So pleased with him.”
There were times when, to me, anyway, it was like Deshaun Watson was uncomfortable in the pocket trying to set up. Do you agree with that or is that off?
“Well, I know we had some instances where he had some guys in his face early and that’ll make you uncomfortable. Yeah, but I don’t see that.”
He’s always been known for his accuracy. I think it’s over 70% his last year. Now it’s under 60%. Do you see something there?
“If I saw something, I would have fixed it. So I don’t see anything. We’re just getting into our groove right now. I’m not concerned about it.”
There were a lot of plays he went to the sideline. Was that just what the Steelers were giving you, or was that by design?
“A lot of plays? Yeah, depending on down and distance structure, their defense, especially in some of the longer down a distances, that’s where the ball needed to go. That was the area we tried to attack.”
How did Dawand (Jones) grade out in his first start?
“Good. I mean that’s big lights were on him. Obviously, the matchup was big. We helped him in a lot of ways, protectionally. But at times when he had to go one-on-one, I thought he did a really nice job. He’s continued to get better each week. Needs to make some strides in the run game. But other than that, I thought he protected well when he had his one-on-one opportunities.”
Jerome, how do you see his confidence grow from last year this year?
“Yeah, success breeds that. He did a lot of great things as a kick returner last year and that carried over this season into the run game. So as he gets better and he’s more comfortable in his role, I think he’ll just continue to excel.”
Is Jed (Wills Jr.) going to be okay and get better this season goes along. And do you think some of the woes from Monday night had to do with the fact that you had to give Dawand the chipping helped?
“We knew that was a tough matchup, regardless. We talked about the edges being important that week. I thought he played well for the most part. Got stuck on that last one, the sack fumble. Just the cadence and the atmosphere got him. Didn’t get off on time on the snap, but it was a big challenge for Jed. Thought he played again, admirably for the most part just had the one glaring one there at the end. But Jed’s always shown up for us. He’s played left tackle for us every time he’s healthy for the last four years, so he’ll continue to get better.”
All offseason we heard about how we’re going to use Elijah Moore in different ways and get him involved in pretty much every aspect of this offense. We haven’t seen it to this point. Are you guys planning on breaking him out a little bit to kind of jumpstart this offense at all?
“Well, again, he’s one of those shoes, one of those feet that fills the shoes for Nick. So we’ll find more ways to get everybody involved.”
Talking to Deshaun, where do you think his confidence level is? Have you seen it wane at all? And then what are the positives you see from him through the first two games?
“A lot of great things he does with his legs. He made plays in that game alone just to get the escape pressure and escape some of the stuff that nobody else is going to make. Very few people can make those plays. Everybody’s, ‘the sky’s falling.’ I don’t see it that way at all. I don’t think he’ll ever lose his confidence. He’s a tremendous player. We have all the confidence in the world of him. Again, I think we’re doing a lot of nice things offensively. We’re just not all the way together yet. And that’s part of the growing pains at the beginning of the season.”
And maybe as the weeks go on. How much does the game speed impact him having to take what he’s done in practice and do it this season? Which you can’t replicate game speed in practice, does that play into it at all?
“No, not at all. No. Everybody’s under the same gun in practice. It’s not the game speed. So everybody has the same issues, but no, it’s not an issue.”
When you look at the Titans defense, does it start with (Jeffery) Simmons?
“It starts up front, for sure. The front seven is talented, especially the defensive line. Those guys are big, strong, powerful guys, and they create problems. We addressed that already. It’s going to be about all the trenches, and that’s where their defense starts, is up front.”
Jim (Schwartz) spent time there, obviously. Like, how much do you see similarities between certain things that maybe they try to do with what you’re guys defense does?
“A little bit. Not a ton, but there is some carryover in some of the scheme.”
Obviously, Nick is such a loss but from a coaching staff, missing the comfort level that he has. Right? I’m sure on third and one, you guys say, okay, just hand it to, like is that something you guys will have to get past without him?
“Absolutely. I mean, he’s our bell cow, and he was on his way to who knows what the way he came out and started. Yeah. We definitely have to, got to find different people to fill that role and scheme might change based on situation like that, but that’s the NFL, adjust and adapt. He won’t be the only guy we’ll lose on the offense this year, so it’ll happen again at some point. Knock on wood it doesn’t, but that’s the way it is in the NFL.”
How important was it though to get Kareem (Hunt), who you obviously knows your system, that’s got to be a positive?
“Absolutely. Yeah, getting Kareem back is good for us. Guy played hard for us here for three years, obviously, and did a lot of good things. So his familiarity with the system accelerates his ability to help us immediately.”
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