Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: Have you ever experienced what you're going through injury-wise like you have this season? Especially on the offensive line, you just keep losing somebody each week.
A: We've had a real mix of guys playing for us, but again, the biggest thing we have to do is focus on us and getting everybody ready to play. A real credit to the players, not only the linemen, but the receivers and the running backs, all those guys who have come in, backup players having more of an extended role. They're prepared, they're ready and they're trying to embrace the opportunity. The guys who are banged up are working hard to get themselves back as quick as they can, but when you have a different combination of players playing, you've just got to figure it out and try to make it work.
Q: How much did the plan change when you lost (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) so early in last week's game?
A: He was off to a good start in the game. I think he had three catches in six plays and unfortunately we lost him. We have some plays for him obviously throughout the game plan and all the different situations that go away, and then we have some plays where we just put somebody else in and they do that. Again, the biggest thing is everybody has to be prepared, you have to be ready to respond.
Q: When you look at (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones), he obviously had a rough day. Do you just chalk it up as a bad day and throw it away? How do you guys approach that?
A: Daniel has played really well for us. We've talked about (how) he's improved greatly from probably the middle of last year on. He's off to a really good start this year. Has done a great job taking care of the ball. He had two uncharacteristic decisions that led to interceptions in that game. The third interception, the receiver slipped down. That was going to be a big chunk play for us, but you just have to learn from those experiences going through your mind and what you saw and then you forget about it. That's something that he does a really good job of. He's critical of himself and then he's able to move on, and that's something he has to do in this area.
Q: You say uncharacteristic decisions. Was he just fooled on those?
A: Not really. They were fairly simple, basic plays and reads and maybe he got something into his head, he saw something that wasn't there instead of just going through what the progression is and making the right throw. Again, that happens. That happens to quarterbacks. They have the ball in their hands every play and I think he's made great strides in that area. Unfortunately, we had a couple the other day that went the other way and, again, you learn from them and you move on.
Q: What's the best way to protect an offensive line that's struggling scheme-wise?
A: I think there are a number of things you can do – running the football certainly helps the protection, throwing it quick, moving the quarterback, having extra guys protect and getting guys out to get them open quickly. There's a variety of things you try to do every week to help your offensive line. Teams do it all around the league and you've just got to try to settle in with some of the things that fit best for your team.
Q: What was your approach in Dallas when you went through losing stretches and adversity? As a head coach, what was your approach and what have you observed about (Head Coach) Joe (Judge)?
A: Not really my place to comment on Coach Judge. I think the biggest thing we all try to do when you have some tough times is just kind of settle back into what you need to do each day to coach your best and to play your best. Each day of preparation leads to an opportunity to play your best on Sunday. If you can get everybody focused on this, what we need to do right now, I think that's what gives you the best chance. Really applies to life, too – I don't want to get philosophical, but somehow you have to learn from your past experiences, don't worry about what's next, focus on what you do, the task at hand right now, and I think that's what gives you the best chance to have success individually and collectively.
Q: What have you observed about Joe during this stretch?
A: Again, not my place to make any comments on that, but collectively as an organization that's what we're trying to do. Every coach, every player and Joe, our leader, has done a really good job of that.
Q: What's the ripple effect of losing (Tackle) Andrew Thomas? Obviously, anybody who watches film can see that you have to help the other tackles more than you helped him. The New Orleans game was your most downfield aggressiveness when he was shutting off the pass rush. What's the ripple effect of not having him?
A: The positive is Andrew is really developing into a heck of a good player and I think we've all seen that. He has a challenge every week when you play left tackle. Every week, you put the tape on and there's a great rusher over there that he has to go against and I think he's responded really well to that. Again, probably from the middle of last year on, you start to see him settle in and play at a very high level, and when a player like that goes out, that has an impact on you. But, again, the mentality is the next guy goes in. (Tackle) Matt Peart goes in there and plays, he's a young player, he's going to get better the more he plays. Again, you're always trying to address what the issues are up front and try to help whenever you can and sometimes the guy has to block them, and that's just part of the deal. Andrew has been a good player for us. He'll be back quickly, but we're excited about Matt and (Tackle) Nate (Solder) playing tackles for us. Those guys do a hell of a job.
Q: How good is this front that Carolina brings?
A: Really good. They're really good on defense. The defensive line is excellent, they've got very good outside pass rushers, they're strong and stout inside with playmakers, the linebackers can run, there are good cover guys on the back end, they're opportunistic, they play fast. When you watch them play on tape, their defense leaps off the tape how they play, so it'll be a great challenge for us in all three phases.
Q: When you guys are prepping – obviously, they haven't had (Panthers Cornerback Stephon) Gilmore yet, but a player of that caliber – when you guys are putting together your plays, do you have to do an, 'If he's here, this is what we have to gear around,' or do you try to focus on the scheme?
A: Well, they have a lot of really good players at all three levels of their defense and he's certainly been one of the best players in the league at his position throughout his career. The biggest thing we have to do is focus on us and play at a high level, but you certainly have to be aware of a player like that and come up with a plan if he is playing. Got great respect for him, he's been a really good player for a long time.
Q: What has (Fullback) Eli Penny given you as a runner and are you going to try to keep continuing to incorporate him?
A: Eli's proven that he can be a versatile guy. His position is fullback and whenever he's been in that role, he's done a good job, particularly on some of the short-yardage runs. He's done a good job with that stuff. When (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) is out and (Running Back Devontae) Book (Booker) is playing, Eli comes in and does a good job as a runner. I think he's proven that at different times throughout his career. We have a lot of confidence in him doing that. He's a bigger back, he's physical, he finishes runs, but he also is athletic and has good feet.