Head Coach Brian Daboll
December 22, 2022
Q: Injury updates I guess we’ll start with.
A: The only two guys that won’t play are (guard) Shane (Lemieux) and (cornerback) Adoree’ (Jackson).
Q: So, all those limited guys (outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, tackle Evan Neal, tight end Nick Vannett and defensive lineman Leonard Williams) are good?
A: Yeah, we’ll go through today. But I think we should be good. Should be.
Q: Have you changed your plans for travel, or are you just going to continue with what you had scheduled?
A: I’d say that (vice president of team operations) Jimmy Phelan is monitoring that. I know there’s some weather, so he’s – leave it to him.
Q: They’ve (Minnesota Vikings) won a ton of one-score games like you guys. Do you see similarities? Or even just to do that, what’s the keys for teams to pull those types of games out consistently?
A: Well, credit the players first. They’re making the plays in crunch time, those four or five plays, whatever they are. And they’re executing well under pressure. I think their coaching staff does a good job. Their players do a good job. They play for 60 minutes. And credit to those guys. They make plays when they need to make them.
Q: What kind of a challenge is (Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin) Jefferson?
A: Significant. You can put the tape on. (Defensive backs coach) Jerome (Henderson) was showing me a bunch of plays last night where teams have him double teamed and a safety over the top of him, and (Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk) Cousins is still throwing it to him. And you tell the quarterback, ‘Hey, there’s two guys there and a safety over there,’ but he trusts him. He’s an exceptional player. He's tough to defend.
Q: How much more difficult has it made the challenge of playing like the (Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver) A.J. Brown, (Washington Commanders wide receiver) Terry McLaurin and now Jefferson when you don’t have Adoree’?
A: I’d say you got to play good team defense when you have a good receiver like that. Those really top, top receivers, usually they’re going to get theirs. I had (wide receiver) Stef(on Diggs) at Buffalo, and we’d throw it to him kind of the same way that they’re throwing to him at Minnesota. A really good receiver – like a top, top guy – those guys you mentioned, all three of them are in the Pro Bowl. And this one is. So, all four of them – they’re difficult to defend.
Q: Kind of along those lines, with Jefferson, and I think you mentioned with Diggs, they can move him all around in the slot – even in the backfield.
A: They move him everywhere. So, obviously, he’s smart. And he did a lot of that at LSU, too. He played in the slot; he played outside. Again, he’s a fun guy to watch when you’re not getting ready to play him. I’ve got a lot of respect for his game and what he’s done in the early part of his career.
Q: Obviously each of those guys are different and present their own challenges, but what have you learned from maybe facing like A.J. and Terry – Terry two times now – and learned about this team?
A: I think it’s different. Every game you play is different. Each guy is a little bit different. What you try to do against particular really good players is different. You can do a wide variety of things, but again, at the end of the day, most of the time those guys are going to get their touches. Got to do a good job of tackling them, try to prevent the big, big ones. But it’s definitely a challenge.
Q: What do you think of Cousins? He’s a guy who’s kind of polarizing but has been super productive. So, what do you think of him?
A: I think he’s super productive. He does a good job of getting his playmakers the ball. I don’t know him. But again, much like Jefferson, I have a lot of respect for what he’s done in his career. He’s got a lot of good pieces around him. He touches the ball on every play and usually makes the right decision. He’s 11-3 as the starting quarterback this year for them. Highly productive player. He’s in the Pro Bowl too, right?
Q: What did you think of (tackle) Andrew Thomas not making the Pro Bowl?
A: Again, the Pro Bowl, I think for any of the guys that get selected – whether you’re a starter, you made it (but) you’re not a starter, an alternate – I think that those guys appreciate that. Unfortunately, everybody can’t make it. But Andrew’s a good player for us. I’m glad he’s on our team, and I look forward to seeing him play here the rest of the way.
Q: A guy I don’t think we’ve ever asked you about really is (inside linebacker) Carter Coughlin. He plays a lot of special teams. What does he bring to this team? I don’t think he’s played a defensive snap.
A: He’s a core guy for us on special teams, plays all the units. (He’s) one of the leaders of the group: instinctive, fast, tough, has good qualities to be a good special teams player for us.
Q: What do you think of the idea that it’s possible by the end of Saturday, you guys could clinch a playoff spot?
A: I think we’re getting ready to try to win this game. That’s about it.
Q: Given that comeback last week, would you imagine that you’re going to see a pretty confident Vikings team?
A: Well, they should be. They’re 11-3. And they’ve played a lot of good football this year. The only three games they lost, they lost to Dallas, I’d say considerable. Then they lost to Philly and Detroit; they’ve played games close. Make a lot of plays. Productive team, well coached. So, they play confident when you watch them on tape.
Q: You guys have used a lot of different starters at inside linebacker this year, all the way through, even using (safety) Landon (Collins) in the box last game. Just how has that position evolved for you over the season?
A: We’ve had some guys. I think the guys we have in there right now we have confidence and trust in – including Landon. We’ll bring him up. So, we’ll put (inside linebacker) Tae (Crowder) on the practice squad. So, we’ll go out there and try to play a good game.
Q: Are you going to give yourself enough time to enjoy Christmas on Sunday?
A: Ask me that after the game.
Q: (Minnesota Vikings running back) Dalvin Cook’s ability in the screen game, as a receiver. You guys are aggressive on defense. Does a guy like that, a weapon like that, make you more cautious about how to attack?
A: You definitely have to know where he is, too. That’s another layer to it, too, because a checkdown can turn into a 50-yard gain, or a screen they threw, you see against Indianapolis, and he takes it. He’s another very gifted player. He’s got ‘take it to the house’ speed at that position, which is always a concern because if your first read or second read is not there with the passing game that they have, they can just dump it to him. And now you got to make a tackle in space, and he’s a hard guy to tackle.
Q: How much do you have to account for a guy like (safety) Harrison Smith? He’s like a ball hawk back there.
A: Yeah, and he’s been that way for a long time. He’s an instinctive player. There’s plays he makes on the ball, when you’re going through with the quarterbacks or watching it as an offense, that you don’t think he’s going to be there and then he’s there. He’s definitely a guy we got to be aware of. (He’s) instinctive. Good veteran player. Smart. He’s been a good player for a long time.
Q: Landon kind of had to put his head down here and work to earn this opportunity now. Is that an impressive thing for a veteran like him who has some clout to do – kind of be humble in that regard?
A: Yeah, I think that’s what we look for – the type of guys we look for to bring into the organization. It’s not always going to be perfect. It’s never always going to go your way. Come in with a good attitude. Continue to work. Continue to earn it. And again, that’s not easy to do whether it’s Landon or a guy like (wide receiver Darius) Slayton, you guys asked about earlier. There’s a mental toughness that you need to have to play this game, and it’s not just after a loss. Maybe it’s from playtime; maybe it’s another thing that you got to keep pushing and keep a positive attitude. And he’s done that.
Q: On Saturday, will being indoors change at all how you look at your field goal unit and distance and all that kind of stuff?
A: Absolutely. Because out here, you don’t know. Sometimes that changes. Usually, right before the kickoff, I’m talking to (kicker) Graham (Gano). So, he’s out there practicing, and I’ll go up to him. I usually walk out there to where he’s practicing when we come out and ask him how it changed because he never likes to give me the answer in pregame just because playing outdoors in the Northeast, it’s a challenging place to kick. So, when you have a controlled environment, it’s absolutely different.
Q: Would you go a little longer? Like would you be willing to take a longer kick there, or is that not exactly part of the (equation)?
A: No. Definitely.
Q: What do you think of the environment there – in that stadium?
A: The environment is pretty cool. Great fanbase. They’ve got a team that’s playing well. It is loud. It’s very loud. They got the Skol chant.
Q: I heard you playing Skol yesterday.
A: You did? A little bit. Yeah, it’s loud. The communication aspect of it is always difficult when you play on the road. And then when you play indoors with a packed house, it’s hard to communicate, particularly on the offensive side of it. (We’ve been) just working on silent counts all week, signals. There’s a lot of things that go into it, and you try to prepare the best you can. But it’s never the real thing until you’re out there. It’s loud.